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What an honor it is to connect with Seane Corn and interview her for the Yogi Times I AM DOING IT CAMPAIGN!
Seane Corn is an internationally celebrated yoga teacher known for her impassioned activism, unique self-expression, and inspirational style of teaching that incorporates both the physical and mystical aspects of the practice of yoga. Seane Corn is DOING IT (raising consciousness) in a big way, while keeping focused on how she can lift up others who are also DOING IT, to collectively create more opportunity and equality in our world.
Seane is so inspiring I had a few tears during this interview, and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
Hillary Faye for YT: How does your personal practice inform your teaching style?
Seane Corn: My personal practice is very prayer based, when I wake up in the morning I watch or read the news and find out what is going on in the world, whether a conflict, it doesn’t take me very long. Then I get on the mat and I meditate, I put my palms together and pray and I put my energy on whatever that crisis is and dedicate every movement and breath of my practice to wherever the circumstances that are arising are.
For the whole of my practice, I am drawing energy in and at the same time expressing that energy out. I believe at any given moment there are billions of people, whether in churches, mosques, temples or out in nature who are praying, meditating, doing yoga and other forms of spiritual practice that are trying to elevate consciousness and shift the planet towards peace. When I practice, I am trying to engage on the psychic level with all those other prayers so that the energy in which I am producing is contributing to something that is positive.
When I teach, I might not talk about it but that is what is in my mind, that I now am going to facilitate an experience where twenty, thirty, a thousand people are praying, setting intention and breathing so that we all become a part of this collective prayer to raise vibration.
HF: What inspires you to give so much?
Seane Corn: [It's] the fact that I get to, meaning that I am so grateful for the opportunities that I have been given. I recognize that a lot of the opportunities I have been given put me in a position of great privilege; financial privilege, emotional privilege and societal privilege. It is because of that privilege that I feel a responsibility—even an accountability to be generous whether it’s with my time, my energy, my money or my commitments to really extend forward all that I have been given.
The fact that I get to wake up and dream and make things happen and I have the platform that allows me to manifest whatever it is that is in my heart, it inspires me to want to be of service and to give back. To create more balance in the world, to be in allyship with other kinds of communities and to share the gift that I have been given. That is one of the reasons I am inspired to give back—because I get to and I feel it is a privilege to.
HF: Why are you DOING IT?
Seane Corn: I am doing it to participate in social change in the name of peace.
HF: How are you DOING IT?
Seane Corn: I am doing it through teaching yoga, developing curriculums for leadership and encouraging others to step into their purpose to become voices for conscious change.
HF: What is your ultimate vision for serving your communities?
Seane Corn: My ultimate vision for serving the community would be that if every person who rolled out a yoga mat also votes. Then the community would be more than a community, it would be a constituency and as a result of that constituency we would be able to affect social change via policy and holding our leaders accountable for the choices they make that determine the quality of our nation and people’s lives. That would be my ultimate vision that everyone who rolled out a yoga mat or sat on a zafu, prayed and got out there and votes [for] their values.
HF: You worked in nightclubs and as a waitress in the lower east side of New York City in the 1980’s for 5 years around people on hardcore drugs. How do you think that experience affected your life?
Seane Corn: It was great, I had the best time! I worked in eleven different nightclubs in an eight-year period. Three of those years I was doing drugs and drinking and five of those years I was not, I was working in those clubs but I didn’t party, I certainly was around it. I don’t recommend drinking or drugs in any capacity and I have been sober ever since. But, I was surrounded by creativity and diversity and freethinkers for years and got to play and connect and be inspired by people who helped me to expand my own awareness and experience different dimensions within myself.
It was a wonderful and very rich time in my life. I am glad I survived it and am glad that I was able to have some prospective around it, yet at the same time I don’t regret any aspect of it. It was perfect for that time and it definitely catalyzed me to want to make healthier changes. Getting into yoga at a young age is why I stopped drinking and doing drugs. But for a while there I was able to do both, go to yoga class then head over to limelight and work in the disco and really enjoy both experiences—in clubs humanity really gets exposed in a very unique way. I enjoyed having a front row seat to the human experience, I enjoyed all of it.
HF: You started practicing yoga in 1987, what inspired you to want to teach?
Seane Corn: I took my first teacher’s training in 1994 in Los Angeles at Yoga Works and I had no aspiration to teach yoga whatsoever. I was talked into it by Bryan Kest and Maty Ezraty—they both convinced me that I didn’t have to teach, that it was just a matter of deepening my yoga practice and understanding more about the deeper philosophies of yoga and I agreed to do it just based on that. Thinking okay, I am not doing this to become a teacher I am doing this to deepen my experience and then it just evolved.
I wasn’t comfortable speaking publicly, I didn’t have the skills at time to be a teacher and I knew it. That is why I joke about being hoodwinked into it because they told me to do it for one reason and before I knew it, I kept taking more training and then suddenly I am on a sub-list and then suddenly I am teaching yoga. So, I wouldn’t say it was a deliberate decision, I am going to be a teacher, it was just one thing unfolded and I had to confront a lot of my fears, insecurities and doubts around teaching yoga and then suddenly I was a yoga teacher.
It wasn’t really a conscious decision. I did it just to learn and now here we are. I say to anyone who gets convinced to do teacher training the way I was—it’s a lie, prepare yourself, you are going to end up teaching yoga. I don’t know anyone who just went and did their teachers' training and then just used it to deepen their practice, almost everyone I know either becomes a yoga teacher or creates something, a magazine or a clothing line. It opens your world in a different way. Teachers’ training was a deep catalyst for much change in my life.
