Our first workshop in this summer’s workshop series is being held tomorrow July 18th at Cunneen-Hackett Center Dance Studio from 2:00 pm to 5:00 pm. The dance studio is located at 12 Vassar Street Poughkeepsie, NY. We hope to see your lovely faces tomorrow!
Yogini & Artist Sara Hart of the iHART Lens is partnering with Women’s Power Space to produce a photo series to document the diversity of the Practice of Yoga itself.
Too often, we see one-dimensional representations of yogis, or those who practice yoga, with images that don’t accurately reflect the range of diversity among those that practice or yoga itself. After all, yoga isn’t just about a fancy postural practice.
In the process, these yoga stereotypes about young, bendy, thin, able-bodied–and, overwhelmingly, white– people practicing in designer yoga clothes in serene and expensive studios often has a tendency to alienate people and communities from the practice altogether.
This Fine Art Photo Project will showcase a series of diverse women and their practices in a unique way that goes beyond your typical “athlete portrait” and intends to express more of what a yogi looks like : no make up, expensive clothing, fancy lighting – Just… who we are , what we do, and what we value.
To participate in this project we ask that you share your yoga story (whether newbie, seasoned or simply curious) and be willing to set up a private yoga and photo session with Sara Hart. The session will be a basic consultation coupled with a yoga sequence just for YOU guided by experienced Yoga Teacher and Medicine Woman Sara Hart. The sequence is meant to help you feel empowered with who you are right now and how yoga in its own diverse ways, can be applied to your life. Also, in these workshops, we hope that our students are able to take away some mindfulness practices as they move through the hecticness of life.
The Photo session will be a collaboration of teacher and student movement together and showcase the beauty that is you in full awareness of yourself. The project is open to interpretation and collaboration with the subject and will produce a range of images – with intention to express that range of diversity in a positive way. Up to 30 prints will be produced and exhibited as well as each participant will receive a finished print of themselves.
As I scrolled through my Facebook Newsfeed today, I came across this Veet ad:
I couldn’t believe that they would so blatantly use body shaming to sell their product. For some reason, I decided to look through the comments, and I honestly expected to see a slew of sexist comments. However, it was a slew of women speaking out against the ad. Many were disgusted by the ad’s assumption that women stopped living their life because of the shame of body hair.
I have had many moments when I was self-conscious with my own body hair and have allowed it to dictate my own wardrobe choices. However, I’ve never went as far as to let unshaven legs stop me from having a great time, and I don’t think most women would. So, why does Veet assume that women would? What are your thoughts on this ad?
These sessions are being offered for the community in the same tradition as grassroots centers and groups cropping up all around the nation whose purpose is to provide affordable, alternative/holistic care to communities.
They come out of a need to address disparities in the healthcare system. My focus will be making these sessions accessible to everyone–students, the elderly, single parents, people of color, caregivers, activists working on social justice issues, and those individuals most in need of alternative care who do not necessarily have the funds to afford it.
Please help spread the word to make ongoing sessions a success!!! I’ll be working on whatever issues the group brings (e.g. grief/loss, stress reduction, etc.)
Hi everyone! My name is Tanesha Ferguson, and I’m the Women’s Power Space’s first summer intern. I’m currently a rising senior at Vassar College with a major in Sociology and unofficial correlates in Math and Dance. I’m originally from Miami, Florida even though my family now lives in Georgia. My summer theme song is “Yoga” by Janelle Monae.
I wanted to spend my summer working with a women’s empowerment program because I wanted to have a more active part in that work. I wanted to be in a space where I was able to focus on the intersections on my race/ethnicity and my.gender. I mostly also wanted to work with WPS because I wanted to be a part of a space where I could do my own self work. I was really attracted to the word healing on WPS’s website, and I really wanted to spend my summer healing from a hectic and challenging junior year. WPS seemed like a great fit.
I hope that WPS will further prepare me for the “real” world after graduation. I want to be further prepare me intellectually and emotionally. Although, WPS allows me to focus on my own emotional, physical, and spiritual well-being while also lending a helping hand to other women of color who are looking to do the same. My main project for this summer will be to coordinate a Yogis of Color Portrait, which provides a series of yoga workshops for women of color at different locations in Poughkeepsie. We will also display images of these wonderful women in their yoga poses. I’m very excited to work on this project this year and to get acquainted with Poughkeepsie!
Ellie is a Vassar College sophomore majoring in Media Studies and History. If a genie were to grant one of her wishes, she’d ask for Twitter to have been invented at the same time as the wheel. She’s a Northern Jersey native with passions for horses, backbends, musical theatre, and scary-fast email responses.
