We took the time out to develop some questions for a interesting person/yogi that I have come to encounter! Holding nothing back she let us in on what fuels her mystic flame for yoga and life!
What was your first memory?
I was reading on Facebook recently and someone shared a very vivid memory from when they were like 3 or 4 years old. I sat there for a second and tried to see if I could recall my first or earliest memory. I have so many moments when I remember the most random things from my past and it is usually triggered by something from my external environment. It is not a question that I had the immediate answer to. After thinking for a while, I would have to say it was from a family reunion trip to Florida. My sister was not born so I had to be about 2 or 3 years old. My parents and I, along with my brother (from my dad’s first marriage) drove from Chicago all the way down to Jacksonville Florida. I don’t remember much of the weekend. I mean I have seen pictures, but I was a toddler. None of the faces, other than immediate family register any type of connection. Except one seemingly small incident. My brother had been arguing with my father about being responsible for his toys. My brother was hard headed, left his game console in the window of the car. In the Florida heat mind you. When we returned to the car, the whole thing had started to melt. My brother had a whole fit. I thought it was the coolest thing ever.
How did you discover yoga and why did you continue practicing?
It was for very superficial reasons that I started yoga or rather because I had specific physical goals in mind. I had just started a new job, started a new vision board and I started to get back on track in regards to being healthy again. I saw this forearm, wheel poseand the girl had one leg in the air. And I just remember seeing this picture, and thinking I HAVE TO DO THIS. I screen shot it, sent it to my sister and then put it on my vision board. I did gymnastics when I was younger, so a version of wheel was already accessible. But when I tried to do it, I soon realized my flexibility was pure trash.
Since I saw the picture on IG, that’s what I used to get my yoga practice started. Doing IG challenges. At the time I was also working for the YMCA and we had access to all kinds of free classes, and I saw one for this public yoga event. “Believe in Cleveland” Never went to an actual yoga class before that, but I went anyway.
I continued going because of everything I have learned since that first class. I have learned so much about myself and it is because of yoga. Even after that first public class, and it was very public at that. It was about 3000 people with mats rolled out at the Rock Hall of Fame in Cleveland. Even after the first class, the energy that I felt was amazing. I wanted to keep up this feeling. I wanted to learn as much as I could about how to keep up a yoga practice, and how to integrate into my life. So I did everything I could to learn more about yoga, and not just the poses I was seeing on IG. I borrowed books from the library, started reading, started moving beyond the physical practice. I noticed a difference in how I moved, how I acted, the habits that I had. I was enjoying learning more and more about myself and I know it was because of my decision to practice yoga. I felt free. Like 31 years old, free for the first time. It was crazy and amazing and a bunch of other words that are difficult to verbalize right now. Self-development keeps on my mat to this day.
Have you ever had any yoga related dreams?
Of the ones I recall, there are a few. The most vivid one occurred shortly after I went to the public yoga event. I remember being back in front of the rock and roll hall of fame. Mats all rolled out, ready to go. But this time it was a little different. (the first time i went there were maybe 15 WOC, and I brought 3 of them with me). Right in the inner circle there were about 100 hyped individuals. Black men and women and children, ready to practice yoga. I started a yoga movement in Cleveland, encouraging members of my community to get into yoga. The organizer of the event even had me on stage, helping to lead the opening breath work for our practice. I woke up knowing that I was meant to teach yoga. Not ready…:
What would you tell anyone that feels they are not physically ready for yoga or lack the self esteem to begin transitioning into who they would like to become?
Without making people feel bad for having an apprehensive attitude, I tell them to throw out whatever misconceptions/thoughts they had about yoga out the window. If people are really caught up in the notion that they are not the ‘right size” I might show them a few pics of some awesome body positive yogis, but I don’t want them to get caught up in the idea of comparison either.
I actually hear that a lot when I am introducing my class (TRAPyoga) to them and I will usually ask what would they hope to get out of a yoga practice. Or rather, what interests them about yoga. I think it is important to remind people that, while social media is a great way to connect, don’t get caught up in the potential superficiality. No matter what you see, yoga is going to be different for other people, but if you go into it with an open mind, you will find what you need from yoga. Sometimes what you find is that you didn’t like that particular style or teacher, but that does not mean that yoga as a whole is not for you. I mean there are so many different types of yoga, so if the one didn’t fit, try something else. To those whose apprehension has them questioning their self esteem, fearing going out on that ledge, sometimes you just have to take the leap. It will be scary at times. You will never have all the answers and the process will not be a magical fix that solidifies over night. My advice is GO FOR IT. You might actually surprise yourself. I think also it is important for those who do not have the apprehension, who have a story to share to keep being honest about their processes. Not that we have to reveal every detail, but continue to be genuine in our self development, share our stories and our thoughts so that people see that the journey to self will take time and effort.
In which ways has your practice revealed vulnerabilities in yourself… If any?
Since my practice was primarily self-taught through IG, a lot of them surfaced because of the spirit of comparison. I did not realize at first how that was going to manifest itself. I actually do not think I was really aware that it might happen. Every time I went to post a new picture, I found myself comparing it to the host or other participants in the challenges. Like I’m not looking like her, or ugh look at this roll over here, everyone will see this, I cant post this picture. Forcing myself to find these great quotes because your yoga post has to seem “yogic” because you know that is what you do. This led to understanding and addressing how I bring this mess into my life off of the mat. Now that I am deeper into my practice on a mental-spiritual level, and my reliance on the IG community for knowledge as it relates to yoga has diminished greatly, I don’t find myself having as many issues with the need to compare my practice to others. I have even noticed that my need to compare even outside of yoga has diminished greatly. Not to say it does not happen, but by understanding it in my practice, has helped me work on this part of myself off of the mat.
