We had the good fortune of connecting with Yari Cervas and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Yari, what matters most to you?
I try to abide by what I call the “rules of play;” eight trauma-informed guidelines created to empower us through community. The most important one, encompassing all the others, is Rule #6 “Mend any harm through transformative justice.” This rule requires that we engage in our relationships with vulnerability, empathy, accountability, and curiosity. We all harm each other–it’s an inevitable part of humanness–straining and sometimes even severing our relationships. But if we approach these moments intending to “mend any harm,” our vulnerability can lead to empathy and invite us to accept accountability for our actions. Then, as a community, curiosity can guide us to transform our behavior so that everyone is honored. This applies to intimate conflicts and societal ones. The attitude to “mend any harm” guides us to restructure our world and the way we see it from something violently unequal to something lovingly shared. It’s easy for us to be complacent when we don’t empathize with the people around us. It’s hard to let go of privileges that benefit us at the expense of others. But, transformative justice understands that as we harm others, we also harm ourselves through ruptured relationships. This is my invitation to all of us: Let’s hold ourselves accountable to one another. Let’s speak bravely when we experience or witness harm. Let’s honor our relationship with one another by listening deeply, learning humbly, and acting with compassion. Let’s welcome correction with grace and correct others in love. Let’s mend any harm we cause to the best of our abilities. Let’s be flexible, open, and willing to change. Let’s flatten hierarchies and redistribute power with the knowledge that until all of us are free, none of us are free.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I started as an Arts Administrator at MOXIE Theatre, assistant directing on the side. Despite their large San Diego population, Filipino stories weren’t being told so a few artists, including myself, founded MaArte Theatre Collective. We produced around two dozen plays (short and long) with few resources and plenty of creative guerilla tactics. One piece was even performed in the dining room at Gaya Gaya restaurant through the generosity of Chef DJ @saka_sandiego. For a while I produced and directed my own work, but became increasingly distant from the theatre industry. I felt wary of the identity politics involved and disillusioned by a lack of diversity and inclusivity. When the pandemic hit, I took it as an opportunity to explore ways to contribute creatively outside of theatre. My artistic process is incredibly physical. To support the demands of explorative movement I guide actors though breathwork and mindfulness practices. This kind of trauma-informed training helps them express emotion in a healthy and repeatable way. Importantly, I also manage CPTSD and ADD. When a counselor suggested breathwork I realized that somatic art practice could soothe my own depression, anxiety, and panic. When I saw my friends experience mental/emotional distress during quarantine, I was inspired to share practical skills for cultivating resilience. So, led my artistry and recovery journey, I created Practical Somatics. Everyone experiences and must respond to trauma at some point. We learn resilience as children from our caregivers (like rocking or breathing while counting to ten), but not all caregivers have the skills to self-soothe let alone the capacity to pass them on. Practical Somatics is a space for folx to learn coping skills in community as adults. Breathwork teaches us to calm anxiety. Meditation quiets our busy minds. Mindfulness roots us in reality through the joy of being alive. We get to hold each other’s struggle, love on each other, and heal together. Up next for me is a workshop produced in partnership with Laing Hawaii: Respiratory Health in the Time of Covid on April 17, 2021 at 1pm PDT / 4pm EDT / 10am HST. We’ll be moving through an expansive breathwork practice designed to open our lungs, deepen our breathing, and soothe anxiety. All proceeds will be given to Liyang Network in support of pro-people pro-poor health initiatives for Indigenous, peasant, and agriworker communities in Mindanao, Philippines. You can register at tinyurl.com/breathworkduringcovid. Beyond that, I offer individual workshops, ongoing classes, and digital content through instagram @PracticalSomatics. Right now I’m working on an IGTV breathwork series (follow #ItsBreathworkBaby for new tutorials!) and am preparing to release monthly subscriptions. There’ll be video movement practices, audio meditations, ebooks for beginners, and plenty more goodies. Whether folx practice with me or find their healing through another outlet, I invite all of us to cultivate communal resilience so that our world becomes a more compassionate one. Come on, sib. Let’s settle our bodies together.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I’m from south San Diego. Chula Vista is definitely not high on the list of tourist attractions in the city, but it’s my hood and I love it. To start, we’d grab pastries and Hans and Harry’s in Bonita. They make the best fruit tarts. We’d pack our goodies and hike through Hollenbeck Canyon resting atop a hill to eat breakfast and watch the sun go by. Afterward we’d grab lengua tacos and al pastor mulitas from Tacos El Gordo and rush to a pop-up poetry open mic in North Park or Chicano Park (Underground Poets is a personal fave since my best pal often reads there). The next day we’d pack a picnic and hang out at Otay Lakes County park. We’d blow bubbles, read tarot cards, and wander the native and rose gardens learning the names of flowers. Later we’d order pick-me-up Vietnamese coffees and apple fritters from Rose Donuts and catch the newest docu-theatre production from Blindspot Theatre Collective.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
So many generous and wise people have supported me in my work. If I mentioned every person by name you’d be reading for quite a bit longer. So instead, I will recognize: my parents; my professors; my collaborating playwrights; my MaArte Theatre Collective co-founders and our sponsors and supporters; my stage managers and designers; every actor I’ve directed; every director I’ve assisted; my comrades in the movement at Liyang Network for holding me down; all my sibs who put faith in a lil project called Practical Somatics (especially those who came through before it even had a name), and both my best friend and my partner for calling me out and keeping me real. I am so grateful to all of you.
Other: Sign-ups for classes, newsletter, sib-scriberships (coming soon!), ways to materially support my work, and a free audio meditation can all be found at linktr.ee/practicalsomatics get in touch with me! i’m always reachable in my Insta dm’s or by email firstname.lastname@example.org