Friday, December 17, 2021

Practicing Liberation Through Compassion: An Excerpt from Yoga Revolution

[Image Description: The cover of the book Yoga Revolution by Jivana Heyman is shown. The cover has an off-white background. The book title and author's name appear in colorful, rainbow text.]

This post is an adapted excerpt from Yoga Revolution: Building a Practice of Courage and Compassion by Jivana Heyman© 2021 Shambhala Publications. Reprinted with permission. This article may not be reproduced for any other use without permission.

By Jivana Heyman
[The] practice of liberation is ongoing, and extremely challenging. We get to practice stepping back from the tyranny of our own ego-centered thinking. We also get to step back from a culture we’ve been steeped in, from a world focused on the individual self, into a life focused on the communality. Liberation is a state of isolation from personal likes and dislikes so that we can get over ourselves....

... The question of yoga is, “How can I transcend my personal desires to connect to a universal experience of connection and the communal liberation of all beings?”

This is how my liberation is tied to yours. It’s not simply because I’m a nice person, or I’m politically correct. Our hearts are all knotted together in the expanse of space and time. My ability to let go of my personal desires draws me closer and closer to you. As I release myself, I can embrace you more fully. It reminds me of recent scientific research into the substantial similarities between neuronal networks in our brains and the cosmic network of galaxies in the universe–between microcosm and macrocosm. What I find within myself is found without me too.

For example, if we’re friends and we have an argument, how do I heal that pain? Say we have both expressed our positions clearly, but we’re still stuck in the anger and frustration? Do I stay in my desire to be right, or do I see that you’re also in pain, and reach out to you across that space that separates our hearts? Yoga is literally the realization that you’re also suffering, and that if I can overcome my pride and reach out to you, I’ve just practiced samadhi. It sounds illogical, but the way to really win an argument is to be wrong!

... Let's be clear about this, because it's particularly important to understand the ways that our mutual awakening works. It's not that I'm doing you a favor by being compassionate to you. It's my own liberation that's at stake.

You can purchase your copy of Yoga Revolution: Building a Practice of Courage and Compassion by Jivana Heyman here. 

Jivana Heyman, C-IAYT, E-RYT500, is the founder and director of the Accessible Yoga Association, an international non-profit organization dedicated to increasing access to the yoga teachings. Accessible Yoga offers Conferences, Community Forums, a Podcast, and a popular Ambassador program. He’s the co-founder of the Accessible Yoga Training School, and the author of Accessible Yoga: Poses and Practices for Every Body (Shambhala Publications), as well as the newly-released Yoga Revolution: Building a Practice of Courage & Compassion (Shambhala, Dec. 2021). More info can be found at

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DONATE here to help us bring yoga to people who don't have access or have been underserved, such as people with disabilities, chronic illnesses, children with special needs, and anyone who doesn't feel comfortable in a regular yoga class.

Friday, December 10, 2021

Exploring Yoga & Pain Care: An Overview of Our December Programs


[Image Description: A black and white photo of a group of yoga practitioners seated with their eyes closed, each with a hand over their heart. Over the image is a burgandy box with white text that reads "December 2021: Pain Care & Yoga."]

At the beginning of 2021, as the world continued to adjust to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, Accessible Yoga likewise opted to continue expanding our online offerings to continue serving our community from the safety and comfort of home. Beginning January with our first official Accessible Yoga Community Forum on mental health and trauma-informed yoga, and eventually expanding into a full slate of sample asana classes, teacher workshops, and continued forums on new topics each month. We're excited to continue offering these programs in 2022.

Our theme for this month, December 2021, is pain care and yoga. Below you'll find an overview of the exciting events and incredible presenters who will be offering their wisdom and sharing their expertise throughout the month!

Did you know that Accessible Yoga Ambassadors get to attend all of our monthly programs and access the replays for free as a benefit of membership? Ambassadors support our organization and programs with a monthly or annual contribution to our work. Access to these monthly programs is only one of many perks to becoming an Ambassador. Learn more and join the program today! 

Friday, December 3, 2021

International Day of People with Disabilities: Editor's Picks from the Archive


[Image Description: Jivana Heyman, a white man wearing all white clothing and glasses, is facing away from the camera while instructing a chair yoga class. Multiple participants can be seen doing a seated variation of Vrikshasana (tree pose) in the background.]

A Letter from the Editor:

The Accessible Yoga Blog is currently in a phase of an exciting transition. As the Accessible Yoga Association has grown in size, impact, and scope over the last several years, we’ve also been working behind the scenes to ensure that our tools and technological platforms adapt to meet the needs of our growing staff and community, and that the content we offer via this blog, our podcast, monthly programming, and annual conferences continues to be reflective of our ever-evolving understanding of expansive-nature of what "accessibility" really means.

You will learn more about this transition very soon, and I’m excited to more formally introduce myself, thank our outgoing editor Priya Wagner for her years of dedication and service in this role, and to show you some of the updates we’re making improve the blog! In the meantime, I want to make sure we continue to offer our community and dedicated readers great content every week, even as we turn some of our attention to handling the back-end particulars of this transition. Luckily for all of us, the extensive archive of posts from our incredible list of past contributors contains a true wealth of wisdom that remains just as poignant, pertinent, and valuable as when we first published it. I’m excited to be able to re-share some of those posts alongside original content as we move through this transition.

Today, Friday, December 3rd, 2021, is the 29th annual observance of the International Day of People with Disabilities, originally declared by the United Nations in 1992 as a day to celebrate and promote “the well-being and welfare of people living with disabilities,” ( In honor of IDPWD and in the spirit of sharing some of the incredible voices and perspectives from our archive, I’ve rounded up three selections from our blog archive to re-share with you all today.

Whether you’re new to our community or are a dedicated reader engaging with these posts for a second time, I hope you enjoy and learn from the wisdom that’s been shared on this platform over the years by some incredible members of the Accessible Yoga community. Thank you!

    - M Camellia (they/them), Editor

Friday, November 26, 2021

Yoga Therapy for Diabetes


[Image Description: A white woman with dark hair is practicing Balasana (child's pose). She is wearing an all white outfit and has a visible insulin pump.]

This post is an excerpt from the introduction to Yoga Therapy for Diabetes by Evan Soroka. © 2021 Singing Dragon. Reprinted with permission. This article may not be reproduced for any other use without permission.

