Connecting movement, joy and building community Resilience

Breathing, Healing and Resilience

My blog, along with the work that I’m committed to do, is about making connections between movement, art, painting, gardening, activism, community organizing and cultural resilience, how I move and teach people to move and be in their bodies- those things feel connected to me. It’s about being alive in our body as an extension of our ancestors and the land, and feeling joy as a form as resistance.

As an asian-american, woman of color, I feel like there’s so much happening in my community that is trying to defeat us, I’ve witnessed too many people speak of feeling demoralized and powerless, people using drugs as a means to escape trauma that they’re facing, or drop out of movements because they feel ineffective or get depressed and overwhelmed by what we’re facing, and I’ve often thought about demoralization as the way the systems around us work together to make us feel like giving up on life, to lose the will to live by excluding us from basic things like access to health care for our bodies, putting us in cages and prisons, separating us from our families, or isolating us from our true histories and cultures.

So, I try to remember and find those things that bring me joy and meaning, thats how I stay afloat in this work. I like being able to create spaces where people around me can feel joy. Sometimes it is the act of taking back time for yourself, because of how overextended we are, pushing ourselves in both our paid and unpaid work. Instead of rushing to the next meeting or fitting one more thing for someone or something else, I’ll take myself from the tyranny of time, as my mentor, Rev Angel Kyodo Williams says. I can do this, even when I don’t have access to financial resources, because “self care” is often marketed as needing to purchase something, for me its about finding ways outside of capitalism to care for yourself with what you’ve got, and connecting this to the inherited resilience from my ancestors, who were refugees and survivors of cultural genocide in southern china.

Connecting movement to our bodies

There are numerous Eurocentric ways that bodies are idealized, normalized and marketed in the dominant culture. For me, as a brown-skinned, mixed race, woman of color, whose body looks very different than what’s represented in the media, movement, tai chi and asana have helped me appreciate my body more for its own frame and build, its natural ability that I’ve inherited from my ancestors , and has also helped me to feel proud of that and take up more space. It allows me to shift that story in my mind, which brings me more joy and makes me hold myself differently because I know the things that my body is capable of doing, whether its dealing with chronic pain, or feeling energetic and hyper. And because I know all of the amazing things my body has done for me and continues to do, challenging it and brining movement into it brings me more ease.

When I was younger, I always wanted to shrink, because as a person socialized as a woman in this society, I was taught that its desirable to take up less space. I also wanted to shrink because I didn’t have that body that matched white supremacy’s beauty standards that are glorified in the media. So, when I started doing yoga in college, it was with the same mentality I had when I would go to the local YMCA gym, sparked by my dislike of the way my body looked and wanting to achieve a certain kind of body.

When I started teaching and taking my own practice seriously, it mattered to me that it had to be a body-positive one that is affirming of people’s racialized identities, of queerness, of gender identities, and that honors their stories. Gyms and most yoga studios don’t offer that, and can be intimidating, inaccessible and oppressive in many ways. In fact, the mainstream yoga studio and fitness industry tends to work on the basis that our bodies are flawed and exercise is the punishment. Whether it be that your body won’t look good in those clothes their trying to sell at the front desk, or that your body isn’t cisheteronormative, I believe a lot of people develop disassociated and traumatic relationships to movement because of how the mainstream yoga and fitness culture is marketed.

In my teachings, I encourage people to do things that both feel good and challenge them, to find out what movements are that they really enjoy, or do not enjoy and what would be liberating for their own bodies. It’s so important to recreate and remember those relationships of play, joy and ease with our bodies and acknowledge how they shift and change.

I also think there is a connection to thinking about resistance to capitalism and colonialism, when we think about the lifespan impacts of not being able to move in ways that you want to, and who tends to be most impacted by this. It is often people who are poor, working class, who live in areas that dont have access to green space, recreational centers, people who work multiple jobs and don’t have time to incorporate specific movements that isn’t associated with paid work. And if we look at who is doing a lot of strenuous physical labor, its BIPOC. In addition, trans people and folks with disabilities often can’t even access spaces where they can move their bodies in healthy ways. On a larger scale, this is connected to mental health and ultimately the resilience of our community.

My work as a yoga teacher, is to be dedicated to empowering people to feel their best in their body, according to their terms. I leave behind, any diet talk, fatphobia, transphobia, and white supremacist body standards at the door. I welcome and center the participation of BIPOC, queer fam, gender-binary breakers, radicals and beyond, in any shape and every size.

I always listen to my students in terms of the goals they want to achieve for their own bodies, minds and spirits. It’s important that we define health for ourselves and for our own bodies first. That we are the ones who know our bodies best.