To my body

which regularly travels three continents, and traverses the diverse cultural constructs found there.

To my body which has been groundlessly shamed, in spite of the protection all loved ones have placed around me.

To my body, which has endured sexual abuse, both above and under the influence, in youth and maturity.

To my body that dances through the madness and heals even as it terembles.

To my body, which has been attacked and battered without provocation, and in spite of my attempts of self defense.

To my body, which I have have abused, and occasionally still do, and hope never to do again. And again. And again.
To my body that practices, sustains, and grows with every breath and cycle.

To my body, that is so much blood and bone, fat and muscle. That is skin and other organs in and out that deal with the world and taking it in.

To my body, and your body, you deserve so much more than destruction.  I hope you know your beauty. I hope you live your strength.


As a yoga teacher and a body worker, I strive at all times to provide my students and clients with a safe space. By the time I came to yoga, at the age of 14, I had already endured sexual abuse. It was my discovery of my body through yoga and dance, and the help of a loving community, that allowed me to move forward. Capoeira was my next step along the path, and was my island of safety during an eating disorder, PTSD, and the process of recovery.

The wound is the place where the light enters you. – Rumi

This evening, I was body shamed, for being “half-naked” in some of my recent yoga pictures. I then deleted almost all of those pictures from Instagram. With the unfaltering support of my partner and husband, and after an emotional conversation with a dear friend in Australia, who pointed out to me I have nothing to be ashamed of, I wrote this and decided to show myself again… Not for pity or approbation, but because I know I’m not alone. I know there are other people who have faced greater obstacles in finding center and over come them. All I can do is bear witness in my life to my struggle and maybe, in doing so, I will affirm the struggle of others.

If my words sound familiar, no matter what your body type, history or status, please know you are not alone. Please know that agency is yours for the taking. Claim your power. Know your beauty. Release pride for a deeper awareness; you are not better because you aren’t someone else, you are amazing because of who you are.

And, now that I have shown you much of my inner self, with words that still terrify me as I submit them to public view, I am finally going to bed. And I am posting some of those pictures I took down. Thanks for reading.

May you be happy. May you be healthy. May you be free from all suffering. May you share your gifts with the world, and may you know your true self in this lifetime.

Kayla Ankeny, SahajaSoma

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Too busy to goto class: Avidyā

I recently went to London to visit a friend. While I was there I attended Evensong at Saint Paul’s Cathedral and at The Westminster Abbey. Being there was lovely and strangely inspired me to delve back into the Philosophy of Yoga.(Kind of a long story). As I skimmed different books about Yoga philosophy and the Yoga Sutras, I was drawn to the section about Avidyā . I ended up doing some really awesome journaling after, and I would like to offer you an opportunity to look inside yourself and do the same. Again, I am not a scholar of these matters, this is simply my take of really old wisdom as I understand it. I welcome more information, especially if mine is flawed, and respectful debate. AvidyaWhat is avidyā? Avidyā  is, as T.K.V. Desikachar explains, incorrect comprehension. It is an understanding of ourselves and the world that is not centered or clear. With Avidyā we miss the point. We often miss the fact that our sight is so cluttered and we mostly notice Avidyā when we have cleared our perception of it.  In our yoga practice we seek to understand and overcome these misunderstandings. We can allow ourselves to move from the superficial to the subtle and profound and cultivate a clear and honest understanding of ourselves and our situation. asmita

  • Asmitā– Ego, when you insist that you have the answer even when you are mistaken or actually clueless. Also when you put yourself above another person.

raga

  • Rāga– Attachment to things you think you need, and forgetting that moderation is so much better than too much of a anything. Like, the chocolate cake tasted good yesterday, but I don’t need to eat more today. The attachment to that one experience limits you from moving forward to another thing and from finding balance.

devsa

  • Devsa – Refusal, when we reject things that are unpleasant just because we don’t like them or assume that they will bring us pain. Not that learning from past pain is bad, but this should not be a block. This keeps us from experiencing new knowledge and growing. A perfect example of this is prejudice on any level. Weather it is racism or just an unwillingness to try something again, even if you anticipate you won’t like it.

abhinivesa

  • Abhinivésa – Fear. When we doubt ourselves or get paranoid about what others will think when they don’t matter or some other irrational fear. For me, this is a big part of the other three aspects of avidya.

Journal exercise  I offer this because I found it helpful. Ok, now settle in with a journal or a piece of paper. This most likely won’t take more than 10 minutes of your life, but if you really get introspective, feel free to delve deep and get really honest with yourself. You have nothing to lose. Make sure you are in a comfortable position. Take a moment, place your hand on your heart and your other hand on your belly and feel the breath full and deep between your hands. Create the space within yourself for clarity and affirm that you are able to move forward on this path.  Having created this safe space and clear intention write the branches of Avidyā on your paper. They can be in a list or a web, inscribed on a tree – what ever you want. Feel free to doodle in the margins, I always do. Ask yourself :

  • How does asmita impact my life?
  • How does raga impact my life?
  • How does devsa impact my life?
  • How does abhinivésa impact my life?

As you write, you may realise that the branches of Avidyā are connected in some way. Maybe your fear triggers your ego. Maybe when you deny yourself the things you need you over compensate later. Maybe you notice that you constantly compare yourself to others in class or in your life. Try to list at least 2 things under each one. Remember you are just another being on a journey so cut yourself some slack. By noticing these things, as you go through your day to day life, you may notice, oh! there is that ego again, maybe I can check in to that. (Most of my information came from the book The Heart of Yoga by T.K.V. Desikachar, the revised edition. I highly recommend it.) May you be happy. May you be healthy. May you be free from all suffering. May you share your gifts with the world, and may you know your true self in this lifetime. 

Kayla Ankeny, SahajaSoma

*Vinyasa Yoga * Aerial Yoga * Acro Yoga JAMbassador * Dance * Therapeutic Massage* World Music * Capoeira*