Welcome Abbie!

So-Hum : Self Expression Through Yoga

Model: Abbie Dutterer

Photography: Faern

Interview: Erica Rodefer

1. The only instruction you were given prior to this photo shoot is that you can’t wear traditional yoga clothes! Tell us why you chose your outfit. What does it say about you?

I essentially have two wardrobes: my work clothes and my yoga clothes. I am constantly trying to integrate what happens on the mat with my life outside the yoga studio. I spend significantly more time in business suits than I do in my “traditional” yoga wear. As I’ve become more devoted to my practice, I have tried to bring more of “my mat” into my workplace. I hope that what I am trying to cultivate in terms of calmness, curiosity, and peace in my life – both at work and at home – adds something to the people around me. I love my job and I am proud of what I do, but it is not the only way that I define myself. When I first started with yoga, I referred to what I did as a hobby when discussing it with colleagues. I now own it as my practice, and a spiritual part of me that I am happy to share. And when I channel oujiyya breathing and uddiyana in the bathroom before presenting at an important meeting, I feel like I’m doing okay in the melding of my two worlds. My hope is that I’m the same Abbie no matter what I wear.

2.How does yoga help you to express who you are and who you want to be?

The simplest, most beautiful thing that I have learned from yoga is how to breathe and how to allow myself to relax into that breath. It was like living in color for the first time. Admittedly, it has taken me a long time to make small bits of progress, but slowly, I am learning to inhale, exhale, and let go of everything else. It is really hard to express yourself fully from a place of numbness and shallow breathing. My thoughts would be so jumbled and much of my reactions to life’s events came from fear of failure. In taking the time to feed my body with breath instead of panic, I found that I could make more informed decisions and think more broadly at work. At home, it has made me a better, kinder wife to my husband and a more compassionate listener to my friends. In learning how to breathe and let go of fear, I was able to connect with the part of me that wanted more adventure and opportunity. And so, in its own way, yoga brought me 3,000 miles to California for the chance at an adventure in San Francisco.

3. What important lessons have you learned about yourself through your yoga practice?

Yoga truly put back together parts of me that I didn’t know were broken. My practice helped me realize that I was fairly disconnected from my physical body. And being disconnected made all of the connections – mind-body, body-soul – short-circuit. Yoga teaches me everyday that I am a strong person – physically and emotionally. My old goals for myself centered on being successful and surviving the fear of failure or harm that defined my existence. I now focus on living a life that is happy, healthy, and whole, and sharing that with those around me. An intuitive and compassionate yoga teacher, who has informed much of my practice, asked me once in a session (as I was struggling and feeling somewhat sorry for myself in a pose), “You know that you’re strong, right?” It wasn’t that I didn’t know it – it was that I hadn’t called on it. Our practice makes us strong, but engaging and using that strength is the true fruit of what we do. We have to access it – and work on it – and desire to come from that place of strength in our actions in life. There is a lot of power in finding physical strength – because it is more than just our physical being that can be nurtured in that exploration.

4. What’s your favorite pose? Why?

The driven, Type-A part of me wants to say dolphin pose, because every time I find myself in this asana, a love-hate relationship commences. Our favorite pose should be the one that challenges us the most, right? The playful part of me wants to say handstand or crow pose, because it is such a fun moment to be upside down or off the ground. Yoga should be about what makes us happy, right? But the pose that truly captures my joy and spirit and passion for yoga is Virabhadrasana II. Warrior II requires grounding through the legs, truly feeling for feet pushing into the ground, opening of the arms, a sturdy torso, and deep concentration on the hips. It is a reminder of the first time I felt strong in yoga. I also practice Forrest Yoga, and the way that Forrest Yogis take Warrior II is particularly strong – our heads face straight ahead – protecting our necks and letting the focus be in strength from legs and torso – the grounding of the pose. Warrior pose doesn’t have to be about harshness – it can be about the softness as well.

5. Tell us what inspires you so we can be inspired, too.

In the midst of all of the poses and places and styles of yoga, there is a humble simplicity to the practice. Here are a few dozen, mostly unrelated people in a room, without shoes, on mats, breathing, moving their bodies and trying to find space in their life. That inspires me. Sun Salutations require no language – we can learn by simply doing – sometimes a leader and sometimes a follower. I travel a great deal and find myself welcomed by strangers into their sacred spaces with open arms. Hot rooms where tears mix with sweat and joy and raw emotion. That this practice – our yoga – can be done without anything but our natural body and soul is one of the most beautiful truths and one of the more powerful realizations that I have had as a human. We are enough with just our breath and that is beautiful. To be a witness to that – to be a part of that community in the world – makes me know that what I bring to the world and the way that I approach my life matters.

Erica Rodefer is a writer and yoga enthusiast in Charleston, SC. Visit her blog, Spoiledyogi.com, follow her on Twitter, or like her on Facebook.

Faern is an Artist, yoga practitioner and Photographer in San Francisco. Besides making as much time for tea as possible, you can find Faern in a yoga class, at her current art show or wandering the city via public transportation. You can visit her in various places online: FaernWorks website, Twitter, Facebook, Faern in the Works Blog.

Would you like to take part in this project as a model? Please be in touch by emailing this address sohum.selfexpression@gmail.com and we’ll send more information. If you are not in the Bay Area or planning a visit, do not worry, there are travel plans afoot, subscribe to the blogs  http://www.faern-in-the-works.com  and http://spoiledyogi.blogspot.com/  to keep in touch and get updates on travel plans. *please note: replies are numerous, they take a little time

You can find Abbie here!

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  1. […] the rest of Abbie’s interview here. Faern is an artist, yoga practitioner and photographer in San Francisco. Besides making as much […]

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