Ellie is excited to begin revitalizing Women’s Power Space’s online presence and to join a group of women working to grow inwards and outwards—within their own groups and new ones. Encouraging and providing a space with a level of safety, affinity, and acceptance conducive to just being is necessary and intense work—and there is where the empowerment begins. She hopes that her work online will help make these new, special spaces all the more common for the women of Poughkeepsie.
She can be reached at email@example.com and found on Instagram at @elliekcath.
Have you ever wished for something, I mean truly wished for it…day after day after day? Morning, noon, and night this thing permeates your entire being; this thing that seems so essential to your wellbeing and your existence. Then one day after wishing for so long you realize that damn, I can’t remember what it is I was wishing for nor why I was wishing for it. Wanting something we don’t have is part of life. Realizing that we can’t have everything we wish for, is a reality of life, and knowing that wishing and not working toward what we want from life produces no results. As women we need to wish less for something or someone and work more towards attaining it. Life is not a fairy tale where wishing produces for you what you want. When we channel our energies, time and talent working towards what we want and need is often times when we create the energy that produces results, when we gain our life’s rhythm and dance to it! This is when we live!
We spend a lot of times wishing for stuff. Stuff that adds nothing to our lives, or to the lives of others. Finding our space and our place in life is when we can produce for ourselves and others, it enables us to laugh, love, and live…
Deborah Walker Wilkins is the founder and president of In My Mother’s House Resource Center for Women, an organization dedicated to helping women succeed in their everyday, professional and personal lives by providing out-come based, results-oriented programs, activities and services that help women improve the quality of life for themselves and their families, while promoting the affirmation of self.
Every yoga pose I showed the seventh graders, I was interrupted with “I can’t do that. I could never do that. Is this right? I can’t do it.” I continued to smile at them and tried to breathe deeply, but started to feel my own limits of experience setting in. I’ve been teaching adults who PAY for yoga, who want to be there, who trust me for encouragement and guidance for several years as a full-time job. Sure I could teach Poughkeepsie Middle School students as a volunteer for WPS…everyone deserves to have access to yoga!
To say this experience was humbling is an understatement. Half the students sat on their mats and wouldn’t take their shoes off. Most of them kept calling it Yogurt to see if they’d get a reaction from me. The other half competed with each other or made fun of each other. I felt my own painful memories from being a 7th grader bubble up and how terribly shy and awkward I used to feel if peers pointed out anything to expose that I was weird or different. I haven’t been in a middle school since I went on to high school 15 years ago, and I was nervous that the students could tell I was nervous. I remembered my yoga teacher trainer’s advice to be myself, but to make every class about my students.
The Vassar mentors calmly worked with their students next to them on their own mats as they tried the poses too, encouraging the kids to try it, or to stop talking, or to just sit down and take a break. I tried to keep moving but soon realized I could have the kids try 100 poses and would still run out of ways to keep the skeptics interested. Soon a theme developed. I kept hearing all of them repeat “I can’t do that”, and I realized what little sponges these preteens were! They were regurgitating what peers, parents and other adults had been saying their entire little lives about anything that seemed too hard or too different. I knew this all too well because I spent several years in my twenties telling myself I couldn’t become a musician – because I had to keep a regular job to live, or I simply didn’t have what it takes to go beyond the familiar.
I’m finally breaking through my own personal patter of “I can’t.” This winter I moved with my husband from Minneapolis to a rural farmhouse in the Hudson Valley. We have a good friend who had a connection to a house that needed caretakers, which is how we could afford to move out here after quitting our jobs, leaving our friends and saving up enough money to live on until we settled in and found new livelihoods. We are extremely fortunate to even have this opportunity to take a risk, to create our own change. Music is coming alive again for me, and even if it doesn’t work out, I now understand that I at least need to try to find the courage before deciding I can’t.
When I started doing yoga in my early twenties, I could barely keep up with the class physically, not to mention I couldn’t afford to take regular classes. I was working through various physical health problems, anxiety, depression and a dark cloud of negativity had settled over me. Thankfully, I found a cleaning exchange program at a local studio and was able to work there for free yoga classes. Soon I became a regular practitioner, breaking through patterns and becoming my own agent of healing and change for my life. I felt more confident and inspired by the healthy role models, the humble teachers who taught me yoga poses as metaphors for daily life. “Practice and all is coming,” they would repeat the famous quote from Sri Pattabhi K. Jois.
As I went through Teacher Training I started to understand how many risks people take every day just to try something new like yoga. We never left middle school. We show up in the wrong clothes, afraid to take our shoes off at the door, and we are definitely not taking our socks off. We borrow smelly rental mats, sit awkwardly staring at ourselves in the mirror wondering when this will be over. The teacher seems like they can do everything perfectly and we feel even more limited within our bodies. We can’t do that, we judge.
