Seane Corn: On Loving Yourself - Raw Beauty | By Erin Moraghan | Photography by Marie-Lyssa Dormeus
"Corn says getting older makes her think more about he way we respond to imagery and how we can empower ourselves to create change".
For nearly two decades, Sean Corn has been a yoga industry icon. Her shining smile and cascading curls made her such an unforgettable face that she inadvertently became the new millennium's yoga poster child, gracing over 25 magazine covers since she began teaching in 1994.
She first found yoga in New York's bohemian East Village in the mid-80's. Working in David Life's "Life Cafe" among as lively and diverse cast of characters, she was not only introduced to yoga and meditation, but uncovered a whole approach to living that was brand new to her.
The cafe was rich with conversation about humanitarianism, art, spiritual exploration, and politics; Seane found new direction.
After moving to Los Angeles in the early 90's, she threw her whole self into yoga practice, training with some of the best in the world, including Bryan Kest and Maty Ezraty. The story of Corn's yogic and spiritual training is nearly impossible to wrap in a nutshell, as she has studied around the world with the foremost experts in yoga, meditation, and healing. This intense period of exploration eventually led her to india where she studied with Sri K. Pattabhi Jois and delved into the spiritual teachings of Amma, the "Hugging Saint." Corn even studied the with one of the West's foremost mind-body connection gurus. Caroline Myss, in her search to better understand the impact of blocked energies and repressed emotions on physical health.
Now known for her humanitarian work just as much as her dynamic Vinyasa Flow teaching style, the co-founder of Off the Mat, Into the World (an organization that leverages the energy and and positive intentions of the yoga community to inspire activism and affect grassroots change in the world) has become a truly modern yogi, working to uncover ways that an ancient practice can evolve to be he most relevant and powerful tool in today's world.
Corn is candid about her rise to yoga stardom, citing timing as one of the reasons. She was early on the scene and presented just the image the fitness and yoga media where hungry for: "I was honored to have the attention; not to minimize my own skill and hard work, but I also understood what it was about. I had the "right' look. I was white, blonde, and thin, with neutral features. Understanding the way the media works and recognizing the ways that standardized beauty and body image are perpetuated, I knew I was easily marketable. As a result, I got more opportunities early on than some of the other young teachers I knew, even though they were just as skilled and certainly equally deserving. Although I didn't like it, I understood that was just how things work; this limited perception of beauty always made me uncomfortable."
Corn says this was a confusing time. She knew the media were an important vehicle and would help her share the benefits of yoga with a broader audience, but she was, and still is, uncomfortable with the way some publications support one-dimensional ideals of beauty, often excluding people of colour, varying abilities, body shapes, and ages. She worried that she was feeding into a media model that keeps others feeling like they aren't enough. "I struggled with this. First of all, not only were these ideals being perpetuated, but they were also manufactured. Because of airbrushing or Photoshop, I would see images of myself in magazines that were unrecognizable to me. My legs were longer, thighs thinner; even my boobs were different. I thought, "This isn't who I am. Nobody looks like this!" Although I was still a young teacher and grateful for the opportunities I was being given, I wanted to take a stand."
"I want to see what my laughter, rage and tears have etched into my face. I've worked hard for this life. I'm proud to war my own story, my journey."
Corn eventually incorporated a demand in her contract that she not be airbrushed or "fixed" in her photographs, even specifying that the distinct scar in her eyebrow be left as is. "If magazines wanted to work with me, they needed to let me be real. I wanted people to see me as I was. My expressions, the tone of my skin ...don't diminish the character in my face."
Corn says that even though she fits into the media ideals in many ways, she was still at risk of wishing for things like everyone else: slimmer thighs, perfect skin, and straighter hair. "When the media largely portrays people of a certain age, ethnicity, and shape, it comes with a cost. Because this represents such a tiny portion of the world's population, many are left feeling alienated or 'less than.' We second guess our own vitality; we start to dishonour our heritage, our journey." She saw beautiful friends who were not white and thin, feeling misrepresented and privately conflicted about how they looked.
