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Enchanted Arts Festival Series: the transformative power of shamanic yoga

An interview with Athanasia Medenas - Interview and research by Antonia Boorman, global citizen and cognitive neuroscience student at Minerva Schools at KGI.

Athanasia is a certified Vinyasa Yoga and Breathwork Teacher as well as a certified Clairvoyant Healer & Reader from the Intuitive Healing Institute. Receiving a Masters Degree in Sociology, specializing in Social Psychology, Athanasia incorporates sociological theory to her work, breaking down social conditioning and programming through the power of the breath. She is dedicated to helping people connect with their heart and soul's purpose by healing and transcending their life. Combining the structure of yogic principles and theories with shamanic ritual and ceremony, Athanasia created Shamanic Yoga to not only engage us to remember who we really are but also to truly live happily, joyous and free. 

Q. Tell us your story about how shamanic yoga became part of your life?

I was never one of those people who lived and breathed yoga from the start. In fact, my sister really had to convince me to even take a class in the first place…

As a child, I was a competitive figure skater competing since I was in diapers. My entire life was focus, concentration and intensive training as I was preparing for the Junior Olympics in 1998 (where I won the silver medal!). However, when I was in my pre-teens I tore my shoulder and hamstring. I didn’t allow my body to heal properly because I was so focused on “getting back in the game” so I continued to train hard despite the constant pain and trauma. With the intensity of training required for competitive sports, my body experienced chronic pain and endured numerous injuries from which I never properly healed. I was so eager to strive for perfection that I never listened to my body’s need for rest and rejuvenation

So I surrendered to my body and began coaching sports instead. I was introduced to yoga through my sister in 2009. I was incredibly resistant to it at first, thinking “I’m not flexible; It’s not for me”. My intense athletic mindset seemed to conflict with the calming nature of yoga. Yet when I went, I found that it was so soothing. Just being in that room was healing. When the yoga teacher ended the session, she started singing. As I sat in savasana “resting” pose, I envisioned doves flying around me and knew then and there that this was for me. It was a beautiful moment.

About 4-5 years ago when I discovered yoga, I had been living in New York city fighting the corporate ladder and with every step up that ladder, I felt my personal connection to myself progressively diminishing. 

“I was striving for “success” but failing to listen to that feeling of “knowingness” inside of me, which guided me to leave corporate life and still guides my decisions today.”

 I believe in a universal divine consciousness that connects and guides us… and one night amidst the flurry of emails and deadlines, I was watching a documentary about shamanic yoga and something clicked…You see, in order to be a shaman you have to heal yourself..”

I felt like the person in the documentary was talking directly to me, about my injuries and my unwillingness to leave this corporate lifestyle that didn’t make me happy. I was fearful of taking on the responsibility of changing paths to focus primarily on healing myself, but spirit gracefully unraveled a path for my personal transformation. I was able to heal myself. I was able to leave my addiction and the codependency I had on people behind. I realised that this ability was buried within myself and tied to my own worth. I needed to find this.

I used to be afraid of my intuition, but now I’ve learned to trust it and not be afraid of my abilities. Today, I’m excited to live each day. Each day I feel reborn and filled with gratitude for our Mother Earth and Father Sun for giving me another day to truly live. I am excited to walk on this planet, to see wonder and beauty in the little things – in a sprouting plant, in a little ant… and welcome them into the world. Yoga as many of us know, is just 1/8th of the path. It’s also about incorporating this mindset on a day to day basis.

“Practicing Shamanic Yoga has helped me break the cycles of my own behaviour, thoughts and perceptions of myself and has really enabled me to see my own worth.” 

I didn’t even realize it until the work started happening and showing me where I had a veil. My breathwork helped prepare me for the intensity and transformation that had to happen in order to unveil the parts of myself that were screaming to be freed. My journey through yoga has taken me on a deep spiritual path. I had been feeling the alignments but not understanding them and I desperately wanted to understand what was happening at a deeper level. So, I started studying the philosophy of yoga while practicing it. Through practicing different styles and understanding different teaching methods, I developed my own style. For example, one of my favourite yoga instructors would rap Snoop Dogg in the session as a reminder that it’s okay to laugh, to not take it so seriously. It’s okay to fall over, to smile, to enjoy the practice… It’s not about perfection.