By Evan Soroka

Any diagnosis is stressful, but as a pre-teen, you are just trying to figure out who you are. All of a sudden, you are required to be highly disciplined and aware of everything that you are doing, as it relates to your health. You are supposed to keep your blood sugars in a tight range of 80–180 mg/dL (4.4–10.0 mmol/L) and inject insulin several times a day. 


The moment I was diagnosed, I fervently rejected any attempts by my parents or others to help me do diabetes. I wanted the responsibility to fall entirely on my shoulders. The first time my parents tried to inject me, their trepidation was palpable. Their hands shook with fear of hurting me. It was the first and only time I let them. 

On the one hand, the declaration of independence was a positive attribute, and on the other hand, it produced unnecessary drama in my life. I just wanted everyone to let me be and allow me to take care of diabetes on my own. I did not want extra attention, I just wanted to be normal. Anytime I was to go over to a friend’s house, their parents would receive an instruction manual about how to take care of me. I hated the spotlight and was annoyed that special measures had to be made for me when I knew how to take care of myself. 

My parents and I fought a lot. I resisted, rebelled, and retaliated every time there was a question about my blood glucose (BG), what I was eating, or what I should do. That is an excellent way of saying I gave them a lot of reason to worry; I was a wreck. 
My behavior was more than teenage angst, it was a product of diabetes and stress. I was so insecure about my body, overwhelmed by diabetes management, and frustrated by adults looming over every decision that I made. It was at a boiling point, and I did not have any outlets for the emotional overflow. Hope was not all lost; underneath the guise of rebellion was a person who cared deeply about her health and wellbeing. I am lucky, and I think that the only reason why I do not have any complications is that no matter what I did, I always tested my BG and tried to correct it if it was off. 


One day, my best friend at the time went to a yoga class. We met up afterwards, and she was a different person. Glowing and happy, she did not want to participate in the usual debauchery that the others and I were into. Naturally, I was intrigued, and the next week I went to a class on my own to see what it was about. 

All I can say is that I was uncomfortable and awkward. Every position made me want to scream and run away, but for some reason, I stayed. I remember lying in a pool of sweat at the end of the first class, feeling euphoric. It was unlike anything I had felt in my entire life. I was alive, at ease, and complete. All of the distractions, discomfort, angst melted away for a moment.
I kept going back to yoga, even when I did not want to. There were times when I hated it. I wanted to leave and run away. But I stayed, and when I did, I was rewarded. We do not realize how much we are suffering until we experience the opposite. Yoga showed me that the way I was living was not sustainable and awakened an interest in self-discovery, health, and wellness. 

Those first years of intense physical practice helped purify my body, mind, and senses and prepared me for what was next: transformation. I learned how to love myself more, cherish my body, and practice self-care. I felt more equipped and confident to handle diabetes challenges. 

Yoga taught me that I was more than the experience of diabetes, more than my emotions, fears, and discomfort. I learned that if I took time to practice, I always felt better, and when I felt better, I was more myself. That was the beginning of the rest of my life. I thought I was practicing for my physical appearance, but as time went on, yoga began to inform my whole life. It was what I did to feel whole again, to give myself space to just be present. When I practiced, I felt better. All of my relationships improved and, most importantly, so did my relationship with myself. This relationship is fluid, continually growing, and evolving. I became a teacher and started to share my experiences with others. 

About five years into practice, I herniated a disc in my back. I had to completely stop the way I was practicing. It was the first time in my life I sustained an injury like that—where I could not walk. Like a diabetes diagnosis, an injury is a wake-up call to change your direction. I wanted to continue the feeling I once achieved in yoga āsana, but my practice motivation had to shift. I began to look deeper into the philosophy and psychology of yoga and went on to complete my studies in yoga therapy with Gary Kraftsow and the American Viniyoga Institute. I learned how to work with the breath and sequence for energetics, specifically the autonomic nervous system. 

I noticed that when my energy was low, I could do a practice to build it back up. If my energy was too high, or I was anxious or nervous, I could practice to calm myself down. I noticed that these qualities of energy could be applied to specific diabetes challenges, addressing short-term needs, and reducing long-term complications. If my blood sugar was running high, I could practice increasing circulation and lowering the number. Even if the number did not come down, the practice helped me have more energy for the rest of my day. I could go about my day with more vitality. 

I am so grateful to have the opportunity to share with you my life experience of practicing for and with diabetes. I am not here as an expert and do not claim that yoga is the answer to diabetes. Yoga is a self-care strategy which improves diabetes management and builds resilience against diabetes risks.
This book is an amalgamation of my science experiments with yoga therapy for diabetes. All the practices are informed by science and yoga tradition. I am sharing what works for me and for those I work with. 

Yoga and diabetes are complementary practices. They both teach you how to be the observer of the experience and watch your thoughts, sensations, emotions, and actions as an observer. Whenever I inject my body, I do not think I am injecting my body. I do it without identification. 

When I sit in meditation and witness my mind having a tantrum, I learn how to stay and not get involved. This informs the way I take care of diabetes. If I test my BG and do not like what I see, I have a choice. I can freak out, blame myself, or something else, or I can see the number and respond appropriately. If I still cannot figure it out, I have a practice that always nourishes my system, calms my mind, and purifies my body. I know that no matter what diabetes or life throws at me, I always have what I need. 

Diabetes still throws me curveballs from time to time. I do not profess to be perfect at it. I still have highs and lows. I make mistakes sometimes and get frustrated, and that is okay. Yoga has equipped me with the skills to be aware of my needs, identify the imbalances, and choose appropriate practices to reestablish equilibrium. I feel confident in my ability to manage diabetes and equipped with an understanding that although I am in charge, I am not the master of everything I do. I can let go of things that cannot be changed (diabetes) and focus on what I can change (feeling well). This skillset trickles into every avenue of my life and is what I most enjoy sharing with others.

You can purchase your copy of Yoga Therapy for Diabetes directly from Singing Dragon here. Use the code SOROKA21 at checkout to save 20% off the purchase price.

