Welcome to the accessible yoga Podcast where we explore how to make space for everyone in the yoga community.
Amber Karnes 08:08:27
This podcast is brought to you by the accessible yoga Association, a nonprofit organization focused on accessibility and equity in yoga.
Hi, I'm your host, Jivana Heyman, my pronouns are here on him, and I serve as the director of accessible yoga.
Amber Karnes 08:08:41
And I'm your co host, Amber Karnes, my pronouns are she and her and I serve as president of the accessible yoga board of directors.
Hi, it's Jivana Thanks for joining me. I hope you're doing well. I'm excited because today we're sharing a special podcast with the amazing Octavia Raheem. This is actually an interview that I did with her a few weeks ago for my yoga Revolution podcast. And I thought it would be great to share it again here because her new book just came out. Her book is called pause, rest be stillness practices for courage in times of change. It's such a great book, I find it really insightful, inspiring. It's so poetic. I've loved her writing for a long time. This is her second book, her first book gather is also really amazing. And I was so excited that Octavia had agreed to be a contributor to my book yoga revolution. And so the yoga Revolution podcast was a series of conversations that I did with all the contributors to my book. And I'd love for you to go and listen to those. Those are still available. You can search them up wherever you listen to podcasts. But here we're going to share the conversation I had with Octavia. She shares the contribution that she wrote for my book, and then she also talks about her work in general. Anyway, I hope you enjoyed as much as I did. Alright, here we go. Hi, everyone. Welcome back to the yoga revolution podcasts. I'm so excited about my special guest today. Octavia Raheem. Hi, Octavia. Hi, thank you for being here. I'm so excited. But let me introduce you first. So Octavia F Raheem is a mother, author, yoga teacher and activist. She has received national attention for her work training yoga teachers in diversifying the yoga and wellness industry. She's the author of gather and the new book that's just coming out. Pause, rest be stillness practices for courage in times of change. Wow, so excited. You know what we I have courage in my subtitle to?
Octavia Raheem 08:10:58
Oh, you do building a practice of courage and compassion?
Yes, we're on the same page. Thank you. How are you doing?
Octavia Raheem 08:11:10
I'm Present. Here I'm here.
I love that answer. I'm gonna start saying that present.
I was wondering, I've been starting these podcasts by having the guests read their contribution to yoga revolution. So I wonder if you could do that on purpose on page 139 of the book. All right, thanks. Yeah,
Octavia Raheem 08:11:42
I would love to do that. So my ancestors didn't come here voluntarily. entered all until only a few decades ago, many didn't own their bodies or have access to basic freedoms. Despite that legacy of being physically bound and systemically set out of so much. I know that my existence is evident of their belief and faith that freedom was slash is our birthright. For me, yoga is a practice toward liberation. It is a space to examine and shed the chains that are not mine to carry. It is an opportunity to untangle myself from the traps, projections, narratives and expectations that dominant culture before it's about people like me, a southern born Black American woman. Through my yoga practice, I've learned how to access freedom in my body in breath, space in my mind and heart. I connect to the wisdom and my soul, wisdom force across space and time by my ancestors. And I kind of close that session that that statement with some words by Toni Morrison, the function of freedom is to free someone else.
I love that. Thank you for sharing and thank you for allowing me to share that in the book. I just it's so powerful and beautiful. You know, and I think I I tried to connect to that to some of the thoughts you shared in this section of the book, on engaged yoga, just talking about the relationship between yoga and social justice. And honestly, this book, my book yoga revolution started, I started writing during Black Lives Matter. I was inspired by that, you know, basically the biggest civil rights movement in our history. I feel like it felt like things were really changing in that moment, you know, and I don't know how it feels right now. But it was so inspiring.
Octavia Raheem 08:13:55
Things don't change in a moment. You know, we're recording this in January 2020. To the third day, right? You know, everyone goes, New Year, or whatever, I see. I can't even get it right, because I don't say it anymore. But I read something with someone was like, Come on, y'all. We know that changes, like drops at a time, small steps at a time, that can be incredibly frustrating to the I get just feel that in. In what you were saying about the moment of it felt like a big, expansive, very visible change, change. And now it feels like an ember. Sorry, this is smoke smoldering. Yeah. But it's there, though, right?
