I have spent well over two decades working in the world of fitness. At times, the fitness world was my only source of friends and the people I worked with—fellow instructors and participants—became like a family. Even though I never felt like I fit in, I found comfort through sharing my talents as a fitness instructor—it was something that I was good at and something that made a difference in people's lives. Teaching fitness classes also saved my life on more than one occasion and helped keep me motivated to keep my body moving while working toward my career as a professor (which requires many long hours of sitting!).
At first, the world of fitness was a safe box where there were rules and expectations that made me feel safe to move and to lead groups of participants. We step up and down on our steps executing familiar moves, which is a kind of metaphor for American fitness more generally. I could be creative within this box of expectations, but I found it increasingly difficult to play by the rules. After completing my JourneyDance™ training at the end of April in 2022, I knew I had outgrown this fitness box and all I wanted to do was teach yoga and JourneyDance. The facility where I taught accommodated my new passion, but there was not a lot of room for me on the schedule and what I was teaching was unfamiliar and scary to many of the people who took the safe, reliable "manufactured fitness" programs.
I started looking for new spaces, but I kept hitting brick walls. Although I had dreamed for years about having my own space and doing my own thing, I never thought that it could be a reality. I have a very full-time job and I offer a lot of free classes and programs; it has worked pretty well this way for many years. . . and space was just a dream until I saw the writing on the window across the street after a massage appointment. Less than two weeks later I found myself signing a lease and starting a business—two things I never thought I would do. But here I am.
And this space has grown a new dream, a vision for The Spiral Goddess Collective, a Center for Mind/Body Movement—a place to teach my style of yoga and JourneyDance™. But not just to teach some classes, to also imagine a different way of approaching "fitness"—a way that resonates with me, but is largely unavailable in other spaces. I imagine this space—the 4th floor of 16 State Street in the Clark Building—to be a space of possibility, transformation, and maybe even a revolution in how people approach "fitness" in Bangor. I dream big and I invite you to do the same.
8/20/2022 0 Comments
Land acknowledgements have begun to be standard practice for many institutions and organizations, as well as for yoga teachers and studios. These statements aren't just an act of bending to the political climate--they are a recognition that the power-over practices of the past continue to reverberate into the present day, impacting the physical, mental, social, cultural, and economic wellness of individuals, communities, and our nation and keeping inequalities firmly in place.
Toward the larger goals of social justice, it is important to recognize that where we are and what we do does not exits in a vacuum. Both the land and the traditions of indigenous peoples influence and support the work we do at The Spiral Goddess Collective as well as the work that all of us who participate in conscious dance and yoga, specifically, and modern life, generally, participate in and benefit from. What does this mean? Part of our work is not just to acknowledge our debt to indigenous people's and traditions, but also to continue to educate ourselves, to honor these roots, and to participate in and support ongoing indigenous movements toward, individual, cultural, and collective healing and self-determination. This work is ongoing but it is only a beginning.
Downtown Bangor and The Clark Building, and thus The Spiral Goddess Collective, a Center for Mind/Body Movement, exist on the unceded homelands of the sovereign people of the Wabanaki Confederacy: the Penobscot, Passamaquoddy, Maliseet, and Mi'kmaq people. The Kenduskeag Stream, a tributary or the Penobscot River, dominates the view from the windows at the front of the SGC center. The Penobscot River continues to be contested territory in the centuries-long struggle for stewardship toward ensuring a healthy ecosystem for all of Maine.
Also framed from this view is the monument to Charles O. Howard, the victim of a hate crime in 1984. While walking down the street, Howard and his boyfriend were harassed for being gay and then Howard was assaulted and thrown over the bridge into the Kenduskeag Stream where he died by drowning. This, too, is a legacy for our land. On a wall near the Howard memorial is one of my favorite examples of street art and my favorite bird. It seems apt that some of the meanings and symbolism of the hummingbird include: "signals that challenging times are over and healing can begin. . . . an inspiring sign of hope and good luck. Hummingbirds also can have a spiritual significance and mean the spirit of a loved one is near."
Bangor, and the State of Maine, are microcosms for the United States where movements for social justice have been ebbing and flowing since before the U.S. officially became a country. As a part of the legacies of racism, sexism, white supremacy, and imperialism we honor the land where we live, love, breathe, work, and find community. We acknowledge that here in the U.S. what we have was built on stolen land and by forced labor. We pay back this debt by keeping our eyes, ears, minds, and hearts open and settling for nothing less than justice, equity, peace, and love.
Finally, yoga's roots are thousands of years old and are part of a larger set of traditions from indigenous practices from India, Africa, and other regions in the world--there is nothing new about embodied practices, but many have been lost, forgotten, or forced out of our cultural norms. The yoga practiced and taught at The SGC, a Center for Mind/Body Movement, draws on a variety of traditions, mixing styles and approaches that blend breathing, embodied movement, and meditation. Sarah writes more about these practices and approaches in her blog and in her forthcoming book, American Yoga Demystified: Creative/Critical Insights for a Complex World and an Evolving Mind and Body.
On Indigenous People's Day, Monday, October 10th, 2022, we will not hold classes, and I hope we will hold the weight of indigenous peoples and practices, past, present, and future, in our hearts and minds. Here are a couple of resources if you want to learn more about The Wabanaki Confederacy: Four Directions and the Wabanaki Alliance.