Name: Sibyl Buck
Location: Topanga CA
Occupation: Yoga Guide, Relaxation Specialist, Musician, etc
Music that moves you: I have a wildly eclectic musical taste, but I dig our local girls, Warpaint, and Tame Impala, also love Santigold and MIA, plus CSNY, and Dennis Wilson, Aretha and Nina, Bad Brains and Black Uhuru (who's singer Puma Jones is who my daughter is named for), and lots of old roots rock dub, reggae, funk, soul etc.
Books that most influenced you? The Reality of Being by Jeanne De Salzmann, Emptiness Dancing by Adyashanti, Views from the Real World by GI Gurdjieff, Light on Pranayama, BKS Iyengar, and back in the 90s, the book that originally lit me up was the Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu.
I have seen images on your instagram that I remember from growing up in rural connecticut. There was nothing to do and I spent most of my time wandering in the woods by myself and mainlining fashion magazines as a primary source of education about culture and what it meant to be a woman. Modeling is almost synonymous with the homogenization of the feminine, but you where always the exception, with your bright red hair, attitude, skateboard, and visible body hair. It seems to me that you were somehow able to infiltrate that industry and sneak these other archetypes and options into the otherwise limited menu of identity choices being presented. Can you speak a little bit about what modeling was for you and how you managed to be successful while also being yourself?
Oh, man, there's nothing better to hear than that what I was trying to say was getting across! I had a mission, which was to express to people that there are fewer rules than we think. I had thought I would have to fit into some kind of Barbie ideal to be a model, so it actually changed my perception of what was possible within the framework of reality as I understood it for me to break that mold, and have the industry embrace me! I think it's fair to say that I and a bunch of other rebellious creatives were "occupying" fashion, in the sense that by presenting alternate ideas of beauty, we were engaged in subtle rebellion against the limited ideal of beauty, within (as you point out) the very industry which is itself the creator of those limited ideals. I think there's a healthy rebirth of critical investigation of what beauty is and can be, going on right now. Emerging and industry acclaimed brands like Gypsy Sport and Músed, along with a few edgy publications are doing that kind of boundary breaking stuff in NY today, using models who are older, browner, bigger, transgenderer and generally more unconventional than the typical model, which makes me so happy to see. Inclusive is a big part of how I think we need to move forward in order to preserve life on earth as we know it. Separation has been revealed as the illusion, no one person or even country can afford to perceive itself as separate. But to be honest, I didn't set out to be a fashion revolutionary. Modeling was my ticket out of scarcity. Growing up with my single mom in apartments in an inner city environment, I was very motivated to move on up. But, after working as a waitress for a year, and after two years of art school in NY, when I found myself actually living in Paris and doing the job, I started to question the whole industry paradigm, and to wonder if it was worth it to be in collusion with an industry which I couldn't support ideologically. After less than a year, I decided to dye my hair bright red, honestly thinking it would dash my fashion career, but I felt I needed to be true to myself and my own beauty ideals if I was going to continue to be a model. To my surprise, me rebelling in that way and refusing to dye my hair back to brown for any amount of money offered (and there was quite a lot of money offered), drew attention and abundance. I had a great run in Paris, walked every show I could've wanted to walk (Chanel, McQueen, Galliano, Givenchy, YSL, Gaultier, etc), and was so lucky to have done a bunch of advertising campaigns, including a fairly conservative designer, Nicole Miller had me on a 50 foot billboard in Times Square...all with cherry red hair! Despite being accepted by all the designers to walk their shows, I was never really in the truly "it" crowd of editors and party girls (think Met Gala), partly because I didn't get that it was a whole scene that those people were really living in, long after work hours. I would go home after work and make clothes and music and food and hang out with my friends. But young people have told me that seeing me represent the rebel outcast archetype was liberating and inspiring to them, which is such a high honor, and I wouldn't trade it for the Met Gala in 1,000,000 years. Plus, I was able to express myself, travel the world, and save up enough money to build my vision, which was a communal loft space with artistic studios for music, sewing, woodworking and art in Brooklyn. I lived there in community with my partner, our daughter and 6 other adults for 10 years after I left the fashion industry for music.
So how did you transition from traveling the world as a model and musician to living in Topanga with your family teaching restorative yoga? After modeling, as I said, I had the resources to realize my vision of a community centered around artistic spaces. I left fashion and spent my savings to build out a 7,000 square foot loft space with 9 bedrooms, music recording studio, art spaces, sewing room, etc. and I dedicated myself to a career in music. I sang for my own band, and played bass and sang back ups, recording and touring in a band with my then to-be baby daddy, Chris Traynor, and later for singer/songwriter Joseph Arthur for a few years. Eventually Chris and I wanted to move to California. We hopped in our Volvo station wagon, and drove across with our daughter Puma, two cats, our dog and all our stuff, arriving just in time for Puma to start 3rd grade in Topanga. It took me about a year to land, reorient, stop playing with Joseph and do my yoga teacher training. I've never looked back or missed any past chapter, and I feel more at home and in my purpose than ever before.
