Last week I attended a five day training in Austin, Texas called, Off The Mat Into The World.
Seane Corn- yoga teacher, Hala Khouri- psychotherapist and Suzanne Sterling- song writer, taught this course.
Off The Mat Into The World asks us to take the strength, compassion, focus and flexibility that we talk about in yoga and extend it out as our service and work in the world.
However there’s a catch.
Are we using service and our work as a way to “fix” and change others? Or, are we using it because we want others to celebrate and love us?
These shadow sides of ourselves show up all the time. Our unresolved emotional pain will make us reactive to various people and situations. The shadow sabotages and ultimately burns us out.
Off The Mat helps us understand our own shadow and then empowers us to take action in our inner and outer worlds.
Here are three examples of non-profits, businesses and services people created after completing an Off The Mat Into The World training.
Embody Love Movement – Works with disordered eating and body image issues.
With My Own Hands– Builds orphanages in Africa and provides food and running water for kids who have lost their parents to HIV/AIDS.
The Art of Yoga Project– Works with girls in the California juvenile justice system.
Off The Mat has raised over 2 million dollars in the last five years. They’ve used those monies to support humanitarian efforts in Haiti, Cambodia and Uganda. They’ve supported AIDS outreach in South Africa and they’re working to stop sex trafficking in India this year.
Whether you are a parent who wants to give the best of yourself to your kids, someone who wants to start a non-profit or an activist who wants to travel the globe. Off The Mat teaches us how to get out of our own way and lead with grace. Next to Rachel Ramen’s, The Healing Art workshop, this is the best training I have ever participated in.
I felt compelled to structure this post a little differently so I wrote OFF THE MAT INTO THE WORLD vertically down the page. I then used the first letter of each word as a spring board to recap my experience.
O-pen. To changing ourselves first so we can create positive change around us.
F-eeling. Avoiding our feelings causes suffering, not the emotion itself.
F-inding our voice. Suzanne coached us as we physically opened our vocal cords. Singing awakens our “voice” and allows us to express our gifts (however they may take shape) in the world.
T-rauma. Anything that overwhelms our capacity to cope and respond.
H-ope. Think back to that horrific moment where you witnessed or experienced trauma. Was there a shred of hope in that moment? The hope is always there, take a breath, you’ll remember.
E-mbody. We danced and made organic shapes with our bodies that represented our contracted, constricted states. Then we danced our way into that expansive, expressive state that is always available to us.
M-ind/Body. The body holds our emotions. As we practiced yoga we focused on certain areas of our body and learned which emotions are held where.
A-ttention.On the first day of training 40+ people introduced themselves. It took almost 2 hours. When we finished Seane repeated everyone’s name back in the order that we spoke. It was incredible. If that’s not demonstrating how to be attentive and present to other people, I don’t know what is.
T- ranscend. There is no right, wrong, good or bad, instead we have an opportunity to transcend and empower our experiences every day.
I-nclusive. In this training there were men, women, Afraican Americans, Latinos, gay, lesbian, Christians, Jews, non-religious, social workers, therapists, lawyers, business people, healthcare practitioners, moms, dads, divorcees, single people. There were people from abusive and addictive backgrounds, different states, countries, socio-economic, political backgrounds. Some people had disabilities or had been incarcerated. We came from different styles of yoga, training and had different dietary beliefs, needs. Our stories and backgrounds are different but our shame, grief, rage, and fear is the same.
N-on Authoritative. Seane, Hala and Suzanne co-taught. No one dominated. There were no power struggles or “guru” hierarchy. I’ve rarely seen that take place in any group. These three woman demonstrated that it’s not only possible to lead and collaborate together but it’s necessary in today’s world.
T-elling the truth. It doesn’t stop just because the workshop ended.
O-n the mat off the mat. As we practiced yoga Seane and Hala reminded us what our minds do. Are we pushing, holding, exerting when we really need a break? Are we backing away and quitting when we really need to push? How we deal with things on the mat is how we deal with things off the mat.
T- ools. Daily routines and practices, meditate, journal, therapy, play, study, art, prayer, healthy eating, sleeping, gratitude.
H- eart break. We each had a chance to speak about one thing that breaks our heart. No feedback or advice was given. We sat in silence and listened as many of our collective tears fell.
E- mpowered. How I felt throughout the entire 5 days.
W- itness. We paired up with different partners and voiced our vision, intention and purpose. We were heard.
O-pportunity. How has everything happened for you and not against you?
R- esource. Notice if your anger or sadness is bubbling up. Take a look around the room, orient yourself with present time. Focus on any object in front of you. Feel your feet solid on the ground. Breathe.
L-ongevity. Self care, personal accountability and collaboration with others and something greater than ourselves sustains us.
D-ance. We danced (celebrated) every day.
Seane Corn and me at Wanderlust Yoga Festival in Squaw Valley last summer.
Suzanne Sterling, Hala Khouri and Seane Corn.