My first time taking Brandon Scott’s yoga class was New Year’s Day, 2018.
Because New Year’s Day in 2017 was not just a bad day, but an abysmal one, I was determined to start the next year off on a completely different foot; I forced my still-hungover self out of bed early to attend a Y7 class first thing in the morning on the first day day of last year. But this brand new teacher was unlike anything I’d ever experienced in yoga, or have — to this day. First off, though I’d been practicing yoga on and off in New York and LA for about three years, it was only the second time I’d taken a class taught by a Black teacher. Reckoning with that realization, alone, took some time.
“I made it my mission to make sure people know that they’re filled with purpose, and that they find their purpose,” Scott told me recently while we lounged in the outdoor space at YogaVibe, a local Los Feliz studio where he also teaches. “I lead with compassion and love. I prioritize it in my classes and how I walk through the world — I try to spread that. Because growing up I didn’t necessarily feel it all the time.”
Though I didn’t know it at the time, that New Year’s Day class was Scott’s first time teaching at Y7 — but he was already an expert. His playlists were precise and generous, and indicated a deep knowledge of hip-hop and how the music moves in the body, his flows were hard, and his teaching personality was instantly relatable — snappy, no-bullshit, but deeply compassionate, fun and flexible, and decisively queer. I began signing up for his class days and weeks ahead of time to make sure I could get a spot, and his popularity as a teacher went pretty quickly through the roof.
If you could survive the final flow of one of Brandon’s vinyasa classes, the thinking among my core group of yogi friends went, then you could tackle any other insurmountable difficulty the week ahead might hold. His yoga teaching directly impacted my decision to start Cinnamon — along with a host of other inspirational people, of course — but dripping with sweat, laying on my mat on Sunday mornings after enduring the hardest workout of my life, and feeling unstoppable? That was a foundational element.
Learning the importance of compassion, empathy, and celebrating people for their differences at an early age, Scott brings that same open mindedness and acceptance into every class he teaches. Growing up in Cleveland as the self-described “flamboyant and graceful” son of a professional dancer, Scott began dancing himself at the age of four, and moved to New York after high school to pursue a more serious career in the arts.
“I think dance is a big part of the reason why I am the way I am,” he explained. “Dancing taught me not only self-discipline, but the importance of understanding who you are and loving who you are. Because growing up as a young boy as a dancer — and not playing sports — I was bullied, and I wasn’t accepted. Because, in their eyes, I wasn’t normal.”
Forgoing a traditional four-year college, he trained intensively at Broadway Dance Center instead, and began working as a professional dancer in New York during his early twenties. Eventually, dancing led Scott to Los Angeles, but a different climate and culture around the craft led him to pursue a different practice all together.
“When I was in New York my goals were different, I wanted to be a concert dancer in a contemporary company — I wanted to do ballet,” he explained. “In LA, it’s all commercial, it’s all hip-hop or dancing for artists, and I never really had the desire to do that. My heart wasn’t there enough. So when I stopped dancing all together, I started practicing yoga.”
Scott began practicing at CorePower in Sherman Oaks — where he eventually did his teacher training — and quickly realized his background in dance set him up perfectly for a deeper understanding of yoga. “It’s almost like the universe knew exactly what it was doing,” he laughed. “Because everything I did in my dance career is directly applicable to what I’m doing now. How I understand the biomechanics of the body and the anatomy I learned from my dance life, I can use and teach in the space as well.”
In late fall of 2016 and early 2017, Scott completed two separate yoga teacher trainings at CorePower, led by his now-friend and mentor Ali Nance, who is also a former dancer. He cites her honesty and spontaneity, along with spirituality, as influences on his own teaching style.
“She is one of the reasons why I even teach yoga,” he said. “Because she pushed me, and she saw something in me even before I wanted to do this, that I didn’t see in myself. She encouraged me to audition and teach at CorePower, and I did, and that was the best decision of my life.”
Following quite literally in Nance’s footsteps, Scott now teaches at CorePower, YogaVibe, and finally Y7 — with his first class on New Year’s Day of 2018. But whatever studio he’s at, representation and holding space are core tenets of the atmosphere he creates in class.
“I think it is important that we have more representation in the yoga community of different types of people,” Scott said. “Whether it be different colors, different shapes, different sizes. Especially in LA, where this is such a yoga mecca, and for the most part you see skinny white girls practicing. Being a person of color, and being in this community, I hope that I can serve as a reminder that it’s not only one specific type of body or person that does yoga.”
And, in his opinion, the way best way to hold space in a yoga practice comes back to the welcoming practice of compassion and empathy — which can be indirect and passive, and doesn’t always need to be shouted from the rooftops.
“Everyone feeling safe, and that all different types of people are welcomed and celebrated in the space, is something I hope to accomplish without even having to say it,” Scott explained. “Yoga truly is for everybody. That’s something I’ve always stood for, and I hope that’s a message I can spread in my classes as well.”
If that’s a message that resonates with you, follow Brandon on Instagram where he often posts fire selfies, hilarious video anecdotes, and information on his teaching schedule.