Yes. Well, I mean, I think I was excited because of my experience with AIDS activism. And I've been wanting to see more movements, more civil rights events, you know, and it was just inspired me. And I've been thinking all along about the connections between yoga teachings and social justice. And then during those days, it felt so clear to me, I was like, Oh, here we are. Here's the connection. But I think some of the things you said I wanted to ask you more about not owning their own bodies. Like to me that was really powerful statement, because I thought about how I think about the way we teach yoga. And, and how, in the West, the Western contemporary yoga practice is often taught, in a way where it's still about controlling other people's bodies, you know, like the teacher, or the lineage is doing this thing to you as the student as a practitioner, and I, I don't know, I heard something in there. What do you think about that?
Octavia Raheem 08:15:54
You know, so as you were talking, I, so now I teach a lot of restorative yoga yoga, Nidra yoga, like kind of very steel, quiet low to the ground, far less performative and doing yoga. Before this, as teach them all, though, right? I can teach poses, I taught power yoga for years. And when you were speaking, I thought about how it felt really intuitive to me, when I taught a lot of physical practice, to leave space for people to feel their bodies, listen to their bodies, be with their bodies, and claim their own bodies. You know, in the language I use, like, I could not, it was intolerable to me in classes, when teachers will go, I want you to go, it doesn't matter what you want me to do, because you're not in this body, right. And I think it can be really nuanced and subtle, like the way when we're teaching and guiding and holding that space for people to have an embodied experience, the ways that we can if we're not paying attention, be certain people have a sense of, you know, ownership of their own body and experience, you know. And so I guess, as a teacher, with this, like, blood running through my veins of those who have been free in body and those have not been free, like no one really taught me to not say certain things like when I did my yoga, my first 200 hour, you know, yeah, almost, I don't know 1517 years ago, I just decided that I wasn't going to talk to people like I had more command over their body than they did. Right. Right. It's just not true. And it just further perpetuates it disconnects us from our own like wisdom and inner listening and loving vino, the scan we're in. So that's something to think about, right? Like Are we even is the language we're using supporting people feeling? Free to me with their bodies as they are,
yeah, you said, through my practice, I've learned how to access freedom in my body and breath space in my mind and heart. I connect to the wisdom in my soul wisdom forged across space and time by my ancestors.
Octavia Raheem 08:18:40
You know what I'm talking about there, too. Because I practice, like the quiet yoga, those are those practices where I feel like I connect to my body and something more than my body, right? My mind and what constructed that mind if I can go all the way out there is the interesting thing about how a lot of times we see and hear the word yoga, or sounds even I'm gonna make a loud confession, confession, confession or your POC. I don't always say I'm a yoga teacher anymore. Because people will then like, bust out a pose and go, Well, can you teach me how to better do this? You know, and I'm like, I know, that's what you've been led to think that. That's what yoga is. And I think I've probably participated in that perpetuation, like, I know I did, I should claim that right? We all have to some degree, will, you know better, you do better. And, you know, like, the best is not that's not what it is. And so that's just to say, like, as my personal practice, and my teaching practice has really shifted from being very Asana based, I feel like I've moved into a place or pose based or I've moved into a place where I'm like, I there's a taste of freedom. In the silence, all there is to teach the freedom in simply sitting there as to taste of what I am beyond all these other things. And so when I'm talking about being able to connect to wisdom across space and time, I am literally talking about that which we can experience through meditation, yoga, Nidra, those kinds of practice, because I've never experienced that in in awesome. I love poses, right? They're gateways, they're incredible. I think it's so important to you know, like, touch and feel and be with this body. And I'm grateful I don't stop there. You know, yes, a life changing teaching experience I had. Guys, I don't know how many years ago this was, but I had a young girl woman who went in for surgery to back surgery and woke up and couldn't move her body. And that was, she couldn't move I think her head and neck. And so she is paralyzed from there down. And she would come to my classes. I'm in her wheelchair. Most of the a few other students in class with with her permission, we would, if she wanted to get out of a wheelchair, we put her on the floor. And do I was teaching restorative yoga and yoga nidra. And we prop her up and really support her. And she loves coming to yoga nidra and I'd be teaching specifically the 61 point site where you like you are just feel into this place in your body. And so we did this practice of nothing, right doing nothing, right? We're