We believe that the root of true beauty is hidden in the heart. A heart that flows with gratitude, grace, and joy creates a timeless beauty that can never lose its radiance. In this way, beauty can not be seen in us but expressed in our lives - through words and movement.
We have asked our KiraGrace Warriors to contribute to a new series of blog tutorials titled "Move Like A Warrior" in order to share with us their ways of moving with beauty.
Marni Sclaroff is one of our newest Warriors, and we are so incredibly honored to kick off this new series with a short interview and an amazing video tutorial of the Kapinjalasana (Partridge) Pose!
KiraGrace: Marni- we understand that not only are you a yoga instructor but you’re dancer as well! Could you give us a little more insight into your dance background? Does this influence your practice?
Marni: I have always loved to dance. When I am dancing, I feel free, and it gives me the opportunity to express feelings and emotions that are beyond words.
In 1996, I took a yoga class with a teacher who also taught bellydancing. I began to study both yoga and bellydance with her. I loved the way that both modalities brought me into a deeper relationship with myself and others. Both yoga and bellydance invite us into the heart space; where we begin by acknowledging whatever is true and real inside. They require a willingness to be open and vulnerable to our own longing. They both take us deeper into the intimate relationship with the mystery, and all the ways in which we are co-creating our lives with spirit. When I am performing, I place myself in direct relationship with whoever is performing with me, and all of the people in the audience. We are having a collective and co-creative experience together. This also happens in class; we all come together, and as each one of connects to our own interior space, our postures become beautiful expressions of the heart. This is why we leave class feeling better than we did when we came in. We all had an experience of being with ourselves, connecting to our essence, and then having it reflected back to us. This type of reflection has incredibly potent healing powers.
I have also experienced great healing from all the ways that we move the body in bellydance. The moves are generally centered around the hips and belly, and they awaken vitality in those areas. Any time we move the body in a conscious way, we are giving it an opportunity to release and heal old wounds and tension. So many women are holding onto old wounds centered around their sexuality, sensuality, and self-esteem in these areas, and bellydance can be a way to open those places and heal. I have seen hundreds of women completely transform their relationship to themselves through bellydance.
KG: Your bio indicates that you have struggled with depression and eating disorders in the past, and that yoga has helped you navigate through those challenges. Was there an ‘a-ha’ moment with yoga when the answers seemed clear, or was it an ongoing process?
Marni: It has been an ongoing process with “a-ha” moments along the way. I feel blessed in a certain way because I had a “dark night of the soul” at a very young age. At 15, I was diagnosed with severe depression. I was contemplating life and death, and asking all kinds of profound questions that most people don’t usually think about until they are much older. I had really low-self esteem, and even though I was pretty thin, I always saw myself as being overweight. I was starving myself, and counting calories, and sometimes I would throw-up whatever I ate. I survived these years by saying to myself, “if I still feel this bad tomorrow, I will kill myself then.” I look back on this time, and I now realize that it was actually a powerful initiation into who I am today.
One of my teachers, Douglas Brooks, always says that, “Life is an invitation and never an obligation.” When I first heard him say this, I knew exactly what he meant. When I was depressed, everything in my life felt like an obligation, just waking up in the morning felt like such a heavy burden. I felt as if nothing was going to change and there was no good option except to end it. Facing my own death like this for so many years actually taught me that I did have a choice. When we are stuck in depression and despair, we feel worse because we are unable to see the options. But, if you always know that in any moment, you actually could end it if you wanted to, you start to realize that by not ending, you are choosing to live it. This was the radical shift/a-ha moment that occurred inside of me. I realized that I did have a choice, and that I was choosing to live my life. I realized that my life is such a gift, and that it invites me every day to wake up and learn to love it all over again. I realized that all of those years of saying no to my life was coming from a place of misunderstanding. I didn’t yet understand that I could choose to say yes instead. So, now, I choose to say yes, and things are so much more fun this way.
KG: As a KiraGrace Warrior, you have chosen to include service and yoga as part of your life- how does the practice of service manifest itself in your life?
Marni: When my twins were 4 months old, about a year and half ago, I moved from Encinitas, CA to Reston, Va. I’ve moved around a lot on my adult life, so I’m used to starting over. However, this time was quite different because I am now a mom of young twins, and I’ve discovered how isolating our lives can be as mothers in this modern world. So, when I moved to Reston, I found the local yoga studio to call home (Beloved Yoga), and I have devoted myself to building a community of women who support each other like sisters. We gather once or twice a month, practice yoga together, share our stories and do everything we can to uplift each other in our lives. I know that more women are coming together in this way all over the planet, and it is all in service of the highest good. When women support each other, we have more energy to nourish and nurture our children and communites, who then become beacons of light for future generations. We all need friends who can inspire us and remind us of our own strength and beauty.
KG: You are known for including an element of storytelling and playfulness to your classes- what are the benefits of this dynamic approach to the teachings of yoga?
Marni: I want people to understand that yoga belongs to them. Yoga works when we bring it to our lives. It must leave with each person as they walk out of the yoga room and onto the street. They must take it home and into their relationships. This will happen if I can make the teachings real for the students. I share myself with my students. I bring stories from my life and from all of the sacred traditions, that illuminate the teachings inside of experience. When we hear good stories, we begin to see our own stories in a new light. We relate to our lives in a more expansive way, and we begin to see the common symbolic messages. This opens the lines of communication between the mind, the body, and the spirit, and it makes the yoga practice really personal.
The main reason that I’ve been able to stick with my practice for almost 20 years, is because I’ve made it completely personal, and I have fun. My yoga practice always meets me exactly where I am. If I’m feeling totally crappy, I can go to my mat or teach a class, I can let the crappy be there, and still do good yoga. Feeling crappy is so much more fun when you take yourself lightly. So, I can feel like total crap and still tell good stories, teach great classes and laugh at myself. So, this is how I share myself, and I’ve noticed that students really appreciate this about me. I bring my full self to whatever I’m doing, and that gives everyone else permission to be themselves exactly as they are in that moment; angry, fearful, sad, joyful, happy, whatever...We begin there, and we let the yoga work its magic, and sometimes we laugh, or we go deep and real, and other times we just move and breathe and love the fact that we are alive and together.
KG: What is the best piece of advice someone has ever given you?
Marni: Never give up.
KG: What yoga pose did you choose to feature for this blog and why?
Marni: I chose to share Kapinjalasana, which is named after a mythical bird that lives on dewdrops. This became one of my favorite poses during my pregnancy, because it was one of few strong and expansive postures that I could actually do when my belly got huge with my twins. It gave me a feeling of gracefullness and freedom, that felt wonderful during that time. Its a sweet combination of arm balance and backbend, and it lets the heart be fully expressive and open.