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How Nico Marie uses yoga and music to promote healthy living to Black communities

Nico Marie McNeese is a yoga instructor, DJ and YouTube creator.
Black Yogi Nico Marie
Nico Marie McNeese is a yoga instructor, DJ and YouTube creator.

The term “self-care” is often used to describe the small ways people can temporarily assuage negative emotions or situations, but its practice can make a significant impact on a person’s mental and physical health, says St. Louis native and yoga instructor Nico Marie McNeese.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic impacted daily life around the world, the number of people experiencing anxiety or depression has gone up. According to a recent survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation, 90% of adults in the United States believe the country is struggling with a mental health crisis.

McNeese knows all too well about the burden that can weigh down on one’s mental well-being. Social distancing measures meant she could no longer teach in person, so McNeese went to social media to reach her students. First, she started posting short videos on her Instagram account. She later started a YouTube channel — Black Yogi Nico Marie — to make her yoga videos more accessible.

In three years, McNeese’s YouTube audience has grown to over 100,000 subscribers.

McNeese told St. Louis on the Air that she never intended to become a yoga instructor when she first started practicing yoga herself. She got the push from her own instructor — which resulted in McNeese cultivating a space to introduce Black people to yoga.

“I knew I wanted to bring yoga into the Black community. Because I saw what it was doing for other people, as well as what it was doing for me,” McNeese said. “[There are] so many situations and so many circumstances in the Black community where we need that healing, and we need those safe spaces.”

By making a welcoming space for Black people interested in yoga, McNeese has attracted a diverse audience from around the world.

“There are people overseas who will message me and say, ‘Hey, I'm in this group with people where we learn English, and we do your yoga videos together.’ ... I get people commenting on my videos, who are 70, I have people who are in high school, men, women, people of all genders, of all races [and] ages practice with me.”

Along with recording, editing, and instructing in her yoga videos, McNeese is also known to many in St. Louis as DJ Nico Marie. The music she spins is a contrast to the calm and soothing sounds featured in her yoga instruction, but the intention is the same.

“My direct link is Black joy, I love to see people feeling good [and] smiling. People will come up to me, whether it's from yoga, or DJing and tell me what I did for them or what they've enjoyed about what I do. And that does so much for me,” she said. “It’s really just about the joy, happiness and enjoying your life. Your happiness is part of your health. If I can contribute to somebody's health, that's making me feel great.”

McNeese and fellow DJ Makeda Kravitz host Studio 314 (a la Studio 54) at Central Stage in Grand Center. The party’s purpose is in the same vein as McNeese’s yoga instruction. “[Studio 314] is epic. It celebrates the roots of disco. It feels like you are really transported to the '70s, and we just all laugh, we dance, and we have a good time.”

For more about Nico Marie McNeese’s inspiration behind her yoga practice, DJing and becoming a local celebrity, listen to St. Louis on the Air on Apple Podcast, Spotify, Google Podcast or Stitcher, or click the play button below.

How Nico Marie uses yoga and music to promote healthy living to Black communities

Related Event
What: Studio 314
When: 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. May 19
Where: Central Stage
3524 Washington Ave.
St. Louis, MO 63103

St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is produced by Miya Norfleet, Emily Woodbury, Danny Wicentowski, Elaine Cha and Alex Heuer. The audio engineer is Aaron Doerr. Send questions and comments about this story to talk@stlpr.org

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Miya is a producer for "St. Louis on the Air."