10 Questions with Shanna Small

Shanna Small is a writer and Yoga teacher who speaks to the intersectionality of Yoga and social justice. Shanna’s finds joy in making the Ashtanga practice accessible, is Yoga For All certified. She teaches diversity and inclusivity; Yoga Sūtra philosophy; as well as accessibility trainings and workshops. And is a founding member of Yoga For Recovery Foundation, a non-profit that helps those recovering from addiction, trauma and systemic oppression.  

  1. Since you began practicing yoga in 2000, how has it changed for you personally?

I started practicing with a burning need for external validation from others. Instead, all I got was a “that is great, but keep pushing”. Which is the opposite of Yoga. Yoga is about letting go of attachment to what is not really us, and abiding in that.

My practice is very much in a letting go stage and that is alright with me.

2. What would you say your biggest lesson of 2020 was?

In 2020, I learned that what the yogis say, about asteya (non-stealing), is true. When we are established in non-stealing, all wealth comes.

Because instead of doing my own dharma, the unique purpose I have on this earth, I was living someone else’s dharma. I was walking a path that was not meant for me. I was teaching yoga in a way that  belonged to someone else and I was good at it.

The Bhagavad Gita states, “It is better to do your own duty poorly, then to do someone else’s, perfectly.  Because I was doing someone else’s duty, I was stuck. When it came to wealth I was getting cubic zirconia instead of diamonds; a lot of shiny and pretty things that had no value to me. 

When the pandemic hit, I immediately felt the universe say, “Wake up!  Don’t go back to normal. Don’t go back to sleep. This is not your life!” At first I was afraid and I ignored it. However, the pandemic kept hitting me with the same message: “Don’t go back to normal!”

After a bit more hardship, I listened. I fully stepped into a voice and way of being that is uniquely my own and the diamonds are pouring in.

3. If you could go back and tell your younger self one thing, what would it be?

The reality is that I had plenty of people tell me to be myself. I didn’t listen. If I went back and told myself that, I probably still would not listen.

4. What’s your guilty pleasure? #judgefreezone 

I love sugar and carbs.

5. Biggest pet peeve?

When people don’t respect my time.

6. If you could have an afternoon with anyone in the world, living or dead, who would it be and why?

Slavery resulted in me having no connection to where I am from. I would love to speak to someone who could tell me about my  ancestral homelands and culture.

7. If you could give well-meaning white folks (like me) one piece of advice, what would it be?

Stop centering your own experiences. This world has revolved around Whiteness for hundreds of years and the mass murder of Black and Indiginous bodies, wisdom and culture and the decimation of our environment has been the result.

Figure out a way forward that decenters Whiteness, provides reparations and gives black and brown folks the space to heal. Also heal yourself. The trauma of your ancestors is living inside you and causing the dark energy of racism to still exist even today. Stop denying what is going on around you and heal.

8. What is your super power?

Using allegory and every day anecdotes to bring information together in a way that is easier to understand.

9. How would you like to be remembered?

As someone who practiced what she preached.

10. What’s coming in your teaching schedule?

February 19 – 27th, I am presenting a 25-hour immersion on Yoga and Social Justice on Zoom. Cost will be on a sliding scale.

And on March 14th, I will be offering a 2-hour online workshop, Belonging: Creating Trauma-Informed and Inclusive Yoga Classes. This workshop will be recorded. Cost is $35.

The Ashtanga Dispatch Podcast