“Tell me what you know about the answer to your question.”
This is the response @drgailparker gives when (white) folks ask that common (often triggering) question of “How can I help?”
This. This is the yoga.
1. Instead of depending on the emotional labor of the person being asked the question, it holds a mirror up to the person asking.
2. There’s a curiosity & an invitation to go inside & self-study in that question—“What do you already know?” In yoga practice, this is our svādhyāya.
3. This response moves white folks away from the external & the default of ignorance (“I didn’t know so please tell me what to do, as long as it’s not too hard & you say it in a way that’s not angry because I’m totally an ally”)
We’ve been conditioned by dominant culture to want the right answer. Right away. Right now. This urgency comes from an inability to take a breath & to sit with discomfort.
But deep in our discomfort is a small seed of remembering—a remembering that I am capable of so much more than the stories I’ve been told & the box of comfort I live in. This box of quick fixes & exceptionalism is not just mine; the foundation was crafted out of bootstraps that my ancestors stole. If I examine the structure I might see that it has comforts, but it’s existence will always be what it was built for—separation. But it is not up to others to break down my wall. They did not build it.
It starts inside. Getting still & moving through the reactivity. Cultivating that seed of remembering. Compassionately deconstructing, piece by piece, my walls of white-body supremacy & conditioning so that I can show up without causing more harm.
There is no growth without discomfort just as there is no yoga (or union; yoking) without examining the ways we’ve been purposefully kept separate.
For some wisdom, please have a listen to @tracee_stanley and her podcast episode with @drgailparker
Dr. Parker’s book is in my resources list & is available for pre-order (& kindle).
I hope every yoga teacher finds their way to it.
White people: we need to be talking about the sickness of WHITENESS.
As someone who works hard to read all the “right” books & take in “diverse & inclusive” media (which is a start)—those actions only go so far.
We can’t dismantle white supremacy through fancy words & performative hashtags. This sickness lives in our BODIES. As white people, we are so resistant to discomfort & vulnerability that we constructed a whole system that prioritizes dominance at all costs. This guarantees that we won’t have to do the work of holding up a mirror to our pain.
Spiritual work is deep internal work. We need to move out of the intellectual & into the work of FEELING the ways this sickness has numbed/disrupted/disconnected our nervous system. And those will not be feelings of love & light.
Unspeakable harm has been done to other bodies because we refuse to navigate (with unwavering compassion) our white bodies. Let’s do the deep work.
But still uplift & financially support black people. The fire of this post was fanned by the wisdom of Sonya Renee Taylor:
Follow her & support her: presspatron.com/tbinaa
This practice has been a part of my morning ritual for some time. It weaves together all the things I find myself needing: feeling my body, awakening my social engagement system, & soothing my reactive (& protective) system. I hope it brings you some ease as well. Big love & deep bows. xo.
Despite uncertainty all around us, we are not alone in this. When you have a moment, here’s a practice to help regulate & bring awareness to our breath (with the additional anchor of our hands). Wishing all of us well. xo.
It’s wild to me how persistently my trauma shows up as a need to receive validation from others. I began to name it a while ago when my friend Kim and I were discussing the 5 Love Languages. It's a thing and it's pretty great. Mine? Words of affirmation. 100 percent. What started off as a quiz on romantic reflection quickly became an “oh, shit. here is my entire life” thing.
The avoiding commitment by seeking out fleeting approval thing.
The hiding away in a childhood friend’s closet at a birthday party in hopes of being found and receiving some attention thing.
The years of activism work that distracted me from the quieter, less flashy reminders of “hey, you deserve as much care as you give” thing.
And a few days ago, the racing heartbeat as I spoke up about social justice in a group setting—not because I doubted the compassion in my words, but because a part of me still wanted and wants to keep the bigger waters calm (even if that means I drown in my own deep end…thing).
A key part of my path is reminding myself to take care of my own container—my soma, emotional dances, assumptions and efforts. This involves showing up to the work of healing and, despite and regardless of external validation, journeying onward and inward. To unpack the armor of my ever-so-smart fawn response. Another interaction without reciprocity? Sad, but oddly comfortable. I’m a good listener anyway.
Let’s shake up the narrative of equating approval with value.
My lifetime goal/hope/heart wish?
Trauma Informed Yoga becomes a required component in all yoga teacher trainings.
