Monday, February 10, 2014

Barefoot and Powerful-Radical Optimist Woman Speaks

Hello! Today, Almost Barefoot continues our Barefoot and Powerful series, where we listed to women tell us of their stories of empowerment and what going barefoot means to them and how it has helped them empower and embrace themselves.

Our newest participant is a Barefoot and Powerful woman named Sarah Lowenstein. 

"Connect with Your Inner Awesome" instructions from a Radical Optimist Guru
Sarah poses in Eka Pada Sirsasana
Sarah Lowenstein is many things.  

Sara poses in Baddha Konasana
She is, professionally, A Yoga Instructor and a meditation teacher. She's also very active in Denver's feminist community and is a strong supporter of veganism and for working to end cruelty to animals.

A unique statement about herself: she calls herself a "Radical Optimist"

Today, Sarah speaks to us about her experiences in life-she rarely ever went barefoot before she began practicing Yoga. It's funny how Yoga and going barefoot share the strength of creating peaceful empowerment. 

. View and share same interview from Gaia Yoga of Colorado's blog.

Sarah poses in Uthitta Hasta Pdangusthasana
1. How has Yoga empowered you as a woman?

First and foremost, yoga has taught me how to really reconnect with my body. As women, our society encourages us to have a disconnect from what it feels like to fully occupy our WHOLE body – we nit-pick specific parts of our bodies we like or don’t like, disassociating with its sensations of pain or pleasure. Yoga invites us to go within and occupy the WHOLE body (engaging the toes as your belly draws in and your fingertips extend outward). On the mat is a time to practice this embodied wholeness, embracing whatever sensations arise without the need to disconnect. I love that.
The feet of Sarah, Radical Optimist Guru in sandals

2. Before you began doing Yoga, did you go barefoot very often?

Not very often. When I danced, as a child with Cleo Parker Robinson’s dance company, being barefoot was the expectation, but once I took other forms of dance, we put shoes on and I lost that connection. It wasn’t until I had a stronger yoga practice in my late teens that I began to fully appreciate my full foot on the earth and spreading my toes wide. I learned from the amazing teacher, Rainbeau Mars to fully love my body, from my toes to my head. Yogi toes are BEAUTIFUL! Now it’s hard to keep my shoes on most days! 

The Teacher at Work-Sarah assists a student in a special a pose modification for mobility development

3. When did you start practicing Yoga?

I began practicing yoga, on a small scale with my step-Grandmother and younger cousin when I was about 12 years old in their house. We would perform a few poses and that would be it. I practiced initially at home, trying some pretzel yoga (pushing and twisting my body to look like the pictures I saw) with no awareness of how it felt or who I was when I got into the poses.

 After a while, my practice began to deepen – my physical poses were a mirror for who I was off the mat (emotionally, physically and spiritually). I wanted to know more and that’s when I decided I wanted to learn how to teach others and share what I had discovered. I completed my 200 Hour Yoga teacher Training at Shoshoni Yoga Retreat center in Rollinsville, CO in July 2007; living at the ashram for almost 3 weeks straight. I learned a lot about myself, about yoga and it fueled me to unveil more about yoga.

4. What made you decide to teach it?

I really wanted (and still do) want to share the profound and deep teachings yoga has to offer beyond the physical practice. I graduated from college getting my BA in Psychology and minored in Religious Studies where I learned more of the academic perspective on healing. After that, I spent many years exploring different forms of yoga, to delve into the varied perspectives this profound practice offered and I’m still learning more every day. Yoga has offered me this integration of so many of my passions (music, dance, humor, mythology, Buddhism, Psychology, art, creativity and introspection) that I am passionate about sharing each week with my students. 

I am so inspired by so many varying forms of creativity and love to bring them to the table to help students make connections to life in a deeper way. I love helping others find their unique voice, connect with their bodies and become who they really are from the inside out! I am very excited to be currently working on my 500 Hour Teacher Training with the amazing Shannon Paige.

5. As a Yoga teacher, you’re a woman who not only has the power of authority also the ability to empower others. What’s one way you encourage your students to empower themselves?

I love to integrate dance breaks into my classes. Yoga asana practice can become very bogged down in precision (which it should, to prevent injury) but sometimes we need to shake it off and just let it go. Dancing like no one is watching with a group of strangers or even friends can be so liberating! It gets us in touch with our bodies, own unique rhythms and creativity to learn to connect with this on and off that mat is incredibly empowering!

6. What’s an empowering message you would offer to women and girls?

Be yourself. Connect with your innate intelligence, creativity and beauty at least once a day. Speak your truth. Stop chasing skinny and instead chase good health. Empower other women and see them as your sisters rather than your competitors. Celebrate your body and encourage the women and girls around you to do the same. Trust yourself. Connect with your inner awesome. Trust me it’s there, you just need to find it! And finally, if you fail or you fall, dust yourself off and get back up again!

7. The Yoga community has also been very welcoming to men. How can we continue to make sure that the Yoga community remains a place where women can empower themselves and have it still be as open as it is today?

I think we as a society in general need to empower ourselves and others and encourage all genders, abilities and means to join the community. I think yoga, of late, has easily gone down a path to be accessible for only wealthy people who tend to be white. It can be discouraging for anyone outside of that bubble to feel welcome such as people with less expendable incomes, people of color, people with varying abilities and body sizes and the LGBTIA (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and asexual)community.

I think it is our job as yoga teachers and practitioners to open that door WIDE open and invite everyone in, not just the privileged few who can afford to go to a weekly class. I am very encouraged by organizations like Denver Yoga Co-Op whose mission is to offer yoga to everyone, regardless of financial means or abilities. When we open that door, we invite others to feel empowered and thus, we feel empowered by them – it’s a beautiful cyclical relationship that benefits everyone!

8. Add something else that is your unique thought on this discussion……
Yoga is a mirror for who we are off the mat. It is our opportunity to practice and discover who we REALLY are, in a safe environment. We can fall, we can begin again, we can laugh, we can cry, we bring our whole self to the mat. We can open the door to that darkness within ourselves, that which we refuse to look at, shine a light on it and give it space to open up and teach us more about ourselves. Because whatever we deny or refuse to look at will continue to follow us around. So instead, invite it in, as an honored guest of your conscious, say hello, listen and encourage yourself to embrace this darkness within – ultimately transforming our wounds into wisdom.

As one of the teachers I admire, Douglas Brooks has said, “inhabit all of yourself, not just the parts you like.” Thank you for your time. It has been an honor to speak about my passion with you! 

You can learn more about Sarah on website:

Thank you, Sarah!

**All photos of Sarah Lowenstein used with permission


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