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Seane Corn: With yoga you remember who you are

Truths are revealed one by one as you grasp the concept of detachment and illusion

Seane Corn is a world-famous yoga instructor. She teaches some of the most famous Hollywood stars and has a dynamic and active way of life. She works with people suffering from AIDS, underage prostitutes, drug addicts and alcoholics from all over the world. During one of her European tours Corn visited Bulgaria. At the Mettasense yoga studio (www.metasense.com) she demonstrated her unique style – vinyasa flow yoga, combining intense positions with constant conscious breathing.

Ms Corn, what is your main goal when teaching yoga?
SC: When someone walks out of the yoga hall after a class with me I do not necessarily want them to say: ''Oh my God, I love my body'', but rather I would have them say ''Oh my God, I love my life!''
Regardless of what is happening, whether this person is currently facing a conflict, a crisis, chaos or a breakup. I want people to realise that everything in their lives happens in the best way possible and that it will let their souls transform; that yoga practice helps them develop tools for a higher conscience, which will help them approach their life in a more sacred way.

You work with AIDS patients, prostitutes and children who are victims of sexual abuse; how did you decide to do this?
SC: Everything came as a natural consequence of my yoga practice. I felt the responsibility to be more engaged with the community since I was already healthy, happy and conscious about the interrelationship between things. I wanted to provide young people with the instruments I already had and was familiar with.
This motivated me to work with underage prostitutes and sexually abused boys and girls. This is the field in which I feel the strongest calling to serve. That is why I created the "Off the mat" organisation which is active almost everywhere around the globe. We encourage people to become leaders, we teach them to apply yoga in socially active activities… We managed to raise over 3 million dollars and realise projects in India, South Africa.. We are mainly focused on people sex traffic.

Have you had any success in this endeavour?
SC: Yoga is effective because it can bring back to those children their feeling of security, it can relieve depression and teach them how to be masters of their own bodies again. Some of the women who have been victims of sexual abuse, or have been addicted to drugs or alcohol, are now working with people with similar problems.

A very popular belief nowadays is that with the help of some type of spiritual practice you could achieve material prosperity. What is your opinion on that?
SC: There is absolutely no problem even if this is one's motivation to begin practicing yoga. Yoga meets you in the exact same spot where you are at that given moment. My experience shows that the more you practice, the more conscious you become; the more roads open up in front of you and the more information comes to you. Perhaps at the beginning people feel more attached to the material values and want to fulfil all the desires they have. There is no problem in that.
In one way or another they will learn an important lesson. That is not my job; that is between them and their spirit. If they are persistent, however, in the end yoga will lead them to the understanding of detachment and illusion. As you practise, you begin to find meaning not in the material values but rather in the much more important and permanent spiritual ones such as love, relationships and family. I never criticise anyone for the situation they are in because I do not know what they need to learn in order to transform and to go beyond their own limits.
There are certain shadows that we have to go through and for many people this is materialism. They are attached to material objects because that way they compensate for the lack of love they did not receive in their childhood. An expensive item, for example a car, can make us feel worthy of love and respect. Gradually, with yoga one realises that they are compensating for emotions and they learn to give themselves those emotions. This is a process, and a long one at that.
In yoga, the key to healing is the conscience. There is no other way. Everyone should observe their own thoughts, views, fears and projections. As a teacher, I try to meet people where they are in their lives and trust yoga that, as long as they are persistent, truths will be revealed. I also like to think that practice will help those people develop their inner and emotional strength so that they can face these truths without losing themselves or their centre.

What led you down the path of yoga?
I started when I was about 18 years old and I have been practicing yoga for 27 years now. I used to live in New York and I worked at a very small coffee shop on the East Coast. My boss David Life opened one of the largest yoga studios in the US and offered me to give it a try. I loved it.
I started going to practice regularly but I kept going out with the same friends, I kept drinking and smoking. Like every other young girl in New York City I was constantly at some party or another. After a while I stopped liking cigarettes, after them came the alcohol and the drugs. After that I stopped eating meat and sugar. I gradually excluded a lot of things from my life which appeared not to be good for my health. But yoga was not in the least bit a spiritual practice to me. I would actually get annoyed when my instructor would start singing ''Om'' or use words in Sanskrit.

Did that change?
SC: After 5 years of regular practice one time during yoga class I was standing in dove position when my teacher started talking about God, truth and forgiveness. Suddenly something unleashed a very strong emotion in me. Never had anything like that had ever happened to me before. I even got a little scared. I went out of the hall and started crying. There was not anything wrong with my life.
It was just an outburst of energy and also a very important point of change because it was then that I first understood the connection between body and spirit. I also understood that the body becomes dependant on pressure and that when this pressure is unleashed we discover how vulnerable we actually are.
When I came back to the hall I heard everything in a whole new way, even though the teacher was talking the same things like any other time. He had not changed but I had. For the first time I was not inside my mind, but in my heart.
All these 5 years of complicated yoga positions had actually been preparing my body so that I could begin experiencing my spirit. That is why I do not want to depreciate them just because I spent them practicing at a purely physical level. Throughout this time my whole system had been preparing so that when I finally reached the right emotional level, I did not experience any shock. I thought to myself: ''Ok, now we are starting on a journey.''
That was followed by a period of 5-10 years of deeply personal spiritual and emotional work so that I could understand the connection between body and spirit.