Q. What is shamanic yoga?

Shamanic Yoga is a new model for healthcare – for physical benefits and states of deep relaxation, peace, happiness and bliss. … Uniting the physical, mental and spiritual practices of each, Shamanic Yoga teaches the knowledge and healing we seek lies within. 

Q. How does your background in sociology and “studying people” help you to help them on their journeys with you?

I completed an immersion of Shamanic Healing Initiatory Process from Venus Rising Association, as well as obtained a Masters in Sociology specializing in Social Psychology, Gender, Sexuality and Criminology. Having a diverse background in sports, coaching, holistic health, and academia, I blend the lessons I’ve learned in my life with my professional training.

When I was studying human behavior with one of the top social psychology labs in California, I began to understand that it’s all about the collective. Looking at individuals and at small groups such as the family unit on the micro-level and comparing this to larger level institutions at a macro-level, I discovered the phenomenon Jung referred to as the collective unconscious. I’ve really been fascinated by the group cohesion when groups come together for healing, the energy emitted from people and how it interacts with everyone there is really impressive.

In yoga we talk about the 5 koshas; or energetic layers of the self. In a group there are the same layers as the individual, yet as a group there’s an underlying theme to it all. I’m really interested in observing more and learning more about this. Figuring out why it occurs and how I can apply it to my work. The intertwining aspects simplicity and complexity of yoga awakened my connection to my breath. I had never thought of my breath or even had an awareness of my breath. I would hold my breath during sports, never even thinking about how I could use it to my advantage. This sparked my interest in shamanic yoga. It’s amazing to see what profound experiences people have just by using their breath. I repeatedly apply lessons from my background in Sociology to my yoga practices. For example, studying gender in social constructivism, has taught me the importance of having co-gendered workshops or retreats, not segregating the healing of genders and ages. I feel it’s so important to be together as a collective unit for healing.

Q. In terms of what you want to bring to the festival, can you describe what you are planning?

I feel really strongly about working together. In my workshop, everyone is welcomed – all ages, all genders. I’m very connected to my ancestors as well and the techniques I’ve incorporated reflect that. Without giving too much away, we will start in a circle setting intentions for what each person desires. What I’ve understood in using breathing techniques to reach higher states of consciousness, the more specific we are with our intentions, the more powerful the journey will be. It takes a state of being vulnerable to get there, this will undoubtedly be enhanced by the sacred space created around at the Chateau.

My intention is always to hold sacred space for people so they can allow themselves to be truly vulnerable; allowing the vibration of our voice to send intention out into the universe — it’s like a boomerang. Sometimes I do a guided meditation to have people meet their spirit animals, or their ancestors. I basically feel the group’s energy and try to give them what they need. We will go through this guided meditation with the drumbeat connecting to the heartbeat of Mother Earth and of the participants. The heartbeat is the first noise we hear in our mothers’ wombs which I why it’s such a powerful tool to connect us back to that sacred place.

The session is designed to be a release of negative energy. Yet, all of the heartbreak, pain or trauma of what we think is negative isn’t all negative – there are always blessings or “gems” in all of those; we may not see those gems right away, but more is always revealed with time. The workshop will give the conscious mind a break, rebalancing the chakras to help let go of any trauma and allow for us to obtain the blessings from the learnings. The conscious mind thinks it knows what’s going on, but we need to engage the subconscious mind, which is what I try to facilitate and connect to during meditation. I’ve seen remarkable changes in people’s lives and seen how its really helped people on their path to healing.

Q. Why is this festival exciting for you and why would you encourage others to join?

If you feel fear, resistance, feel scared, or even slightly hesitant, then you should attend. Intrigue is guiding you. As Picasso said, “If you hear a voice within you say ‘you cannot paint,’ then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced.” It’s the same with yoga – if you have that voice inside your head saying you can’t do it, try and you’ll see that you can. There is something there that wants to be revealed and the conscious mind is trying to trick us.

“This is for the seekers of whatever you’re seeking – truth, healing, abundance, discovery, adventure; for the person that is willing to go into the unknown; the willingness to at least come to join in. “

For me, my aspiration is that the participants will receive exactly what they seek and need. Every single person gets something different out of this work. Maybe what they need is to ball their eyes out, to feel all the love in the circle, bring up feelings of anger, or feel bliss, and that’s the beauty of the work, we are all on the same journey – this workshop will help us reveal that your journey is part of my journey.

