Our dear friend, esteemed writer, yoga teacher, and founder of popular blog Namaste-Bitches Holly Westergren is at it again – and this time she is setting the record straight. Two weeks ago, Holly published THIS article entitled “Guide to Dating a Yoga Goddess” on Elephant Journal and it received over 13,000 views in just under a week. Needless to say it spawned a hell of a lot of commentary back and forth in the yoga scene, from both the yoginis and the yogis. Now Holly has submitted this article below to YOGANONYMOUS to set the record straight…check it out, in her own words, below:
I couldn’t take it anymore. I needed to set the record straight. My favorite comment on the Elephant Journal galaxy in response to my article Guide to Dating a Yoga Goddess: Damsels, Dharma, and Distress is by far, “ I would sooner hug a cactus than date one.”
Well played, Sir. Now, can you please send in glamour shot of yourself hugging said cactus, when you have a moment?
I wrote that article in twenty minutes. I’m not telling you this to brag about my speed-writing skills but rather as evidence that I work best when moved by Spirit and Spirit alone. (Perform your duty equipoised, O Arjuna, abandoning all attachment to success or failure. Such equanimity is called yoga. – The Bhagahvad Gita)
I felt I wanted to write something that would give me a sense of how inclined people are at this point in our evolution to think about themselves as Gods and Goddesses. The article has received 13,357 views and 57 comments and for me, the article accomplished what God wanted it to, which was to “GO REMIND HUMANS OF THEIR DIVINITY.” That was the task at hand, a message I received loud and clear after a long savasana.
Clearly, the possibility that we are made in God’s image is still something that is difficult for us humans (especially the cynical self-loathing ones, which I still sometimes am) to accept. For starters, it means more responsibility and accountability and who wants that? And then, if you’re actually a God or a Goddess, well, then you have to start believing that we’re not actually flying this thing and then of course you must devote your life to the will of a Higher Power and that’s just complicated and requires a lot of change and pain and reeks of Christianity or something unsexy like that and I like my Sweaty Vinyasa Flow and Prana pants and Ganesha mantras just fine, thank you very little, “Yoga Goddess”– just who do you think you are? ( I can hear you all talking, by the way. Occupational hazard.)
Confession: I’m a Christian yogi. I can’t help it. And because of this realization of who I am, I do believe I was put here, in part, simply to confuse you. To disorient you. Ah, yes… the Orient… have you ever been? Cue Sitar. Look into my eyes….
Yes, these are my eyes. You have to tell people what’s real and what not these days on these here Internets. It’s laborious.
I would also like to clarify that yes, that is me in the picture that accompanied the article with the boots and my “skinny white ass” as some loving soul commented. It was not some promotional ad for boots. It was an image I had in my head that I wanted to make so I enlisted the help of photographer Christopher Gabello (who I think thinks I’m insane and still thinks it is acceptable to fist bump a lady, for some reason) and an ex flame-turned-friend, a brilliant and hilarious rising star and new daddy, Bobby Buoncristiano, who I’ll get to in a minute. But lest you thought the male model in the picture was just some hunka hunka burnin’ love (which he is), he is also very much a real person. With a new angel in his life. Oh, to humanize models. Is it even allowed?
Buoncristiano, of course, means “good Christian”. God puts things in neon lights for us sometimes.
Now, if you look closely at this collaboration with Bobby you will seethat there are bruises on my legs, which are probably not even well-shaven. I did not want this image photoshopped even though someone suggested I should have painted on a tan. The image came to me in a dream. I know people say that shit all the time but its true. I had no idea what I would do with it or why I wanted to make it but that’s often the way it goes with stuff I decide to create. I knew I’d have a use for it some day. And voila. It lands in an alternate universe known as Elephant Journal. I still can’t bring my eyes to land on the site. I’m already Vata imbalanced enough. But apparently it was the portal my words needed to travel through.
Back to Bobby Hotpants. Bobby and I met when I was teaching a yoga class at a place where he was a personal trainer called IRONWORKS, which at the time often reeked of sweat, gym socks, meatheads and occasionally meatballs. Nary a box of Nag Champa in sight, yogis. I’ve always been more interested in teaching yoga in gyms and on the streets or in cubilces. I taught in the basement of this testosterone tank, against the backdrop of primal groans, the clanging of dumbells, and the non-stop pulse of some obnoxious music I always wished would go away. Still, there were those gym members who sought an oasis from that drill and I did my best to create some kind of sanctuary, despite the fact that many times, the soundtrack to Savasana was the blaring of “Eternal OM” on a busted up boombox with the meatheads on backup vocals nobody asked for. Still, the people came for the yoga. No matter how ghetto-fied the experience.
