Yoga On and Off the Mat to Serve the World, with Seane Corn

Yoga editor Ella Isakov shares: This month, I interviewed one of my teachers, Seane Corn. I went to Haiti with Seane in 2012 with “Off the Mat, Into the World”, and witnessed first-hand her dedication for justice, equality and peace. This issue, I spoke with her about what it means to be of service.

Parvati Magazine: You have been teaching for over 20 years. Was there a specific moment that was a turning point for you in integrating social justice with your yoga teaching?

Seane Corn: I have always been interested in social justice and being of service, but I never knew how the two intersected. I did my yoga and I did my social justice work. It’s when I started to teach at Children of the Night, a shelter for adolescent boys and girls who were sex trafficked, and bringing yoga into that environment, that I started to see that there was this intersection and wanted to reach out to the yoga community to get people involved to be of service in different ways.

PMAG: How do yoga and service interconnect?

SC: The practice of yoga ultimately reminds that we are all one, and although that is true it doesn’t mean we are the same. Many people suffer because of lack of resources and systemic oppression and biased discrimination, and this difference that has to be acknowledged. For me there is no separation between yoga and service. When one person suffers everyone suffers.

PMAG: You have stayed true to your commitment to spreading the message that yoga is a prayer and can be a conduit for healing. What keeps you inspired to share this message?

SC: My own practice comes first before my teaching. For me a yoga practice without prayer is calisthenic. Although there will be some benefits on a physiological level it is not going to necessarily change the relationship you have with yourself, for the planet or the people on the spiritual level. My commitment to prayer is really looking inward. You teach what you believe in, and ultimately you transmit that.

PMAG: You have done a lot to empower people to take action to heal themselves and their communities with Off the Mat, Into the World (OTM). How do you inspire people to take action off the mat?

SC: It is all a reflection of my own life. Because of the privileges that I have been given, including the practice of yoga, I have a responsibility to go out into the world and help in whatever way I can. Sometimes it is just to learn, and sometimes it is to go into environments and try and understand different cultures. Other times it is to create opportunities and projects that can benefit the community. I feel privileged to have a platform in the way I do and I use it to create opportunities for action.

PMAG: What are two messages you want people to leave with from your classes?

SC: 1) I don’t want people to leave my class saying “oh my god, I love my body”; [I want them to] leave saying “oh my god, I love my life.” Even though something is uncomfortable or challenging in their life [I want them to] still have a sense that everything is unfolding as it needs to, and that they are in the presence of their own mystery, and ultimately this is for the maturation of their own soul.

2) I hope they can walk away just feeling that utter gratitude, not just for the good stuff, but for all of it. That they can take a moment at the end of class and give thanks to their body, the food that they eat, the air that they breathe, the opportunities they are given. Also giving thanks for their heartbreak and their loss, for all the ways life seemed to have conspired to rip them in two. [I hope] they get that life happens and we can’t change what is, but we can change our perspective. It is our perspective that can inform and empower us to make different kinds of choices. Their wound is their gift, and that wound that’s their gift may be the place from which they serve and help others.

Seane CornSeane Corn is an internationally celebrated yoga teacher known for her impassioned activism, unique self-expression, and inspirational style of teaching. Seane now utilizes her national platform to bring awareness to global humanitarian issues. Since 2007, she has been training leaders of activism through her co-founded organization Off the Mat, Into the World®. Seane has spent time in the US, India, Cambodia, Haiti and Africa working with communities in need- teaching yoga, providing support for child labor and educating people about HIV/AIDS prevention. She is currently working on her first book.