1 As a woman, a mother and a yoga practitioner, tell me what do you find the most important teaching you’ve discovered from this practice and what would you share to those who are on this path?
Being present with what is arising. We think of that as an important teaching and then motherhood drags it to prominence, especially with very young children. They don’t always cooperate with our ideas of sleep, practice time, practice space, and oftentimes what is arising is actually a challenge to practicing at all. Being present with that then becomes the most potent practice, as we look at our attachment to practicing and try to let it go so that we can be present for another who needs us. Their need for our presence, our reassurance, our time, our availability all impinge upon time for ourselves. For me one of the greatest challenges has been finding skillful ways to navigate this balance. Finding ways to practice and care for myself that do not cause them suffering. And when that’s simply not possible, then finding a way to let go of the attachment to that need temporarily, settle into what is, and still be alright. Particularly when we have had a daily practice for many years, this cuts into the roots of who we believe we’ve become. Oftentimes we work through varied layers of attachment in our lives through our yoga practice. When motherhood forces us to look at our attachments to the practice itself it is an opportunity to catalyze an even deeper, more meaningful transformation, if we allow it.
2 What is Feminism to you? How do you feel women can support each other?
Feminism is giving women the opportunity to fully express themselves in relationship, in work, and creatively. I think being a conscious mother is one of the greatest challenges: tending to our children when they are young while also meeting our own needs. Ideally we can create the circumstances to mother in the way that is most natural to us while finding time to nurture ourselves and express ourselves. Many of us struggle with verbalizing our needs and that becomes even more complicated with the varied and ever-changing demands of children. I think we need to encourage one another to find our voice, use it, and to also be aware of the places where we tend to be silent. What we need and want isn’t unnatural, even if it’s not convenient in modern-day living. As wise women, we can encourage and support one another. The most helpful women friends in my life have been able to see my right where I am. They’ve also been able to gently remind me that everything is changing constantly and that the challenges today will shift, especially when they come in the form of tiny people who are growing each day.
3 In Ashtanga practice, how do you feel we can keep the community strong and supportive for one another?
The Ashtanga practice is infinitely adaptable to the individual. At our best we can welcome other perspectives and encourage one another to intelligently modify the practice to be supportive of each practitioner, regardless of circumstances or limitations. We can focus on the internal evolutions for each individual, rather than overemphasizing the external manifestations. It’s not really about whether or not someone can put their leg behind their head and stand up. It’s about softening enough to be able to do that, and some people soften long before such a move. We all need to continue to inquire more deeply within ourselves and in others, remaining open and receptive to learn from one another.
4 With this practice we are constantly challenging ourselves – both mind and body. This requires a lot of self-discipline, focus and consistency in our daily routine. In these moments we are opening ourselves up, we are vulnerable and processing whatever emotions that arise. What would be your advice in these situations? What did you find helpful to you?
Having a sangha is immensely helpful! We need community to walk alongside us on this path. Also, having a teacher you can trust and with whom you’re not afraid to communicate. Students should always feel comfortable expressing themselves to the teacher. Personally, I have had to work through some extreme circumstances. Over the course of six years I was stalked, was in a major car accident, had open heart surgery, and was on a stairway that collapsed when I was nine months pregnant, breaking my back in two places. Needless to say, practicing asana can be very potent for me, as there are physical and emotional traumas just beneath the surface. One of the most important elements is to bring compassion for ourselves to the mat. Particularly when processing strong emotions, we need to be prepared to be surprised by what arises. And then we need to be kind to ourselves. Our body and mind response can change daily and we need to navigate that with kindness towards ourselves. There are days when pushing our physical limits is appropriate and the very next day it might not be. We might need to soften, let go. If we practice with kindness and gentleness towards ourselves we’ll know the difference. Then hopefully, we can take that compassion with us, off the mat, and share it with the world.
5 In this modern world we are surrounded by distractions, whether it’s the constant stream of negative news, social media and the perfectly manufactured image of how to live life, our appearance and body shaming. It has the power to knock us off balance. How do we nourish ourselves? How do we find acceptance?
I think we have to be careful about everything that we consume. I find that having a consistent practice refines my appetite in all ways, so that I’m more aware of the effects of all that I take in: food, media, communications. And then we need to be discriminating in order to find the balance between being open to listening to what is happening to others and restricting our diet for negative media that can derail us. While we want to show up in the world for what is really happening, we can only be helpful to others if we first ground and support ourselves. Becoming more victims to the onslaught of media doesn’t allow us to help anyone else. ‘Put your mask on first’.
6 Who are the women that inspire you, who are the women that you admire?
7 What are your daily rituals and routines that you feel ground you?
Practicing asana, spending time outside with my children, taking the time to prepare and eat meals together. And the best days are the ones where I sneak out of bed early, sip coffee and write, long before the sun rises, while little people sleep deeply.
8 What makes you feel safe and secure?
Space. The space and quiet carved out, away from everyone, to just sit and let everything settle, slowly reflecting on the residue left behind. And it’s been the hardest thing to find in a long while. Mothering young children is primarily a demand on time and space. First they occupy your body itself and then they still crave that physical attachment, so for a long while what they most want from mother is her presence, her space. One of the most important practices for me has been to introduce gentle ways to separate myself and hold space for myself so that I can return and continue to nurture them, while not becoming depleted.
9 Which element of nature do you feel most connected to?
Water. I love every incarnation of water: rain, rivers, lakes, the ocean. Ironically, I live in a desert, so the aspect of nature that nourishes me the most is the hardest to find. I suppose that just challenges me again to be present with what is arising, with what I want but don’t have, and accepting that.
10 Our energy is always shifting in our monthly practice, as female practitioners when we receive our ladies holiday, whether it’s a seasonal change or when we travel to different climates. How can we find a balance and a grounding when we feel these changes happen?
I’ve always felt like that rhythmical shift for women practitioners is a gift that reminds us to step back, rest, connect with ourselves in a different way. In those moments I enjoy letting go of the reigns and doing things differently. Perhaps rolling out my mat and moving gently based upon inspiration or sleeping a bit more or finding some other nourishing rituals and letting go of routines and habits for a moment. And that letting go and shape-shifting is, not surprisingly, excellent preparation for motherhood.