Anyway folks, the point is, this whole concept of “Yoga Goddess” is of course, ridiculous. And what’s more ridiculous is the fact that plenty of you were angered by it and plenty more of you were amused by it. The only things I was really trying to say, I think, is that it’s time to believe in and work for something beyond your Self, in whatever way you feel God or your higher power is calling you to serve. And the path of Yoga is one such way of quieting the mind long enough to hear the call and developing the courage to heed it.
Now I sing, “Move, Bitch, get out the way” most mornings in the mirror, followed by Savasana to “Pie Jesu” form the Faure Requiem. So that’s that. The best definition I have ever read of enlightenment was, “One’s ability to be comfortable with one’s contradictions.” I think it was in a Deepak book. Now, some of us have more contradictions to wrestle with than others, so I thank you for your patience as I try my best not to make sense of any of them for your benefit and mine.
To stay my course these days, I usually spend some time reading the great Alan Watts, whose line, “trying to define yourself is like trying to bite your own teeth” when coupled with psalm 46:10 “Be still and know that I am God” have honestly kept me alive. I’ve recently added Sade’s “Soldier of Love” to my arsenal of inspiration. Likewise, this pose, Anjenayasana, or Crescent Lunge Pose.
Looks easy enough, right? But why this shape? What does it mean? What is it asking us to think about beyond the stretching of the psoas? I recently read a beautiful description of this pose in a clever little article entitled “Putting the Anjaneya in Anjaneyasana” which tells the story of Anjaneya and reminds us:
When we practice Anjaneyasana we are really taking on the form of an awestruck and naughty divine child gazing up at what he thinks to be a glowing piece of fruit in the sky.
My beautiful beau, the Doctor–the anesthesiologist ( which just keeps things interesting at this point, not to mention camera ready—hello, savasana in scrubs) says this is his favorite yoga picture of me of all time. Perhaps it’s the “naughty divine child” he is drawn to here. Guilty. I’ve always made up my own rules. I don’t particularly think I should stop now.
So, yes. Who gets to date a “Yoga Goddess”? Inquiring minds want to know. Well, apparently a Western Doctor (who could also play one on T.V.) who took her yoga class at a gym called The Sporting Club at the Bellevue (which is not even half as posh as it sounds) read this here blog, wrote her a lovely email, asked her out and…..the rest, I believe, is history in the making.
Shiva surrenders to Shakti, Ladies and Gentlemen. There he is, my brilliant Doctor. Post-headstand.
Those of you who have no idea what that means might consider getting with the program. What program, you say? You know, The Program.
Meanwhile, I don’t think Bobby has ever taken a yoga class. Mostly because that boy surrendered a long time ago and at this point, the yogic path, for someone like Bobby would have to be something he felt truly called, or was paid to do at this point. Otherwise, this is a man whose heart is already as open as any man’s heart can hope to be. Still, I do think there are a few things he could learn from the yoga if he felt curious. Then again, I think ultimately, I learned more from his inspiring life story that yoga is only one path to learning how to truly love oneself and the world and to love people as they are, wherever they are. And like Janis sang about the Bobby in her life,
“Freedom is just another word for nothin’ left to loose.” Ain’t that the truth.
So, just keep getting rid of shit. I think that’s really all any of us can do at this point, in any spiritual practice.
And maybe revisit Seal. In private, if you’re scared to risk ridicule. Remember?
We’re never gonna survive, unless we get a little crazy.
Not feelin’ Seal? How bout Sinatra? “That’s Life”? This photo of Bobby and his Italian hands pairs well with these lyrics.
I’ve been a puppet, a pauper, a pirate, a poet, a pawn and King..
I’ve been up and down and over and out…
And I know one thing…
Each time I find myself, flat on my face,
I just pick myself up and get back in the race.
Or, if you have been blessed with a taste for the sacred, try Arvo Part’s soul wrenching choral work, The Beatitudes.
Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall inherit the Earth. I’ve played this during Savasana during many a class and it’s a downright magical combination.
Much admiration for Bobby for fearlessly sharing his light with the world. And hustle. And flow.
Questions? Comments? Concerns?
Bring ‘em on.
These boots are made for walkin’……. And that’s just what they’ll do….. one of these days these boots are gonna walk all over you…
If you must know the formal stuff, I went to college and got myself a B.A. in English from Rutgers University. I almost got a Master’s in art history but found the people too stuffy. I did my 200- hr yoga teacher training in Bali at Vibrant Living Yoga where I studied with Daniel Aron, David Williams, and Edward Clark. It changed my life. Most days I feel vibrant. I had a bunch of jobs where I wore suits. I once got fired for rolling my eyes. I sing. And maybe I dance. Secretly I want to be on Broadway. I know the words to every Frank Sinatra song ever written. I’m working on bringing yoga to the Philly ghetto. Yoga studios kind of bore me. Oh, and I really love Jesus.
Her blog can be accessed at www.namaste-bitches.blogspot.com