Amanda Thompson offers a yoga practice grounded in wisdom
A Cayuga woman from Six Nations, Thompson offers trauma informed yoga in her community, working with kids aged 13 and 18 at the youth lodge and previously with a women's shelter. Currently, she works with the Brantford Regional Indigenous Support Centre (BRISC) for the Indigenous community living in the Brantford region.
For the “Seventh Generation: Indigenous Wellness Series” Thompson offers a yoga session grounded in the seven sacred teaching of “wisdom.”
How did you end up getting into yoga? How did you end up getting into this type of career that you're in right now?
After I had my third or my fourth child, I had gotten really sick and I had really bad postpartum depression. I didn't even realize that it was postpartum depression. I went to the doctor and I said I think I might be like lacking something. I don't know if my iron is low or something is off, but I'm really tired all the time and I just want to sleep all the time, I have no energy to do anything, or go anywhere, I just sit in my car. I think the nurse caught on at that point and then the doctor came in, he just asked me a few questions and I answered honestly, and [he said,] “what I think you're describing is postpartum depression and I can give you this prescription, and you can take it for a few months and we'll see how your body reacts and how you feel then.” I said, depression, that feels like such a heavy word, I don't think we should say that. I was very in denial, and he said, “actually, I think it's really important that you do label it because then you can make your next step to change it.” So, I went home and cried, I can't believe this has happened to me, but I did accept it.
I had tried getting into different hobbies and stuff to keep myself busy, because, in our culture, sometimes when we have different struggles mentally, you can belong to ceremony. There's a word that we use for when our mind isn't well, and it's aknigōhowi, “to entertain my mind.” I tried to keep entertaining myself with new hobbies and different things of that nature and it just felt like I exhausted all of those options. I was thinking maybe I should just get this prescription filled and then I drove by a yoga studio, and [thought] maybe I'll try yoga. So, I went and tried it and it was similar to the feeling of when the weather's so hot enough that you put your window down and put your hand out the window, and you can just feel the breeze for the first time after such a cold season. It was relief. From there on, I made the commitment to be there and show up.
Why is it important to have Indigenous representation in the health and wellness industry?
For my kids, and all of our kids, I think it's really so cool that we can take our kids to a store and see their faces. I get to see Shayla [Oulette Stonechild] on the Lululemon ads and they can see themselves in that; that they have that opportunity. That it's an opportunity that they could have at some point in their lives, it's not out of reach. I also think that it's important because what we offer is a little different than the mainstream idea of health and wellness. I feel like the world is starting to shift its perspective on health and wellness now, but I think that what Indigenous people have to offer is a huge contribution to that shift.
Tell me a little about this session that you're doing with the “Seventh Generation: Indigenous Wellness Series?” What is the seven sacred teaching that it is related to?
My session basically is an all-levels movement with some basic poses just to soften and open up your hips, your legs, grounding and a little bit of chest opening or heart opening. Some stretches: full body stretching and softening and relaxing. I tried to emphasize the importance of stepping out of your mind and taking in what each breath or each pose had to offer to you.
Then wisdom, trusting in your body to take and land in each pose. Sometimes we have this ideal where we could force ourselves or this pulling sensation into each pose, but if we're able to trust in our body or trust in each breath and trust that our body is going to take what it needs. The same way that when you breathe in and you breathe out, your body is taking in and keeping what it needs and sending away what it doesn't need. My hope for that is you can take that faith and trust in your body throughout your day – throughout your life. Trusting that everyday you're getting what you need in each situation. I know sometimes in life poses are a little difficult or moments or situations are a little difficult but trusting that this is happening for you and that each pose is working for you.
What are the wellness practices and rituals that you include in your daily life?
I like to switch it up a lot because I find if I keep things the same sometimes, I get repetitive. I think that it's very human of us to take things for granted. It's like, if you only have a good thing, you stop appreciating it so much. So that's my mindset: I can’t keep my rituals the same all the time because then I lose a little appreciation, or the appreciation is [for] the same things all the time. I find if I switch up my routine here and there after a while, I find new things to be grateful for. My most recent wellness practice – I actually say it’s every morning that I do this but sometimes it's later in the day, depending on my how is in my morning goes – right now, what I do is 10-10-10. 10 things I'm thankful for, 10 things that I am content with myself and 10 things that I intend for myself, like I intend to hopefully have positive interactions in my day.
Why is it important that we embody the seven sacred teachings?
If you embody all of those things, they are helpful to you to continuously evolve and grow. Some of them particularly stuck out in my mind, the idea of honesty and courage and respect. Sometimes you might find situations that feel like they're contradicting to those things, but I believe that if you do things in a respectful way, and are truly honest with yourself and others, then you'll need the courage to explain how you feel in certain situations. If you are able to embody all of these seven teachings in your day-to-day life and day-to-day interactions and relationships then they would be pillars, anchors to helping you continuously evolve and grow as a human being.By Joy SpearChief-Morris
This interview was edited for clarity and length.
Follow Amanda Thompson on Instagram @amandaathompson4