Community Spotlight: Heart Gardener

Community Spotlight: Heart Gardener

Heart Gardener (he/him) is a yoga instructor who has dedicated his time to creating queer & trans inclusive spaces. Heart wears a lot of hats, including storyteller, intersectional activist, relationship builder, writer and LGBTQIA+ advocate. This week, I talk to Heart about inspiration, pride, activism and his favorite pieces from our Pride Collection.

Read on for the inspiration we all need in celebration of Pride Month.

Tell us about yourself, who is Heart?

My name is Heart and my pronouns are he/ him, I identify as trans-masc and queer/pan. I'm a Queer & Trans Educator, Activist and certified Yoga Instructor. I've been a yoga teacher for 6 years and am a Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Advocate for the LGBTQIA+ community. I've presented at numerous Yoga Conferences and Festivals on creating Queer & Trans inclusive spaces and I lead educational seminars on holding space for folks of marginalized identities, particularly for Queer, Trans & fat folks.

When not teaching or advocating for marginalized folks, you can find me in nature, eating good food or laughing with friends, ideally in the pool in summer! I love watching basketball and pretending I know what I'm doing as an elder millennial on Instagram!

I'm passionate about storytelling and connecting people to like-minded individuals, organizations, and resources. I enjoy advising businesses and organizations on equity, ethical and justice practices.

What inspired you to pursue and teach yoga?
My mom did yoga when she was pregnant with me in the 80s and she brought me to ashrams as a kid, starting as a toddler, so I was exposed to it from a young age, and not just the physical practice of yoga, but the spiritual aspects like chanting and meditation. They have been an integral part of my coming up and while I rejected it as a tween because I wasn't sure it was my path and didn't quite understand (my mom's healing journey), I found myself in a yoga (asana) class in college as a result of my own need for healing. I was physically active growing up; I played soccer and basketball and then ran track and cross country but in college I wasn't in my body as much and needed a way to re-engage with embodiment.

It was about a decade of yoga and deep healing (releasing conditioning, deprogramming and therapy) before I learned how to teach yoga. Even when I showed up at my first yoga teacher training in 2017, I didn't intend to teach; I wanted to learn more about the subtle practices. I found though that through the practice classes I was required to teach for my certification that I really enjoyed teaching and it felt heartening to share the practices that I loved so much with others. Yoga saved my life when I was in a very difficult place before I came out and got sober and realized who I was, so I'll always have a special place in my heart, especially for the lineage I came to which is called Dharma Yoga, started by Sri Dharma Mittra.

These teachings gave me hope when I'd lost all sense of meaning in life and for this reason I share these teachings with the world. I know it can be a hard time for trans folks in the US, not to mention when you add additional elements or marginalized identities, like being fat, or BIPOC, or class, and if I can provide a sense of hope, meaning and light for my community, I will. I intend to keep sharing practices and places, people and things that bring me joy.

Existing as a trans person in the US is becoming increasingly more difficult. How do you remain positive in today's climate?

Finding a sense of connection with myself and a power greater than myself (whether that be the universe, the trees, consciousness itself, whatever you call it/ them), that has given me hope and an ability to perservere. I don't always have it in myself, which is why I turn to powers greater than myself when I can't go on, or the burden seems insurmountable. I won't deny that there's a lot going on in the world today to make it hard to exist, especially as a not just trans person, but also queer, and fat, entrepreneur, but there's also a lot of good, beauty and joy to be had.

My transcestors keep me going, looking to older trans guys for support, who have paved the path for me and potentially walked the same road I have, who have had to figure out the answers to some of the harder questions I am asking myself. Because they have done this before and I, we don't have to do this alone. Asking for help and allowing myself to receive help is vital to my existence and ability to thrive, beyond survival.

Connecting to nature is grounding for me and supportive for my nervous system when the world and social media and the news is too overwhelming. I have limits on all my apps and I don't post everyday. I sleep with my phone off; I turn it completely off at night and I don't set alarms in the morning. I know it's a privilege and a benefit of self-employment (which trust me, has plenty of stressors and down sides) but being able to sleep until my body needs most nights is a blessing. I think it's so important to get good sleep and this is something I'm constantly working on.

Pride month has just begun, what does pride mean to you?

I'm proud to be visible, proud to be me, unapologetically. I'm not ashamed of my transness, even though the GOP / certain people will have liked to convince us of this) and I think transness is magical. We are sacred beings and we are healing forces. Trans people are healers; we always have been. Our gender fluidity is medicine for the world and our creativity and expansive take of existence is a blessing to all. I'm proud to be part of such a beautiful community and am inspired everyday by my trans siblings' resilience, strength, beauty, grace & god damn hotness! You, we are god and don't let anyone tell you different.

Favorite piece from our new pride collection?

I love all my trunks equally but I really love the Prisma (rainbow and trans pride flag) and Rainbow Stripe trunks. I also love the Nalgene Water Bottle which is a perfect reminder to hydrate at the pool with a liquid IV in for bonus hydration!   I love my Humankind Swim Trunks because they make me feel so affirmed and cute and (sexy?) which can be pretty hard as a fat trans guy. 

Shop Heart's favorites from the Pride Collection here.
Find out more about Heart on his website.
Subscribe to Heart's Youtube Channel.
Follow Heart on Instagram.