Living in LA, there is no shortage of eating says this was a confusing time. disorders and plastic surgery. "It's not out of the norm for girls to get nose jobs as graduation gifts," she says.
At the same time, Corn also had to remind herself not to feel ashamed because she fit into what might be perceived as this "ideal." "There's nothing positive about thin-bashing either. We all look the way we look, and we need to feel good about who we are, regardless of the size, shape, or colour of our body. I had to remind myself that what I was putting out there was a healthy representation of me. This is how I look when I practice, meditate, and eat mindfully. Is it the ideal? No. Is it something to conform to? Never."
Now at 47, Seane is acutely aware of the ways ideals can cause suffering. "Now that I'rn a little older, the media often want to airbrush out the lines in my face. There's an assumption that we're all fighting to keep this 20-year-old body, this perpetually youthful face. Not me." She goes on to say that she sometimes catches herself frowning over a new line in the mirror, and wondering if there is a product for "that.' Then she reminds herself how that line was earned and adjusts her thoughts.
"I will never have any cosmetic work done; I'm growing old. I want to see what my laughter, rage, and tears have etched into my face. I've worked hard for this life, I'm proud to wear my own story, my journey. We don't celebrate this--the living of life and how that changes the way we look as we grow."
Corn says getting older makes her think more deeply about the way we respond to imagery and how we can empower ourselves to create change. "I don't want to have anyone, especially the media, tell me I'm not loveable, valuable, or sexual because I don't fit into an impossible standard of beauty or youth. Sometimes feelings of inadequacy come up for me just as they do for all of us; that's the goal of marketingl They want us to want to change ourselves or alter our image, so that we buy the latest product. It's seductive and clever, and it works. That's why the beauty business is a multi-billion dollar industry. That's also why there are so many people with eating disorders. So when this negative self-talk comes up, I take responsibility for the feelings, breathe into them, sit with them, and as a result, empower myself to remember what is important and whine true beauty comes from. My value is not determined by the size of my butt or the changing landscape of my face. It's my choices that matter: how I live and connect with the world around me. How I love. That is the most important thing, and we can't forget that."
Seane believes the solution doesn't lie in the hands of the media, stating they won't change their mandate until we as consumers adjust our demands.
" I wanted to people to see me as I was".
"When people aren't represented, it creates oppression, and that oppression is historical and runs deep. That trauma is internalized and our feelings about ourselves become so automatic, they're subconscious."
She explains how our negative self-talk perpetuates the problem. "We need to reclaim our power and heal and love ourselves just as we are. We must stop saying things like "Oh I'm too fat, I hate my wrinkles, my boobs are sagging;' or "I'd be happier if my skin was darker or fighter, or if my hair was different" We can't ask the media to change until we heal ourselves and stop passing these negative messages to each other, especially our children.
"Practice Patience and love for your own body
exactly the way it is."
"We need to stop singularly judging the media and instead see how we're contributing to the problem and, therefore, enormously empowered to be part of the solution. Nothing will change until we work toward celebrating and loving ourselves as we are. When we radically shift our thinking and self-talk, when we refuse to buy into these standardized images of beauty, perhaps media and marketing will recognize this and begin making radical commitments toward change as well. We can already see evidence of this, and it gives me hope."
"My hope is that the standard of beauty becomes determined not by the size of our thighs, but by our capacity to love."
Reminding us that it's important to be aware of our feelings and not to judge them when they arise, Seam) teaches others how to handle negative internal lets take a moment, sit with it, and make a choice about how we respond to that feeling. Don't run from it. Instead, feel the shame, the fear, the anger. Be present with it. Breathe into it. Then try to remember what's truly important. Measuring ourselves against the image that advertisers put out there is self-sabotage: it's one more thing that keeps us from our life's purpose.
Look in the mirror and see your heritage, the journey of your DNA. Imagine your your great great-grandmother, and the way, journey is part of your being. Let's celebrate all of it, the myriad aspects that are creation, because it's a miracle. Our faces, our bodies, they're miraculous and need to be honoured as thus, My hope is that the standard of beauty becomes determined not by the size of our thighs, but by our capacity to love."