What does Peony and the Bee mean? I guess the first round answer is this:
Photo Credit: Renee Choi (I did the cropping here...she is awesome!)
Peony & the Bee Yoga is inspired by one of my tattoos. Eddy Ospina, an amazing NYC-based tattoo artist crafted the piece after I arrived knowing I wanted a peony, an orchid and a bee. His talent and creativity led to the design.
Let me take a step back. Eddy has tattooed much of my left side. The first tattoo, completed in January 2013 is a peacock on my left upper ribs. The second, completed in January 2015 is a willow tree on my left lower flank.
Photo Credit: Chris Pagett
During a difficult time in 2014, a dear one said to me: Everyone thinks that in life you want to be strong like an oak tree. But in real bad storms, oaks actually snap. They break. What you really want is to be a willow. It looks meek and fragile, but willows bend- they never break. Bend like the willow.
Bending like the willow became a guiding light. When I felt nervous, upset or maybe caught off guard- I tried to remember the willow and its flexible nature. I tried to instill its spirit into my own. Ultimately, I decided to have this not-so-weeping willow by my side all the time.
The namesake for Peony & the Bee Yoga found its way to my left shoulder and back last September. Its been with me for just about a year.
If 2014 was a year guided by the willow, 2015 was a year guided by the idea of holding both. Sometimes, when we experience trauma, the world can feel very linear, very all or nothing, very good or bad, very black or white, very strong or weak. This was my experience. I had a hard time finding the middle.
Lucky to be surrounded by some of the most amazing people on the planet, one friend said to me: Honey buns, the goal is to be able to hold both. Hold the beauty next to the ugly and the light next to the dark. One doesn’t minimize or erase the other- it can be both and you can hold both. I held her words close to my heart, oftentimes fumbling through what “holding both” looked like...for me.
Yoga! Yoga is all about holding both. Yoga never forces you to choose. You can be graceful AND strong. You can be vulnerable AND safe. You can pull up AND push down. You can find movement AND calm. I try to allow space for the continuum in my personal practice as well as when I teach. Allowing space and being comfortable in the space, well…those are two different things. I hear you and my heart aligns with yours.
As the year went on my tattoo wheels started turning. I needed this North Star with me- holding both often felt too hard to remember and too hard to do alone. I decided on three combined tattoos- above my willow and beside my peacock would sit a peony, orchids and a bumble bee. Here are some symbolic meanings:
Peony: In Japanese tattooing tradition, peonies symbolize recklessness and a daring approach to life, never knowing which day will be the last.
Orchids: Symbolize grace and innocence
Bumble Bee: There’s a saying about bees…
Somewhere in the back of my brain these three images and their respective symbols melted together in the spirit of holding both. The peony is the dark, not knowing what may happen each and every day. The orchid is the light, holding grace and innocence at its core. And finally the bee…a symbol of belief in oneself…hovering somewhere between recklessness and grace. But certainly a whole lot closer to the the graceful light.
When I began Peony & the Bee Yoga, which was not too long ago- the name seemed to reflect my intention- to use the practice of yoga to support students in holding both. I understand how difficult and circuitous the journey can feel and I equally believe that yoga can be part of the path toward healing. Cheers to holding both.