In the Limelight with Sianna Sherman
An interview with Sianna Sherman is unlike any other. As the photoshoot team scurried around to prepare for the day's shoot, we sat in the dressing room with warm cups of fresh coffee and all felt still. Sianna's hair was wrapped in hot rollers, and as the makeup artist curled her eyelashes and primped her hair, Sianna just glowed with warmth and joy. As our conversation progressed, it quickly changed from an interview to storytime. One by one, members of the photoshoot team trickled in and joined us, just to sit at the feet of this marvelous woman and teacher and listen to what she had to say. Before we knew it, the entire team had squeezed into the dressing room! That is the magic of Sianna Sherman. Her widsom, strength, and beauty is mesmerizing, and her joyous spirit has the ability to disarm anybody. The following is our heart-to-heart with KiraGrace's beautiful Summer Goddess:
KiraGrace: You made a big move from San Francisco to Los Angeles about a year ago, correct?
Sianna: I've lived all over the world! Last year I moved from San Francisco to Venice Beach, Los Angeles... I actually didn't see it coming. This wasn't even on my radar. I got married at the end of 2012... and I had been living in the Bay Area for eight years, and when [my husband] came, it just seemed like it wasn't the place for both of us together... So, I teach at YogaGlo down here [in Los Angeles], and we were on one of the YogaGlo trips. We were just looking for houses up in Marin, and he had an app on his phone, and I said, well let's just look around here, because every time we would come here there would be a boost in energy for us together as a couple. Somehow as a couple we would feel really good here, resonant. And as we were going to the airport, a house popped up on his app. We just called, and it turns out we were able to go right then. He loved the address because he likes numbers. It was February 4th, a Monday morning. I walked two steps into the house, and I started crying and said, "This is it." ... "Do you want to see the rest of the place?" ... "Yeah, but I already know. I know." So then we got in the car, and we had to go straight to the airport, and I said, "Look. Let's just pull over and see if I can change our flights so we can just sit here, drive around the neighborhood, just feel this out. Is this possible?" So we switched from a 2pm flight to a midnight flight, stayed in the area all day and just felt. Then the next day, I put a bid on the house, and we moved in April 10th.
Sianna: I've moved so many times. I've lived all over the world. I have a bit of a gypsy spirit. Change is not a difficult thing for me. So this just feels so right and so good. We got the house, and we love it. We love the people, we love the weather, we love everything.
KG: How do you like the new experience of being a wife?
Sianna: I am definitely not the traditional wife. But it's great, I love it. I love the steadiness and knowing that we chose together to go as deep as we can. When the going gets tough, it's not just a turning away, but it's more like, okay how are we going to navigate this? But it's a deeper calling to really not just work on yourself, but work on yourself in relationship with another person. It's incredible, I love it. It's tough, too. You really make a choice, and you're in very close proximity with each other. One ends up holding the space for the other as they go through something and then it flips. For me, I love it.
KG: Where else have you lived?
Sianna: Well, I grew up in Kentucky. Then I lived in Cincinnati for university, and then I lived in Chicago, I lived in Boston, upstate New York, and upstate Massachusetts on a commune. I've lived in Boulder, Colorado. I lived in multiple places throughout Oregon. I lived in Seattle, I lived in the Bay Area for a long time. I lived in India for a while, lived in Greece for a while and other places in Europe... lots of places.
KG: You wear many hats, but I was particularly interested in your role as storyteller because it's such a lost art in many ways. Why do you consider yourself a storyteller and how do you incorporate it in your practice?
Sianna: It wasn't necessarily me, it was more that the world began to consider me a storyteller. It came to me. It's because I tell a lot of mythology, and I link the mythology to the practices because a lot of the teachings of yoga are rooted in the stories. Mythology comes to life inside of a person very differently than if you just talk about the philosophy of things. So I've studied mythology from the Celtic tradition, and a little bit from the Native American tradition, and a lot from the yoga tradition. I even have something I call Mythic Yoga Flow where I start a class by telling a short portion of a story and then I connect all the yoga poses to that story. I'll teach the mantras of the presiding deity of that story and the mudras that go with it and usually the music... It activates different parts of yourself.
