The final installment of a four part interview series examining this year’s newly launched Yoga, Sex and Feminism, Tantra Vinyasa conference.
In this series I spoke with Vajra Ma, the conference’s keynote speaker, founder of Woman Mysteries of the Ancient Future Sisterhood and The Tantric Dance of Feminine Power, and Dr. Melody Moore, clinical psychologist, yoga instructor and co-founder of Embody Love Movement.
In part one of the series, Vajra Ma and Dr. Melody Moore talk about coming to identify as feminists. In part two, they discuss what they see as the connection between yoga, sex and feminism. In part three, Vajra Ma discusses the teachings she shared at the conference.
In this final segment, Dr. Melody Moore talks about her contributions to the conference and her simultaneous experiences as a participant.
Melody: I was so grateful to have been asked to present four workshops at Tantra Vinyasa Dallas. The most important workshop, to me, was titled “Body Acceptance 101: Looking in the Mirror without Falling Apart.” There were 28 attendees present, all of whom were courageous and respectful and full of compassion for themselves and each other in this two-hour exploration and experience of body image acceptance.
I was grateful to hold space to delve into why we become obsessed with or distracted by our external appearance as a way of measuring our worth, even and especially when we, as yogis, understand that we matter more than how we appear. The participants were asked to identify their internal critical thoughts about their bodies, to expose them, and to consider letting them go as a way of being a reflection of love and of acceptance to those around them.
Melanie: That sounds powerful. What a wonderful opportunity to excavate, expose and heal the source of the internal critic.
Girls and women (and increasingly boys and men) are plagued with body image in ever larger numbers, beginning at ever earlier ages. And when we’re caught up in obsessing over the numbers on the scale or measuring our worth by a socially constructed, narrow and impossible beauty standard, practicing self-love is impossible. I mean, you can’t love yourself if you hate your thighs, your nose or your waistline. And energy that could go into loving and being your best self and/or becoming a more alert, engaged and productive citizen is being wasted.
This is important work. What else did you present?
Melody: I also had the great privilege of co-presenting three workshops with my dear friend and colleague at Embody Love Movement, Janie Montague, E-RYT [Experienced Registered Yoga Teacher]. We presented workshops derived from [a] series we taught over the past year to a group of women in Dallas who have been on a transformational journey to lives full of freedom and unconditional love. We taught “Walk in Grace: Finding Freedom the Forgiveness,” a workshop on opening one’s heart to compassion and committing to presence as a way of being.
Melanie: And how was this workshop structured?
Melody: Participants were led through exercises that allowed them to let go of resentments toward others and, more challenging, towards themselves. We offered “Truth be Told: May I Speak the Truth,” an exploration of what it means to live in satya and with the courage to be in alignment with our words, without attachment to the outcome. The participants in this workshop were asked to bravely expose aspects of themselves that they had previously been hiding out of fear of rejection or abandonment. They were so, so beautiful in their capacity to deeply listen to one another and to be vulnerable with themselves and each other.
Melanie: That sounds great, Melody. What about the last workshop?
Melody: Our final workshop, “Letting Go and Leaning In,” was about relinquishing attachment to outcomes, such as perfection, others’ reactions, past hurts and future fantasies, in order to be fully awakened to the present moment. We encouraged the participants to sit with the moment, to embrace and lean into what comes up within them, rather than anesthetize the discomfort by attempting to control it.
Melanie: And how was your workshop and your workshops received?
Melody: Being at Tantra Vinyasa was such a privilege. The students who showed up to our workshops were courageous in their capacity to participate in experiences that were ego shaking and heart opening. There was such a sense of immediate and sweet community amongst the attendees, and a palpable respect for self and for other that it allowed for us to go deeply into spaces of fear and shadow, even in a short amount of time. I was so touched and truly honored to have so many students, after having attended a previous session of ours, return to workshops I or Janie and I were teaching.
The students were generous with their gratitude and with their willingness to be led somewhere perhaps new and perhaps frightening. Most of our sessions ended with processing the students’ experiences in the workshop, and I was so thankful for the ways in which they showed up for each other by giving gratitude to one another for listening, for containing, for respecting, for accepting each other’s experiences.
Melanie: What a beautiful experience for both your students and you as a teacher. In fact, tell me a bit about your experience as a participant.
Melody: As much as I enjoyed teaching, I also was grateful to find a new teacher in Jonny Kest, whose classes on “Unconditional Love” (my favorite subject) and the truthfully titled “Slowburn” were unforgettable. I also so appreciated being able to present alongside dear friends Nikki Myers and Les Leventhal, two teachers I know through my work with Off the Mat, Into the World.
The community at Tantra Vinyasa Dallas was a beautiful, complex, sweet beginning to what I hope to be a new movement amongst yoga students, studios, and conferences. I am still receiving emails from students who were in our workshops and it is a privilege to know that the work we presented planted seeds that are sure to be nurtured and nourished over time, creating new growth for individuals and communities beyond our capacity to imagine.
My heart is so full of love and of possibility for having been a part of Yoga, Sex, and Feminism, and I remain grateful to have been a witness and a navigator for the students who showed up with courage and with compassion for me, for themselves, and for each other. This is yoga.
Ed: Lynn Hasselberger