Friday in Music and Dance with a Shakti Sunfire Interview
Laura Blakeman a.k.a. 'Shakti Sunfire' has a diverse and interesting background as a brand communications copywriter, a hula hoop performance artist, crafter and teacher, and yogini. Shakti continues to witness her own transformation inside the hoop. Now a resident of San Francisco, Shakti draws on her experiences and her heavy participation in the community to encourage unfettered self-expression centered in the heart. She teaches hoop workshops and performs internationally. Shakti was certified in 2008 in Beginning Hatha Yoga at the Shambhava School of Yoga on the Big Island of Hawai'i. She is currently undergoing intensive training in Anusara Yoga specifically, and is studying Tantrik philosophy, and sanskrit with Yogasthana, The Foundation for Yoga. In her writing Shakti dives deep into human experience, exposing universal connection and poignant synchronicity through personal narrative.
Recently, Shakti sat down with us for a quick interview. See what she has to say below about her fire hoop practice!
Shakti, I find your fire hoop dancing mesmerizing and challenging, how do you do it?
Firehooping is really no different than regular hooping, once you get used to the whoosh whoosh whoosh and heat of the flames as they pass by. Like all new things, you start slowly with caution and with respect of the fire element, feeling into it with sensitivity and safety. You start in the intellectual mind - 'will this move burn me?' and soon move into the heart, the thoughtless mind, the flow of the moment. With fire I've found the dance to be particularly potent - never are you more aware of your dance partner. ;-)
You've been practicing yoga longer than you've been dancing. Can you tell us a little about how hula hooping and yoga interrelate to you?
Same same, but different. Hooping is yoga, yoga is hooping. Yoga is also driving the 101 in San Francisco at peak traffic, but I digress.
Hooping - dancing, before I had the language to describe it, has always existed for me in the mystical - a movement meditation wrought with inner opening and magic. Since arriving to the Bay I've been studying and practicing Tantric philosophy - both with Christopher Wallis and Yogasthana and with John Friend and Sianna Sherman of Anusara Yoga. The teachings illuminated my experience on a more cognitive, conscious level, providing me the Matrika or skilled language to articulate my experience and help guide others in their exploration.
Both hooping and yoga provide fertile ground for self-discovery, shri and joy. Yoga for me is about diving deep into the depths of my being, and making art with my body in that exploration. Similarly, dance is an opportunity to tell our soul story, our truth of the moment - which for many of us is beyond words - silently, without speech. It's a chance to fall back out of the thinking mind and into flow of the heart. To be held in the space of greater harmony with the natural world - the greater pulsation, the beat of your heart, the rise and fall of your breath, the ebb and flow of the tides...
How did you get interested in the hoop? What inspired you?
I really wasn't all that interested in hula hooping until I was inside it, learning my first 'trick' in the dappled sunlight of Yosemite Valley. It was as if the hoop chose me, not the other way around, and from the first moment I was hooked. My friend and I together spent near 6 hours in that spot of sunshine playing, laughing, spinning, and when I returned home to Colorado I sought out the only person I knew who was into hooping and petitioned her partnership. Soon community events and gatherings began to build around our play - one such event is still thriving in Boulder - a public hoop/spin jam at the Boulder Circus Center yields people from miles around to play and dance - and before I knew it layers of self-doubt, inhibition, and insecurity began to fall away, one by one.
I believe that giving yourself permission to simmer in what so many of us seek, but regularly disqualify ourselves for - joy for the sake of joy - sets in motion a ripple in the waters of your soul, concentrically expanding to consume your greater community. My constant inspiration was not separate from the affirmations, encouragement, and shared excitement of those around me. And the circle continues. Read more here.
Can you tell everyone a little about your teaching style?
In my dance classes I seek to help people act, live and dance from our greatest authenticity. To move without expectation of outcome, self judgement and inhibition requires seeking out the truth of the moment, tuning in to the rhythm of the hoop as it circles you. Although trick and technique of course come into the picture, my emphasis is on settling into the heart song and dancing that. We learn to ask, "what is authentically arising from the core of my being?" Like seated meditation this act of non-judgmental witness consciousness is ultimately very healing and very empowering.
And, of course, we have SO MUCH fun!
What's next for 2011?
Besides all the exciting additions Wanderlust is offering, I'm thrilled to be working with my teacher and friend, Sianna Sherman, more often. I hope to be airing video blogs of my travels and my experience as I continue my journey with her and John Friend, my pursuit of Anusara yoga certification, and my self-discovery process, both inside the hoop that out. I'm also excited to be planning a woman's retreat with Marni Sclaroff for late in the year.
Tell us all something we (probably) don't know about you!
I have a background working as a brand communications consultant and copy writer, and I have secret dreams of writing a book one day (soon). For now, I'm happy to be writing for Elephant Journal and applying my marketing experience in building community around yoga and the arts.
Thank you for your time Shakti! Check out this video below for a sample of what she does!