Around The Way Girl: Asia Jones

Asia Jones aka A$ has a message for you, “Screw the traditional ‘after college you should be here’ shit because it doesn’t matter.”  Can we get an AMEN? Asia’s story proves to us once again that life is all about taking risks and fully reaching your highest potential, no matter what people say or think. With that being said, Asia took her English literature degree from DePaul University and decided to go left. After leaving Chicago for the West Coast, traveling, experiencing life and falling in love with yoga, the 28-year-old gangsta yogi is on a mission to evolve the traditional views of yoga and make it more welcoming for the urban community with the birth of Trap Yoga. Now living in New York, she embarks on a new journey and we couldn’t be any more inspired!

What made you leave Chicago?

The cold! It was actually November 13, 2009 and I was walking to take my last final and I was really objecting going to school because it was freezing and we had got a lot of snow. I mean, I knew when I graduated high school that I wanted to travel the world. I actually asked my parents if I could take a year off [from school] and travel and really become acquainted with the states and abroad before I made any college decision, but they said No, finish school. I toyed around with moving to L.A. or Florida for college, like USC or University of Central Florida and I got accepted to UCF. I don’t remember if I even applied to USC or if the thought lived that long in my mind, but yeah, that winter confirmed it. I called my mom and was like, Yo! People should not have to live through this shit, and that was the last time I lived a winter in Chicago.

So what made you go to San Diego?

I didn’t go to San Diego first. After my last undergrad class I had to wait until June for the actual graduation ceremony since DePaul only has one ceremony. So I finished in November and until then I just worked, saved some money. I was blogging here and there, hanging out in Chicago, and that June I packed my bags, drove to L.A. and I stayed there.

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I stayed two and a half years in L.A. and I started working for a computer software company called Cyber Defender for their HR department. I started a book while I was in L.A. [laughs], but I didn’t finish the book. I started smoking cigarettes there, I stopped smoking cigarettes there [laughs], and when the computer software company closed and laid everyone off I decided to take the money I had saved up at that point to go and travel. I moved what I could to my mom’s vacation spot in San Diego, took my dogs to her too and started a little ‘Asia World Tour.’ Well, not all the cities in the world but I visited Austin, Dallas, Atlanta, Chicago, New York a few times, Toronto, Portland. So I did quite a bit of traveling from 2012 to 2013. I just needed to figure out what I wanted. I wasn’t necessarily content so I wanted to see what was out there. I had fun.

Normally people are afraid to take risks like you did. Do you think the best way to find yourself is to just say ‘fuck it’ and go with your instincts?

Yeah! Now that I’ve become a yoga instructor and I’ve done a lot of self-work I think finding yourself is finding a space quiet enough to just ask yourself a few questions and trusting yourself with the answers. Usually you know right away but a lot of times our judgement is clouded by what we think others are going to think or worrying about this and that happening, so I try to live my life by the mantra that ‘worrying is a misuse of your imagination.’ So instead of imagining like, Oh what if I travel, run out of money, not have a job, what’s gonna happen, I would try to imagine like, Something amazing is going to happen while I travel. That is what I used as my fuel to move to [New York City]. I was like, Well, you’ve picked up and moved before, it can’t be that hard again.

Moving to L.A., I have to say was one of the best things I’ve ever done in my life. I imagined both the good and bad, and both good and bad happened. I learned so much about myself while I was there and about people and life in general that it made it easier to trust in myself to make the jump to New York City.

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Did you do any research or planning?

Not really. I mean I went on Craigslist for apartments and looked online for jobs but I didn’t know anybody out there but one person. I didn’t have any family, friends or connections in L.A. I didn’t have a job either. I only had two month’s rent and about a month or so of money saved with me. It took me about two months to find a job but once I found work I worked every day. L.A. was kind of struggle but so much great came out of it. I had two internships and two full time jobs so my days were typically 15 hour days. I’d start at [Cyber Defender] then end my day at Zara. Then I had my internship with an entertainment lawyer Gary Watson; he’s done pretty much all of Spike Lee’s litigation for all of his productions and films since Mo’ Better Blues. He was a great person to learn from and a great contact. He worked me like a dog. I worked more than I ever did in my life. It was so gratifying that I didn’t need anybody to help me with anything. I was making my own way through the world.

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 How did you get into yoga?

Oh that was part of finding myself. I was a cheerleader and gymnast growing up. I cheered at DePaul and took a few yoga classes there since they offered it at the fitness center. I knew I liked yoga but I didn’t know enough about it to be passionate about it at the time. So when I stopped traveling and settled for a second I had a lot of misplaced energy and I didn’t know what to do with it. I was noticing things about myself that I wasn’t necessarily content with. I wasn’t as outgoing as I use to be. So I started doing yoga on my own and when I took my home practice as far as I thought I could go I started teacher training. I met Audrey, she’s my yoga mentor til this day. She had a teacher training coming up. I signed up and it was amazing. It was more than I ever expected or imagined. I learned so much about myself and the class. I love yoga, I’m still teaching yoga, and now I’m working on Trap Yoga.

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Tell us about Trap Yoga.