If we think about it, all indigenous cultures have sat around fire and told stories as a means of keeping their traditions alive. It's all through this oral literacy; and storytelling wakes up the soul. It always holds the components of the hero's journey - and we are the hero of our own lives. We go through multiple tests and ordeals and adversities in order to become more and more the hero of our own lives, the master of our creation. So I use a lot of that and because of that, Yoga Journal at some point did some big spread on yoga teachers, and they were the first ones to name me as the storyteller.
... I've trained a lot in the shamanic traditions and I was also trained at a Celtic priestess in my early 20s, and we would learn the stories and tell the stories. So, as I was so deeply immersed in yoga, I just was naturally listening for the stories. As I would hear them, I would retell them. A story lives through it's retelling, and it's going to come out a little differently every time someone tells it or even the same person telling it at a different part in their lives because every character in the story is some aspect of what is themselves. There will be cycles within the story that make sense to you at a particular time in your life, and then you will find yourself talking about that part or identifying with it or highlighting it, and you receive insight and transformation about your own self.
KG: And stories have such a profound effect on the listener as well! Everyone hears a story differently.
Sianna: And add on that everyone hears it differently! In the Tantric tradition, which, Tantra is the base of my yoga philosophy, they have a saying that [means]... the teachings pass from ear to ear. How you hear it and how the next person hears it, it's all ear to ear, and that's how the teachings actually move along.
Sianna: I grew up Catholic with a very devotional family. I would say that I have probably quite honestly been a mystic since I've been a little girl. I grew up and all I wanted to do was know the stories and listen to the stories. That's all I would ask my parents, I just wanted to know the stories. Then I left the church very early. I was thirteen when I left, and it was a very big deal, because I didn't agree with the homilies and the teachings essentially. But then what I would do when I left the church... is I would go in when no one was there and I would go to Mother Mary and light all the candles and I would write her poems and sing her songs and I would dance for her. And that was my relationship with God; (my relationship) was really through her... I would just make sure that no one was there, and [I would] take my money and light up every votive and sit there and dance.
KG: I'm sure that felt like such a more authentic form of worship for you.
Sianna: Yeah I just couldn't do it... I think that's why I loved Mother Mary, it's because she was the essence, the emodiment of love and compassion, and to me, I just felt like that's got to be the way.
KG: Can you share with us a moment in your life when you felt the most satisfied?
Sianna: There are so many defining moments, but the one that is coming to me right now is the first time I went to India. It was my birthday and very early in the morning starting at 3am, I made a trek and I walked along the riverbanks of the Ganges in northern India. I was looking for a boulder in the middle of the river that I could wade out to and sit on because I wanted to be sitting in the middle of the Ganges at sunrise. I found one, and I went out and I was praying and chanting Gayatri Mantras and all of this, and I remembered a very distinct message that came up, and it was so simple but it was a very clear voice: From this point forward, you follow your heart. That's all you need to do. Because I was on route to medical school, and the world had an idea, you know, about my life but it wasn't matching up to what inside I wanted my life to be. But I didn't know what I wanted my life to be! I just knew that it wasn't what the world thought was a good idea for me which was medicine. I was a very smart student and always did amazing in school and I loved helping people, but the whole medical system felt very contracted to me, and I wasn't happy. So I went to India and I just said, okay, that's my full commitment. I will listen and follow wherever this path takes me... It was crystal clear. I had no idea what I was going to do, but it was clear that it wasn't that.
Sianna: Well, there's multiple things. So in yoga you can choose, like in Catholicism [for example] people will choose to identify with Jesus or Mother Mary or some aspect of the divine that gives you a way in. The same happens in the yoga tradition, they call it your Ishta devata, it means the chosen one of your heart's desire to be in relationship with. So I've been doing a lot of very deep inner work with the form of the divine known as Durga. Her name translates to the Fortress or the Protectress, the Invincible One, the Blazing One, etc. Her practices are about courage and strength and bravery and knowing in a real embodied way that love truly is bigger than fear. Not just the words, but the actual experience so that no matter what your fears are, that experience of love [is greater]...There's a particular mudra called Fearless Heart Mudra, Abhaya Hrdaya. Abhaya means "have no fear", and Hrdaya means "the root of the heart." At the root of the heart, there's no greed, there's no fear, there's no confusion, there's no doubt. It just is the very essence of life itself pulsing as love, as joy, as the light of your being. All yoga practices, no matter what style or tradition, are to anchor you to that knowing and to that direct experience of your own truth and the fullness of your love.