not moving, we're not lifting it are we're just bringing awareness to body parts. And after the first time, she just kind of stared at me, then I was like, I have no seat. Back. I hope I didn't do anything wrong, because this is a tinder place to be in with someone, right? Like, I was like our first yoga class post. You know, whatever therapy she was going to put in the second time she came, we did the practice. And she goes, I can feel and I was like you can see was like you don't understand, like, I don't don't feel below. She was like, Thank you for just the simple practice of bringing awareness here. Bring awareness here and see the slide. I felt like I was a floating head, you know, says what happened to her. And in that moment, he and she was like, and it just reminded me to connect to my breath. And, you know, that's still there and that moves to my whole body.
And she was like, Yeah, we're not and so I wasn't teaching Asana poses. That class wasn't opposed. was class and this woman was like, my body is waking up. And she was like, there was no expectation like, and I'm gonna get up involved, but it was just like, I can feel there's a sense of presence prana and awareness and the rest of my being. And that was when I said, Oh, you know, I will you know, yoga and liberation. I was like, Oh, that is really powerful. Like she was my teacher in that moment. Yes. I kind of feel like I'm rambling. But no, I love
it. I've had similar experiences my students, most many of my students with disabilities taught me similar things. Everything I've learned pretty much about yoga. But that's why, but I think I disagree with you. I think you are teaching yoga, I think you're actually teaching yoga. And that it's the people who think they're teaching yoga when they're just doing Asana only without taking it deeper to connect with what's beyond the body in mind, then I don't know for teaching yoga. Actually, I
Octavia Raheem 08:24:24
really I do agree with you. And it's so wild in this moment. I'm like, what? Okay, this is, I don't know if I can make it made. We know that we know what you've just said. It's true. So I guess I shouldn't just go, No, I'm not a yoga teacher, I actually have to be like, Yes, I teach yoga. And this is what I'm teaching, or I share yoga. And this is what I'm sharing. So thank you for that. Versus just saying is too much to try to explain and
to change the world. Do you change yourself or change the world? Thank you know what? Yeah, I mean, I, I think what you're teaching is beyond yoga to honestly, I can't get that I get that you're talking about your own family's wisdom, also, which may not have been called yoga. Right. So like, maybe that's part of that. I tune out here a little though. Yeah, it is.
Octavia Raheem 08:25:21
It is. It is. It is.
But I think, to me when we can get to the subtlety that you get to, that's where the power lies, like you. I mean, I'm so grateful to you and your emphasis on that on the quiet part of the practice on the part that is around. I don't have to say this, I think what you do so so well. Traditionally, in yoga, there's a lot of denial of the body in mind. And like, instead, we should embrace spirit. Like instead like as if it's a binary and it is it's a duel to dualistic philosophy, right, like the yoga Sutras present us with this kind of dualism, like body mind, on the one side and spirit on the other. And what I feel like what I get in your teaching, and in your real book, which I wanted to talk about a little bit actually is more of a integrated approach, which is something that I'm very interested in personally. How do we integrate our human experience and our spiritual life rather than just always picking one or the other and denying one or the other? You know to give you an example, you know
Octavia Raheem 08:26:48
that I just had my mouth but I was like mothering you know parents say it feels like such a very concrete satin of that because you have these beings that you're like wow, there's something very spiritual and transcendent and this like like connection and and then a state and a snack you still gotta cut the apple right? You know like there's like being in relate intimate relationship with other people. You're like this deeply spiritual and like, wow, like this effervescence too and which one of y'all is gonna watch the laundry? I just feel like I don't know. It is although the stew of being his body and mind and spirit and do I believe at our essence and kind of core like we are like the I think there's like a god, what do you call it a cliche. Now we're spiritual being physical experience. I get that and God hears the spiritual is this physical experience that we're having? And I think that that informs all the other light. It's all informing it Self
you know, like one of my spiritual lenses comes from greater timber Ridge Baptist church that I grew up in, where I had experiences but now my huh. Kind of feels like you know, when I'm chanting for a long time and that that essence comes up like but what we were singing is this little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine. That's what we were singing. We weren't singing to Durga, but And so like for me I don't know where I was going with that. But
yeah, oh, here, I want to read a quote of yours from your new book. You say this is a short one. You are not lost. You're here to reorient your way to the path that is truly yours to walk. I feel like that's what you're talking about.