What is your favorite part of raising a teenaged daughter? The Most challenging part? It's amazing to see her individuating, being so her own person, coming up with ideas and visions and humor and intelligence that I can feel does not come from me or her dad. The most challenging part is when I get triggered by something she says or does, and have to witness myself not living up to my ideal of a mom or a compassionate human being. I do appreciate that opportunity to grow and see parts of myself I might otherwise be able to hide from!
What is it about restorative yoga in particular that you are passionate about? What's ultimately so inspiring about this practice to me is that it is actually about how we can heal ourselves. Paraphrasing Yogi Bhajan, it's not a special person who can heal themselves, every body is built to heal itself; we just need training in techniques for how to operate that system. That's what we find with therapeutic yoga. Within that field, Restorative yoga is shockingly, transformationally comfortable. As soon as a body finds the shape it's been needing, supported to surrender deep seated habits of tension, people feel a kind of total peace they may have been craving for years, or not realized was possible. I was exposed to restorative practice during teacher training, and I felt deep healing happening as my body found true comfort and my mind could stop racing. I learned from some true masters, like Jillian Pransky, how to see what support a body might need. Now, in my personal practice, I do more restorative yoga than active asana. I find it's what I really need every day to maintain balance in my self and my life. I attended the Yoga Therapy program at Loyola Marymount University, where I got to study various forms of therapeutic yoga for a year with an incredible cast of professionals with practices as diverse as spinal surgery to dance therapy. I learned so much more about the physiology behind HOW yoga is healing us. With so many people suffering disempowering modes of medicine and so many unable to access what would really help them, I love that it's generally a very pleasant modality that connects us with a power within us that we may not have realized we had access to, but which can heal us from the inside out, body, mind and soul.
You practice therapeutic yoga. I think that life as we have been presented with it is pretty destructive to the human organism, our bodies and our spirit. We all and up at some point tolerating an incredible amount of stress as normal. So healers who are involved with rehabilitation in some way have a very special place in my heart. If not for those skilled in serious rehabilitation, we would go through all the trouble to embody, the incredible investment and sacrifice our families make to keep us alive until we learn to care for ourselves, and then just a few poor career or relationship choices or a little bad luck or illness and people can end up in places of great suffering that they are at loss for how to pull themselves out of. What kinds of things do your clients most often see you for, and what perspective has working with people for pain management given you on life and the role of pain on our journey?
Clients often come to me to find a reliable road to peace within themselves, whether their struggle is because of illness or injury, emotional distractions or imbalances, or just from a high powered life style riddled with stress. It's especially humbling to work with people who suffer serious chronic pain or lack of mobility, and to calibrate to their very essential need to feel ok in their bodies, and to remember that they are intact, whole people, despite not being able to perform as they once had, or feel they should. Most of us are so lucky not to have to consider challenges rooted in our basic functioning. We all suffer, but to see folks who are connecting with courage and power even against intimidating circumstances helps me to keep my own suffering in perspective. Helping folks feel OK has made me familiar with the process of finding my own balance on a regular basis, and I'm so grateful for that. It also keeps me awake to these subtle practices.
What do you see as necessary for the body to really heal after experiencing trauma? I'm learning an awful lot about trauma at the moment, and I'm very inspired by the work of Peter Levine in somatic experience healing (which basically just means healing through the body) as an alternative to therapy by talking through past trauma. There is a lot of very new information about the relationships between our thoughts and perception and our bodily and emotional experience. I'm pretty excited by what's coming to light, because a lot of what's turning out to be crucial for healing really is accessible, like relaxation. Our muscles and proprioceptors (nerves in the joints that read the angles between limbs and maintain a map of the body to tell us where we are in space), can hold old trauma and patterns even when we think we've broken free from the past. So even if we are covering great ground recovering from addiction, healing relationships with ourselves and the rest of the world, unless we work with relaxation and very purposeful release of stored tension in the body, our old energy patterns undermine us and our work toward growth and a new way of being. We also cling to habitual thought patterns that subtly define us and what we are prepared to receive in terms of love, affection, and abundance, so working with the discipline of surrendering thoughts even when they seem tantalizing is an important way to discover what's within us that precedes our mental movement, and establish the proper hierarchy between the ego/persona and psyche/soul.
How do you cultivate pleasure and joy in your life?
One of the most pleasurable experiences for me is in being so comfortable and cozy. My fiends call me the Queen of Cozy because I always make sure to have enough warm and soft things with me, whether camping, seeing an outdoor movie, taking a road trip etc. I find that knowing I can be extremely physically comfortable provides me with a crucial foundation to feeling unshakeable in other areas of life. In the space where I offer restorative/therapeutic sessions, I also "treat" myself, breathing, relaxing, stretching and enjoying delicious smells, like sage, frankincense, essential oils, palo santo, and good books, my musical instruments, some drawing stuff, meditation cushion etc. I also take huge pleasure in working hard to cultivate our land, using wastewater management, permaculture and composting techniques. It's been a major dream of mine since I was pregnant 16 years ago to have land and community with a permaculture food forest with sensible and sustainable energy and waste systems. It's my greatest hope that the human race saves itself by adopting responsibility for our selves on an individual and communal basis ❤️