“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
The first chant I ever heard in a yoga class was Draupadi’s chant. Many of you have heard me tell the story of Queen Draupadi- one of my favorites. In the story, the Queen must risk everything to save her honor. Many melodies and versions of this chant exist, yet the version I heard was in a high key, right at my voices’ break, with an epic melody resonating like a war cry through my soul. Singing it paralleled Draupadi’s experience- the melody and key combined daring me to put everything on the line. This was such a moving experience for me, that it is almost solely responsible for my chanting today, ten years later.
Since then, I’ve chanted almost every day. It has been a lifeline in rough times and heightened my euphoria in joyful times. Even at the times I wasn’t able to practice asana, I’ve always been able to chant. All of which made the decision to go on testosterone much bigger because I knew it would change my relationship to my voice- something very dear to me which I’ve cultivated a long long time. It would probably also be the first, most naked, outwardly obvious thing to change. And it would happen in real time, in public. I would have no control over it. I wouldn’t be able to polish it and make it pretty. All this gave me pause. I know… another echo of our dearest Draupadi. I would have to risk everything, even potentially losing it. The poetics of that aren’t lost on me.
Eventually, self-care won over doubt. A few months of changes have already placed me smack dab in the center of my process right in front of you: no place to hide, or way to manicure, or course correct. Jut me. As is. In the center of my mess. All happening right there while I teach. Talk about being exposed. So I’ve been sitting with it/in it- my discomfort. At first it felt daunting- to be so obviously out there without shelter. More recently it has felt bittersweet. Some days the transformation of my singing voice and really, well, my whole self, makes me sad, like dying a bit inside, or losing an old friend. And other days it feels exciting and like a much needed cathartic evolution, like adding on or growing. That’s all there existing simultaneously.
It’s always been of greatest importance to me that you are able to come to the mat AS IS. I am aware that community and trust are built within the space of risk. Meaning if you don’t extend out of yourself, if you don’t put anything on the line at least a little bit, then nothing happens. Our mats are not the place to be all in line and self contained. Our mats are the place to unbutton, allow things as they truly are to touch us deeply: our worries, our anger, our fears, our loves, our joys, our sadness… I mean, what’s scarier than experiencing pure unadulterated joy? I couldn’t be less interested in you presenting me with your polish or a beautiful yoga pose, or a posed life. I mean, I love beauty, I’m a big fan, but it’s not why I’m in this. I want you to have that space to lay down your ‘animal self’ as Mary Oliver so aptly puts it.
So… here I am, letting myself show up on my mat and in front of you as is. In real time. Exposed and vulnerable. My voice changing and cracking, sometimes altering the key of our chants, like we’re all going through puberty together. I have no idea how it will be from one moment to the next and since there is no way to control it, all I can do is ride it, in front of you and with you as it comes. Though it is extremely humbling and beautiful all at once and I am allowing myself to embrace the process and the chaos. And out of that sweet surrender, I am starting to have a really good time in the process and feel this giant weight that has been lifted off my shoulders. So thank you all for riding the waves with me.
FYI, the dates for Nuqui are set for next year and it just keeps getting better and better. You should definitely come!
PREMA YOGA, BROOKLYN
FRIDAY MAY 17, 11:30-1PM
This will be for those practitioners or teachers hungry to explore nuance and refinement! All are welcome.
Sign upon their website.
STUDY GROUP: THE FOUR CHAMBERS
AT THE CURATIVE
736 BROADWAY (BROADWAY AND WAVERLY), 9TH FLOOR
WEDNESDAY JUNE 12, 6:45-8:15PM
This will be happening once a month exploring different themes and philosophies. We will practice asana for one hour with a half hour practicum and discussion. In June we will be expanding on the Basque mystical concept of the four chambers of the heart. It is a beautiful way to deepen our relationship with our own heart. The study group model is meant to be more participatory so I’m hoping it will become a place where we can further create intentional community and meaningful discussion. I hope you can make it. To sign up email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
OFF THE GRID, INTO THE DEEP
Feb. 17-24 (or 17-21)
The dates are set. Every year gets better and better. Nuqui is a gem. This Costa Rica, but in a place that feels like Latin America (as you will be hard pressed to find and ex-pat), with less bugs. What could be better? You can come Monday thru Friday or Monday thru Monday.