I’m delighted to introduce you to this month’s Curvy Seven feature, Shari Phares! To see previous features, please click here.
1. WHAT’S YOUR YOGA ORIGIN STORY?
In the 1980’s I was a professional dancer. Young and fit, I sought out all things dance. As the decade moved on, so did my inquiry.
I have always been drawn to the sacred and yearned to bring depth and prayer into the movement of my life. I eventually found myself at the Yoga Room in Berkeley, California and what unfolded was a lifelong practice. At the yoga room I studied from a young Rodney Yee as well as Donald Moyer and Mary Lou Weprin.
But the teacher who captured my attention and heart was dancer and yogini Gay White. The Yoga Room was a warm sheltering place to heal from the wild San Francisco dance scene as well as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibroid tumors.
For 10 years I studied and practiced without lifting my head. I continued to dance but yoga took a firm hold in my body as well. I was enchanted by this amazing tradition. Gay White took me under her beautiful strong wing as we began to explore the bridge between yoga and dance. We explored asana as performance and landscape. We played with states of consciousness for performance. We also explored the creative nature of dance and yoga through choreography.
Eventually life and motherhood flung me from my bohemian life in San Francisco out to the Wild West of Arizona. Without my mentors I turned to the only recourse readily available…my own practice.
What I learned in the desert was to listen with every cell in my body. I threw out rules of sequencing and ideas of anatomy and began to play and explore without the voices of my teachers or the mat!
I became a yoga outlaw.
I was a single mom of a baby and time became a game. The days of a daily two hour practice…gone! Hours with Gay in the studio…also gone…yoga companions …gone. Yoga became my solace and companion and often my only creative outlet. This desert time taught me how to fall into a flow outside of rules and time. Despite the arid outer landscape of the Sonoran Desert, my internal body grew more fluid.
Eventually I found myself in a Tribal Style Belly Dance class and this ignited another body way of movement, healing and praying….Belly dance taught me yoga! This style of Belly Dance works with group movement, sensual strong serpentine movements and of course there are shimmies! A world of curvy, undulating, and spiralic movement provided a rich field for my yoga to expand.
I went on to study with Meghan Bowen, Joanna Cashmen and currently I am studying from Maria Kalima. But none of these teachers could teach me to be a plus size yogini. That I learned on my own. As I gained weight I was faced with a choice to leave teaching or endure great criticism and to persevere. I learned quickly to choose my environments and mentors wisely. I learned to keep my practice going despite the desire to hole up in my house or to just be still. I learned to keep my yoga dancing in round flowing breathing intuitive patterns and energies.
Many amazing teachers have given me so much, but it was the years in the desert that taught me how to practice.
2. WHAT POSE DO YOU LOVE? AND LOATHE?
I try to never waste time loathing anything. All poses are a gift and have something to teach us. Even those asanas I can no longer execute offer powerful lessons of letting go, humility, acceptance and self respect.
These days I am playing with letting go and persevering at the same moment, in the each asana…this is yogi nerd fun! The real rasa for me is in the transitions from pose to pose; that delicious state of grace as we leave one asana and come into the next.
How fluid, how expressive, how efficient, how present can we become in the flowing?
3. WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU SHARE WITH OTHER CURVY YOGIS?
Find your Oasis, keep moving, be fluid. Create, play, and deepen.
4. WHO’S YOUR FAVORITE CURVY ICON?
Mae West! Circles! Crescents! The figure 8! Women’s hips!!!
5. WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE YOGA RESOURCE?
I have a rich full Mary Poppins bag of resources. I have attached my Size Positive Resource list to share. At the end of the day the ability to show at the matt is my most valuable resource.
6. WHAT QUOTE INSPIRES YOU?
“The body is an ocean, rich with hidden treasures. Open its innermost chamber and light its lamp.” – Mirabai
“The person is a threshold where many infinites meet.” John O’Donohue
“Show up, pay attention, tell the truth and don’t be attached to the outcome!” Angeles Arrien.
7. WILD CARD: ANYTHING ELSE YOU WOULD LIKE TO SHARE?
Curves are a great teacher. I try to never let the weight define me. I do use it to guide me into deeper listening, to walk and dance humbly, and grow in compassion. And I always bring my sense of humor to my mat and to my classroom.
I use a point system in my class…
- 1pt for falling in any standing balancing pose,
- 2pts if you pass wind,
- 3pts for falling and passing wind at the same time
and of course if you fall asleep in Savasana: 5pts! And if you fall asleep and drool and snore…I will take you to lunch!
I bow deep to each of you on this curvy spiral path.
Shari Phares Aslaksen began the embodiment path in the late 60’s dancing to The Monkeys! She has been dancing every since. Shari began formal studies in dance in 1982 as a dance major at CSULB. Shari began the practice of yoga in 1986 at the Yoga Room in Berkley, California and teaching soon followed. From the beginning, Shari found her yoga dancing and her dancing deepened with each asana.
She was a founding member of The Yoga Garden Dancers, Praxis Dance Collective and Annahata Belly Dance Collective, and is currently a ZuZi community dance member. She has completed The Bo Tree Teacher Training, The Whole Birth Prenatal Teacher Training and The Radiant Health Teacher Training. Shari also holds a B.A. in Religious Studies and Dance from Holy Names University and is a Certified Spiritual Director. Shari’s teaching style reflects the diversity of her training as well as her gentle flowing style and creative spirit. Shari lives in Tucson, Arizona. She is married to a hiker who cannot do a single yoga pose and her teenage daughter is a modern dancer and aerialist. Her dogs do love yoga. Connect with her at her website.