New York City Yoga Journal Conference 2009
via Leah Beltran.
On Friday evening, May 14, I finished my first year as a jewelry design major at the Fashion Institute of Technology. It was a ten-month period in which I felt everything was due yesterday. I’ve been asked to start from paper and go to product, mechanically drafting my designs, thinking about weight and cost. I’m inspired most by people, music, movement, the cycle of life and heartbreak. My motto is, “form follows fuck up.” Prior to entering a formal training I would take an idea and dive in hands first. Trusting the materials would lead the way and take form, this method worked, but I was calling for growth.
It was 10 months ago that I relocated to NYC from a brief stay at my parent’s home in Texas. There I found space to collect myself after a raw metamorphosis in Boulder, Colorado that shed ten pounds from my trunk and defined my early twenties.
I arrived thinking I had spent enough time with my emotions, accepting my mistakes, and learning to love myself again, that naturally the next step is a full-time art program. To my surprise I suffered no FOMO (fear of missing out). It was so satisfying going to school at 10AM and coming home at 1AM at least five days a week. Transforming my aesthetic and work ethic, while slowly letting go of “my story” that I have picked apart and tried to make sense of for long enough. Evidently, leaving only a small amount of time for my once considerable devotion to movement and dance. This is the part of me that feels I should suffer a little.
It was at the Yoga Journal NYC Conference this past weekend that I made a commitment to myself. My work cannot be my life…even though I love what I do. I know deep down that my body has always served me—and, lately, I haven’t been reciprocating.
1) Shiva Rea – Rasa: The Yoga of Liberating Love,
2) Seane Corn – Empower Flow,
3) Seane Corn – Off the Mat, Into the World: Yoga, Purpose and Action (discussion and asana),
4) Seane Corn – Yogini,
5) Seane Corn – Chakra Flow (discussion and asana),
6) Alanna Kaivalya – Sacred Vibration: The Power of Nada Yoga (asana and chanting with live music).
I was a little sleepy when I arrived to my first class with Shiva Rea on Saturday at 7:45 am. Battling, I couldn’t stop judging and feel uncomfortable around the feathers, sequined yoga clothing and poi I saw. I felt a little like I was at a So Cal version of high school Burning Man (eww, what?!)…all in a conference space at the Hilton Hotel. The class was about opening our heart space to experience the divine, and I was not present. The class ended in kirtan chanting that I enjoyed and afterward I thought mostly about the different roles we give our teachers and ourselves. I see in America we tend to idolize the image of people who influence us most. This act does not serve. Instead it takes us further from our center and creates separation between us. Our teachers share with us their personal knowledge and experience and were meant to hold vigil together, out of respect for one another. I describe sarcastically what I feel about my peers in a very short blurb in my journal that ends in capital letters, a word to myself, “STOP!” I’m just denying myself the experience of the class.
For the next four sessions I’m with Seane Corn, who as a child may have rarely ever stopped asking questions. Extremely eloquent and intentional, a natural communicator, Seane is a blessed woman whom I felt very fortunate to be in the company of, for as long as I was. Interpreting our poses into metaphors and bringing life circumstance to the forefront of our asana. Reminding me that yoga is an incredible exercise of acceptance, patience, forgiveness, compassion, fearlessness, grace, and love.
When I first began my yoga practice, it was somewhat unintentional—an extension of my dance and way for me to stretch and relax. I understand more everyday that our body is one of our greatest teachers. Just as the materials I use to produce a piece of jewelry take their own shape, and my hands are the tools that form the shape, my body works in the same way. When I feel sick, dehydrated, hungry, sleepy…my body is the first to let me know. It’s up to me to source the nutrients and do what is needed to regain my strength.
Three of Seane’s classes were largely focused on movement. In a variation of lunge pose where I was in a wide stance, one knee bent, one shoulder under my bent leg and both hands on my ankle, is where I found my greatest physical challenges. I’ve been storing so much in my hips, my feelings of guilt, abandonment, and sadness.
It was about 10 months ago that a dear friend and I stopped talking. In the beginning I was able to put aside any thoughts of him and focus on school, meeting new people, and making new connections. A month or so ago I consciously brought him into mind again. When I did this I realized that I always have a physical reaction. Sometimes I tear up, but it never fails that I feel a deep ache in my heart. When this happens I start judging myself for these reactions and then close up to anymore thoughts passing through. When I was in the lunge pose I recalled this cycle. The more uncomfortable I became in my hips, the more I would find ways of adjusting so I felt better or just not at all. It was about the fifth time Seane had led us through this pose that I began to remain and breathe through my feelings of discomfort. Seane was confirming for us that we were in a safe place, and that we weren’t hurting ourselves by staying present and feeling the ache. Instead of just moving on to other sensations, we worked to accep them…and then and then only could they pass.
This brought me to the beginning of our discussion in class. A few people had shared that they felt Sean was reading their mind when she would address particular issues. Seane said that it’s not that she is reading their mind, but rather that these issues are all things that we share together, that we all have in common. I had to giggle to myself when I felt the same. I was going to wait until the end of class to ask Sean privately what she meant when she asks us to surrender, but in the lunge pose I found my answer.
By the time I laid my mat down in the last class of the conference, Sacred Vibration: The Power of Nada Yoga with Alanna Kaivalya, I felt like a heavy weight was lifted off my chest. Never having heard of Nada yoga, which by definition is the meditation on sound, I watched Alanna and two assistants bring scarves to everyone in the room. She began by introducing us to Mathew Schoening, who played the electric cello for the whole session. After a brief lesson in physics and how we relate and vibrate, that confirmed the idea that we are what we think, we were asked to put our blindfolds on for the remainder of class. I’m sure for most of us, blind yoga was a new experience. Free of judgment and full of trust. Every move felt like a gift, as though it wasn’t my muscles and bones moving initiating the next step. We were riding waves of motion and sound that led into a graceful sequence of events. Throughout the room I could hear sniffles. We were all letting go into what had been revealed to us over the past two days of intense physical, mental, and emotional practice.
It was an honor to study with all the teachers at the event and share in time and space with my peers. I learned that surrendering doesn’t mean giving up or losing faith, and for me to accept and love myself is to do the same for others. Blessed are the bells and whistles that sometimes throw me off. May I be thrown off again and again until I’m as strong as I pray to be.