October 26, 2011

Occupy This Body, Your Voice. ~ Alyssa Schimmel

Photo: Steve D. Hammond

There’s a natural tendency, I’ve observed, for us to shrink from the spotlight of conviction and connection from time to time.

We might chalk it up to fear, or discomfort, or greater and more significant, still, a deep feeling that we must apologize in a sense for our existence–how we occupy space, how we command the need to be seen.

Photo: Brian Talbot

In her book, Succulent Wild Woman, the whimsical, free-spirited SARK once recounted an instance she had in a grocery store when bumping into another woman with her shopping cart. Though it had been SARK’s aisle slipup, the other woman offered forth a flood of pardons though she had very much been on the receiving end of the impact. On the surface, one might propose that this other shopper was just polite–even overly so–but, perhaps if we look at the instance on a deeper level, we might explore how social convention has trained us–and I’d argue, women especially–to walk forth with a soft-shoe grace and an unspoken, internalized apology.

Women’s magazines serve as a prime example of this–highlighting, in some way, that in order to be heard, or worthy of hearing, we must take on the constructed value of what it means to take up less space. The question that comes to my mind, in light of the recent Occupy protests that have built momentum across the country, is how can we occupy more fully our voices and these bodies that we possess?

In Power to the Peaceful Yoga with Michael Franti, Sharon Gannon and David Life, Jivamukti yoga co-founder Sharon Gannon suggests that you will know your yoga practice is working by the sound of your own voice–when you can say what you mean, and mean what you say with your whole body.

Whether you take this in the context of the protests–with people rallying against corporate greed, government debt, and for their struggles to be recognized (ranging from unemployment, debt, and housing shortages, among the myriad reasons), or, at a personal level (how this operates in your life and relationships), consider how it is that you embody this powerful expression of your existence through full, honest, and commanding speech.

Do you allow yourself to simmer on the back-burner? Do you address that which calls out to you proudly and with purpose and the recognition of your own value in this interconnected web?

Yoga is often translated as ‘union,’ and in some circles, is also defined as ‘intimacy.’ I like the latter definition as it activates for me the very notion that we can be connected to the full scope of our vulnerable and beautiful experience. Intimacy is the space wherein we meet the rawness of all joyful possibility and struggle. It is tender and awkward and messy–a negotiable and reflected home along the continuum of separateness and connection.

It brings to mind for me a particular experience I had once on a bus wherein both my seatmate and I had a bevy of bags, but convention aside, shucked off the need to contract into the confined quarters of our seats. Sides touching, quite literally smashed up against each other as is uncommon, we held a sort of metaphorical space for each others’ right to occupy–a celebration of our mutual and quiet, connected value. There was no resistance.

Among the ways the Occupy protests have inspired me is in their reaffirming of the power of united, collective action and the amplification of this shared struggle and right to be heard. Without sound systems, or electricity, protesters use ‘the people’s amplification’–literally repeating back in mass what one speaker says.

Let’s look to the protests as vindication for occupation. We can occupy physical space–the benches, the streets, our bodies–and this larger space, too. The space of unity, of intimacy, of yoga. May we, with all our bags, and hang-ups, and struggles, always find the strength to live our lives from a place of fullness and hold space for others’, too.


Note: This article was published originally at http://blog.acacialifestyle.com/?p=1876. It has been reformatted and altered slightly for elephantjournal.



Alyssa Schimmel is a DC-based yogi who first discovered the practice through a dollar-bin VHS tape of a long-haired Bryan Kest. Since then, her practice has deepened across multiple traditions and she now works in DVD marketing for a yoga and fitness line. When she’s off the mat, she’s exploring human connectivity and health & wellness through cooperative living, experiments in gift economy, story-telling, Thai yoga therapy, and fermenting foods through her small-scale product line, Well-Bread and Cultured. She can be reached by email at [email protected].


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