August 2, 2012

Appreciation for the Gifts of Yoga. ~ Shawna Shenck

On holidays as a child, I would line up all of the presents in my room after the celebration and just look at them.

I didn’t realize it, but you could say this was the inner yogi in me waking up. I’d stare at my presents with wide eyes, almost as if I was in a deep appreciation mediation.

Last week, I had the honor of attending the Yoga Journal Conference in San Diego. To a new yoga teacher (I earned my RYT 200 in April), it was like having Christmas and my birthday on the same weekend. The love surrounding me and the gifts I obtained were limitless.

In extreme gratitude, I’d like to use this virtual space as my bedroom to line up all of the priceless gifts I received.

Alignment. As soon as I walked into the hotel on Friday night, it was as if my entire body let out a huge sigh. You know that feeling of yes, this is exactly right, this is exactly where I need to be?

I believe the physical body gets this feeling because all the angels are so impressed; they are all in line giving you a standing ovation. They are taking their halos off and throwing them in the air. They are raising their perfect, angelic voices in a higher octave singing, Hallelujah, you are listening and learning!

My angels are from Jersey. They’re probably doing some peaceful fist pumping, too.

Passion. I witnessed extreme and utter passion this weekend, both internally and externally. It was the kind of passion that you can only understand when you are listening to a Boyz II Men song. You know when a guy gets down on bended knee and starts pouring his heart out? In every aspect of this conference, from the classes to the breaks to the marketplace, that’s what I saw. Equally as important, that’s what I felt.

Seane Corn

Inspiration. To me, Seane Corn is like Santa Claus. I truly believe in her and all the gifts she brings to the world. I had scheduled one of my first classes with her, and it was pretty much all I could think about.

I met Santa Claus. I didn’t sit on her lap, but I sat so close to her that I was doing that Italian touchy thing, where before I knew it I was petting her arm, and she was looking at me like I had a mustache and white van.

I don’t remember exactly what I said, but I did call her Santa Claus. And there was a moment of “My name’s Shawna, your name’s Sean, I’m from New Jersey, you’re from New Jersey, you work with children in Africa, I want to work with children in Africa.” I remember how I felt—beautifully overwhelmed, with tears in my eyes. I hadn’t had that feeling in a very long time.

It’s good to be star struck. It’s good to admire. It’s amazing, though, to realize that person is just a person, and all that you build them up to be isn’t really who they are. Sean exited our conversation about a minute in.

Admiration is what you want to see; that is, it’s who you want to be, and more importantly, who you can be. I know my eyes teared up because I am becoming someone I know I can be.

Reassurance. As a teenager, I had a lot of conversations about my dream man. (Okay, these conversations still exist today.) The specifics have changed from time to time; I used to think guys with lime green boogie boards were cool. But my general depiction has always been the same. My dream man is “The Productive Hippie.”

Everyone has always laughed at this oxymoron of a statement. Many have told me there is no such thing.

Over the years I have learned that the notion of a perfect man is silly. I thank the ever-addicting board game Dream Phone for initially instilling this thought in my fragile teenage brain. But really, life is not about a person. It is about people. We all need each other.

I met many productive hippies this weekend. My favorite was Scott Blossom, one of the yoga teachers at the conference. He was a surfer and a do-gooder who had beautiful, flowing hair and and even more beautiful, flowing words. He was a doctor. He told us he finds bones sexy.

The girls I went to the conference with were also beautiful, productive hippies. My dream is all around me.

Humility. This gift is like that ugly sweater your aunt gives you, where you awkwardly smile because you don’t know how else to react to this poor, pitiful piece of fabric that even the thrift store would reject.

Dharma Mittra

I made sure to put my mat as close to the center in the front row at each class. I think some people are scared of that closeness, because getting the best seat in the house was relatively easy. After my visit with Dharma Mittra, I understood why these front row spots were often open.

This man is the student of Sri Swani Kailashanada Maharaj, and he created a master chart of 908 poses. He can basically fold his body in ways that even bendy straws can’t. And he’s probably 80 years old.

I accidentally used my wrong finger in a breath work exercise, and he not-so-nicely announced my mistake to the entire room. He also announced that my mind must be blurry from eating too much meat (I don’t eat meat and I seldom eat fish). I smiled awkwardly.

I have a problem following directions sometimes. This is a weakness in me, and I’m still figuring out why. When I was young I always followed the rules. I wasn’t allowed in the living room unless it was a special occasion, and I never went in.

I got the gift of humility. The more I am reminded of my weaknesses, the more I am able to grow and do better. This reminder comes in different ways–I once had to pay $2,000 in parking tickets.

I’m going to hang this ugly sweater up in the closet of my mind.

Exhaustion. Yesterday, I had a yoga hangover. My body hurt in a way I haven’t felt in a while, and I had a ridicuolus-never-going-away-make-you-want-to-wear-sunglasses-inside headache.

It may be possible to overstimulate your chakras, hold your mula bandha for way too long and do one too many detoxifying twists, but the nine classes I took in two and a half days were well worth it.

Unlike an alcohol-induced hangover where the feelings of regret and weakness linger with the smell of stale beer, today I feel more alive than I did when I was an eight-year-old enthusiastically ripping open presents in the living room. I feel strong, happy and grateful, and I’ll drink that yoga cocktail any day.

Once you get a gift, it stays with you forever. I feel so blessed to be exactly where I am with all of the gifts I have received throughout my lifetime.


Shawna Shenck believes bliss resides in the soul. Flowing with the teachings of her heart, she strives to help awaken the pure happiness within each of her students, as teaching is her bliss. She is certified by the Yoga Alliance (RYT 200) in Hatha and Vinyasa yoga. Her aim is to help her students radiate bliss (both on and off the mat) through gentle, grounding asana, restorative pranayama, calming meditation, laugh and aromatherapy and chakra, crystal, sound and energy healing. She is an English professor at three local colleges and universities in San Diego, and teaches her students to use communication for the betterment of society. She created a blog, www.flowwithlife.org, which is aimed at teaching everyday people the beauty of flowing with life.


Editor: Anne Clendening

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