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?
I would say, in this stage of my life, the most relevant teachings have been about two things. The first thing is absolute surrender and letting go of one’s previous agenda and expectations. This is not so straightforward, especially when the daily responsibilities of adult life need to be attended to, in addition to taking care of your children. There is a very practical reason why Pattabhi Jois called family life the seventh series because, when the kids are so small and dependent, it can feel like an unrelenting sense of pressure. It can be very, very demanding work, physically and psychologically. Coming to terms with the reduction of one’s personal autonomy. Happily, there is also an unbelievable amount and quality of joy and delight; the highs are intoxicating, truly breathtaking and so pure. And yet, you constantly need to let go of so much on a daily basis and come to terms, or make peace with the transitory nature of reality. This is the second teaching of utmost importance for me. The passage of time feels like it changes when you have children. In one way, you want time to stop, or at least slow down, so that you can experience the sweetness of your little babies and hold onto these precious, cuddly beings and undiluted moments of pure being with them. By contrast however, you oftentimes wish into the future, for when they are older and more independent, and when you can have more time and energy for yourself, only to look back on the earlier moments with nostalgia. It’s such a powerful contradiction of strong emotions which occur simultaneously, so I find myself really trying to breath into these dualities and stay the course, consistently, over a long period of time.
2. What is Feminism to you? How do you feel women can support each other?
Feminism to me must be intersectional. Meaning, I need to understand the way race, class, sexual orientation, gender constructs, ableism and ageism all make up the experiences people have while navigating through the world. How does my privilege of being cis gender and able bodied make it so I might have difficulty empathizing how it is to go about the world as someone who might not necessarily fit into these definitions? So, I think the bigger question is not just how women can support each other, but how we can work towards making conversations of privilege, overt and hidden, and intersectional feminism an integral part of the dialogue regarding social justice.
3. In ashtanga practice, how do you feel we can keep the community strong and supportive for one another?
By keeping it with the people and the community! I think, especially as teachers of this beautiful practice, if we say that we want to keep the community strong and supportive for one another, we need to do just that and make the time and effort to see each other when we can. To practice together and attend each other’s classes whenever possible. I often feel Ashtanga yoga teachers are like ships in the night and it makes me so happy to see people in real life. We also need to give time and make the effort to be with students and get to know them, rather than teaching and then vanishing once class is over. Don’t get me wrong, teaching takes much time and effort and, in my case, combined with the demands of family life, I must be sure to keep boundaries healthy and energy levels steady. This means that I might not always be able to have personal conversations with all the retreat or workshop participants. But just being around and available as best I can, showing the community that I live and express my yoga through my dharma as a mother, first and foremost (at this stage especially, when the kids are still so young) well, this, to me, is how I try to keep community strong and supportive.
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 this moments we are opening ourselves up, we are vulnerable and processing whatever emotions that rises. What would be your advise in these situations? What did you find helpful to you?
I practiced in Morjim with Sharmila earlier in the year. This was a very special experience for me, and she put it very nicely. She said that even when a consistent practice might not always be available (and believe me, it won’t be with young children -my words-), always aspire towards the practice. I find this to be very true. It can be easy to lose motivation when your back pain is acting up from the physical exertion of caring for children or you feel tired and dull, with no strength for anything more than scrolling through your phone while your baby naps. However, by maintaining that love affair for your practice and getting yourself to your mat, I am reminded of the basic dignity of being alive in this human body. And of course, grounding myself with the tristhana method has been the most delightful and soothing way I’ve found to reclaim that sweet space within amidst the hustle and bustle of life. Also, to be happy with whatever kind of practice you have, be it long, short, interrupted, not ‘complete.’ Any practice and all practice is a good practice and don’t let your expectations tell you differently.
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 liveness 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 there’s absolutely a place for social media and it’s valid to create a virtual community. This is all part of the world in which we live and teach and practice our yoga. However, images and words about the practice are just that! Images and words. These can be inspiring, but ultimately, for me, they can serve as a distraction. Meaning, if you read about and watch other people’s yogic experiences, it feels like you’re engaging with it, but only second-hand. If one is truly hungry for yoga, seeking it with relentless curiosity and a deep longing, it’s pretty clear that it’s difficult to access these intimate portals within your own self by liking and commenting your way through other people’s yoga practices and lives.