Octavia Raheem 08:29:13
Yeah. Mm hmm. I also wrote that because I'm thinking about the kind of collective moment we're living through. Okay. And it also feels you can feel like I am so lost. Where am I today? Okay, now, where am I now? And I think there's profound kind of reorientation happening. We're being asked to, like, look around and see what's actually here, see who's actually here. Then in that, seeing who's here, see who's not here, see insane where we are, see what we are not.
Yeah, and I want to just reflect back to what you said about having kids and a lot of my book is about that, too. Like, a lot of my practice came out of being a parent, you know, I was lucky that I got to be the main caregiver for both of my kids. I don't know how many men get to do that, from, you know, very early, my kids are adopted, like at birth, basically. And then we had the struggle to keep them alive. You know, and, like you said, it's like, that was spiritual awakening, for me. Having to wake up the middle of the night. Without a thought to my own for myself notions, I have to be able to wake up until the night and do something for my in my infant child out of love that was like, Oh, wait, this is actually what it means to love. This is what it means to serve. Like I didn't even know before, you know what that meant. And I was like, that's what we're talking about.
Octavia Raheem 08:30:47
And the thing that I think about had this this healer I used to go to and she's, you know, I was telling her how much I loved my son. It is actually breaking my heart like my heart is ending like this is add is unexpected. It's a lot and she said Your Divine loves you like that. And so it gave me this concept. I never thought like I am that loved right. And then some because clearly is more. But I also think just you know, those kinds of close relationships, whether it's with children or a partner, they think we can have them with other sentient beings right. It also exposes you to yourself you go you think you're one thing and then you get to really see who you are. around us. It was like you think your spiritual any balding Eagle spend a week with your family?
Exactly. Exactly. I think about that a lot. You know, I feel lucky because I when I write when I met my husband, I was thinking about becoming a monk actually, like,
Octavia Raheem 08:32:02
I'm serious. I was ready to become a monk. I was on the path. I was all in like, I'm diving into that yoga stuff. And he like kept me out. He kept me in the world. And I actually think it's a blessing, you know, to have this family life and the struggle of kids and you know, my kids are older, just wait until they're teenagers, you know, which is that talk about breaking your heart. I mean, that's, that's their job is to you know, when they're teenagers, you know, their job is to break your heart so that you can let them be free. has taught me a lot so I am grateful for that. And also struggling still struggling. Alright, I want to read something else from you. You said your heart may be broken. Walk through the opening rest in the inner sanctuary of your being place your most intimate soft and loving prayers on the altar within your heart. This is one way to remember you are whole
Octavia Raheem 08:33:11
Yeah, you know so I write a lot I rested right that's my process. People go hey, you write the until the I go and one lady, I was just talking to her. She was like, you know, they feel channeled. And I was like, Oh, that's interesting. I was like, Well, I just go listen, like what wants to come through me? Okay, what does not need to be okay? And I also just a moment we're all living through. In addition to just regular life, I'm like, Oh, it's so heartbreaking. It's so heartbreaking ends where the breakage there's this opening, right? Like, that's what's happening when you were talking about, I presume you're kind of talking about what was going on in June 2020. Post George floors, murder, rest in love and peace and power. All this breaking, also all this opening? Right? What's gonna come out what's going to come come in. That's what I was thinking about when I wrote that. Because sometimes we have a profoundly negative connotation to the broken. Yeah. And I feel like through my yoga practice, yoga helps me have the courage to like face life as it is. And in that way, start to really have more capacity to vision and activate how it can be, if that makes any sense. And, and because I yoga, like it's this untying mechanism for me, because I can be really stoic and kinda just like numb out to push through. And those practices like yin to sit and be quiet be you know, if you if you have a meditation practice, you sit enough, something starts to eat, you know, it's not just your mind, something starts to happen in your heart, you know, you start to I don't know another way to describe it other than an Thawne and untying kind of into like, oh, because we our culturally our relationship to just like feeling and expression of feeling is we clamp that down. And I don't really subscribe to yoga best dislike, clamp that down? I don't I mean, I don't know if there's any yoga that really does that. But it's just my yoga is how do I how do I face? What is
an angry talk about that? That deep, strong feelings? You talk about that?