Trap Yoga is a non-profit yoga event project that I’m working on right now. I love yoga and it’s my mission to bring it to everyone. It’s not something that I want hidden because I feel like it is. I’ve been teaching yoga for a year now and the majority of my clientele have been middle-aged white women. That always bothered me because I feel that yoga is something that everyone can find useful. Just quieting the mind even if you’re not aspiring to be super flexible or a Yogi, just getting your mind quiet enough and inquiring of the body to see exactly what it needs to be beneficial for everyone. So that’s where this thought came from where I was like, I want more black people to do yoga. I want more young black girls to do yoga. I know people would love it if they tried it. So I tried to figure out ways to make yoga more inviting for people my age. That brought me to perhaps hosting yoga brunches, yoga retreats, and events, so I thought, Why not?!

I’ve also been volunteering within the last two years with various non-profits, Big Brother Big Sister being one of them, and I was very inspired by that and by life in general of giving back. So Trap Yoga is going to be a string of multiple events where 30-40 percent of the event proceeds will go to local charities within the cities I host the events in. The events will be geared to capture an audience of people like you and myself: young, trendy and creative. There will be yoga, live music, DJs and art infused in the events. It will also be dance inspired as well because I love to dance [laughs]. Trap Yoga is just my weird way of incorporating everything that I love and want more of in the world into one thing.

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How does one become a Trap Yogi? Isn’t that like an oxymoron?

[laughs] I think not, but I can see how people would think so. I like trap music. What I noticed about my practice is that when I have really good music I’m able to get into my body and move around a little bit more. No Yogi can deny the influence of music on the body. It’s been around since the beginning of time and it’s been something that influences people to move. There’s no bad in getting people to get in tune with their bodies. So being a Trap Yogi is not all about twerking, even though there will be a twerk off in the class here and there [laughing].

What goes into starting and owning a yoga studio?

Quite a bit. You have to have a following, you have to have people who want to practice with you. That comes from being able to create and cultivate a sacred space for people to feel comfortable to tap into their own mind and body and not feel judged or embarrassed or like someone is trying to correct you rather than help you. I don’t like saying I’m a teacher, but a facilitator of space that is sacred, sound, and comfortable for people to be whoever they are. So starting your studio is all about finding a good space, having a good following and making it a reflection of you.

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Is that where you eventually see Trap Yoga heading?

Yes. I do eventually want have my yoga studio here in Brooklyn and another one in Portland, but that will be in time. I want Trap Yoga to grow into something that’s an international non-profit. I want to travel the world and bring my yoga and my events to like-minded people and get people to think about something bigger than them. We’re not just people, we’re a spirit within a flesh body. That’s our flesh mobile. We walk around worrying about trivial stuff and I wanna get people to be more awake and realize there’s something much bigger outside of you.

This past December you taught yoga at Art Basel. What was that experience like?

That trip to Miami was my first time attending Art Basel, and to be honest, the experience was surreal. I had this idea to bring yoga to major American festivals and Art Basel was my start. The event was the birth of Trap Yoga. I partnered up with Lauren Jenkins and she did a live painting on the beach as I led the practice. Leading my friends in asana was AMAZEBALLS! It was all love and more than I imagined it to be. Everyone was really into it and wanted to learn more. I was happy to practice with them.

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Do you ever feel pressured by the traditional expectations of what life after college should be?

All the time actually. My mom has had a corporate job my entire life. She’s done the 9-5, and she’s raised her kids, and I’m always telling people that at my age my mom had a house, a car, a dog, a Beamer and a husband. So here I am walking around Brooklyn with just a boyfriend and rent. Yeah I feel pressured by it but I don’t let stuff like that define me. I don’t have a family, a house, a car, or a dog like my mother did, but I have so many other experiences that she didn’t have the chance to have. Wealth can’t be defined by money. I’m not a millionaire, but I’ve been willing to go and do as I please because I was willing to live uncomfortably at times by taking risks. So screw the traditional ‘after college you should be here’ shit because it doesn’t matter.

What advice would you give to young women who feel lost in their soul search?

I’d tell them to find a quiet space and just ask themselves what do you want, until they come up with an answer and then go for it. I mean REALLY go for it and not be afraid. Fear is gonna stop you and it’s all in your mind. Don’t be afraid of what people are gonna think and say about what you want to do. It’s all about what is going to serve YOU and make YOU happy in the end.

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Is this what you imagined yourself doing at this age?

No! If you were to ask sixteen-year-old Asia where she would be at twenty-eight I would have told you that I’d have kids with my high school sweetheart, I’d be a high school history teacher and coaching cheerleading at whatever high school I was teaching at. As for present day Asia, I’m happy. I like the person I’ve become a lot better than the person I thought I was to become.

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What advice would you give to your 20-year-old-self?

I would tell her boys are entertainment so let’s not get caught up on the next four that are gonna come in and out of your life [laughs], and to also get serious about something because I wasn’t serious about much at that age. I had so much potential at that age and didn’t know what to do with it.

What is your favorite thing(s) about Chicago?

The food, oh and the fact that it’s a big city with small city feel, so no matter where you go, you always feel like you’re a part of something. I haven’t had food better than Chicago, even in New York. New York has great fine dining, and I love to eat at so many places in New York, but Chicago has my heart when it comes to pizza, when it comes to ribs, wings or any food. BUT the west coast has my heart for tacos because now I’ve become a taco snob.


Trap Yoga’s site is coming soon but the Instagram is up and running. Get ready for some yoga challenges this summer with @trapyoga. Also follow the free spirit herself on Instagram @jones.asia !

XO,

Rebecca

{Know an Around The Way Girl we need to to get in touch with? Let us know in the comment section below!}

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