Evan Soroka, C-IAYT, E-RYT 500, is an educator, yoga therapist, and author. Diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in adolescence and chronic musculoskeletal issues throughout her life, Evan’s mission is to advance and inspire autonomy in healthcare through yoga and Ayurveda. Trained as a Viniyogaä therapist, and initiated into the Sri Vidya tantric lineage of the Himalayas, her method unites the mind and heart, focusing on intelligent biomechanics, energetic healing, and spiritual meditation practices. Evan's critically acclaimed book, Yoga Therapy for Diabetes, was published by Singing Dragon in 2021. She is a featured yoga therapist on Yoga International and a contributor to Yoga Journal and Yoga Therapy Today magazines. You can learn more about Evan at

° FOLLOW Accessible Yoga on FacebookTwitterInstagram, and YouTube.

° DONATE here to help us bring yoga to people who don't have access or have been underserved, such as people with disabilities, chronic illnesses, children with special needs, and anyone who doesn't feel comfortable in a regular yoga class.


Thursday, November 18, 2021

We Need More than Transgender Awareness

In honor of trans awareness week; to be explored all year round.

A burgundy square with white text that reads: "We need more than transgender awareness. In honor of Trans Awareness Week; to be explored all year round." The letters in the 'trans' part of the word "transgender" are depicted in alternating blue, pink, and white, representing the colors of the transgender flag. In smaller letters at the top of the square, attribution is given to @tristankatzcreative.

This post was adapted from an Instagram post by the author. You can find the original post here.

By Tristan Katz

Each year between November 13-19, people and organizations around the country participate in Transgender Awareness Week to help raise the visibility about transgender people and address issues members of the community face (explanation of Trans Awareness Week from This week of awareness-raising leads up to Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR) on November 20, a day to honor the lives lost due to anti-transgender violence.

2021 is the deadliest year on record for transgender people in the United States, with at least 45 trans folks killed, most of them BIPOC (and these are just the cases that have been recorded). This year, we’ve also seen over 100 anti-trans bills introduced in the U.S., and in spite of the claim from Netflix leadership that content like Dave Chapelle’s recent special “doesn’t directly translate to real-world harm,” we know this to be factually untrue. We need more than one week of transgender awareness, and we need our allies to do more than cultivate awareness. 

The word ally is not a passive noun. Ally is an active verb. This is a call to action that spans well beyond the seven days of Trans Awareness Week. 

For this Trans Awareness Week and beyond, consider dedicating time to reflecting on how you might show up to actively challenge systems, structures, and beliefs that stigmatize and marginalize transgender, non-binary, gender non-conforming, and queer individuals. The following questions are a sampling of inquiries you might reflect on via free-writing or journaling, or through conversations with others. Feel free to bookmark, save, and return to these prompts. There is always room for more (un)learning. Fun!

Reflection Questions:

Are you considering how you’ve been impacted by the gender binary?

Are you noticing the assumptions you make about others’ gender identities based on appearances?

Are you dedicating time to listening to and learning from trans voices and stories from a wide array of different identities and experiences?

Are you supporting trans educators, activists, and creators beyond simply sharing their content?

Are you challenging the norm that genitalia is what defines gender?

Are you interrupting cis-heteronormative, transphobic, and homophobic statements when you hear them?

Are you slowing down when you speak about other people?

Are you exploring gender-inclusive language?

Are you dedicated to the practice of using all pronouns correctly?

Are you recognizing where you hold privilege?

Are you using your privileges to name and interrupt harm? 

Tristan Katz (they/them) is a writer, educator, and digital strategist specializing in business and marketing coaching-consulting, web and graphic design. Based on the ancestral land of the Cowlitz and Clackamas peoples, now known as Portland, OR, Tristan teaches workshops and trainings centered around queer identity and trans* awareness with an intersectional lens, along with justice-focused digital marketing strategies for yoga and wellness professionals. Through their podcast, articles, digital resources, and workshops, Tristan supports those who seek to grow their work while staying aligned with the practices of yoga, equity, diversity, and inclusivity. They are also a member of the Accessible Yoga Association's Board of Directors. 

° FOLLOW Accessible Yoga on FacebookTwitterInstagram, and YouTube.

° DONATE here to help us bring yoga to people who don't have access or have been underserved, such as people with disabilities, chronic illnesses, children with special needs, and anyone who doesn't feel comfortable in a regular yoga class.

Thursday, November 11, 2021

From the Archive: Bringing Yoga into Prisons with Amma María Fandino


This interview with Amma María Fandino is by Elliot Kesse, Accessible Yoga Ambassador. It was originally published on the Accessible Yoga Blog in May 2019. While the substance of the content has not been changed, some of the language has been edited slightly from the original version to reflect an updated understanding of the way language has historically been used to dehumanize incarcerated people. All such edits are demarcated in brackets. 

Friday, October 22, 2021

Yoga Revolution: Keynote Address by Jivana Heyman (AYC 2021)


Keynote by Jivana Heyman. Transcript edited by M Camellia.

Editor's Note: Below you will find a written transcript of the keynote address delivered verbally by Jivana Heyman on October 15, 2021 at the Accessible Yoga Conference Online. It has been edited to improve readability, though these edits do not change the substance of the keynote. Effort was made to retain fidelity to the address as delivered, including the retention of some (but not all instances of) 'filler words' (i.e. 'like,' 'um'), which attempts to approximate the natural spoken cadence and delivery of the orator. Ellipses have been used throughout to indicate a pause in speech and in no instance indicate the removal of words. Additionally, the live event included a brief introduction by Amber Karnes and informal comments (beyond the scope of the keynote) by Jivana Heyman at the conclusion--these have been removed from this edited transcript, though that content is retained in the video recording, including the captions thereof. Time stamps are provided to indicate where this edited transcript begins and ends in relation to the linked video recording.

Watch the Recording of this Keynote

[Transcript begins at minute 6:16 of the video recording.]

But anyway, I want to introduce myself again and just say, you know, I'm Jivana. My pronouns are he and him. I'm on Chumash land here, which is called Santa Barbara, California. We have a fire nearby. That's actually...the smoke has shifted away, thank goodness. So it's much better now. I thought I might have to evacuate yesterday, which was bad timing. And I just want to say before I do a centering, that it's really important to me that we share our pronouns and the land that we're on, because it creates a safer space for everybody. So if you don't mind putting at least the pronouns in your Zoom name, that would be awesome. It's actually also a policy we have in Accessible Yoga to help create safer spaces where people feel welcome, and I feel like this has already come up during this conference. I just want to say that it's important to me that we make the spaces that we're here...that we're hosting as safe as possible. We can't create ‘safe space.’ That's not possible, I realize, but we can do the best we can to make them safe, safer. Yeah. 