HF: How do you want people to feel when they practice with you?
Seane Corn: There is something I always say as a measure of success for me— that I want a student walking out of the room, not thinking "oh my god I love my body." What I hope happens is they think, "oh my god I love my life." And, they might not even know why they still might be going through heartbreak, they still might be experiencing loss, but they have such a deep sense of gratitude and a sense of purposefulness and maybe for just a split second they have a sense that everything is unfolding just the way that it needs to and that they are really standing in the presence of their own mystery.
That’s what I often think I want people walking away with—that it is more internal, emotional, uplifting and purposeful and they are inspired, not by me, but by their own experience, their life and what’s possible.
HF: What is the heart of your teaching?
Seane Corn: I would have to say, I guess there are two hearts to my teaching if that is possible. One, of course, is devotion to God, the God within, the God of your understanding—that has to come first.
What comes secondary to that is Service. These are the two things that I am always going to introduce in every one of my classes is creating a sacred intention and connecting to the God within and in all and then creating space for commitments for getting off the mat and into the world because if I am opening myself up to God and I am feeling that interdependency, the natural next step then is to be of service. To recognize the places in which we participate in separation and change it.
Service does that—it allows us to be in relationship, it allows to recognize that although we are one, we are not the same and the moment when we recognize those differences like who are the ones to have access to things like resources, social services, respect, dignity and who doesn’t. Service allows us to change that, so there is more equality, more fairness, more peace and more love.
HF: You are an activist for social and political change; out all of the wonderful work you have done, what has touched your heart the most?
Seane Corn: Some years ago, through Off the Mat and into the World we raised money to build a birthing center in Northern Uganda and I had never raised that kind of money before. When you raise money it’s just kind of nebulous, it’s a number, you can’t see it, you can’t feel it and it just exists kind of outside of you. But the day we showed up in this area and went and saw the birthing center, saw the rooms, the bricks being laid, we were being shown all the different ways in which these women were going to be able to give birth. The day before we had been in a clinic and saw some of the challenges of what it is to give birth in those areas and learned about infant mortality rates and maternal mortality rates.
Knowing that we were participating in creating a safe and beautiful space for women to birth, was really overwhelming for me. Suddenly that money became tangible and the lives that all that effort in raising the money were going to save. It was just too much for my nervous system to handle and I really broke down.
Since then we have created many projects like that and I am always in awe over what is possible, but that was my first really big moment of realizing oh my God, I helped make this happen, I can’t believe that the efforts I took, this is the fruit of it. It really blew my mind. It inspired me to want to continue doing more efforts like that and in results we raised more than four million dollars to do twenty-three different kinds of projects over the years in eight different countries. I have had a lot of different opportunities now to see amazing projects come into fruition, but that is the one that really touched me. Not one child has died since and not one mother has died and there has been hundreds and hundreds of births.
HF: What's your secret to maintaining your energy so you can do all the amazing work that you do?
Seane Corn: On a spiritual/practical level I have seven non-negotiables that I have to commit to every day and every week otherwise I will burn out, get overwhelmed and I will get reactive. It is not even a question, it is a guarantee that if I don’t do these things my nervous system will not be able to contain the effort that I put out.
I have to each day:
1. Practice yoga
4. Diet is essential for my self-care
6. Therapy, which I do once a week
7. Play! Play really should be number one on my list because I suck at it and I often forget to mention it that’s how secondary that is to my life. The older I get the more aware I am that play is really important. I am more of a serious-minded person and am very plugged into my purpose and am very dedicated to that.
Everything is secondary to my purpose, and that often includes my friendships and even my relationships. I am aware that I am not available if someone wants to go for a hike or go to dinner usually my first response is always going to be no, because I want to rest, I want to do yoga. I am more introverted even though I have an extroverted personality when I am in my public world. I don’t get fed by crowds of people, I get fed in isolation, my soul gets fed when I am alone, when I am home.
Play for me in the past was naturally last on my list, but the older I get the more important my friendships and relationships are, as well as finding space just to be, to laugh, to dance, to be in nature, to allow that different part of my spirit out.
Those are my non-negotiables: yoga, meditation, prayer, diet, sleep, therapy, and play. That keeps me plugged in so that I can show up and be enthusiastic and inspired by what I am doing. Because if I am not practicing self-care then as a facilitator I don’t become a conduit, I will take energy in but it will stay in.
As a facilitator, I have to take energy in and then project it back out so it is really cyclical. If I am teaching because I am in service to something bigger than myself I never burn out. If my ego gets invested in any capacity I always get tired. So, I have to stay on my game.
HF: What is your plan for "doing it" further?
Seane Corn: I am writing a book, my first book and I am hopeful that it will inspire people to reframe their own personal narratives, to apply these tools of healing and self-awareness into their own lives. To essentially get out into the world and participate, engage and step into action, that is one of the ways I am doing it as we go forward.
I will also continue teaching, public speaking and stepping it up in my own life by taking risks and challenges and expanding my awareness of the world around me, staying super plugged in and engaged and then sharing what I learned along the way, while being as authentic and honest as I possibly can as I cultivate new awareness and hope to be able to articulate that information in a way that is acceptable for more and more people.
HF: Thank you Sean and NAMASTE!