Uniting Yoga with Social Justice: Speaking with Seane Corn about REVOLUTION OF THE SOUL
This article recounts my experience meeting Seane Corn on her book tour at Brookline Booksmith.
As I stood in line to meet Seane Corn, my palms started to sweat. Yes, the Seane Corn – internationally-known yoga teacher, impassioned social justice activist, co-founder of the non-profit “Off the Mat, Into the World”, and now author of Revolution of the Soul.
I clenched on tighter to my fresh-printed copy of Revolution of the Soul. Phew, I was feeling a little light-headed. I should have had a snack before coming to this dinner-time book signing. Oh my goodness, what if I faint in front of Seane Corn? Remembering I had plantain chips in my bag, I stealthily opened the crispy plastic packaging and tried not to crunch loudly as I popped two chips in my mouth. Oh no, what if I have chips in my teeth now? I thought as I let them dissolve on my tongue. It was almost my turn. There was no escaping. Okay, okay, okay, just be cool.
“Hi, how are you?” Seane asked with a beaming smile. Oh my gosh, she’s talking to me. Say something.
“I’m good, how are you?” I replied, then quietly kicked myself. How are you? Howareyou?! You know how she is, you just heard her talk for an hour!
“I’m great, thanks for asking,” she replied as she took my book with open hands.
“You probably don’t remember me, but I met you when you taught at Harvard Yard, and I was also a volunteer at Yoga Journal LIVE,” I said in one breath.
“Oh, really? Were you a student at Harvard?”
“Yes, I did my Master’s at Harvard,” I replied, smiling.
“Do you work now?” she asked as she swirled her sharpie around the title page of her text.
“Yes, I’m a yoga teacher and a writer,” I beamed.
“That’s great. Thank you for coming,” she said, handing me my book.
“Thank you for…” I wanted to fill in my pause with so many statements, but my mind went blank.
Thank you for inspiring me to write, I wanted to say. During the book talk, Seane had described the arduous process of writing, unwriting, re-writing, and finally publishing her first book. She said that as she began to write, she quickly realized that being charismatic as a yoga teacher was far different from being engaging in print. Teaching yoga, she said, was a matter of using “language that was embodied”, whereas writing a book required her to go beyond the body to a part that was raw and vulnerable in her soul.
In order to tell her story, Seane had to coax herself to write everything about her journey, but to give herself permission to publish nothing. She was re-traumatized by many elements of the past that she had to relive in vivid detail to write with accuracy – including childhood trauma, living with OCD, relationship wounding, the highs and lows from years of working and partying in the New York nightlife scene of the 80s, and discovering yoga as a total misfit to the scene. In the end, when her story was complete, there were only a few tidbits that she decided not to publish – not because she wanted to hide them, but because they were not relevant to the overarching message of the book.
Writing her story, editing it until it was digestible, and then serving it up on a silver platter to millions on her book tour took a level of vulnerability that was truly admirable. Seane said that she was “scared shitless” to share her story in a time in which so many women have lost their jobs in speaking truth to power and in an industry that “thrives on bypass.” So many yoga teachers and practitioners may preach yoga’s values of compassion and present-moment awareness, and yet many fail to acknowledge the collective wounding that exists within us and around us to keep social structures of privilege in place.
Thank you for inspiring me to unite yoga and social justice, I wanted to add. Seane’s message in her new book is not only to create an “evolution of the soul” by providing tools for embodied emotional healing, but to ignite a revolution of all souls. This revolution, she said, is one of waking up, dismantling the unjust social systems we’ve created, and acknowledge that our individual healing is bound within the liberation of all.
Seane said that the chapters on “revolution” were even more challenging to write than the segments on her personal narrative because the required her to sit with the discomfort of her own privilege. To write these chapters, she had to reflect deeply on her own internalized racism, her embodied experience of generational trauma, her mistakes in white saviorism, and her errors in unnecessarily implementing Western values spaces of global activist work.
“Thank you for…” I said, returning from my lightning-paced thought to the present. There was so much I could have said, but my starstruck mind was still struggling to form full sentences.
“Thank you for… um… Thank you, too!” was all I managed to squeak out, and I walked out of the bookshop on air and speechless, yet impassioned to act.