Let's do a centering about that. Maybe sit back, if that's comfortable for you. You can have the eyes open or closed. Notice your body and how it's feeling right now. Maybe see if you can move around a little bit and adjust to make yourself more comfortable. I thought we could spend some time exploring gravity and the effect it's having on our bodies right now. So I like to think about the places my body is touching the earth. And it's not really touching the earth, but it's touching the floor, right? My feet are on the floor. My seat is in the chair. Maybe on an exhalation together, we can inhale and exhale. So if you can let the body rest down a little more into that support, feeling gravity pulling us down into the earth, you can let the body be heavy. Gravity is an incredible force, right? It's this constant force of the earth, pulling us towards that. I like to think of it as, like, a hug. Right? We're being hugged from the earth--Mother Earth, embracing us, constantly pulling us down into her. Then you can feel that space of air lifting up on the inhale, pulling away from the earth. 

Maybe we can explore that for a moment--the inhale, the inhalation, lengthening and lifting away from the earth, and the exhalation grounding you back down. See how those two forces work in unison like a dance, right? Inhale, lengthening upwards. Exhale, relaxing down. And when you have energy and relaxation at the same time, inhale lengthening, exhale relaxing, letting go. See if you can release a little more tension on the next exhale. Maybe relax the jaw, the eyes, shoulders, the hands, belly--anywhere that there's tension in the body. Let's just take a few more breaths here, maybe three more breaths on your own.

When you're ready, you can slowly open the eyes, if they are closed, coming back to your actual reality, and then this virtual reality, maybe looking back on the screen.

Hi again. Thanks so much for being here at the conference and for coming to this talk. And for those of you watching on the recording: thank you, I appreciate you. It means a lot to me, you know? Accessible Yoga is a community. It's, you know, as Amber said...I founded this organization, but I really don't feel any longer that I'm controlling it. I mean, I'm doing my best to support it, and [I’m] nurturing its growth. But I've..I've let it go. Like, basically, it reminds me of my kids. I have a 20-year-old and a 16-year-old, and they're teaching me about letting go. And I feel the same way with Accessible Yoga. It's not that I'm still here, I'm still doing this--I’m also trying to let go and let Accessible Yoga grow into whatever it can become. This weekend is just beautiful for me, because I see that it has a life of its own. So your being here means a lot to me. 

But I'm here to talk about my new book, which is called Yoga Revolution: Building a Practice of Courage and Compassion. I actually have a copy here, which is exciting. It's a preview copy--the book won't be out for a while. There's actually delays with the supply chain, so they were supposed to come out in November, but now it's gonna be out December 7th. But you can pre-order if you want on...there, Robyn put it in the chat. And this book is more, really, a journey...about my journey in yoga, sharing about myself and my understanding of the yoga teachings in light of what's happening in the world. In particular, I started writing during Black Lives Matter, and I think that was a huge influence for me. The biggest civil rights movement in history, really. And that affected me profoundly because I felt like, “Finally, a change is coming.” You know? And I wanted to share about how I saw that reflected in the yoga teachings and in my life. 

One of the things I want to try and do tonight...I haven't given this talk before, by the way, this is the first time I'm talking about the book at all. So thank you for being patient with me. Because it's a whole, long book. It's really long. In fact, I think it's too long. It's, like, 250 pages and everyone who reads it says...I mean, most of them say nice things because they have to, but I also think their eyes roll back in their head slightly, and they just feel like, “Oh, wow, there's a lot.” You know? Like, it's a lot. It's a dense book, a lot of philosophy, but, you know, that's what I like! Anyway, what I want to try and do is to share the most vulnerable parts, because I think [those are], really, the important pieces of the book. I actually have a PowerPoint, because I'm a visual person. That helps me, so I'm going to share my screen. Let's see how this goes. Hopefully you can see that. It's a little wild--the background is the rainbow image that actually's the image that the book designer used on the book cover, and I think it's pretty cool, because ‘rainbow’ is a theme that I want to come back to.

This slide says, “Yoga Revolution: Building a Practice of Courage and Compassion with Jivana Heyman,” and there's a rainbow background. And I want to go on and talk do I do this? I want to start with failure. Because I honestly can say that this book came out of my personal struggles, starting with what happened to me about four years ago. So, my mom died four years ago now. And it was August, and then a few months later, I had just turned 50 years old, which was kind of, you know, mind-blowing in itself--if any of you are 50 or older, you know what I mean--and then her death really got just knocked me down. We were very close. And she know, it was hugely important in my life. I mean, the loss of anyone's parent is just, I think, overwhelming in general, although I think, you know...I was lucky that I had a close relationship with her, but it really affected me, and also my daughter, Violet, who's 16 now and is going through a lot of major challenges. I try not to share too much about her because I want to protect her privacy--it's her life--but she has mental health issues. And [my mom’s death] was just overwhelming for me, so I had an anxiety attack, which I talked about with Amber, actually, on our podcast. I landed in the ER, was in the emergency room, and I couldn't breathe. I didn't know what was going on. I tell the story in the book, which is that they did all these tests on me to see what was happening. I was convinced that I was...I don't know...I mean, [having] a heart attack or allergic to something. I don't know. And then they--the doctor--came back and said, “You know, I think it's an anxiety attack.” And I started laughing, and I said, “It can't be, I'm a Yoga teacher. I can't be having an anxiety attack.” Which is pretty funny now. 

Anyway, what I realized was that I had this kind of idea about myself, and about my life as a yoga teacher, and my practice, and it wasn't really doing what I thought it was doing. You know? Here, I was going through a lot of really challenging stuff, and I completely fell apart, and it was good. I mean, I don't wish that on anybody. But I feel like I've kind of pulled myself back from that time, learned a lot. I've had to really restart my practice in many ways, not only physically, but also in the way I approach philosophy. And I...that's why I wanted to mention this idea of failure, because it felt like a failure.I felt like I had failed as a yoga practitioner, and I was really embarrassed. Yeah, like I, you know...I think I’d just been trained that if you're a yoga teacher, you're kind of ‘perfect’ in some way, you know? Like, that your life is perfect, and your body's healthy. And because I also [am] getting older, I have a lot of physical issues, which I don't want to bother you with. But anyway, the point is that it was a failure. But I feel like it offered me a chance to sit back and look at everything in a fresh way. 

