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I hate it when yogis talk about fat

26 May

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So this is the thing. I get that we live in a society that fat shames. I get that yoga was created by men and has a focus on thinness to make some of the twists and turns easier and more effective.

Have you ever tried binding in a size 16/18 body–not impossible, but the likelihood of extra space is pretty much not going to happen.

I get the idea of austerity and focus on diet. I get the health and “philosophical” reasons. But I want to address something else.

We are so comfortable fat shaming that it is almost an impossible thought that a fat person or even more ridiculous a fat yogi (think size 12 and above, le sigh) might be as concerned about their health and happiness as a thin one. I have been reading all of these articles about yogis and yoga teachers, reclaiming their right to a full figure, a post pregnancy stomach, thigh jiggle, etc.

And, I see why we want it to be empowerment. I do, I really do. We all want to be seen, we all want to say, “Hey, look at me I’m normal, stop telling me I’m not.”

The thing that makes me cringe is that in these articles, said yogis go on to explaining why it’s ok to be who you are.  Underlining that the doubt about your body is normal and that yoga is a beauty business of sorts and that others think about it so it’s ok that you do, AND IT”S OK THAT YOU’RE A NORMAL SIZED HUMAN BEING. My question, why does this need to be validated, exactly?

And on the flip-side, can we please stop shaming Kathryn Bundig for being too skinny? My sense is that if we focused less time on what we look like and spent more time extending our love, devotion, service to those around us, we might not even care…

A month ago, I spent a weekend in Oakland at a conference organized by john a. powell, called Othering and Belonging. What I took away from this experience is the deep calling we ALL hold to belong to something, sometimes at the expense of excluding others. That exclusion somehow makes us better, stronger, smarter, fitter, more advanced than all those other people–except the ones who claim to be like us–whether that means by thought or by body. All those people we are fighting for classes, students, teacher apprenticeships, adoration, love, validation. By focusing on the external we are exclaiming that there is a RIGHT (even if you accept yourself the way you are) way to be in the world and that you can measure yourself closer, or someone else as farther away.

I am wondering what would our world look like if we assumed that everyone was working toward the same goals–love, inclusion, belonging. That we all, most likely, suffer from doubt and that doubt is probably what brought us to where we are at? What would happen if we extended that hand? If we were the person that suspended judgement and really met people where they were at? What if we measured each other by our openness, how much we were willing to give, and kindness? What kind of world would be live in then?

I am challenging us all to manifest THAT world and accept ourselves and others equally and unequivocally.

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Special Yin Hips Workshop in Alameda

22 May

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Yin Yoga and The Art of Hip Opening
With Dia Penning
6/20/151:30-4:00pm
$30 early registration, $35 week of workshop
Info and RegistrationDo you suffer from chronic tightness or discomfort in the hips? Are you a runner, cyclist, or crossfitter with tight hamstrings, IT band, or psoas? Healthy hips are the key to easing back pain, relieving stress in the legs and feet, improving circulation and elevating overall health in the body.

This hip opening workshop will include discussion and Yin Yoga poses. No prior yoga experience required
Video

Pete Seeger singing Raghupati Raghava

4 Feb

Beautiful ally, beautiful soul.

Being other: In yoga, art, and life.

31 Jan

Ok, first you must peep this nonsense:

There are no Black People in my Yoga Class and Suddenly I am Feeling Uncomfortable.

I am absolutely sure that Jen Polachek (she received such a virtual bashing that she has changed her byline to Jen Caron) had all the best intentions in mind. In fact, in her last paragraph she breaks it down by saying “…And while I recognize that there is an element of spectatorship to my experience in this instance, it is precisely this feeling of not being able to engage, not knowing how to engage, that mitigates the hope for change.” The problem is that in her attempt to connect to us, the reader, she failed to see that there are many, many lessons in this experience (really yogic lessons, worthy of about one hundred and fifty dharma talks).

The ones that I take away, for myself, after wanting to ream her out royally, is that the world is an oh so complex salad bowl of racial stereotypes and interactions. That we are all full to the brim with wanting to effect change and playing the victim when things do not go our way. And, that the most yoga lessons I learn are not on my mat, in a class, but in my interactions with people on the street, people very different from me. That the room in my body, cultivated by asana, makes space for breath and gives me the room to see things differently. That breath allows me to slow down and develop a connection to so many living things around me.

Today, I spent about an hour at the African American Museum and Library in Oakland. I met a great group of people to talk about next possible steps with a stellar exhibit the Griots of Oakland (check it out really, it will blow your mind). We talked about gender, we talked about age, we talked about the complexity of working in collaboration, and we talked about race. And, we talked abut how race is so very complicated. In brain studies we have found that many people do not even register people of color, that their brains act as if they are staring at a blank screen (there’s a little bit of reality for you).

As “good” liberals, living in “good” liberal parts of the world or the country, we think we are having open and honest dialogue about race. We try to engage in something that we think will make a difference. We try, as Jen did, to comment on our own f*cked up experiences and feelings in relationship to race. But the thing is, we are all so scared to really pull up some floor and pull it apart. Not just a dialogue on a national level, or tet-a-tet on a personal level, but to really talk.  Talk and risk being stupid, in the hopes that someone may have something to teach us.

What are we to do about all this race inequality in the world, let alone a yoga class, if we can not see others as fundamentally human? If we cannot extend ourselves and open our mouths and risk being vulnerable. Not to place ourselves as a victim but to be open and empty, willing to know nada and to learn from others experiences. Recognize, it is OK to be angry, it is OK to be panicked or stressed, or confused. All of these things are OK because we can use our cultivation of breath to support us through them. To Jen and anyone that feels like her, in a yoga class OR even walking down the street, can you use your yoga to recognize your human connection, please.

Just breathe, ask a question, and find out if your assumption was true. And then do it again, and again, and again, each and everyday.

Valuing Evaluation

26 Jan

ExplodingHead

In my copious amounts of spare time, I also write curriculum for an organization called World Trust. My current focus of research and study is evaluation, and the bias implicit in the process. We often think of evaluation as being held by someone out there, someone with more information and intelligence, an Evaluation can be formed in any environment by “the expert.”

My partner in this endeavor is a small not for profit from San Raphael called E3 Ed: Education, Excellence, Equity. Working with them is amazing after all these years in education because they look at evaluation in a different way. They have developed a method of examining an individuals propensity for collaboration, critical thinking and problem solving and how that measurement can predict their success, not only in school but also in life.

This idea is so radical. Imagine a world where we believed that if you have these skills and are supported in your achievement, you can learn the math or science or vocabulary that is tested in traditional assessment, like SAT’s or STAR. All it takes is the realization by teacher and student that there is ability.

Sitting down with their Executive Director, my mind exploded a little bit.

We push ourselves so hard to look like or be like our perception of the expert. In yoga or in art, there are stars that we all try to emulate. What would happen if we recognized the completeness of each of our experiences? What would happen if we allowed a more open interpretation of what makes greatness? Danielle Hogenboom of Love Light Yoga is honest about being able to do a handstand, though she is a master teacher, an exceptional translator for yogic philosophy and a somatic healer.  She is willing to meet her self where she is at.And (another mind blower) she encourages her students to do the same.

Sometimes we forget the message of yoga,
To sit with oneself,
To recognize and unite the god and human consciousness that reside within each of us.

We are so busy evaluating. So busy turning outside of ourselves for the measure of success. We encourage our students to be whole. Can we allow ourselves to be as well?

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