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It’s yoga, but it’s not. Maybe people are intrigued by my story, or by the fact that I don’t fit in the boxes we create to make sense of the world. For most of my life, I didn’t feel I fit in. Social media became an outlet for me to practice yoga, be in wellness, and create an image for what that looked like on my own terms.
My main work, #trillyoga, started as a hashtag in 2013, that I used to “label” the style of yoga I practice. It’s not a new-fangled complex mix of anything. It’s probably simpler than many think. It’s about being authentic to yourself, understanding what moves you, knowing what makes you feel the most true and honest — and sticking to your intention behind those principles.
I’ve done yoga since I was fifteen, in Jackson, Mississippi as an aid for my depression and anxiety. Many years and classes later, I found that yoga has “a box.” It can be exclusive and haughty, with overpriced memberships, and studio clichés. Many of the stereotypes and stigmas about yoga are true. Yoga is that thing people know is good for them, but don’t actually do for any number of reasons. Think about why you may not do yoga, and those are the issues right there. Yoga is perceived as slow or boring. Sometimes there’s chanting and unfamiliar language, and it’s often portrayed as something only for celebs with free time or naturally flexible bodies that like chia bowls and strict vegan diets.
Maybe I’m a rebel for the masses. I feel the same things others feel about yoga. I’ve walked into many classes and felt out of place. Maybe it was body shape or style, or perhaps my lack of Sanskrit knowledge. Maybe it was judgmental energy that I previously didn’t think existed in yoga. This feeling of otherness caused me to leave yoga for a while, but I always knew there was a way to practice yoga in a more pure way. I longed for the type of consistent, soul nurturing yoga that had saved me. Yoga without limitations, if you will. Things do not have to be the way they always have been. So maybe Americanized yoga will continue to be classes of slim women, but I strive to show that we can all thrive through yoga in a space that is welcoming, free of judgment, diverse, relaxed, and kind. Ultimately, these are the principles that yoga teaches us.
I want yoga to be accessible to all who need it — free from regular yoga stereotypes. In my opinion, yoga and its benefits are universal for anyone who wants to feel good, and it can be a profound and healing experience. It’s ok to have any body shape, to wear what you like, to listen to what you like; and realize you don’t need a fancy studio (you don’t even really need a mat.) You can do yoga wherever — that’s why I do yoga in less than traditional spaces, such as the streets, in sneakers.
I’ve always believed, especially in the yogic concept of being present that there are seemingly contradictory cues that show the importance of the senses. Close your eyes so you can see. Hold on, so you can know how to let go. Be quiet to hear yourself. In those moments, you can either tailor the emotions to each sense, as a means of focus, or you can forget your body entirely and connect with a higher plane of mindfulness.
The incredible thing about yoga is that you can get lost in your senses. You ultimately can feel free to listen to any music that moves you, wear what feels best on your body, and be in whatever environment you’d like; expansive or cozy, lights or no lights, sounds or no sounds.
Silence is often the loudest thing we hear. Depending on our goals and how deep we want to go into our meditative states, we can cut off sensory stimulants, or we can practice moving past them as if they were not even there. When that is achieved, yoga becomes super sensory: What was once a strictly physical exercise soon becomes a mental one as well. Even without trying, our inner dialogue becomes a cornerstone of our practice. Spirituality is ultimately what that little voice inside of us is thinking and telling us everyday.
I will always think yoga can help everyone feel better physically, mentally, spiritually, and in their bodies if they give it a chance. I aim to create safe spaces where people can try yoga the way they feel most comfortable. With #trillyoga, I invite everyone to come to yoga as they are. Play with what feels the most genuine to you. Get back to your senses as a way to form a deeper practice. Let go of what you thought yoga was and allow it to be what you need.
Claire Fontaine – Trill Talk