This is a poem that I'm sharing with you--it's on the screen, it says, “‘The Failure’ by Kabir.” Kabir actually is an amazing poet, and he was part of the group of Bhakti poets that was writing in Persia, which was Iraq and Iran in the 14th century, which is literally, like, hundreds and hundreds of years ago. So that would be, like, around the 1300s. He says:

I talk to my inner lover, and I say, why such rush?
We sense that there is some sort of spirit that loves birds and animals and the ants--
perhaps the same one who gave a radiance to you in your mother's womb.
Is it logical you would be walking around entirely orphaned now?
The truth is you turned away yourself,
and decided to go into the dark alone.
Now you are tangled up in others, and have forgotten what you once knew,
and that's why everything you do has some weird failure in it.

That last part is a little bit damning. It feels like I've totally failed. Everything I do “has some weird failure in it.” You know, it just feels...yeah, it feels so horrible. But actually, to me, it's such a relief. Right? Like Amber said [in the chat], “Fellow weird failures unite!” Exactly. Like, that's how I feel. I feel like I've always been slightly off, you know? Slightly. On the outside. I think just being a Queer person, I grew up feeling like I didn't belong anywhere. Society didn't have a role for me. You know, it just felt...I don't know...I just felt separate, and like everything was wrong. But then also, through my practice and through yoga philosophy, I started to see not only...that the way I was perceiving the world was actually not even correct. I think...that's what I think Kabir is getting at here, that the ego, the ego-mind, and the way that we approach the world, you know, as our individual self, will never be correct. It'll never be perfect because that's not the truth of who we are. 

You know, the yoga teachings say clearly that we are spiritual beings. That's our essence. That essence is unchanging, and immortal, and perfect, and it's shared by all of us, that essence that unites all beings. The spirit, Ātman, Purusha--whatever you want to call it...those are the Sanskrit words: Ātman, Purusha...or Brahman. Brahman is the shared universal spirit. That's the truth of who we are, and what the yoga teachings are really all about: trying to connect back to that. So this poem, to me, is actually talking about that, about this journey of being human and that being human means to fail. And I often feel like, as a yoga teacher, I'm misleading people, because I'm teaching them to be ‘better,’ or to be other than they are, right? To change. And I actually think, you know, real healing comes when we accept who we are, completely, right now, including all of our limitations. 

I think that's what Kabir’s saying so clearly--that there's a weird failure in everything we do, and that it’s totally fine. In fact, I think we can celebrate the failure like Amber did. Yeah. Because you know, what? The body and the mind, this human being, will eventually die. Right? And that's the part, I think...Tracee Stanley just was so powerful this morning--I hope you get a chance to listen to her talk. You know, she said that clearly, again, to remind people of death...or was it somebody else? I don't know. But she really moved me, and I just want to say, like, that me, that's the healing of yoga. What it offers is the healing of acceptance. Yeah. Like Linda said [in the chat], being true to ourselves. It's not about changing into something else, other than to realize part of ourselves is fine, right? There's that spirit within us. That [spirit] is fine. The human part of ourselves is okay. It's okay to love your broken self. Like, that's okay. 

So I have a question for you, actually. I was wondering if you can think about this in your own life--is there a time or place where you felt that you failed? And I'm going to say that you can maybe just write a note down, or you can put it [in the chat] if you really want to be brave and share it with everybody. That's awesome, like, share away. But you don't have to, you're welcome to just write a note for yourself. What I'm interested in in particular is: is there some “failure” that you've experienced that ended up actually being helpful in some way? Like, is there something you considered a failure that actually ended up contributing to your growth and to your evolution as a being? I'm going to give you maybe just a minute to reflect on that. I'll try to stop talking.
[Addressing participants who shared their responses in the chat]: All right. Okay. Thanks for sharing in the chat. It's really beautiful. Thanks, Kimberly, all of you. Kareena, Alyssa, Jess, Sarah--thanks for sharing, and thank you Jean. I know being a parent has made me feel like a failure, I have to say. Wow, thanks for sharing all that. I have to read all those. 

I am...I can honestly say that it is our failures and the places that we are different and not like other people where we're the strongest, you know? You know, I don't mean [it] in a cliche kind of way. I mean, it sounds like a cliche. But I really think that's the point of being human. Because here we are. I mean, I don't want to get too esoteric, but like, if you think about it, why are we here? Why are we here? Why are we on Earth? And, according to the yoga teachings, the idea is to see clearly, right? The Sanskrit word ‘viveka’ means ‘clear vision.’ According to the Yoga Sūtras, we need to have clear vision, which means we have to [clearly see] where we are ignorant, where we are not wise, and where we've failed, I would say. That's really the goal of the yoga teachings: to show us that. And not in a negative way, I don't think, at all, but in a way that is revealing and honest  so that then we can say, “Oh, wait, there's also this other part of me that is whole at the same time. So, part of me is whole, and part of me is struggling and failing. I guess I like to think of it as my heart and my mind. The way I try to talk about it in the book a little bit is...I feel like the heart is where the spirit lives. And according to the yoga teachings, that spirit, like I said, is perfect as it is. It doesn't need to be healed. It doesn't need anything. And I feel that way about my heart, that my heart is fine--it gets hurt, I need to protect it, yes, but my heart is where I'm trying to connect to yoga. At the same time, my mind is struggling, and challenged, and imperfect. It's not that we want to destroy the mind and just live in the heart, but we want to heal that relationship...that inner relationship between the heart and the mind. I think that, really, the goal of yoga is healing that inner relationship. 

So, I want to talk about the name of the book. Yoga Revolution is about that. It's not...I'm not trying to revolutionize yoga, which I'm afraid some people might think is what I'm talking about. I think yoga is fine. What I think we need is to allow yoga to revolutionize us, to create a revolution within us, internally, and then externally-- internally in the way that we perceive ourselves, and externally in the way that we act in the world. 

