QUEER TINGS X BOY SMELLS
We teamed up with our friends at Sky Ting to create a unique flow celebrating the full spectrum of gender identity. Beyond the explicit roles, titles, identities we play out in the world, how do we use our yoga practice to move away from sigular definitions of ourselves and expand our understanding of our implicit nature? We are more than just masculine or feminine, solar or lunar, our past or our future, we have a center that is a combination of both and greater than its individual parts. Let's embrace our genderful journey through our practice.
TOMMY: He/Him pronouns
TOMMY is a Brooklyn based (soon to be Los Angeles) yoga teacher and plant enthusiast (professionally and personally). Class with TOMMY is a playful commingling of posturing, breathwork and functional movement through the lens of yoga (with a regular emphasis on props). In collaboration, JOANNA and TOMMY co-teach Queer Tings, a regular movement practice for individuals who identify in the LGBTQIA+ community, though all bodies and peoples are welcome. More than anything, TOMMY is a Taurus.
JOANNA: She/Her pronouns
JOANNA is a Brooklyn based yoga teacher and social worker. She started teaching in 2013 eventually getting trained in Katonah, Vinyasa and restorative yoga. JOANNA has been teaching privately and at Sky Ting since 2015 and recently celebrated the one year anniversary of Queer Tings with her co-teacher, TOMMY. She finds no greater satisfaction than building healing spaces for queer bodies. After work hours you can find JOANNA riding her bike through Brooklyn or making queer-ish pottery.
We teamed up with our friends at Sky Ting to create a unique flow celebrating the full spectrum of gender identity. Beyond the explicit roles, titles, identities we play out in the world, how do we use our yoga practice to move away from singular definitions of ourselves and expand our understanding of our implicit nature? We are more than just masculine or feminine, solar or lunar, our past or our future, we have a center that is a combination of both and greater than its individual parts. Let's embrace our genderful journey through our practice.
In what ways can queerness and yoga intersect?
J: Both yoga and queerness understand the painful nature of our human experiences while offering an alternative experience. There is a recognition that external social norms can bind, confine, and remove ourselves from our essential nature. In the practice of yoga, there is a multiple pronged approach to begin to reckon with this human experience. In the west, we tend to focus our attention on three of the eight paths described in yoga text: asana (posture), dhyana (meditation), and pranayama (breath control). These practices are revolutionary in that liberation of the individual can impact the liberation of a people. Yoga and queerness can be a daily practice that goes against the grain of the general society towards liberation. The process requires our full selves to be present with what is happening in our own bodies and how we can use our selves to better for those around us.
T: Queerness and yoga are both broad concepts with multiple perspectives that are expressed through different histories and identities. In western yoga, we often focus on the explicit physical practice of posture and asana. But when incorporated with history, theory, imagination, and spirituality, we understand it to be much more encompassing than our physical body. Same with queerness, there might be the obvious, external aspects of “who do you sleep with.” Queerness’s implicit nature is expressed through cultures, genders, mindsets, and relationships. Yoga and queerness go beyond the explicit self (physical body) exploring perspective, history, lineage, fantasy, desire, sensitivities, hardnesses, and even contradictions.
There are so many dualities in yoga: the sun and moon, turning inward and outward, our right and left sides. How can the practice move you away from the binary?
J: The techniques of practice are often initially played in the binary of right and wrong. This is the “right” pose, practice, or sequence. Hopefully, over time, the practice changes and evolves beyond this notion. The development of any practice over time can lead to a bigger picture that does not confine you to the simpleness of right/wrong, good/bad. Similarly, a young person may see the world through the binary. Black and white, night and day, boy and girl. With experience and time, you learn color theory and realize that red and blue make purple. Dusk and dawn are different than night and day yet relate to one another. “Boys” and “girls” have a certain history and yet throughout history, there were people who said I am neither or I am all. This is to say that when binary imagery is used to spark the imagination we must understand that we are capable of understanding the shades, the degrees, and the context around the simplicity to build a more complex and beautiful picture.
T: The big picture and goal to move away from the binary and is all about integration. Integration being the middle space that exists between two dualities. What is in the middle? You! You live between the sun and the moon, on Earth (hopefully lol). You live in the middle of your own narrative and your own experience(s). You live in the present, between your past and your future. And in practice, as you continue centering yourself, you give yourself a more holistic perspective. Not only to what’s on your left or right, in front of or behind you, but everything that’s happening between and in all other directions. A binary is rigid, hardened by definition. But life is non-binary and nuanced and ever-changing, so with it you change direction.
We love the idea of weaving the 3rd, especially when thinking of the combination of our inner masculine and feminine. How has your practice allowed you to embrace a more full version of yourself?
J: The most helpful part of practice for me is really grounding in the idea of practice itself. You have your body, your sequence, and the third ingredient of time. In time, the practice integrates with my body, and a shift occurs. Similarly, my gender is a daily practice. Every day my desires and expressions shift subtly. I play with different expressions and I feel different iterations of myself. I take relief in the idea that I am not fixed. I am practicing my humanity, gender, queerness, yoga, and art and in time I become very full.
T: Similar to the first question, at the intersection of queerness and yoga, it is not unusual to see ourselves in different parts. We have our body, we have our mind, we have our emotions, our masculine and feminine, our energy, to some we have our spirit. Like individual ingredients of a recipe, these parts (ingredients) seem distinct but when braided, interwoven, combined they become a meal. My practice has given me a better understanding of what the recipe of “me” looks like and how, over time, I can tinker with the ingredients.
What role do you think scent can play in wellness?
J: Scent is magical in the way that it transports you to a specific moment in time. You can use scents to trigger calm or activation and ground or uproot energy. Personally, I use lavender in my baths to soothe my tired body. I light scented candles to help focus my scattered mind. The use of scent is a way to build a personal ritual.
T: The power of scent is so profound because of its respective closeness to our state of being. Scent can change and transform how you’re feeling almost instantaneously. When recognized, you can use that to your advantage. It’s another tool to aid in our own well-being. And when it’s paired with breathwork and rest and meditation even better!
As an LGBTQ individual, what has Pride historically represented for you?
J: The most inspiring part of Pride for me is the Dyke March in NYC. There are no corporations present and the needs of the community are written all over the signs that march through the streets. It is a call to arms and reminds people that we have come far, but have many avenues of change and work that needs to be done to ensure everyone lives with dignity in this society.
T: Pride is a tough one because, though celebratory, I recognize the exclusivity, marginalization, and commercialization that seeps through it. How do you make space for both the revolution and the revelry? When I come to any conclusions, I’ll let you know. What does inspire me are the families and the children. To see really young people in the presence of such support, acceptance, and expression is beyond beautiful.
With the state of the world being as it is, how will you be connecting and celebrating Pride this year?
J: While we will not be able to commune in the beautiful and exciting manner we have grown accustomed, we still have the opportunity to actively better the world for marginalized people. I am pulled towards the activism that is at the core of Pride and its history. The first Pride was a protest led by transgender people of color. To this day, these same members of our community are the most marginalized. In this moment we can continue the original intention of pride and actively fight for an equitable world. If you can not leave your house, you can donate. If you do not have money, educate yourself about people’s experiences that are not your own. There is an opportunity to organize ourselves for a better future. And of course, if you are lucky enough to have queers in your life, connect to them in a safe manner and let that bring you life!
T: In the midst of multiple crises, there is a real opportunity. When we’d regularly go out to participate in Pride, there’s a chance for us to participate by going inward. We have time to reexamine our own experiences and positions while learning about those of others, to build a better more progressive queer community. Also, JOANNA and I have one way tickets to Chromatica. See you there?