Weekly Updates

October 23-29: Indigenous Art for Intention Setting and Renewal

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Indigenous Insight

As the leaves turn golden and we welcome the last half of October, we’re embracing the spirit of reflection, renewal, and intention. Yoga teaches us the importance of understanding ourselves and connecting with the world around us. The way we heal is the way we grow, and this week, we’re taking inspiration from Robert Houle’s powerful exhibit at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian.

Ashtanga Yoga is an indigenous insight practice. “Indigenous” refers to the first inhabitants of a region or country— the native people who have lived there for many generations prior to the arrival of colonizers or other external groups. These groups have their own social, cultural, economic, and political traditions that are distinct from those of the dominant societies in which they live.

Insight” practice in this context refers to a type of meditative approach aimed at gaining a deep understanding or realization about the nature of one’s own mind, reality, or existence. Derived from the Buddhist tradition, the term often used to describe this practice is “Vipassana,” which is a Pali word that translates to “clear seeing” or “insight.” I quite like the secularization, and so as such use it.

Indigenous peoples can be found on every continent. Despite their cultural differences, many indigenous communities around the world have faced similar challenges, including forced assimilation, dispossession of their lands, suppression of their languages and traditions, and systemic discrimination. However, they have also been the guardians of a vast amount of traditional knowledge, including languages, practices, and sustainable ways of living in harmony with nature. I think of my queer kin this way, frankly.

Because of the volatile nature of world affairs, I was momentarily concerned about sharing this art, because it can be transgressive to have complexity and nuance in thought. This made it all the more compelling, of course.

Houle’s art delves deep into the themes of trauma, especially relating to the indigenous experience in Canada. Just as yoga encourages introspection and healing, Houle’s work invites us to reflect upon the complex emotions, histories, and narratives embedded within each piece.

The Power of Expression: Like the physical and mental practice of yoga, art offers a unique medium to communicate, heal, and transform. Houle’s poignant symbolism and evocative imagery resonate deeply, underscoring the significance of self-expression in our own journeys of self-discovery and healing.

Parfleche Portraits: A parfleche is a skin crafted like an envelope, used for carrying and hauling. These three were created in honor of someone else. Can you imagine creating your own parfleche? I couldn’t help but wonder what my own Parfleche would look like. Houle’s art serves as a bridge, connecting histories and lived experiences. Doesn’t it just make you want to create and imagine?

October Yoga Focus: Reflection, Intention and Renewal

The shala has had quite a nice influx of practitioners reckoning with both their deeper reasons for practicing and their more superficial reasons, too. As a teacher, it’s a lot of fun to strategize come backs, quick wins, goals… but you know what I really love is getting into the deeper stuff like intention and dharma.

When we get stuck in a version of yoga that exists solely on asana (posture), it can lead to a dissatisfaction when the wins get less quick or life has other things for us to get up to, It can be hard to see past our own short term goals. Sitting with the notion of a long wisdom tradition helps to create some perspective. Here are some ways to help infuse the deeper elements, deal with the short term issues, and get into the long term goals.

Final Thoughts

Just as the changing seasons prompt us to reflect and renew, so too does art. Robert Houle’s exhibit is a beautiful reminder of the transformative power of expression, and we’re excited to integrate these themes into our practice this month.

Wishing you peace, reflection, and rejuvenation.

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