Therefore, I find it’s about creating healthy habits and boundaries surrounding media consumption. I try not to simply view it as, “Well, just turn it off and don’t engage,” because I don’t think this is necessarily the complete way to participate with life in 2018. However, I can understand why some people choose not to start (or opt out altogether) with social media and who knows? Maybe my urge to apply the fifth anga – pratyahara- will become so strong that I’ll remove myself and live off the grid, but for now, I try to apply the principles of mindfulness and cultivated awareness into my media engagement and consumption. I try to have a reason to go onto Instagram, for example, and I try to be brutally honest with myself. Am I going there only to post something? Am I going there to feel inspired? To share good energy, support and share other people’s triumphs and empathize with their struggles?Am I going there because I’m bored and feel bad about myself and wish to fan the flames of comparing-mind even more? Generally, I try to avoid the latter because that leads to nowhere I wish to be. But honestly, being a full-time mother means that I’m either giving real life attention to my children or I’m escaping down the rabbit hole of my phone, looking at professional photo shoots of perfect mothering. Clearly, I can’t be present if I’m making myself feel bad about not having a lavender and rose-petal strewn, candle-lit bath for myself and my baby, so I try to limit as best I can the constant stream of information.
On the other hand, I find that the positive side of social media is that we have so many more opportunities to find and create alternatives to the danger of a single narrative and to perfectly manufactured images of how to live life. No longer is it just the images curated by a powerful few on the television. Now you can find that which speaks more authentically to your experience, if you wish to seek it. However, there is a definite limit to the digital space and from my experience, that which can truly nourish you, the place where you can find profound acceptance, is found by participating in nature, life and reality; not behind a screen.
6. Who are the women that inspire you, who are the women that you admire?
Within the Ashtanga yoga lineage, I was so happy to meet and practice with Sharmila. I read and used her book (Yoga Sadhana for Motherhood) throughout my two pregnancies and post-natal periods. She has a very giving, warm presence in her shala and I like that it’s so quiet in the room when you practice. My first Ashtanga yoga teachers were Jeff Lichty and Harmony Slater. I have much love and gratitude for Harmony. She started me out on this path and gave me strength and encouragement when I had none. The other two women I admire are my mother and my sister, but I’d say that I’m constantly inspired and in admiration of the women I come across in my daily life. Be it other mothers I meet up with to share the joys and aches of daily life with kids; or friends I’ve made and take the time to keep in contact with; or even women I don’t know in real life but whose work and creativity I admire. It’s the daily everyday women that give me much to be inspired about. But the big inspiration is mama. She’s the blueprint.
7. What are some of your daily/monthly/annual rituals and routines that you feel ground you?
Yoga practice and meditation. I (try to) write in my journal daily. I do a 2-4 day juice fast about twice a year (not while breastfeeding though!). I love going to the sauna, taking baths, visiting the hamam, taking a dip in hot springs… anything with heat and water, I’m in! I don’t go regularly now because who has the time for that? But whenever the chance arises, I take it. I also take time to treat my skin and hair well. I think make-up is an art form, but I’ve never taken the time to learn it and apply it on myself. Skincare however is something that makes me feel like I’m taking care of myself.
8. What makes you feel safe and secure?
Playing with my children. Taking walks around the neighborhood. Going to the local library…that sort of thing.
9. Which element of nature do you feel most connected to?
I feel most connected to the sun and its radiance. I’m not a beach bum and don’t spend much leisure time lying out in the sun, but I’ve really come to value the positive, uplifting effect of this spectacular star at the center of the Solar System. The moon is incredible too, but I find I need the consistency of sun energy to help center myself as I navigate the sometimes smooth sometimes choppy waters of my fluctuating moon cycles.
10. Our energy is always shifting in our monthly practice, as female practitioners when we receive our ladies holiday, whether its 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?
This final question ties in nicely with the first one. Ultimately, I feel we must accept and make peace with the transient nature of things. Impermanence. And I find that the most basic and powerful way to access that portal of peace is with the breath. It’s the starting point and it’s the end. We say it so much and hear it so often that sometimes my busy mind wishes for a more sophisticated answer; something for my intellect to puzzle over and chew on. However, no matter the situation, no matter how busy, no matter how slippery we feel our grasp on things may be, so long as we’re alive, our breath is there. I cannot think of a more direct, effective and personal way to rediscover our innate abilities to balance and ground ourselves when we feel overwhelmed with the changing tides.
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