Seane Corn is one of the most celebrated yoga instructors in the world today. When you talk with Seane, she immediately demonstrates her incredible sense of awareness, her passion for personal growth, commitment to philanthropy, and her deep understanding that she's here to make a difference.
Seane's road to becoming the Seane Corn that we know had lots of emotional and physical twists and turns, and was far from being easy. Her personal story and inner journey is inspiring to yogis and non-yogis alike, as she truly recognizes the importance of healing, compassion, and acceptance, which she carries with her in her yoga practice and in her philanthropic organization, Off The Mat Into The World.
I was fortunate enough to chat with Seane about her own personal journey, her yoga practice, the importance of compassion, and more. Prepare to be inspired.
MBG: It seems like you’ve found your calling? Has this been a slow and steady process or a series of 'aha!' moments?
SC: I think it’s a combination of both. There have been a lot of aha moments along the way. If twenty years ago, someone would have told me that teaching yoga and doing all the humanitarian work that I do was my destiny, I would have scoffed at the idea. From the moment I began teaching yoga, there was something so eerily terrifying and exhilarating in the process. I could have not felt both more natural in the yoga room and simultaneously more afraid. I would want to run from it, but when I walked into that room something else seemed to take over. After class was done, I would have the sense that this was something I was supposed to do. It just came so natural. Not to say that it wasn’t a tremendous amount of hard work and learning to become a teacher. It was not an effortless experience at all! I was a terrible teacher when I went through my first teacher training. Partly I was so afraid to speak publicly – horrified actually.
Really? You’re a tremendous public speaker.
Like I mentioned, it was both terrifying and exhilarating. There would be these moments, when I’d get out of my own way, and the words would flow so effortlessly as if I had been doing this my whole life. But once my insecurity would rise up, my ego would get engaged, and then I’d clam up. But every once in a while when I had that moment of effortlessness in this creative process, it would really encourage me to come back into the yoga room and give it another shot.
So this is a pushing vs pulling feeling?
I have my own resistance in the form of limited beliefs in my head. I’d think, ‘Who am I to teach? What right do I have?’ My own fear is doing the thing that I’m being pulled to is stopping this organic pull. To this day, I still have to avoid self-sabotaging myself. There’s a little voice in my head, which I call my New Jersey mantra because it’s a little bit mean, where I say to myself, ‘Hare dare you. How dare I let my insecurity, my doubt, my fear, my shame, get in the way of doing what I know in my heart needs to be done, which is to support and create an environment for healing, health, and peace.
Was there a specific moment early in your practice when you knew this was it?
Yes, there were a few. I started when I was 19 years old, and yoga meets you where you’re at. I wasn’t looking for a spiritual experience, I was looking to get healthier, quite frankly, and develop some tools that could help me stay away from drugs and alcohol and stay clean – and yoga was one of these tools. I felt great when it was done. I loved it. I’d still party with my friends, but that stopped feeling as good. I was still a New York City girl out on the town. But around 23, there was a very specific moment. I was on my way to class and I was miserable. I didn’t know if I should stay in NY, move to LA, or stay with or leave my boyfriend. I did my class, began to walk home, and something felt different. It had occurred to me that I was happy. Nothing had changed in those ninety minutes except that I had taken a yoga class. There was something in my soul that felt that everything was unfolding the way that it was supposed to. So the next day I went back to the same class and I felt as if the teacher was only speaking to me, I heard every word different, as if it was my first time ever practicing. I was actually kind of freaked out. After that moment, yoga took me to another level. Another door opened and I stepped into it and took my practice to a different awareness.
In LA in 1994 there was another pivotal moment. One day I burst into tears during a class for no reason whatsoever. All this emotion had literally burst through my body. I had never felt such a release of emotion before. It took seven years of practice before all that tension in my body thoroughly released to allow my practice to go to another level. Now I’m 44 years old and have been practicing for 25 years, and am still humbled by yoga. Just when I think I have a glimpse of what yoga might be about, it reveals to me that I’m still a beginner.
What is it about yoga that helps people become more aware?
I think that’s the mystery of the practice. That’s why it’s so great that there are so many different styles of yoga that can relate to so many different personalities. I can only speak for myself, but I think it’s really that mind-body connection – the idea that everything is connected, that there’s no separation. The body doesn’t understand time like our minds do. When we grow up we develop really good survival skills and keep emotion in our body, which becomes tension and manifests as stress. When you practice yoga, you release this tension, where emotions might be embedded. Emotions start to arise, tensions start to release, and you hear differently – not from your head, but from your heart. You start to remember who you are. Our minds expand, and we feel more connected. If you’re lucky, this feeling lasts a lifetime. But if you’re someone like me who holds a lot of tension, I need to hit the mat every single day, otherwise my tension will come up fairly quickly and I’ll become cynical, judgmental, critical, and reactive.
Is there something that people overlook in their practice that’s so important?
The breath – above anything else. I’ve seen seasoned practitioners who can do amazing things on the mat who have trouble with the breath, and then I’ve seen people who can barely touch their toes who are so connected to their breath and their intention, and I’m in awe of them. Personally, there are some days when I can’t believe how well my breath is flowing during practice. And there are other days when it’s all over the place and it’s extremely frustrating. Regardless, I still practice.