Nothing relaxes the space between my eyebrows quite like that wish.
As my eyes soften, I can see vulnerable hearts having brave conversations. I can feel nervous systems buzzing with the possibility of being seen and understood. I can see those systems settling as eyes greet eyes with a willingness, time expanding briefly in intentional presence. I hear words that brighten my inner body; consent, choice, community. I can exhale as I hear experiences and stories from faces that don’t look like mine—faces that have been truth-telling on inequality long before I was unpacking or holding myself accountable to my whiteness and social location. Together, we lean in. We can breathe into wider windows of tolerance. Our bodies can feel the wisdom that was for too long covered in dust.
It’s messy. This healing. But I believe in it.
If you’re curious about trauma informed yoga/practices/resources/tools to feel more equipped in your teaching, I’m here to explore with you.
Oh, and my 2020 goal? One pull-up. Just the one will do. (FYI, it was also the 2019 goal). 💪
Okay—*takes a deep breath*
As some of my Abu Dhabi community already knows, Josh and I are taking some time away from the Middle East. We’re heading to Toronto, Canada to—in all honesty—prioritize the parts of ourselves that feel depleted here. We need green spaces (soon to be snowy spaces) & realistic sustainability. Proximity to family. For me, I need to prioritize my social justice work & spiritual activism in ways that aren’t conditional or limited by powers so much bigger than me.
But even so, my heart hurts thinking about stepping away from teaching yoga here. I (selfishly) feel like I’ve already peaked in my short time teaching and I’ll never find a community like this again!
Every day I am excited to teach & learn from you. Every night I am grateful & feel so loved.
Final September classes:
10.30am Gentle Flow at Yoga One
6.30pm Vinyasa at The Room
7.30pm Vinyasa at The Room
9.15am Gentle Flow at Yoga One
5.30pm Gentle Flow & Meditation at The Room
🔅18th September (Wednesday)/
FINAL class (with a little something special that evening) at The Room
5pm / Farewell class at Yoga One
Many more feelings & ramblings about all of this to come. I can’t even begin to praise & love on my amazing bosses enough (Mina, Peter, Mim). ❤️
I respect & admire each of you so much.
But in the meantime, please come practice with me.
Yours in love & compassionate action,
Kilimanjaro. The roof of Africa. The tallest free-standing mountain in the world. Over a week of “pole, pole” & “hakuna matata” culminated in one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. At the summit, my head was foggy & and my legs were unsteady. I hugged Josh & our tears embraced the frigid air of sunrise. The full moon was still soft in the distance.
But (despite the thin air at 19,340 feet) my breath never wavered. In eight days & across five distinct climate zones, that anchor of awareness never retreated or tightened. My breath (my practice) held me in deep trust. It was yoga. I’ve never rested in such trust before; it means something & that’s all I know now.
As an Accessible Yoga Ambassador, I’m humbled to bring a practice like this to my community here in Abu Dhabi, UAE. At the same time, I acknowledge that in doing so I am centering myself (a body very much in alignment with our conditioned notion of what a yoga practitioner “looks like”).
If you come on Friday I will do my best to meet you where you are in the worthy body that you have.
I promise we will move and breathe in new and adaptive ways.
I promise to speak from my heart while naming where I still need to grow (and where I hope we can grow together).
I also promise to uplift/share/celebrate the voices that have been carrying this torch long before I chose to gather behind them.
I listen to awaken because I want to be a good ancestor.
I do the work of unpacking my whiteness because I want to be a good ancestor.
I partner empathy with action because I want to be a good ancestor.
As my heart gets educated on the reality of what has always been I hold space for my white tears but I don’t let that fragility take up more space because I want to be a good ancestor.
My yoga practice intersects with social justice & accessibility & trauma because it is violent to google yoga, attend a retreat/training, or scroll through social media only seeing (or seeking out) bodies that look & move like mine (& I acknowledge the hypocrisy in the picture I’ve chosen—also my knee will definitely fall off being this far past my ankle).
I practice yoga to soften the ego of the intellectual & it’s default towards white exceptionalism.
I practice yoga to unlearn my conditioning & compassionately mess up & do it again because I want to be a good ancestor.
As a teacher I promise to wake up every day and hold up a mirror.
I am saying “I” a lot.
If this doesn’t align or resonate (& I’ve learned lately that it doesn’t with everyone)—then tell me what does?