I wanted to share...let's see. I would say yoga creates an inner revolution. Actually, I did talk about this idea of inner revolution at the Accessible Yoga Conference in New York, the first one we had there--I can't remember what year that was. The idea of ‘yoga revolution’ actually started at an Accessible Yoga Conference, and it's been, like, lingering in my mind ever since. And that's just to say that I think these are incredibly revolutionary practices, like it says on the slide. That's what ‘courage’ is. ‘Courage’ is an inner revolution. And yoga transforms the relationship between our heart and our mind--it changes the way we think and how we perceive the world. What I mean by that is that, most of the time, we're existing either...well, I would say...I’ll speak for myself...most of the time, I'm existing just in my mind. Generally, it's just my mind. Thinking, and analyzing, and kind of worrying, having anxiety--which is obviously an actual diagnosed illness that I have, anxiety. 

I would say, you know, my mind tends to get really obsessive about things and go into some bad places. And I think that's okay. Because the mind is...that's the nature of the mind. I'm saying [that] what yoga can do is allow me, from my own heart, to be there, nurturing my mind, so I can have...create a healthier inner relationship where I'm my own mother, honestly. I mean, what came up for me after my mother died was that I needed to mother myself. And I...I use that word consciously, because I think fathers are also important--because I'm a gay dad. But I think there's something about ‘mothering’ that we need, you know...that we need to care for ourselves, be kind and supportive. So one of the things...maybe you've heard me say this before, but maybe I'll ask you this to reflect on your inner dialogue, and think about: how do you talk to yourself? And then what do you allow to occur inside your body, in that relationship between your heart and your mind? The thing I always ask people is, “Do you hear yourself talking in your mind?” Have you heard me say this? You're like, yeah, I've heard you say this a million times. Yeah. I said, “Do you hear yourself talking in your mind? Who's listening to that? Who's hearing that?” Maybe? 

Well, maybe you have an idea. Do you wanna…[reading from the chat] “Me.” Okay. Who's that? Sarah, who's ‘me?’ That's... what? It's the jñāna yoga practice of self analysis. [Reading from the chat] “Rama Krishna…” Was that when he was…?
Yeah, Sarah, who's me? Who's listening? 

I'm sure she’s gonna answer in the chat. Can you? Okay. [Reading from the chat] “Self inquiry.” “Self.” Okay, thank you. “Capital ‘S’ self,” “my conscious mind,” “myself.” “My ego talks and thinks it's listening.” “My conscious psyche?”

Yeah, I don't want to give you an answer. I'll tell you what I think myself, and that is just my guess. Another critical observer, Ramana Maharshi...that's that...that ‘thank you’ for getting ...Ramana Maharshi would say to everyone who came to him, “Who's asking?” You’d ask him a question, and he would just say, “Who's asking?” But I think that's the same idea. Who's listening to your mind? And I would say, honestly, to me, it's my heart. My heart is listening to my mind. And my heart is, I would say, yeah, consciousness, or spirit, or God within me, in my heart. The observer. The listener. I've decided that you can listen very critically, or you can listen with love. And again, Tracee Stanley this morning, you know, she had us...we broke into pairs. And then she asked us to do...I don't know what she called it, but basically active listening. You know, where you listen to somebody without just thinking about yourself? And I think that I...I'm trying to do that with myself too, so that as my mind speaks, constantly doing its worrying or whatever it's doing, I’m trying to listen to it with kindness. And what I find happens is that it often calms down.

I think listening is an act of service, when you actively listen to someone, and listen to their pain, and their heart that they're sharing with you. It's an act of service. It's an act of love. It's probably the most powerful thing we can do for another person, to listen to them. You know what I mean? Do you like being listened to? Okay, I'm not gonna make us break into groups and do that, I'm just telling you now, so you don't have to worry. Although, I really want to, but I'm trying to be nice. But I would just say, practice it yourself. See if, like, sometime in the next few hours, if you have a person in your life, or maybe the next day, you can practice some active listening, where you work on, kind of, creating peace in your own mind and just letting your heart be present with them while they're expressing themselves. You could reflect back what they're saying or not. You just hear what they're saying. Or, if you really want to do advanced yoga, you can do that with yourself. Well, like, [it sounds like] I'm saying I'm advanced...that's what I'm working on, which is, to listen to my mind. Kindly. I would say that's my current meditation practice: I try to notice my mind, and I try not to get...I try not to be hard on myself, because I think I made that way more complicated than it needed to be. But there you go. 

So, I think we know this already: yoga is an inner practice. I'm going to maybe just jump through this. Let's say--this is from the Yoga Sūtras--that the Yoga Sūtras are very much about the inner experience of yoga. So, part of what I'm trying to get at in the book is that. In fact, the first section of the book, “Inner Revolution,” is talking about the idea of yoga as a path to self-understanding and feeling that inner relationship. I think that's what the Yoga Sūtras are really about. Patañjali is teaching us how to work with our own mind. So in sūtra two, the famous sūtra, he's saying [that] calming the mind is yoga, or something to that effect. This is my interpretation. Sūtra three: “Then we experience peace within.” And four: “Otherwise we believe we are our thoughts.” Right? So Patañjali is giving us some tools here to begin to, hopefully not disassociate, but differentiate between the heart and the mind, to begin to see more clearly, like, the parts of us that are just...I hate to use the word ‘inner child,’ but I'm going to say that. Like...I don't know. That term is so cliche and corny, but, like, [I mean] the part of you that's hurt, and, you know, struggling, and [he’s giving us the tools to] begin to see that part so we can have a healthy relationship with ourselves. 

All right. I didn't know this was my next slide. Well, here we go. So what I want to talk about is death. I mentioned my mom. This is a picture of my mom, on the left. She's doing yoga, which makes me laugh so much, but she is amazing. She actually started yoga later in life. Her mother, my grandmother, taught me yoga when I was very young, and then my mom. I think it skips generations, you know, these things. My mom was kind of against it at first, and then, eventually, she loved yoga and practiced all the time.

Then the picture on the right is a picture of me with my best friend, Kurt, who died of AIDS in 1995. And he actually was about three months after I graduated from yoga teacher training. I had...he kind of convinced me to do it, actually. I'd been studying yoga for many years, and he just thought, you know...he kind of pushed me to take the teacher training and to really, actively serve. That picture’s kind of damaged--you see those white marks there? But anyway, to me, there's a connection there between finishing teacher training right around the time that he died. And so, I really dedicated myself to sharing yoga with people with HIV and AIDS, which is what I did for a long time.

