“Music and dancing are my ultimate self care. When I am allowing myself to be moved by music, I know my life is in balance.”
Firstly, thank you so much for taking the time to chat with us! We are thrilled to be connecting with such a well-respected thought leader from the yoga community!
To start, why don’t you tell us a little bit about what you’re working on right now
Well, a lot! In addition to managing my non-profit, I’ve gone back to school. I’m doing an interdisciplinary PhD program in Community Psychology, Liberation Studies and Eco-Psychology. It’s influencing everything I’m doing- from my teaching to my clinical practice. I have a training coming up that I’m excited about- it’s called embrace: Race, Trauma and Wellbeing: Times that Call for Love. I’m excited about creating spaces to explore trauma and social justice that are hopeful and creative.
Collaborating with Suzanne Sterling and Seane Corn, you created Off the Mat and Into The World – an organization that empowers yogis to take what they learn from their yoga practice and use it to enable positive change. How does Off the Mat view the balance between self-care and action in the world?
Self care can mean a lot of things. For some of us it is about balancing work and play, and making sure we’re not burning out. For others it is about self-preservation and survival. For me, I know that if I’m not prioritizing self-care I risk coming to my work with an attitude that undermines my intention. If I’m too tired I can be resentful and go into feeling like a victim. The more I’m focusing on social justice work, the more my heart breaks as I let the inequality and environmental devastation in the world in. When I’m not balancing this with being with family and friends, rest, and creativity, then I find that I want to shut down and numb out. And that doesn’t serve anyone. At Off the Mat, we encourage our leaders to prioritize self-care otherwise we can end up being part of the problem. Burnt out leaders can be authoritarian, manipulative and unsympathetic to others. Balanced leaders are better communicators and collaborators and ultimately more effective.
This month we’re focusing on self-care for yoga instructors. Is maintaining your self-care routine something you’ve struggled with (recently or in the past)?
Always. I tend to prioritize the well being of others over mine. Now that I have children, it’s even more challenging to create a pace and rhythm that is sustainable. Yet it’s more important than ever because I am a better mom to them when I’m sleeping enough, exercising and eating well. Lately I’m realizing that I need more than the basic self care regimes I’ve used. I need to actually have fun! This feels very luxurious when the world is in such crisis, but I see this in all my elders and mentors- they truly enjoy life even though they know there is so much suffering in it.
Do you ever find your schedule overwhelming or hard to keep up with? How do you find and maintain balance?
Yes, I used to pack in my schedule a lot more. I’ve gotten much better. two mornings a week are blocked off for me to exercise. I’ve cut down on how many clients I see, and I’m not afraid to ask for help. I don’t feel like I need to do everything on my own like I used to.
Have you ever found it difficult to maintain your yoga practice?
Yes. I have a tight schedule with my young kids, private practice, teaching and travel schedule. Getting to a full 90 minute class is rare. I’ve lowered my standards a lot and that really helps. Even 20 minutes of some movement practice is enough. If I strive for 90 minutes I’d never do it. So I find times to do my practice when I can- even if parts of it are at the playground with the kids!
Can you give us some self-care practices that you truly enjoy?
My emergency self care when there’s no time is a hot bath. I’ve been known to hop in a bath mid day between clients or meetings – one of the perks from working at home. My main practices are: sleep (I always sleep 7-8 hours a night), clean food, exercise (yoga, running, dance), therapy, date night with my husband. Oh, and lots of water.
How does music fit into self-care for you?
Music and dancing are my ultimate self care- when I am allowing myself to be moved by music, I know my life is in balance.
Have you always turned to the same self-care practices, or have they changed over time?
For sure they have changed. Now that I’m a mom, I don’t expect to get as much time to do self care as I did before. And it’s OK. I don’t need it. Being in nature has gotten more important especially because I know it’s good for my kids.
How do you see community and connection contributing to the overall care of oneself?
I believe that the thing that is causing many of us the most suffering is isolation. Our culture conditions us to be very individualistic. Many of us are taught that we need to do everything on our own. Yet we are social beings. I feel best when I’m connected with my community and those I love. It’s a big part of my life. I always have people coming in and out of my house and dear friends who live on our property. Nothing makes me happier than being around those I love.
What do you have coming up in 2017 that you are excited about?
A few things!
We are thrilled to have Rev. Angel Kyodo Williams and Kerri Kelly joining me for a powerful and practical experience. In this unique training, we explore the connection between personal and social transformation through the lens of race and power in the United States. Through practices of centering, contextualization, conversation, and community, we prepare ourselves to recognize and disrupt self-limiting patterns as a gateway to love and liberation – of self and society. We learn to embody wholeness, reclaiming parts of ourselves that we may have cast away in seeking a sense of belonging. With effort, we can cultivate the internal resources to respond to our life and world, developing the resilience necessary to truly begin transforming society.
May 26-29, Durham NC
A training for yoga teachers, clinicians, social workers, medical personnel and/or individuals working with communities with trauma. This 5 day training, is designed to offer a physiological framework of shock and complex trauma and how they manifest in the body and mind. We will give you tools from the growing field of trauma research, yoga, and mindfulness to manage and even resolve symptoms of trauma. Our goal is to equip yoga teachers to teach to students with trauma, and to offer tools to those working with those with trauma in other capacities.
June 19-23, Santa Monica CA
Hala Khouri, M.A., E-RYT, has been teaching the movement arts for over 20 years. Her roots are in Ashtanga and Iyengar yoga, dance, Somatic Psychology, and the juicy mystery of Life itself. Creative movement and honest self-exploration have always been sources of tremendous healing for Hala. She is one of the creators of Off the Mat, Into the World, along with Seane Corn and Suzanne Sterling. This is a non-profit organization dedicated to utilizing the tools of yoga and somatic practices within a justice framework to inspire people to be conscious leaders of change. Through the non-profit A Thousand Joys, Hala works with social workers and direct service providers, educating them on the effects of vicarious trauma and offering them somatic tools to discharge and manage stress and create a culture of wellness. She also teaches the Awakened Heart, Embodied Mind 200hr yoga teacher training with Julian Walker. http://halakhouri.com/