 Do you feel today that you have revealed all the secrets of body and spirit?
SC: Not even for a moment do I imagine that I have the slightest idea of the full potential of this interrelationship. For it really is enormous. I still feel quite humble in this area. This is one of the many reasons why I love to share so much. I know that if yoga managed to change the way an ordinary girl from New Jersey sees the world, it can change the views and the life of any other person.

How can we connect to our real self in order to turn into the precious gems we really are?
 SC: I really do wish there was a shortcut. But this transformation is a process. The most important thing is breathing. When we do not breathe correctly, i.e. deeply, we are not in the present. And when we are not here and now, we react too easily and with much irritation. At this point, we actually travel back in time – tension occurs in our body and we go back to a moment in the past when we were very primitive and impulsive. And we act out of fear, need, desire, and a sense of bereavement or pain. We lose our ability to see the overall big picture.
I hope that everyone realises that wherever they are at the moment is exactly where they have to be. And that we are all here to learn what love is. And that is exactly why we are in these bodies. However, there is no way to find out what love is without first learning what it is not. It is all part of human experience. We cannot go past the shadow and step into the light because we do not know what it really means. We can think about it but we will not know for sure, and there is a big difference.
Fury, grief, breakup, as well as every person who enters our lives, they are all our teachers. They are a mirror that reflects our true self. When we cannot see the overall picture, we are detached from ourselves, from each other and from God. But once we realise this grand scheme, everything starts happening in the right way so that the soul can transform. Always have trust in this process and forgive. Above all else, we must forgive ourselves for the things we think we could have done better. This opens many more opportunities and more freedom.

It's very easy to say ''I forgive you.'' but the real act of forgiveness is much harder. How do we achieve that?

SC: By doing it again and again. But that does not mean taking on ourselves the sins of the others. There is a big difference. It is not about forgiving and thus taking the poison hoping no one else will die. It is very important to understand that because otherwise all we do is hurting ourselves. When forgiving someone we bring them back to the hands of the spirit. We should not think that when we want to forgive somebody it means for example that we have to have lunch with them.
The fact that I have forgiven someone means that my higher self has to realise that the other person has also come here to learn what love is, that they are also doing their best, that my pain and his pain have come together to accomplish some great spiritual work. Whether or not the other person will also manage to come to this conclusion is none of my concern.
My task is to bring them back to the spirit and to leave what has happened between us behind me. The more I hold on to the past, the more I keep on making the feeling of alienation stronger, of ''me'' and ''you''. And that is the opposite of yoga. According to yoga, everything is in connection. There is no ''me'', there is no 'you''.

 All of this is very nice and very true but do you have the courage to talk about these things with victims of sexual abuse?
SC: No, not at all. I would not even mention the word "forgiveness" in front of them. Not for a very long period of time. Especially in front of children who have been sexually abused. I mainly work with adolescents aged between 11 and 17 for whom this is absolutely inappropriate. We want them to express the anger and fury they have been suppressing. These emotions are toxic, as strong as drugs and alcohol.
Trapped inside, they can make you ill, but expressed in the right way they can give you the strength to live. I do not want them to consider themselves as victims but I do not want them trying to give forgiveness either and then seeing the feeling of guilt when they fail. I would not even plant this seed. Years later, when they begin developing spiritual practice we can start discussing this subject but very delicately.

One of the things you are famous for is that you teach yoga to many Hollywood celebrities.
SC: Not that often anymore. I am on the road 350 days a year. I live in Los Angeles where you are surrounded by celebrities. That is why I have been teaching yoga since 1994. I have worked with many actors, musicians, politicians. I do not ask them for an autograph, I do not fuss around them, I just teach them yoga the same way I would teach any other person.

Is the human race really experiencing a spiritual growth or are people just seeking relaxation and a way to cope with stress through practices like yoga?
SC: Both. Everyone I am working with, regardless of whether it is a film star or just a person from the streets, is looking for a way to get away from stress. It works with yoga. And when you are a widely famous actor or musician you give a lot of energy to the world. People project on you their own ideas and it really is extremely hard to remember who you are outside of the roles you constantly accept. It is exhausting.
You run into many projections. I think that for a part of my Hollywood clients from yoga is a way to affirm their humanity. Practice helps them remember who they are. It also helps them to take some time everyday to be in their centre, so that they can avoid identifying themselves with the hyperbolised myth which is being projected on them from the outside.
I visit many celebrities in their homes. At 7 o'clock in the morning they also try to get their children ready for school, sometimes they are scolding them for different things; basically they do the very same things each and every one of us does. They are just looking for balance in their lives, too. And yoga helps them create it.