Drinking a kopi and overlooking the ocean in Amed this morning, I can’t help but smile at the amazing week I shared with so many new friends participating in and organizing the Ocean Yoga Festival. This week was filled with celebration of community, opportunities for a deeper understanding of myself, laughter and learning. I reaffirmed the importance of my daily yoga and meditation practice and was inspired by so many teachers and fellow students. I was able to share some of my knowledge, and I was able to donate and help raise money for local non-profits that are making a difference right here in my little town.
What more could I ask for?
My final day started off not with a bang but a whimper: If you’ve ever taken a myofascial release class, you know what I mean. The practice is connecting the body, breath and mind as you roll small, hard balls over your muscles for a self-created deep tissue massage. If done correctly, deep tissue massages are the opposite of relaxing, and the same is true for myofascial release. Trying to keep my face from grimacing, I put my body weight on these balls and found trigger points of stress in my calves, hips and shoulders. Like all kinds of yoga, both on and off the mat, that’s the point: Instead of shying away and ignoring the pain, yogis look it straight in the eye, in the present moment, detach and let it go. I cried an emotional and physical release not once, but twice during the class.
If you haven’t cried during a yoga practice, you haven’t gone deep enough.
And I have a similar saying for SUP Yoga: If you haven’t gotten wet, you haven’t given it your all. So, in the afternoon, after my students clipped their paddleboards to the buoy line and joined me in a strong flow, I was tickled to watch most of them fall in. I always fall into the water during class, but to be honest … I purposefully fall in to help nervous students laugh and relax.
It’s so easy to “mail it in” – both on the yoga mat and in life. I was reminded about that this week. You have to give it your all. You can’t hold back just because you’re scared of falling or failing. Just as I hope you want Suzanne in all my ridiculous glory, I want you to show up like that, too.
It’s the way I live my life. Ever since I was a kid, I was on stage, performing for my patient and loving family or, sometimes, an audience of stuffed animals. I learned to juggle, learned to tell a story. I learned to make friends and get people to laugh. Even when I live in towns like Villa 25 de Mayo in Argentina or Songdo, Korea, where I couldn’t speak the language, I learned enough so I could teach yoga and share what I know with others. I’m here, really, for you. Just as you are here for me.
I’m not afraid to go deep, to be a clown or try something that might at first seem to be beyond my capabilities. Last night, during the closing ceremony’s ecstatic dance, I had fun throwing my body around to the beat, twirling and bending, reaching and stretching. I dance like no one is watching – and yet I know people are. People see when I cry. You see when I try, when I succeed and when I fail. I’m not afraid to share stories of heartbreak, of scooter accidents or crazy adventures of my life that may, at first, seem embarrassing.
When you try and learn, there’s no reason to be embarrassed. It’s all a process. Being vulnerable (whether it means crying during yoga or breathwork – here’s a nice tutorial for this –, showing everyone that your balance isn’t perfect by falling in the ocean or even, cough cough, sharing a blog post) makes you the perfectly imperfect human being that you are. Own it!
In today’s Instagram-model world, we are endless confronted with inspiration for perfection, but we’re rarely shown the value of our own vulnerability. People say, “Oh, I can’t do yoga because I can’t touch my toes.” And yet, those people have it the easiest … they can connect to their bodies in ways that ballerinas cannot. Ballerina hamstrings don’t scream hello! – and at its simplest, yoga is your mind hearing your body say hello and then replying with a sweet, welcoming breath.
If you do something that’s easy for you, there’s no growth. With no growth, there’s no change. When you challenge yourself, you expand. In those spaces you create within yourself, you are making room for your ability to do more. The question, then, is what you want to do with that newfound ability (I, for one, have a new four-part plan.) I encourage you to do something challenging. Do something you’re not sure you’ll succeed in.
You may just surprise yourself.
And again, what a wonderful surprise that a handful of people got together in this little beach town in Bali and decided to throw a free yoga festival. Hundreds of people arrived in town to take advantage of all the teachers sharing what they know and enjoy the beautiful, tucked away spaces that make this area so wonderful. Because the organizers weren’t afraid to fail, we raised millions of rupiah to help the community and the environment. As someone who came on board just a couple days before the start, I can proclaim that the festival was a huge success! It took a collective energy of everybody who taught or attended the classes and workshops – it took everyone showing up as their full selves – to make it so special.