The festival opens up my whole being to imagination. Holding the festival on this sacred land; the blessed land of our ancient ones who had visions of a society of greatness, and to be a collective unit, all with different parts – the philosopher, the artist, the alchemist, the doctor – promoting the family unit to come together in a space where these great minds and great hearts are coming together… It’s going to be magical! We can have the greatest and sharpest minds, but if we don’t have that connection to our heart space we are losing our humanity. The alignment of heart and mind – that is humanity.

Q. Can you describe what you plan to bring to the festival? 

I feel really strongly about working together. In my workshop, everyone is welcomed – all ages, all genders. I’m very connected to my ancestors as well and the techniques I’ve incorporated reflect that. Without giving too much away, we will start in a circle setting intentions for what each person desires. What I’ve understood in using breathing techniques to reach higher states of consciousness, the more specific we are with our intentions, the more powerful the journey will be. It takes a state of being vulnerable to get there, this will undoubtedly be enhanced by the sacred space created around at the Chateau.

My intention is always to hold sacred space for people so they can allow themselves to be truly vulnerable; allowing the vibration of our voice to send intention out into the universe — it’s like a boomerang. Sometimes I do a guided meditation to have people meet their spirit animals, or their ancestors. I basically feel the group’s energy and try to give them what they need. We will go through this guided meditation with the drumbeat connecting to the heartbeat of Mother Earth and of the participants. 

“The heartbeat is the first noise we hear in our mothers’ wombs which I why it’s such a powerful tool to connect us back to that sacred place.”

Image courtesy of Shamanic Yoga 108. 

“The session is designed to be a release of negative energy. Yet, all of the heartbreak, pain or trauma of what we think is negative isn’t all negative – there are always blessings or “gems” in all of those; we may not see those gems right away, but more is always revealed with time.”

The workshop will give the conscious mind a break, rebalancing the chakras to help let go of any trauma and allow for us to obtain the blessings from the learnings. The conscious mind thinks it knows what’s going on, but we need to engage the subconscious mind, which is what I try to facilitate and connect to during meditation. I’ve seen remarkable changes in people’s lives and seen how its really helped people on their path to healing.

Q. Why is this festival exciting for you and why would you encourage others to join?

If you feel fear, resistance, feel scared, or even slightly hesitant, then you should attend. Intrigue is guiding you. 

“As Picasso said, “”If you hear a voice within you say ‘you cannot paint,’ then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced.””

It’s the same with yoga – if you have that voice inside your head saying you can’t do it, try and you’ll see that you can. There is something there that wants to be revealed and the conscious mind is trying to trick us.

This is for the seekers of whatever you’re seeking – truth, healing, abundance, discovery, adventure; for the person that is willing to go into the unknown; the willingness to at least come to join in. For me, my aspiration is that the participants will receive exactly what they seek and need. Every single person gets something different out of this work. Maybe what they need is to ball their eyes out, to feel all the love in the circle, bring up feelings of anger, or feel bliss, and that’s the beauty of the work, we are all on the same journey – this workshop will help us reveal that your journey is part of my journey.

The festival opens up my whole being to imagination. Holding the festival on this sacred land; the blessed land of our ancient ones who had visions of a society of greatness, and to be a collective unit, all with different parts – the philosopher, the artist, the alchemist, the doctor – promoting the family unit to come together in a space where these great minds and great hearts are coming together… It’s going to be magical! We can have the greatest and sharpest minds, but if we don’t have that connection to our heart space we are losing our humanity. The alignment of heart and mind – that is humanity.

We want to experience happiness, meet new people, and enjoy the art! We are all coming for our own purposes but as a collective, we are coming together to vibrate out into the universe. It’s a beautiful thing that we as humans come together for the goodness of us all and to strengthen the family unit. Families come in different sizes and colours, we make our families, and that’s the biggest expression of creativity to me. We’re entering into a new paradigm of family, holding that traditional sense yet simultaneously redefining it. And celebrating that. Family both as a spectrum of the rainbow and family as the most important unit.

Learn more about Athanasia’s shamanic yoga here. 

 

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