I began working towards my PhD so that I could partner with others to make systemic change around the ways that we all feel in our own skin (what is “acceptable” bodies) as prescribed in the US by our narrow conceptions of “appropriate” expressions of gender, sexuality, ability, size, shape, and myriad other variables. Without too much proselytizing or reductionism, these conceptions were formed by dominant Christian ideals which came to this land through colonization, the supremacy and reach of Westernized medicine and the medical institution, commodification and policing of bodies (Industrial Revolution and the rise of capitalism and a neoliberal state structure, changes in capitalism over time influenced by historical events such as war and technological innovation), and other powerful state and non-state entities based upon patriarchal notions of who and what has value/power/access and who/what does and should not. In the ways that I felt that I could, I wanted to help shift these cultural norms that impact the ways that we feel in our own skin by doing research and policy work substantively around sexuality and gender.
Ultimately I wanted to help create an environment where people could feel good in their own skin and loved and accepted (not “tolerated”) for being exactly who they are; and to believe deeply that they are already enough (not perfect, and also not apathetic towards the experiences of others, or complacent towards their/our own growth), but OK just as they are.
So I started trying to do that from the most disconnected, isolating place; academia. I was trained to be with people and “doing the work,” (as a social worker) and being in the precious hallowed halls of the academy has been lonely (even with the presence of supportive faculty, staff, and fellow students). Also, being an extreme extrovert, my being was not meant to be T-Rexing behind a computer all day long! I quit many of the things that brought meaning to my life when I began the PhD program. And now, with intention have put old and new things back into my life with the aim to feel more connected to others and the larger world. I have also been committed to not “waiting for this to be over” for my life to begin or segregating out parts of me while I begin to form my career. I need to feel good in my own skin if I want to sustain this work, certainly, but also to have a meaningful, easeful, and pleasurable life.
So, yes, helping folks feel better in their own skin… I realized; “what helped me feel better in my own skin?” Oh yeah, yoga (primarily the yogic philosophical teachings that the asana can help access) and Buddhist principals; things that I have been learning and sharing and (trying) to embody for the past several years now! Welp, it has happened. I have proudly joined the ranks of the plethora of white, mid-thirties cis-women yoga teachers in Seattle! Totally cool with it. In my classes, I hope to partner with my students to create an environment of curiosity, acceptance, and healing and hopefully that goodness will be generative and move with them and those that they touch for the rest of their day. That is how I often feel when I leave a great asana class or meditation session with one of my beloved teachers. And sometimes I don’t, and that is cool too. The practice is the good stuff; showing up, noticing what goes down emotionally, and being kind to yourself around that, and remembering that you, just like everyone else, given all the history and experiences that you have had, and the context that you are in, are always doing your best.
As well, I get to touch people and have them touch me (as an asana student)! So hopefully (with appropriate boundaries and giving options to not be touched if folks don’t want to), I can help my students feel better in their own skin in the immediate moment as well!
I’m grateful for the opportunity of this new path and feel like facilitating yoga classes and partnering with others in this new forum and in the embodied, connected, grounded-in-yoga's-roots-way that I hope will help me feel more connected to my own body, to others, and to spreading good in the world in a more direct and tangible way.