Welcome to the New Accessible Yoga Blog

accessible yoga association announcements letter from the editor m camellia queer teachers social justice trans teachers yoga philosophy Dec 24, 2021
A header with maroon and teal shapes in the background and a photo of post author M Camellia and the title of the post: Welcome to the New Accessible Yoga Blog, A Welcome Letter & Ode to Change from Blog Editor M Camellia


Dear Accessible Yoga Community,

I know I don't have to tell you that the last couple of years have called upon all of us to reckon with the fact and force of change, perhaps to the greatest extent many of us have ever experienced. Speaking for myself, I can say with certainty that I've been absolutely humbled by the seemingly-breakneck pace and breadth of change that I seem to be experiencing around and within me. At times, I feel completely overwhelmed.

I'm not sure I'd call myself a warrior, and I certainly haven't been bequeathed divine sight. But in moments when I've started to feel like everything I think I know, and much of what I've looked to for stability, has suddenly been caught up in an unending whirlwind that I can no longer make out the shape of, I've started to identify somewhat with Arjuna in the Bhagavad Gita, bowing in both awe and terror at the sight of Kṛṣṇa's true cosmic form revealed. I've spent a lot of time lately sitting in the presence of my own fear, naming my grief and my uncertainty, and working on reaffirming a truth that the universe has been teaching me over and over: only the divine, infinite Self, found within each of us, can truly be called eternal. I have also recently set the intention to attend to and balance my fear with awe–I’ve framed this intention as, “I am deeply learning and practicing reverence.

I'm a long-time yoga practitioner, a student, explorer, questioner, and teacher of philosophy. I've spent many hours contemplating impermanence, Saṃsāra, and non-attachment–in other words, contemplating change. I'm also engaged in deep study of the work of visionaries like Audre Lorde, Octavia E. Butler, adrienne maree brown, Prentis Hemphill, Alexis Pauline Gumbs, and many other incredible thinkers and writers from this distinctly Black, distinctly queer, intersectional feminist lineage, all of whom teach me about being in right relationship, even in partnership, with change. Octavia went so far as to say that "God is change," a perspective that originally left me quaking with questions, but also completely rocked by its resonance.1 

When I feel overwhelmed and immobilized by change, stuck between a rock and hard place, I almost always turn to the Gita. In chapter 11, just before revealing his infinite, divine form, Kṛṣṇa says to Arjuna:

"Behold the entire cosmos turning within my body, and the other things you desire to see." 2 

As a younger person, after studying journalism and gender studies and then shifting gears to heed the call into the work of community organizing, I went through a series of major life transitions in what also felt like an excessively short amount of time. When I eventually came to the practice of yoga, I was seeking some higher truth about the nature of life, the cosmos, and the purpose of love, joy, loss, and suffering. I was heartbroken, feeling profoundly lost and disconnected, and yearning for answers that I hoped would soothe and direct me. To paraphrase Kṛṣṇa, I desired to see. Admittedly, I had no idea what that meant.

So, like Arjuna, I asked the universe to show itself to me. Of course, unlike Arjuna, I did not have the literal divine incarnate at my side to answer me quite so directly. However, the day I named my desire and asked the universe for insight was the same day that I learned that 'question,' 'intention,' and 'spell' are all synonymous words. The mere act of asking attuned a fraction of my awareness to the cosmic revelations already and constantly happening all around me, around us, as well as within us. Even the slightest broadening of my awareness, the fractional increase in my directed attention, immediately yielded a sense of wonder in me that brought up the same feelings and somatic sensations as holding my newborn sister when I was 9, as learning about the states of matter at 10, of seeing vastness of the the Grand Canyon at 15 and the distant majesty of Mt. Hood on the first really clear day after moving to Portland at 20. How awesome, and how utterly terrifying, that this kind of beauty could exist on a planet or in a body so temporary. How divine and deserving of reverence.

Despite how I may perceive it sometimes, I know that the pace and breadth of change has never actually wavered. But, over time and with practice, the agility and breadth of my own awareness has. It is nowhere near infinite--I am still human, with a body and a brain that have boundaries and maximum capacities. When I'm reaching (or breaching) my limits, it's very easy to let my fear pull all of my attention, and when I'm attending only to my fear, I stop asking questions and start demanding answers. I lose my balance and forget the power at my center. I lose sight of my awe.

What I find personally liberating about yoga practice is that it offers me tools for expanding my awareness as well as a paradigm through which to see more clearly where I need to direct my attention, my energy, and my resources. It’s this combination–awareness and clear direction–that makes it possible to act with true intention, to see what questions need to be asked, and to generate the sort of fractaline questions that hold infinite potential. To do magic.

What happens when we bring the honed and informed directionality of our intentions into partnership with the ferocious power of change?

What happens when we stop looking solely for experts with answers and instead start looking for visionaries with dreams, longings, and questions? When we start looking to our own longings as guides?

