Making face, making soul.
Usted es el modeador de su carne tanto como el de su alma.
You are the shaper of your flesh as well as of your soul.*
Gloria Evangelina Anzaldúa is one of the Xicana Indígen@s in whose light I have studied, practiced and shared my yoga practice for the last 14 years. Though I started practicing before ever reading Anzaldúa's work, trusting my struggles to perceive my intuition and surrender to la facultad, a word Gloria gave us in Borderlands/La Frontera. To remember how to be present in my body is a gift I am inspired to give myself and the world. I am able to give wholeheartedly thanks to the brilliance I receive from U.S. Third World Women of Color writers, and the scriptures they've birthed and continue to manifest.
Gloria says: "Yoga of the body has to do with flexibility and fluidity -- going beyond physical boundaries. It has to do with extending beyond limitations. Yoga is the ability to move your body in a flexible kind of way. You have these stretching exercises, you curl your legs in a certain way, you work in conjunction with breathing ... We need that kind of flexibility when we work with the imagination and with our minds and feelings. We need a yoga of the body which includes the mind, the spirit, the imagination, the soul. If you're an artist, creativity is a yoga of the mind, of the imagination. Everything that writers do -- whether it's fiction or images -- has to go through the body. Readers are also affected physically. Every word you read hits you physiologically -- your blood pressure changes, your heartbeat changes; your cells, your bones, your muscles are moved by a beautiful poem, a tragic episode. So that's the kind of yoga that I want: a yoga filtered through the body and through the imagination, the emotions, the spirit, and the soul."*
Such practices of yoga, of the body-mind-spirit-imagination-soul, are one way to remember ancient, and freshly craft in the now, cycles of life-ing and dying.
It is in this spirit that I study, practice and share the wisdom traditions of yoga. Making face, making soul, words Anzaldúa borrows from the ancient Nauhuas, reflect these practices she (re)introduces to the world and which many of us have been practicing as we listen to the solitude in our collective heart: we are here, now. we are present to craft our face (body) and heart (soul).
*Gloria E. Anzaldúa in Making Face, Making Soul/Haciendo Caras: Creative and Critical Perspectives by Feminists of Color
*Gloria E. Anzaldúa in Within the Crossroads: Lesbian/Feminist/Spiritual Development, an Interview with Christine Weiland (1983) published in Entrevistas/Interviews published by Anzaldúa and AnaLouise Keating
En Lak'ech Ala K'in
I am another you, you are another me.
This making face and making soul is also a practice of the Mayan code of the heart, En Lak'ech Ala K'in. I am interested in practicing these in relation with yoga, in somehow practicing them as yoga. Inspired by spiritual and intellectual warriors such as M. Jacqui Alexander, this Mayan code can be a commitment to humbly yoke the individual and the collective, other words for the Sanskrit term, yoga. I'd like to honor specific wisdom traditions and geopolitical trajectories while at the same time explore their synergy and potential for co-creation of spiritual community. In this practice, there exists an always already extended invitation from the universe to put our attention, our movement and breath, on labors of love that Alexander describes as "forging spiritual community, the ongoing work of pursuing different Sacred paths to knowing and of the ongoing challenge involved in internalizing, that is living, the belief that all things are interconnected."*
I began my yoga training in 1998 amongst eclectic circumstances - YMCAs, community centers, living room floors. I turned to yoga as a response to crisis, what was diagnosed as Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Chronic Fatigue and Chronic Emotional Fatigue, I dropped out of what I had known as my life to respond to sexual violence. In my efforts to simply be present in my body, whether it was paralyzed or overactive from trauma, I found nothing I could quite put words to, and something intimately related to moving and breathing. Moving and breathing whilst, as Audre Lord so powerfully states, "remembering we were never meant to survive"* is my daily yoga, a daily forging of self-love. Thus my first teachers were in the powerful whispers from that deep, dark place of liberation. From seeds planted by ancest@rs in the soil and sweat of dignified rage and desire for, como dicen las zapatistas, a world in which many worlds fit. In other words, the first teachers came to me as l@s animas. They encouraged me to ventilate my heart, to touch the desire to choose to live and breathe and survive the many terrains of hell.