The point of this slide was to talk about death, and I just want to say, I think the other thing that yoga does--this inner dialogue that I'm talking about--I think, [is prepare] us for death. Because, I think, what's scary about death is the death of the mind, the death of the body. So, in every single yoga class...almost almost every single Yoga class, what do we end with? I mean, tell me in the chat--what do we end with in every single yoga class? Almost everyone around the world? Savasana. Thank you. And what is Savasana? Corpse pose. So literally, we end every yoga class with an exploration of death. And, you know, it may not be something we're ready to talk about or deal with, and that's fine. I don't want you to...I don't want to upset anybody, because death can be a really sensitive topic. But I just want to say that it's there for us. Yoga is teaching that, teaching us how to prepare, how to be in conscious relationship with our limited body and mind, so that, eventually, we can let it go.

And I failed at it. Oh, that's quite good, that I failed. You know, when my friend Kurt died, I was devastated, and I lost, you know, many, many friends to AIDS. And it just...yeah, it was just overwhelming. And then my mother's death, you know...I'm still not totally healed. And I don't mean to make this all about me, but I'm just trying to share that, like, it doesn't make it easier. It's just that, you know, yoga gives us tools. That doesn't mean we know how to use them, or that we do them very well. So it's a journey. But that's the point of that inner revolution, right? To change our relationships with ourselves?

Then, the amazing thing about yoga is it also can create an outer revolution, and the outer revolution I'm talking about is not a healthy body and flexible hamstrings. Like, I don't care about that, really. I mean, I do, I'm totally...that's totally wrong. I totally want to look good and, like, be flexible, and do all those amazing poses. Like, that is true. But I know that it's not really what yoga is for. I wish I could do it more...I wish I could do more of those fancy poses. But the outer revolution is one of compassion. 

So, I mentioned the word courage earlier--to me, that inner revolution is actually about the courage to be honest with ourselves. The courage to look at the relationship we're having with our mind, the heart and the mind, right? That takes courage, to be honest with yourself. And then compassion is the outer revolution of yoga, and the compassion comes from yoga because what yoga does...well, this slide says yoga creates an outer revolution. We see ourselves in others, service becomes a natural outgrowth of our practice, we want to reduce suffering in the world...ahimsa. Ahimsa, we talk about as non-harm. But, really, non-harm...this also means not hurting, not wanting there to be suffering around us. It's just a natural instinct we have. Like, we don't want to see suffering in the world. When you see someone suffering, or even an animal suffering, it's very painful, and we need to be...we need to notice that reaction we have, and respect that [that] reaction, that compassion, is the heart speaking. Right? That's that part of us speaking that feels connected to others, because it is the connection to others. 

And we talked...I said, for me, the heart, my heart, is my spirit. And that's a universal--my heart is the same as yours. You know what I'm saying...,that that is what we share. Our lived experience, our body and mind, [are] completely different. This is the tension that I see in yoga and with spiritual bypassing, for example. So often in yoga--or, modern contemporary practices--we talk about [how] we're all one, right? And you know,'s all good vibes only and all that stuff. I mean, I think what that is...that's an effort to connect to spirit, right? That's an effort to understand our heart, our own hearts, but the fact is, like, that…[Reading from the chat.] Yes, Kareena, we are all the universe manifesting itself, but we're all diverse manifestations. And the diversity of our mind and our body and our life, our lived experience, is also essential. So we need to acknowledge that, and that's where compassion comes in. 

Compassion, to me, is the bridge between the universal connection and the individual expression. I like to think of the image of a prism. I've used this in both of my books. In fact, that's what came out. You know, in my first book, Accessible Yoga, I mentioned this one image, and that's really what got me started on the second book. The image is of a prism, with light going through it, creating a rainbow, and the fact is that that’s what our lives are like, what we are like. In our heart, we are that pure white light, but our lived experience is like a rainbow. And so I talk in the book about ‘rainbow minds.’ 

The idea of ‘rainbow mind’ is that it's just this recognition of the diversity of our experiences, and, especially as a Queer person, I really love the rainbow. That's, like, the flag of Queer people, right? The gay pride flag, or whatever you want to call it? And to me, that rainbow is important. It's representing all different beings, all different people. Everyone has a different way of being in their body and in their life. And yet, at the same time, we have this underlying shared truth. Right? Now, when I...I think our practice of yoga can create an outer revolution, because I believe that if we're practicing effectively...I should speak for myself again...if I'm practicing effectively, I'm becoming more compassionate for others. And I would say, to me, that's the number one sign of a successful yoga practice, that you have increased compassion. 

And I have to say, it's not fun, and I don't...I think maybe that's why we don't do it, like, because it's painful. It's painful to experience the pain of others as our own, and I...actually, I think I have another slide. This slide says, “Enlightenment in the Bhagavad Gita.” I refer to the Gita a lot in this book, because I think the Gita really speaks clearly to these points about how to live as a yogi. That's the teaching that Krishna was giving Arjuna in the Gita. 

This is from chapter six, shlokas 29 to 32, as tanslated by Swami Satchidananda. It says, “As your mind becomes harmonized through yoga practices, you begin to see the Atman.” Again, the atman is spirit, right? “You begin to see the atman in all beings and all beings in yourself.” Capital ‘S’ self, right? “You see the same self everywhere and in everything. Those who see me wherever they look and recognize everything as my manifestation never again feel separate from me, nor I from them. Whoever becomes established in the all-pervading oneness of Brahman and worships me abiding and all beings, however he may be living, that yogi lives in me. The yogi who perceives the essential oneness everywhere naturally feels the pleasure or pain of others as his or her own.” 

And I just...I find that last phrase haunting me. Because I don't want it to be true. But I'm saying that if you really...if you're practicing yoga and you're sincere about it, you'll naturally feel “the pleasure or pain of others as his or her own.” And I would say that Krishna...what Krishna’s saying here is very important, because first he says...if you really look at this section, first is this saying...first you have this idea of oneness, right? First, you realize we're all connected. And I often think that we equate enlightenment with that idea of the experience of oneness, right? We think that's the goal. At least, I believe that's what most of us do. Most of us think, “Oh, the goal of yoga is enlightenment. And that means I see everyone as one, we're all connected.” But he goes on, and I think that's why this last line is so important. He says, not only that, but then what happens when you experience that oneness. The next part, which I would say is, like, a higher level of enlightenment, to be honest, is [saying that] the yogi who perceives essential oneness everywhere naturally feels the pleasure or pain of others as his or her own. That kind of sucks. I think that was what led me to be an activist. 