What happens when we stop pretending that 'Change' is anything less than another epithet for the divine? When we attend to our terror AND our awe? When we feel the impact of what that means about our own nature, knowing that the spark of divinity lies within each of us?

I certainly don't have a definitive answer to any of these questions–I'm not even sure they're the right ones to be asking–but I do have a theory: I think we all become more free. We create more opportunities to choose where we put our resources and more opportunities to adapt and evolve with agency. As we encounter change, we get to respond, to commune, rather than react. And in revering ourselves and one another, we create the same possibilities for our larger communities. For the world itself.

As the entire cosmos continues to turn, as the pandemic continues to morph before our eyes, as the balance of light and darkness in the day begins to shift and the Gregorian calendar year turns over, it feels like more and more of my attention is being pulled towards the list of changes happening in our society and in the natural cycles of our planet. And as so many aspects of my personal and professional life also begin new iterations, including stepping into a new role as the editor of the Accessible Yoga Blog, I'm reminded with each blessed breath I take that change has always been the only constant, that the force behind inhale and exhale, creation and destruction, death and rebirththe force behind all changeis the ultimate, untouchable, imperishable divine. Every breath, every fear, every shift, every encounter, every moment that we live is an opportunity to practice reverence, to claim our divinity, and to ask the questions that will generate inner and outer revolutions.

It occurs to me that as a member of the Accessible Yoga staff, I have spent the last three years working in direct service to change. Whether we're talking about the philosophy of the sub-atomic guṇas; the subtlest energetic shifts born of breath; how to make the physical practices of yoga accessible; or even how to become revolutionaries and cultural change-makers by studying and honoring the roots of yoga, committing to our own svādhyāya and the hard internal work of unlearning white supremacy and other oppressive systems, and skillfully taking action to fulfill our sacred responsibilities to one another by embodying our shared valuesequity, access, justice, liberationAccessible Yoga is always engaged in partnership with change.

Like everything else, our organization has undergone a lot of changes over time. We’ve built an incredible global community that is making waves all around the world. Our team, our programming, and our understanding of the expansive meaning of ‘accessibility’ have also grown accordingly. And of course, as we all watched a global pandemic unfold, as we felt that terror move through us, we refused to look away or let that fear pull all of our attention–we stuck to our mission and made our offerings even more accessible by bringing our events and conferences online. I am in awe of this team, and in awe of every member of our vast community who has shown up for the reverent work of aligning themselves with change, who has recognized that ‘fear’ is often just another way we say ‘love,’ and that it is possible, that we are capacious enough, to hold our fear, our grief, our anger, our frustration, and our powerful, adaptive love at the same time.

If you're a long-time reader, you may have already surmised that the Accessible Yoga Blog is also undergoing some changes. For one, as of this post, we have migrated our blog onto a new platform, which integrates more seamlessly with the rest of our online content. (Don't worry, you can still access the full archive of past posts on the old site.) And while you can continue to expect content relevant to the topics we've always covered, we will also be expanding the breadth of topics we platform in accordance with our organization’s ever-evolving understanding of what 'accessibility' really means. You may also start to see new formats, styles of writing, and even the incorporation of other types of media, as well as an increase in integration with the other content we're already producing, such as our podcast and our monthly programs.

I'm excited to bring new voices, expanded scope, and a variety of storytelling practices to our platform. I'm looking forward to hearing and learning from some of the visionaries, question-askers, and spell-casters that we haven’t gotten the chance to meet yet, and to seeing many more facets of accessibility and yoga represented on this blog. I am honored to serve Accessible Yoga in this new capacity, and so grateful for this opportunity to practice holding both my nerves and my excitement as I step into this new role. I stand in awe of my colleagues and this community for entrusting me with this new frontier on which to channel intention, as well the incredible potential that this platform has for continued growth, reach, and iteration. 

Thank you,

M Camellia (they/them)
Editor, Accessible Yoga Blog

 

1 The Bhagavad Gita. Translated by Eknath Easwaran. Nilgiri Press, 2007.

2 Parable of the Sower. Octavia E. Butler. Grand Central Publishing, 1993.


 
M Camellia (they/them), is a yoga practitioner and facilitator, writer, consent educator, and the editor of the Accessible Yoga Blog. They believe that yoga is a practice of collective liberation and challenge contemporary yoga practitioners to dismantle the systems and beliefs that hold us all back. M is a co-founder of the Trans Yoga Project and has served on the staff of Accessible Yoga since 2018, among other roles within the realm of yoga service. Their teaching and writing center Queer and Trans* identity, consent and agency, body liberation, and disability justice in relation to yoga philosophy and practice, and they serve as a mentor for other yoga teachers and practitioners desiring to deepen their understanding of accessibility, power dynamics, trauma, and yoga as social justice. M lives in Southern Maryland with two cat companions, Matcha and Chai, and regularly makes offerings online and in the Washington DC Metro area.

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