“In yoga class, I often remind my students that we can be peaceful and powerful, calm yet strong—all in the same breath. I think there is a peace to be found in the acceptance of all of these contradictory powers within us. Finding a way to stand within this unknown and unknowable. We are gloriously complex and contradictory in a world that loves boxes, snap judgments and 100% certainty. People may find this inability to define you uncomfortable, but this is a reminder that you do not owe anyone an explanation. Your rich inner world needn’t mean anything to anyone but yourself. A person can be called a witch for merely knowing, and for owning her knowledge. And to some, for strange reasons that may include fear, power, jealousy, a woman who ‘knows’ is dangerous indeed…Communicating *I am knowledgeable, powerful, and I can make choices about how I use these strengths…can be a real challenge to the status quo!”
—Sarah Robinson, Yoga for Witches (p. 93)
It wasn’t until I began reading the book Yoga for Witches that I realized how deeply magic and yoga have been linked together for me from the beginning. They have been threads in my life for the same amount of time. They blessed my life at the same moment and they have continued to sustain me, body, mind, and spirit for twenty years. I was introduced to yoga by the same college friend who introduced me to goddess studies, both of us setting tentatively out onto the path of the unknown, mysterious, and, somehow, forbidden together. No one in my life ever told me that I couldn’t do yoga and yet, stepping into that gentle studio for the first time at twenty years old, I felt as if I was doing something risky, forbidden, possibly even dangerous. Perhaps it was my upbringing within the subculture of religious fundamentalism—not my own family, we were agnostic—but the culture of my peers, which taught me that to name the body as sacred, to explore one’s own wisdom and self-authority, to partake in magic, to embody and envision the divine as feminine, are all dangerous acts. In some way, somehow, I absorbed that these are the realms that are restricted and denied and I was daring to break beyond those rules and taste the unknown, the mysterious, the magical, the powerful. I still remember how it felt to lie quietly on my yoga mat, my legs against the wall, listening to the quiet voice of the yoga teacher. There was something here for me. Something that would last forever.
I read my first book about Goddess herstory just a year or two after that yoga class, lent to me by the same friend. I bought my first copy of the We’Moon datebook three years later, my first infant son slung across my chest in a baby sling. I picked its colorful, woman-honoring form out of the stacks of lesbian, feminist, witch, and anarchist literature piled in untidy heaps in the small radical bookstore located below street level in the liberal college town where I’d attended graduate school. While at this time I primarily experienced the goddess as a sociocultural and feminist symbol—an archetype, metaphor, idea, and idea—yoga and the goddess both became a daily part of my life. There was something here for me too. I felt it, felt Her, at work in my world.
In Yoga for Witches, Sarah Robinson explores the connection between yoga and witchcraft—both are arts that involve shaping your life and world, through movement and through energy. Both can be simple or complex. Both can be powerfully transformative and personally empowering. Both can enrich, enliven, inspire, and motivate both your inner and your outer reality and your experiences. Both can be radical acts. Acts of resistance, acts of change, acts of courage, and acts of love.
“Witches are myths, mothers, healers, crafters, sisters and sirens. Witches are real. Witches are both everything people fear and none of it. Witches represent power and possibility…Only the most powerful and loaded words can divide people so fiercely. The titles we gather through life are so fascinating: mother, wife, aunt, sister, daughter…are all bestowed by society according to our relationships and standing with others. But what of those we wish to claim for ourselves, even secretly? Within the word ‘witch,’ such power is held, both in its possibilities of skills and the vast and varied history of the word.”
—Sarah Robinson, Yoga for Witches (p. 9)
Simple choices. simple magic, and simple movements—stretching oneself mentally, physically, and metaphorically—also have the capacity to change entire lives. My friend did not go on to practice yoga regularly, while I have maintained a daily practice for twenty years. She also did not go on to become a goddess worshipper, while I have shaped my entire professional life around the intensity and depth of connection that I feel to the culture, stories, symbols, and power of the goddess in my life. However, without her daring to ask me to come to that class with her and without her lending me that When God was a Woman book, I actually don’t know where I would be today!
I still find myself hesitating sometimes to claim the word “witch” in my own life, but there is undoubtedly magic on my mat and Yoga Witch may actually be one of the best descriptions of my personal path to date.
Sarah’s new book Yin Magic will be released in October as well!
I received a complimentary copy of this book for the purposes of review. Opinions reflected within are entirely my own.