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NEWS

The Warrior in Warrior-Flow

Jennifer Oechsner

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After our yoga practice the other day a few of my students asked about my tattoos. You could say that the 2 larger ones express a sort of fierceness. One is dragon inspired by Shambhala, representing "unwavering strength". The other is a cluster of cherry blossoms with the Japanese symbol for warrior in the center. I laughed  to myself and thought, "they must think I'm so tough". And in some ways I am but that is not the reason I am drawn to these inspirations of fierceness. Way back in 2011 when I was contemplating what to call my business and came up with Warrior-Flow I wanted something that sounded strong and yes I am a martial artist and a warrior in that sense. But the warrior in Warrior-Flow came from something deeper which is the essence of who I strive to be in the buddhist sense of the word which is to be strong in who you are. This a battle many of us fight.

I'm going to be candid here. From a very young age I struggled with self-confidence and body image issues started very young. I was always a sensitive soul and tears have always come easily to my eyes. For much of my life I saw this sensitivity as a cross to bear and was ashamed of the tears that often fell. While I now see my sensitive soul as an asset I am still working on the tears part. However, in my heart I know that however I experience my emotions is ok. If I cry, so what. Crying is a release and an expression of deep emotion and what is wrong with that? This past week one of my students was struggling with this issue and I reassured her that her tears were ok and not to worry about how it seemed to others. I reassured her that there is strength in letting yourself feel your emotions. It was a good reminder for me to give this same compassion to myself. 

As I have mentioned, living in India has had its share of ups and downs, as life always does. Sometimes life's daily struggles seem amplified here. Maybe it's because so much is foreign and so little that is familiar. I don't mean this negatively, but rather that there is constant food for thought. Sure I have my daily routines and places I frequent but these routines are still met with a sense of having to navigate carefully and be strong in who I am. For example when I go to the gym in the early morning I have a basic structure I like to follow. When I select my weights for each exercise in my circuit sometimes some guy will come and take them when I put them down for a moment. Now, I realize that there are a limited number of dumbbells and I don't want to hog them but to me its customary for people to share in this situation, but there hadn't been this consideration. I assumed it was because I am a woman (usually the only one in the free weight area) but I wasn't sure whether I was being overly sensitive. Was their behavior a cultural thing? Was it reflective of Indian sexism? Now I think so. Over time, people started asking before they take weights that I might still be using. And now they even return them to me when they are done so that we can share. I feel like I had to earn the respect of my fellow gym-goers. I don't know why it took so long, I can certainly squat more than most of the men there who seem to only be interested in working their arms (but this is a story for another day). My point is that even something simple like gym etiquette is the source of personal reflection and cultural analysis. 

Life will always be filled with tests; tests of strength, of courage, of beliefs and of one's ability to communicate kindly. I firmly believe that strength in one's sense of self is the key. Strength begets strength and sends a positive vibration into the universe.  So the fact that I am drawn to intensity and messages of fierceness is the fact that I need regular reminders to stand strong in who I am. There is a beauty and grace in this for everyone. The only way to soar is to see that you have wings. Sometimes it hard to spread them but once you do its hard to go back. 

What makes you soar?