Seane Corn, Renown Yoga Instructor And Activist, On “Peace Is The New Power”
By Ashley Shires
Seane Corn is a renowned yoga instructor and activist who teaches vinyasa as a tool for self-empowerment. She brings awareness to global humanitarian issues and trains yogis to be activists through her co-founded organization, Off the Mat, Into the World. She will be a featured Presenter at Yoga Journal LIVE San Francisco, January 13-16, 2017.
We are excited to have the chance to talk to you in advance of Yoga Journal LIVE San Francisco. The theme of the conference is “Peace is the New Power,” which dovetails beautifully with the message of the nonprofit organization you co-founded, Off the Mat, Into the World. Can you talk a little about the organization?
Off The Mat bridges the gap between yoga, transformation, social justice and action; it’s a leadership training organization that teaches yogis how to become involved in activism and learn tools for self care so they don’t burn out; it’s about sustainability. Our interest is in aggregating the energy of the yoga community and teaching them inside-out skills so they can be of service in a way that is integrated and mindful.
Can you describe a recent Off the Mat project that you’re proud of?
Most recently, some of my team and I went to Standing Rock to show our solidarity with our native brothers and sisters and show our support for environmental justice.
That’s amazing - what did you do while you were there?
My intention was to go and learn and listen and to be of service in any way the elders requested. I didn’t go with an agenda, but when we arrived, there was a need for a direct action: we arrived the day people were hosed down in freezing weather; 300 people were injured, and there was a stand-off between cops and military; they needed as many people as they could to hold the bridge. Normally, the last thing the elders want is someone just showing up to be on the front line, but our circumstances that day were different. The elders are very strategic; they know what the vision is, based on prayer and ceremony, and everyone there has to know the greater intention, which is peacefulness. It was intense but quite remarkable to see it first hand and to see how complex the situation is.
You have engaged in both yoga and activism for a long time. In 1987, you worked at the Life Café in NYC, owned by David Life and his partner, Sharon Gannon, who later opened the Jivamukti Yoga Centers. Can you share a little about that colorful time and the impact it had on your life’s path?
(Laughing) I was a kid, literally – I came to work for them at 17 – I didn’t know anything but that I liked to party. Going into that café and being exposed to the Lower East Side at that time opened my heart, my mind, my soul. Had I not gotten introduced to yoga, which helped me to stop doing drugs, drinking, smoking cigarettes, eating meat…if I hadn’t met a community that valued that inner work…(laughs again). I liked drugs. I was moving in that direction and meeting David and Sharon helped me step into another direction, into my destiny. I was with them for about 5 years and then went to L.A. and did my first teacher training at Yoga Works in 1994. Sharon and David catalyzed me into a healthy direction and gave me the tools that I still utilize today to stay centered and present to life.
After studying at Yoga Works, you later traveled to India, exploring mystical mind/body modalities, including the subtle energy centers, the chakras. Can you tell us how studying the chakras changed your asana practice?
Hugely – It was probably around 1995 – I was taking a yoga class and I had an intense emotional experience. I had seen it happen to other people, but it had never happened to me: my body started to release energy and my hands started to shake. I didn’t understand the mind/body the connection, the way the body holds on to trauma. It was a transformative experience – I got so much insight, release. I started to read more about the mind/body connection and reading about the chakras. It led me to Carolyn Myss and others, learning about the psychosomatic experience. If each chakra is impacted by trauma and influences a specific part of the body, I can choreograph a yoga class to target certain areas for optimal release. A huge part of my work was to design sequences to explore themes -- around sexuality, creativity -- depending on what came up. I practiced as a way to notice my thought process and move into healing.
Do you have any last words for our readers, practical suggestions for ways we might all spread the inner peace we find in yoga out into the world?
I think I would have to say that, for myself, I have six non-negotiables. If I don’t commit to these six, I become reactive; I get shut down, I get critical, maybe even sarcastic, and I feel very comfortable in the familiarity of those reactions. My six non-negotiables are yoga, meditation, prayer, diet, sleep, and therapy. I am committed to those six things because I want to contribute to peace, to good will, even in conflict and crisis. I can’t control how someone else responds and reacts, but I can control how I respond and react. If I’m not in my center, I might meet fear with fear. I want to meet it with love. I can’t if I’m not centered. I suggest you define what your non-negotiables are – maybe family, maybe play. If you want to contribute to peace, then cultivate the tools that will lead to peace. Align yourself with those values.
To learn more about Yoga Journal LIVE CLICK HERE >>>
And to learn more about Seane Corn visit www.seanecorn.com.