So, I wanted to go back to my life. I'm just trying to make this grounded in my experience. So, you know, I...when I came out of the closet when I was 17, it was 1984. So, you can do the math. I'm old now. Not that...I'm 54 I think. And that was a different time, you know, for Queer people. It wasn't...I mean, it's still hard now, especially in other certain countries around the world. In the US it has gotten quite a bit better--we have gay marriage now, which is nice. But it was a rough time, and it was happening, and all of my...everyone I was meeting, like...I had just come out. I was, like, ready to party. Like, I was dancing at the [at the opening night party] last night, and it took me a while to start dancing again...But they were getting sick and dying. And I was like, “What? What's happening? This is horrible. Like, how can this be? I've been, like, dying to come out of the closet, and I do, and I come out to this, like, suffering, pain, death, illness?”

And so let's say...I have an image of “Silence=Death” in the middle here. It's a poster that was used by Act Up. The pink triangle represents was the logo that...the emblem that the Nazis used for gay men during the Holocaust was the pink triangle. And so during this time of the 80s, we tried to reclaim that pain triangle, and “Silence=Death” has to do with the idea that if we allow there to be suffering in the world, and we don't speak up about it, that will cause death. I mean, it's actually...that's how people die, if we don't say something. The picture is in the upper left. 

In the lower right...I don't know if I took husband says he took these, but I think I did. We were both at this event in Washington, DC. It was an Act Up protest at the Capitol, which is interesting considering what happened there in January. We're very far away from the capital. And on the far upper left, you see a man walking--that's Larry Kramer, who was the founder of Act Up, which is the group that I was part of. And the lower left was at a Queer Nation march that I was involved with. Queer Nation was a group that was trying to create, like, a positive association with the idea of Queer identity, and, I think, really was successful in doing so. I'm actually in there, if you can find me and that's your game. It's like Where's Waldo?! Find Jivana in the Queer Nation march! Can you find me? 

Oh my gosh, I'm almost out of time. Anyway, there I am. I don't even see...I'm kind of in the middle, wearing white. I was very skinny. I kind of already had a bald spot. I was wearing white, like, a white tank top, and a black belt. Yeah. Sarah helped find me--of course, Sarah! 

Okay, so I just want to end with a few thoughts about how this these concepts can be practiced in our lives, and it has to do with self care and service. So, to me, there's a tension there. Self care is basically focusing our energy inward to care for ourselves, and service is focusing the energy outward to care for others. I want to say...what I'm trying to get at here is that we all need to find the balance. For each of us, there's a different balance between the amount of self care and service we can provide. You could even think of self care as service to yourself. But within the yoga tradition, there's a long tradition of karma yoga, seva, or service, and I think we need to really get back to that, but with a clear understanding of the fact that some of us have more challenges and are struggling more than others. Those of us that have marginalized identities, that are further from power, that have less know. People with disabilities, Queer people, Trans people, People of Color, may feel like they're further from power, so then the yoga practice can come in, and spiritual practice comes in as a form of self care to actually give us back our power, [to] give us back the power that we feel we've lost. Spiritual practice can, like M Camellia always talks about, give us agency over our lives and our bodies. That's really what Yoga can do for us. At the same time, I think we need to be thoughtful about where we have power and privilege and how we can use that in service of others. When we see suffering in the world, how can we use our privilege to serve others and help them...just help there to be less suffering, without being attached to the result? Right? Because service is not about white...what do you call that again? God, you know what I'm talking about. [Reading the chat.] Oh, thank you for that! ‘White saviorism.’ Thank you, yeah, white saviorism. 

I think white saviorism is a dangerous, dangerous part of this, that comes when we think we're going to fix everything. And I don't want to give the impression that I'm saying that service begins with ourselves and then it expands outward to [the] closest people in our lives. It starts at home with your family, your friends, your know. We need to heal ourselves and the relationships with those around us first. We don't need to go and change the world. That will change the world, right? 

I have a link to--oh, and Robyn put it in the chat--that implicit bias test you can take for free through Harvard, which really helped us. I think it's an interesting process to see where you have unconscious beliefs and implicit bias. It can help us see our own minds more clearly, and it's a form of yoga practice. Yoga, again, is about seeing your mind clearly. Right? The viveka, a clear vision, seeing where you have privilege and where you have challenges, where you have marginalization...I think is really important. So, this is just a question I'll leave you with, to really look at that, and then to consider, also, what form does your service take in the world? 

I have some questions to leave you with. Let's see how much time we have...about five minutes. Maybe write down one of these questions, if it's useful for you. There's three questions here. One is, ask yourself, “What is the goal of your yoga?” Is your goal of your yoga practice, your personal liberation or the liberation of others? Maybe both.

If your practice is about your own healing, is there a way to expand your thinking to include healing for your community, your society, and the entire planet--which needs healing, honestly--and what would that look like in practice? So, maybe the question here really, if I could summarize this, is, “How can can my personal yoga practice contribute not only to my healing, but the healing of the world?” Really think about that in very concrete ways. If I can heal myself a little bit, am I contributing to the healing of the world? If I'm a little more clear in my relationship between the heart and mind, can I cause less harm in the world? Which is ahimsa, not causing harm? Perhaps by working on myself, I can be of service to others by not being horrible. 

Anyway, I'll stop there. We have a couple of minutes. There were some amazing comments in the chat. Thank you for that. Thanks for being here. 

[Transcript ends at minute 55:31 of the video recording.]

Jivana Heyman, C-IAYT, E-RYT500, is the founder and director of the Accessible Yoga Association, an international non-profit organization dedicated to increasing access to the yoga teachings. Accessible Yoga offers Conferences, Community Forums, a Podcast, and a popular Ambassador program. He’s the co-founder of the Accessible Yoga Training School, and the author of Accessible Yoga: Poses and Practices for Every Body (Shambhala Publications), as well as the forthcoming book, Yoga Revolution: Building a Practice of Courage & Compassion (Shambhala, Dec. 2021). More info at

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