I still work on my vulnerable moments in my practice, especially as it relates to fear and trusting myself. I have been working through the balance of success and failure and navigating those concepts with less fear. I like yoga because my mind will have an association in the physical body for these ideas. I think once your practice becomes more than a one dimensional concept, more an more of the places where you feel vulnerable will reveal themselves. It is supposed to work that way if you let it. How you address them will always be in your hands, but the practice will bring them to the surface every time.
Some people associate freedom with physicality how would you recommend someone free their mentality?
As cliche as it might sound, but it really does begin in the mind. Whether you practice yoga or not, to be really free, you will have to start knowing yourself, understanding yourself, loving yourself. We get so caught up in trying to make someone else’s life/truth/feelings our own, that we don’t even know ourselves. Like we dont even realize that those thoughts originate in a place outside of our own desires and feelings. Walking around like zombies and dont even know it. Some of us realize it and are not ready to start peeling back those layers to get to know self. And others are not even aware of it to even begin self evaluating.
But no seriously, outside of the fluffy Hallmark card words, you really have stop giving a fuck about what other people are going to say, think or feel. Some people use that concept to excuse whatever negative, toxic behavior they have embraced and that is unfortunate. But that does not mean that it is not a healthy attitude to have(not giving a fuck). I know that it is easier said than done, especially depending on the concepts that you have to free your mind of. A lot of people have a lot of negative, limiting external stimuli that has been reinforced by countless people, including family. Sometimes to be free, we may have to let go of thoughts and ideas that were placed in our minds by people who claim to love us. And some aren’t ready for that. Sometimes that kind of freedom (mentally) will have you feeling physically alone. Scary place for some. Does not seem like a place of freedom, so some run away and right to conformity.
My recommendation is get to know you. Get to know what makes you laugh, what makes you sad, what makes you feel amazing, what makes you have toxic/heavy thoughts. Unplug yourself from people sometimes, even family. Freedom and liberation are not easy tasks and I know for certain that there are days when I feel more free than others. But I keep going. I keep putting forth the effort it takes to understand myself a little more, appreciate what life has given me.
Have you had any metaphysical or hard to explain experiences during meditation? If so feel free to share
Yes, Often. Well, now I do. Before it was so hard for me to focus during meditation. So just getting my mind to quiet down was hard enough, noticing anything else was not available for me at the time. Once I started to understand myself more, developing the breath control that is necessary for meditation, it became easier to notice, feel and accept the “hard to explain things”. I think one of the most interesting experiences has been with involuntary muscle contractions. Once after a few minutes of breath work, I began gazing (with my eyes closed) with the region that contains my third eye. I like to picture a physical “eye” and sort of look through it during my meditations. After what may have been 5 minutes ( I tend to loose track of time fairly quickly), my body was totally relaxed into my couch, and out of no where it was like I was being jerked around. My limbs moved like they would in a reflex test in a doctors office. I had been working on connecting with my ancestors earlier that week as well, so I am thinking that may have something to do with it. The overall feeling that I had was positive. It was not fearful or negative in any way. In fact it almost felt like someone was communicating with me. There were no real visions associated with it, but of course a lot of this awareness is new for me. I am sure with more work and more knowledge gathering, something else will be revealed when my mind is ready.
How important is teaching the children how to remain grounded and finding balance through practices such as yoga m, meditation and creative practices like art?
I think it is the most important thing that parents should teach their children. I feel that any and every opportunity that exists for children to practice and develop and maintain emotional intelligence and creative expression should be explored. We have let consumption take over. All of the energy is put into producing just for the sake of consuming, instant gratification and consumption. So much energy is put into these concepts, starting from when our babies are so young. But then when they are adults and can function just as the system has trained them to do, we are upset when it manifests as destructive, trapped mental processing. It is confusing. Like how can we want these things for ourselves as adult members of society but have yet to teach them to our children.
The desire grows exponentially when it comes to black and brown babies. The hurt and trauma that is in our communities needs those healing spaces, especially if we want to finally get over the issues of our past. We have to teach them now, so that they do not have to spend years trying to unlearn unhealthy, toxic ways of dealing with being on this planet, or dealing with other people on this planet. Their brains can absorb so much information and they retain it so much better than we do as adults. This is not to say that our children wont make mistakes or have hard times in their lives, but how we navigate those storms and accepting what we look like when the storm is over is necessary.
What crystal do you find yourself attracted to currently and why do you feel the reason is ?
Currently attracted black obsidian and amethyst. I have been carrying those around for about 3 weeks. I also have two above my head when I sleep. The amethyst I have been using to help with balancing my third eye, been a piece that I am drawn to off an on. I actually made a request to acquire that piece from my little plug. I lost the one I had last year and was able to receive a few good, raw pieces. It has helped with the work I have been doing as it relates to understanding the 3rd eye chakra. The black obsidian has been a recent interest. I think it has been related to the ancestor work that I have been diving into lately. I think it is a mix between making sure that we are protected from the negative energy/spirits that will inevitably try to use my work for their own gain but also understanding how to “use the darkness” for good. That phrase popped up recently that the last full moon phase. Without going too deep into the reading, it was highlighting that darkness does not always mean negative or “bad”. Sometimes it is because it is unknown to us, so out of fear we reject that knowledge and lessons that might be learned there.
Thank you for sharing a little bit of your practice with us! We appreciate it! Keep shining! Lauren_NoHill