Octavia Raheem 08:35:56
That's gonna say what courage and compassion and so in your title? How do I face this with courage? Right and core? Courage comes from the Latin, the core, which is the heart.
Yeah, that's the French word for heart core.
Octavia Raheem 08:36:13
Core. How do I face this? With my heart?
Yeah, that's what I've tried to get out to, you know, you do it in this much simpler, more direct way to compare, but I don't know, like, I'm blown away by some of the things you say. Here's another one. The truth is that only the most courageous are ever brought this far in deep into the unknown. The ones who are willing to face the darkness within themselves in the world to understand the level of light needed to move forward. You are here because you are one of the courageous ones.
Octavia Raheem 08:36:52
That is to YouTube
and any listener, thank you.
Octavia Raheem 08:36:58
And that to Gail Parker and Jacoby Ballard and you know, all of these people that you know, public public facing in some way and there's also like, what we traverse to face in the direction that we have Yeah, you're able to write about the yoga revolution and revolution is not cute and sexy. Yeah, like you're not writing about it, you're living it you are activating it you're calling people into it. You're lifting people up into it you're falling down into it's like whoa, I assume that if you are here doing this it's because you have been called into doing it with your courageous heart you know, sometimes we're like why why did I gotta get that lesson we're gonna need it for later. Gonna, you know shore up your work are it gives you a more compassionate lens. It grants you the grace to have a more compassionate lens to look to as you look out into the world and see and serve people.
Yeah. Well, I appreciate that I think it has to do is seeing something You know, in myself, and wanting to. And also seeing the world, it's like, it's a process to me of reflection in a reflection, and then also seeing it out there. And feeling like, you know, spiritual practice is the key to make a change in the world. You know, like, any kind of change is going to happen in the world that's positive comes from people's inner work. And so that's what I was. That's what I'm trying to say in my book is that yoga is, it's an inner revolution, like the way we embrace ourselves, the way we relate to ourselves. And also, then it changes the way you walk in the world if you do that work, because you're not projecting everything on to other people and looking for other people to fix you all the time. And I think that's where so much damage can occur. I guess I'm trying to find a way to help people. It's like, I read the other day somewhere, like, so much damage is done when we try to fix the world. Yep. Yeah. I feel like that's what you're saying. There's another one of yours you say right now, the only light coming through? Is that of an intense fire the fire of your rage? You did not have to simmer down do not burn yourself either peer into the fire? What fuels it? And how can the light of it serve you in this dark place?