I’m not even sure if most of the kids heard me when I kept stating “in yoga, we do not judge others, and we don’t judge ourselves.” I was trying to be compassionate towards the girl in the corner who was making fun of everyone else as she leaned against the wall, refusing to try anything stating she didn’t want to be embarrassed. I’m sure it will take more than one class to convince her that this is a lifelong practice of trying to overcome fear. The fear of falling, the fear of being weird or different, the fear of failure. As I showed them crow pose, one student fell on her face and I rushed to exclaim how good falling was because it taught us to get back up and try again. She went into the pose slower this time and didn’t fall. A few of the boys asked me to put my leg behind my head. I politely declined. Everyone tried tree pose. We attempted to finish class in Savasana, but most of them lost interest and continued talking and wanted a snack. Eventually they all wandered off as I rolled up the mats and went home.
I’m grateful for the privilege of sharing yoga with those wonderful young skeptics last week and hope to return. It’s worth it even if one student will become inspired to stop hearing the “I can’t / you can’t” around them and will decide to start practicing something they are interested in, especially when parents or peers say it’s a waste of time or the reasons why they can’t. Yoga poses are metaphors, and are difficult / wonderful reminders that if we let go of self-judgment and judgment from others, maybe we can just continue to try, and all is coming.
I am also overwhelmingly in awe of anyone who can teach middle school students. You are amazing.
Molly Rose Hilgenberg has over 1,800 hours of experience working with beginner to advanced yoga students (E-RYT Yoga Alliance) and continues to learn every day from the yogis who just show up to breathe.
It’s Abby, the point person/Executive Director/co-founder/woman behind the emails. I’d like to share a little bit about our developments as an organization in just a few short months.
I moved back to Poughkeepsie from Seattle at the end of October with two things: a collection of fabulous but disjointed ideas given to me by several different visionaries, and the commitment to spend eight weeks seeing if we could turn them into something. I spent November talking with community stakeholders and conceptualizing what Women’s Power Space might actually look like. We knew that it had to be a space for and by women, we knew it was going to center racial justice, we knew we had to have good food involved, and that we’d probably be doing quite a bit of yoga. We knew that there were gaps in our community, but we couldn’t quite see what would be best for filling them in.
I conducted the “needs assessment,” which means that I talked to everybody and their mother about these nebulous ideas to confirm the hypothesis that women want a center, that people want yoga, and this community has all the potential to make it happen. With the hypothesis confirmed, I moved on to “capacity building,” which means that I again talked to everybody and their mother, but this time inviting them to join a project that, although it only existed in the collective imagination at the time, had a clearly defined set of goals to work towards and roles to fill.
Quite simply, I have been overwhelmed by all of the positive, inspiring, and forthcoming energy that we have been met with. I am overjoyed to say that the Women’s Power Space team is now home to five members of the Board of Directors, five members of the Advisory Council, eleven Teaching Artists, nine Interns, a few people without titles who help out in their own ways, and me. A total of thirty extraordinary people who have committed their time, skills, and energy to the goals of Women’s Power Space – and it’s growing every day. I can’t even express to you how incredible it feels to wake up to more emails in my inbox than I know what to do with, all from thoughtful and passionate people looking to collaborate and become a part of this movement to bring yoga, women’s leadership, and community-building to Poughkeepsie.
Before, I wasn’t sure if this was going to actually happen. It was a unique blob of cool and somewhat disparate ideas, which wasn’t in itself an organization. Sometimes, I started to feel somewhat crazy, as I was spending most of my waking hours talking about something that was predominantly imaginary.
But I gotta say – I think this might actually happen. Women’s Power Space is becoming a thing. A really, really awesome thing. I feel so honored and lucky to be a part of this project and community as it begins to take shape.
I am so grateful that I get to wake up every morning asking one question to myself and to everyone I get to meet with, “What can we do today to increase this community’s access to yoga, embodied arts, fierce food, identity consciousness, and women’s leadership?” And here’s the coolest part – people know what to do. The knowledge and the skills are here, in Poughkeepsie. There are plans for a community garden, a girls of color mentoring program, a vegan food/yoga party, street yoga at the mobile farmers’ market, a wellness fair fundraising event, a video essay series, and probably a thousand other things I haven’t heard of yet. And we’re working on it all the time – stay tuned in the next couple weeks for announcements about what we’ve already started achieving and ways to join various projects.
Thank you for all that you do as we create Women’s Power Space together! If you’d like to share your vision for this project, please write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In the past two months, we have launched an organization, started to apply for funding, and assembled a beautiful team of four board members, a growing advisory council, four Vassar College interns, six teaching artists, and many more enthusiasts, advocates, and supporters.
And! We now have a three minute and thirty three second video of pure joy, explaining our goals and mission with this project. Take a look, and as always – let us know what you think, and share it with others who need to be a part of this movement.