My formal training is in hatha yoga. Practices of hatha yoga are indigenous to India, and also to what is currently Egypt. I realize and grieve that yoga is even an option for me, in large part, because it has been violently appropriated by Western culture. I remain conscious of my participation in this appropriation, and have not resolved it. Without erasing this appropriation, I also am accountable to trusting that many areas of the world have had moving and breathing wisdom traditions. I am actively learning/practicing more about breathing and movement wisdom traditions from the Americas. I hope to spend my life in dialogue with these wisdom traditions in ways that are personally and politically accountable, here and now. As such, part of my labors of love are to unearth and acknowledge mesoamerican forms of movement and breathing, in awareness of spiritual appropriation and solidarity with cultivating anticolonial forms of healing. Thus, other forms of forging spiritual community include antiviolence thoughts and practices, specifically focused on transforming violences perpetrated by the nation-state (ie, sexual and gendered violation, immigration enforcement ie, SB1070 as colonial gendered violence). These are in coalition with Native American sovereignty movements and abolition movements. Another important practice of yoga for me is researching my biological and imagined genealogies which were nearly erased by processes of imperialism. It is in these intersections that I live into changing identities and forge a constant dialogue between, and creative tension with, making face, making soul, In Lak Ech and making yoga.
My first formal training is with Purusha Hickson, who began his training in the Integral Yoga method in 1975 under Bhakti Yoga master Swamini Turiyasangitanandaj, also known as Alice Coltrane. Purusha also studies Hatha by master B.K.S. Iyengar, and is influenced by Manuso Manas, Aadil Pallkhivala and Patricia Walden. Purusha also spent time in India, studying Ashtanga Vinyasa under master Sri Patabhi Jois. Synergizing from these streams and deeper spiritual training from Swamini Turiyasangitanandaji, Purusha's yoga teacher training is eclectic and profound. I studied formally with Purusha in an 8 month intensive in 2010.
*M. Jacqui Alexander in Pedagogies of Crossing: Meditations on Feminism, Sexual Politics, Memory, and the Sacred (Perverse Modernities)
*Audre Lorde, Litany for Survival in The Black Unicorn
Sessions with me are on a person by person, or group by group, basis. Each session will include a phone call or visit so I/we can tailor our sessions. They will include a mix of movement, breathing and sometimes talking or card readings. I was raised Mexican-Catholic. Though I am not currently Catholic-identified, I do identify with some aspects. Thus some of my tools have Catholic imagery. The tools I chose and feel comfortable with, such as the image of La Virgen de Guadalupe, are those which indigenous folks subversively use(d) as vehicles through which our memories and dignities can continue moving and breathing. If you have any trauma around this Catholic imagery, I can remove these for our session.
All my sessions and classes are free of financial reciprocity. Other forms of reciprocity, what energies we hope and consent to exchange, will be discussed. For example, what it costs for each of us to show up, it could be courage, vulnerability, time. What are we willing and able to open up to and share. We will also discuss how we can support one another to show up.
Reciprocity in times of capitalism can get tricky. As such, if you're rich, class privileged and consciously doing healing work for this often painful social positionality, we can discuss financial reciprocity.
I have conducted yoga sessions and/or series with folks of various ages, psychic and physical capacities. Some groups include: Cucci, Leadership Development for Interethnic Relations LDiRs in Health program, Los Angeles Leadership Academy, and a yoga in Spanish series at Dharma Mitra Yoga LA. Since 2004, I have worked with Girls For A Change. First, as Program Director and then more recently in a variety of interactive workshops on self-body-care across the nation and internationally. I offer yoga/healing series/workshops out of my home from time to time. I can also come to you.
I am currently a PhD student in Urban Planning. Since 2010, I have participated in organizing with INCITE! LA. These are my other practices of yoga, placing conscious attention on gendered violence and healing. I have presented and published on trauma, healing, movement, and performing coalition and transformative movementing. For example:
UCLA Center for the Study of Women June 2011
LivingViolence: Crafting Stories, (Self)Knowledge & Healing