I just started a new Yoga for Beginners Series, which is a super great opportunity, especially for me as a teacher, to get back to the basics. We always begin at the feet. I say this: “Lift your toes. Spread them wide. Lower them down to the floor…one at a time.” If you are trying this right now, you’ll notice—it’s hard (and not actually possible, that I know of)! But it makes us all laugh—and helps folks pay attention to the feet in a way we don’t normally. .
Placing the feet intentionally on the floor is how you establish your foundation in a pose. It’s what everything else is going to build upon. The feet (or really, whatever part of the body is touching the floor) is the energetic anchor to the Earth—to what grounds and holds steady and provides consistent nourishment for growth.
In other words—it’s super important.
As a non-profit yoga studio, our foundation is our mission: to make yoga accessible to people of all incomes and abilities. Which is why it’s equally important that we have a similar practice of being aware of where our feet on the ground, so to speak. Our Board of Directors gathered this last month for our annual retreat, and we were all asked to take a good look at where we are, how we are doing, and where our roots are resting.
There was much to celebrate, as we are delighted (and some days, flabbergasted!) that we are approaching our fifth year of service. We also discovered opportunities to re-set our foundation. One opportunity we identified was to be even more explicit about there being no pre-requisites for learning the practice of yoga.
We quite literally mean: come as you are.
The media is saturated with images of what yoga is and what the Yogi “should” look like—which doesn’t represent about 98% of humankind.
For example: last weekend I had the absolute pleasure of attending a resource fair for Veterans, and I was blown away by how hungry many people were for what we have to offer—peace of mind, relaxation, a sense of self-worth—or for the vet amputee community, just a reason to get out of the house. I was equally astounded by the perceptions people had about what was possible (or more often than not, impossible) for them. More than one person said they’d been interested, but felt intimidated or were scared they would look stupid. Many others laughed when we asked if they'd ever done yoga--"Me??!!" You're kidding.--but when we were able to just chat and hear about their lives, there was usually an entry point for sharing the about what yoga can do. "It can help with the little nagging voices?" one young man asked, wide-eyed, after telling us about his two-year unemployment streak and how it's gotten him feeling pretty down and defeated. Yes, those inner voices of self-limitation and doubt. Yoga can help.
This is exactly why SKY was created! I thought to myself. Exactly for this veteran with fibromyalgia or traumatic brain injury, or this survivor of warfare who desires just a peaceful night’s sleep.
This is our foundation. This is where we deliberately place our feet. This is what our board has re-identified as the heart of our purpose: to create safe, loving space where people in the most dis-empowered state of being might be offered a chance to discover something beautiful, sacred even, about themselves. Hear it from one of the visionaries herself, in this brilliant piece on how our studio was founded published in the Huffington Post by one of our co-founders and our Board President, Vania Kent Harber.
We are firmly planted on our little patch of earth on St Helens, and so keep a look out for signs of new growth: like our new website, which we are so proud of; or the summer sprucing process happening right now in the studio. Responding to the results of our outreach, we are also happy to invite all veterans and service members to be special guests at our free introductory event, The Heart of Our Practice: The Origin of Samdhana-Karana Yoga, at the end of the month. Lastly, look ahead to our accessible and community-based urban retreat in August.
Lift your toes. Spread them wide. Lower them to the floor...one at a time. You have arrived.