Thursday, February 20, 2014

Barefoot and Powerful-A Belly Dancing Yogini Speaks on What it Means

Dancing for Life with Sumora

Yoga is an incredibly empowering barefoot activity.

It’s one of the few formal athletic disciplines in the West that is done barefoot. We continue to explore how such a quiet and unorthodox activity has given positive energy to so many people. Yoga in the West is practiced mostly by women. Almost Barefoot explores the journey of women today and how Yoga has helped them become empowered.

(left) Sumora solutes the ocean in a spiritual dance (right) Sumora performing a Belly Dance

Yoga Teacher and Belly Dancer Sumora spoke to us this week to give us some perspective. Sumora is a business owner, mother, wife and a strong feminist with a very unique perspective.

She loves to go barefoot in the snow, and given how much snow her home state is getting, that's a good thing!

This is contribution is part of an ongoing series called Barefoot and Powerful, where we explore how being barefoot on a Yoga mat is empowering to women.
Sumora, as she is well-known by her students in  Massachusetts, a.k.a. Susan Sumora Morgaine Stanley 
How has Yoga empowered you as a woman?
I have loved learning all about the Yogic Goddesses of India - Durga, Kali, etc.  The concept of Shakti, or Adi Shakti in Kundalini Yoga, that divine creative force of the universe, which is feminine,  really hit home for me, so much so, that that is the name of my yoga studio - Shakti Spirit.  As much as I love the kriyas, it was the meditations and the powerful breathing that grabbed me.  I have found that, to me, Kundalini is the most spiritual of the yogas. I teach women-only classes and my goal is to empower them, as well, within the framework of the teachings of Kundalini Yoga.  The breath work allows me to go deep within myself and touch that spiritual center where my feminine power resides.

Before you began doing Yoga, did you go barefoot very often?
I have always gone barefoot.  I have hated shoes for as long as I can remember.  I am one of those who can go barefoot into the snow.  I am also a belly dancer and I teach and perform that barefoot, as well.

When did you start practicing Yoga?
I started practicing Kundalini Yoga 20 years ago due to some severe stress that was going on in my life.

What made you decide to teach it?
As I said, I fell in love with it almost immediately.  About 4 years after my first class, my father passed away and left me a small amount of money.  The first think that came to my mind was to taken an upcoming Teacher Training course at my local Ashram.  I wanted to share with others what Kundalini Yoga had brought to my life.  It was one of the most intense and beautiful times in my life.  I learned so much, not just about yoga, but about life and about myself.

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 think the most important thing that I can do is to let them know that they are important; that they need to take the time to for themselves, making sure they get the time to care for and nuture their own beautiful selves, something most women neglect to do.  I encourage them to walk their own paths on their journey.

What’s an empowering message you would offer to women and girls?
I think for younger girls and teens, we need to teach them that they are important, that they are more than what society tells them that they are.  They need to stop competing and comparing themselves to other girls and these female celebrities.  We need to teach them that they are more than what they look like, or what their bodies look like.  We need to teach them to stop listening to society and the media who reduces them to nothing but sexual objects.  They are not objects.  They are human beings and they need to demand respect.  As adult women, it is our responsibility to teach this to those coming up behind us.  As women, we need to be respected and honored for our feminine power.  

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 it's great that there are men who wish to practice yoga.  I wish I knew more than the one I know.  :-)   I know that there are those that disagree, but I believe there should be yoga centers that are women-exclusive.  Many women are survivors of abuse.  They have no desire to exercise or practice yoga in the presence of men.  These needs must be addressed and women-only studios is the way to go.

Add something else that is your unique thought on this discussion……
Being barefoot is an extremely powerful thing.  As a Goddess-oriented witch, as well as a yogini and belly dancer, I think one of the best things you can do for yourself is to, once a day, go outside and let your bare feet touch Mother Earth beneath you.  Breath in Her energy and power; release your stress into Her.  You will feel better for it.

Thank you, Sumora!

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