Embracing the warrior spirit
By Nancy B. Loughlin
Published in News Press on September 10, 2013.  Posted with permission.

“I believe all women have warrior spirits, but they have been suppressed by our modern society. Think about the role of primal women. That is our heritage,” she said. “I’ve never felt submissive or less-than.”  ~ Rachel Senseny

Combining martial arts and yoga is paradoxical.

But in paradox lies truth. It’s the yin and yang; the unification of the warrior and the peacemaker.

Rachel Senseny teaches a unique form of blended martial arts yoga. Power vinyasa sequences are integrated with fighting and horse stances, strikes, and kata-inspired movements.

Balance. Focus. Clarity. Unity.

Senseny trained in Kenpo Karate and Japanese-style Jujutsu for 13 years while practicing yoga. She rose to second-degree black belt before relocating to Fort Myers in 2009. She looked for a center that embodied the physical and spiritual aspects of her New York dojo run by her Special Forces teacher. She was not able to find a training home and decided to devote herself to yoga.

She sees martial arts as yoga’s perfect companion because the two are essential for facing fears and threats. Through dedicated practice, yogis and martial arts masters learn to transcend the physical body and experience the self as pure energy.

We are one with our perceived enemies; therefore, we have no enemies. We are one with our perceived fears; therefore, there is nothing to fear.

All we have to do is face our egos. That is the discipline.

Both yoga and martial arts begin with the breath. Senseny explained that the breath calms and locks a relaxation sense that is not just necessary for fighting, but for life. The breath guides movement. The breath is focus.

“It’s difficult to move stealthily without being relaxed whether you’re striking or driving on I-75,” she said. “It’s about becoming the fluidity of water by riding waves of breath.”

As Bruce Lee said, “Everything you do if not in a relaxed state will be done at a lesser level than you are proficient.

Both disciplines are also kindred spirits because they are not about results but the journey. As Senseny began training two hours per night four times a week, she recognized her innate warrior spirit.

When she finally knotted her second-degree black belt at her waist, Senseny realized that her journey was just beginning.

“I believe all women have warrior spirits, but they have been suppressed by our modern society. Think about the role of primal women. That is our heritage,” she said. “I’ve never felt submissive or less-than.”

This spirit first emerged in her childhood. With three brothers, she had to be a grappler. The tumbles in the kitchen and backyard were her earliest experiences with standing her ground, even if it was on the floor.

Some are attracted to martial arts study because they want to kick some butt should a threat arise. They crave the confidence and reassurance lethality provides, to be the coiled wrath of God.

Senseny loves guns, incidentally. She shoots at the end of a relaxed exhale and presses the trigger with a sense of calm into the target. For her, firearms are another practice in control. The yogis, the martial artists, even concealed weapons carriers should note that they wield an awesome responsibility. When they are spiritually and intellectually mature, their power diffuses conflict.   When they’re immature, their skills are playthings for egos.

Senseny has learned why some people seem to get into fights while others live peacefully. Hostile, confrontational people attract and create hostile, confrontational situations. Walking with confidence and power, peaceful, centered people avoid clashes, Senseny said.

When holiday shoppers come to blows over the last pair of Jordan shoes, the footwear is incidental. They’re fighting for dominance in an ego death match.

Step to the dojo or the yoga mat. The discipline of movement coordinated with breath, the singleness of focus, the resulting deep meditation and mindfulness all obliterate the ego.

“You don’t have to get into a power struggle with someone when you feel powerful inside,” she said.

Rachel Senseny will be teaching a women’s self-defense class at Ruby and Pearl’s Yoga on Saturday, November 9th. Visit www.rubyandpearls.com for more information.


Nancy B. Loughlin is a writer, yogi, teacher and runner in Fort Myers. She can be reached at NancyLoughlin@yahoo.com.