Fearless Heart then, for me, holds the call to action for all of us to go straight to our hearts and to encounter ourselves even in the midst of our fears to encounter ourselves in a much greater way... No longer are you making your choices on fear, you make the choices based on what's really pulling you and what you know your truth to be. That requires a certain degree of fearlessness to fully activate the heart's center. So this year is Fearless Heart and it's a call to action through my teachings for all people, for all of us to be able to do this and be a collective power that can make a real difference. For me also, it's a call to move from a place of competition with each other... This is the call to win-win. We all get to flourish, and we all get to become greater and greater, and we can help each other in that.
KG: Do you have a spirit animal or a totem animal?
Sianna: Yeah! There are two big ones, and they've been with me for as along as I can remember. The one is the hummingbird and the second is the panther. I don't think I chose them, they chose me. I have seen them in my dreamworld since I've been young. Usually when people get really connected to me they will start seeing hummingbirds everywhere. Even in their own dreams, I often show up as a hummingbird. I transform in the dreamworld back and forth between the hummingbird and me in other people's dreams.
The panther usually shows up in the times where spirit guides or teachers are coming to help me or find me and draw me into the next initiaion point of my own soul's growth. The panther is all about waking up in the dark of night... It's the part of the soul that starts to know how to track itself through the parts of yourself that might typically be denied or rejected. The panther is super fearless. It knows how to be awake in the darkest of the night. It knows how to see when nothing else can see. I think that part of my soul just responds to that medicine.
That's also for me what yoga is. You learn to see where the ego cannot see. So many people just choose to live in denial or rejection or in a place of shutting down their own self... Any part of yourself that you've cast out of your own part, the practices regather... I don't like that part of myself! [gestures throwing it away] Oh! Get it, bring it back into the heart. That part you threw out a long time ago, the wounded chunk, bring that part back, too. This part of your heart that was crushed in this relationship, bring that part back, too. That fragmentation is actually coalesced. The panther medicine does that.
KG: If you hadn't been born in this century, when and where would you have wanted to live and why?
Sianna: I'm going to choose a little bit of a mythic place. I'm going to go way back to the time of Atlantis. That super high, advanced civilization that worked telepathically and with crystals and a deep connection with nature. Of course it fell, too, because of greed. It just happens. As soon as greed starts leading the way, things just fall. But that's the first thing that jumps into my mind. I think ancient Greece would be cool, too. I mean, I'm married to a Greek man... Literally, our first date was the Oracle of Delphi. He took me, he drove me 2.5 hours to the Oracle of Delphi. It was our first date.
KG: How did you meet him?
Sianna: I was teaching in Greece and was being hosted by someone, and he had this friend staying with him before I was there. That friend was my (future) husband (Theo), and Theo had left but he had forgot to leave the keys. So he came back the next day to drop off the keys, and I was sitting there eating lunch. He sat down and started talking to me and we just never stopped. Later when I was done teaching, he came to my hotel room and said, "Pack your bags. I'm taking you somewhere." And I said, "Where?" And he said, "Oracle of Delphi."
...So that time of ancient Greece would be amazing to go to.
Check our Sianna and the Summer Goddess Collection in action in our exclusive behind-the-scenes photoshoot!
Want to go to Greece with Sianna? Check out our Pin to Win contest! The one (1) Grand Prize Winner will win a VIP Goddess Package, valued at $1,000! It includes $230 worth of KiraGrace clothing, and a 30% discount towards the Double Superior Modern Room accommodation for Sianna Sherman’s “Summer Amorgos Retreat in Greece” (discount valued at US $770). View details of the Double Superior Modern Room on the retreat website:http://www.opentograce.com