Octavia Raheem 08:39:58
Yeah, what's the fuel behind the fire? How can we like own that? And then, like, use that for our own transportation? No. And I haven't read the whole book, but I was thinking about Lama rod Owens work, you know, he has
this book Love and rage. And the teaching to like, not denied to not turn away from it, right? Because, you know, we turn away from it, we clamp it down, it comes up and now he spews onto other people nearby, or we completely stuffed it down. It goes over here and like does display to our left shoulder, our heart, our liver, I'm just naming things. But meaning it was just like turning on ourselves. You know, and I just again, it's like I said earlier, it's like how can we be with these big expressions of humanity like rage or sorrow or grief are being you know, spaying with some level of skill? Because without skill with those things, how can we be within in love and joy and all those other things that we like, we want more of that? Well, how can we be with that if we can't be with the the other side of it you know, you were talking about inner work. So that this you're offering the fruit, if you will, of that, no, we're out into the world. That's what I heard you say, I went back to the song I was kind of started talking about at the beginning of this podcast, This little light of mine, I'm gonna let you know, in in the singing of that and hearing of that, and, and remembering it the way I internalized that song and that I grew up singing, whilst I already have to be in relationship with the light within me. You know, and I have to like, you know, uncover whatever is covering it or trying to smolder it out, I have to do what it takes for that light to shine. And then it shines from within to out. You know, and I feel like that's what we're talking about. It's like from the within to our because like, we don't have the we don't have the light. And to be clear, we all have it right. But we don't have that light to just sit in a corner and folded and hoard it from the world are to be stewards of tending to it within us. And then we have that splendid luminous nest offer back out.
That's so beautiful. He just said that so well. Remember, oh my god. Two minutes. How does that feel? How does it feel for you to have these books in the world or this one's about to come out? I'm just curious how that
Octavia Raheem 08:43:07
you know, it feels you said this at your launch. You were like, Why don't you write these things and then it's out in the world. It's really like writing an intimate act. These things are coming From within you, and then you go here. I feel really tender and helpful and very excited to have the opportunity to connect to people in a way that I feel like we're can you know, the beautiful thing about books even I know, you know this because you travel the world teaching, your book can travel more, your book can go forward more, it can actually create more accessibility, because it is more accessible. And there's only one you and there's one me and there could be in the world a million copies of this book, you know. And so I mean, I hope that Posterous be the book I wrote as a companion. The way I thought about it was just like, I think there's a lot of loneliness in the world. Like, even when we're with people, we can just feel like I'm alone. I think we were all in our own beings having these really big experiences and emotions and like, where do we put them where they go. And it's actually hard to express some of the levels of like, lost devastation. And just like trauma and grief, we're all going to hope the book can be a companion.
Yeah. I can't believe you just said that. Because I started working on a new project, which I haven't told anyone about. And now you tell, I'm just saying that word companion is right in there. That's like, or that's what inspired me of exactly what you said. You know, that I'd like to support people on their journey. And I was very clear that that was like the way into that new the new project. So yeah. Yeah, that that
Octavia Raheem 08:45:14
All those c words - courage. Compassion. Like that, too.
Yes, change. You got change in there to courage in times of change. It's so awesome. Pause, rest be and anything else you want to share about it? Or about your teaching?
Octavia Raheem 08:45:40
I just I want to tell you, thank you. Okay. Yeah.
Thank you. Thanks. Thanks for being here with me and for sharing and for writing these books. Both this one I gather people if you don't know. Gather is already available. Right? It's already out there is and pause recipe comes out. What is it's
Octavia Raheem 08:46:04
February 1 2022.
Yes. Okay. Well, thank you for thank you for being you and for spending time with me and talking with us today. And I'll put a link to that. We'll put a link to the book and your website in the show notes. And take care of yourself. Thank you. Jivana. All right. Thanks, Octavia. Okay, bye. Thanks for joining us for the accessible yoga podcast. We're so grateful to be in community with you.
Amber Karnes 08:46:34
Please check out our website accessibleyoga.org. To find out more about our upcoming programs including our annual accessible yoga conference. At our website. You can also learn more about how to become an accessible yoga ambassador and support the work that we're doing in the world.
Please subscribe to the podcast and leave us a review wherever you listen. We'd love to hear your thoughts. You can
Amber Karnes 08:46:54
also submit a question or suggest a topic or potential guests you'd like us to interview at accessibleyoga.org See you next time.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai