Tag Archives: Sharon Gannon

Yoga & Activism

26563_409223819257_4397157_nA few years ago I had to miss a workshop being given by local Yoga teacher Allison Ulan that focused on Yoga and activism, and I was gutted to miss it. From my point of view, there seems to be a growing divergence between the physical-only focus of the practice, emphasizing solely how the body is being placed in any given pose from the non-physical byproducts of asana. While I absolutely do not want to minimize the importance of proper alignment and body awareness in the practice to avoid injury and to promote longevity in the practice, I also take issue with yoga being taught with little or no illumination of where the physical practice brings us emotionally, psychologically and spiritually.

The asana practice does a few things: it allows us to release the tensions that have landed in the body by moving the frame in ways that are atypical of a regular 24-hour cycle of movement. Areas that we may not have even been aware of that had been carrying tension on a somatic level are suddenly manipulated to work and gradually release whatever was being carried there, either spontaneously or more gradually. The practice also allows us to breathe consciously for an extended period of time, teaching us that to focus on a deep, nourishing breath throughout a period of physical movement and potential challenge is to teach us that a conscious breath is all we need to navigate moments of challenge, fear and adversity outside of a yoga class. It allows us to detach from external stimuli and spend some time with our bodies, and ultimately, with our Self to check in with whatever is in the moment. There are countless other ways that asana benefits us, but all those benefits, as far as I’m concerned, all lead to the same realization: that we are fully-formed, powerful beings with unique voices and points of view, and that it is our responsibility to speak up, to act, to pursue relentlessly what we believe to be right and true and fair, not just for ourselves, but for all beings. Yoga shows us how unity presents itself as separation, and once we clue into how far we’ve strayed from acting in the best interests of ALL of us, we find our words and the right language to speak up louder and clearer and more peacefully than we ever thought possible.

The philosophical, emotional and spiritual epiphanies that await every person who begins a yoga practice, even if that practice begins for the sole purpose of exercising the body in a non-gym atmosphere, need to be emphasized. Movement and breath and alignment are absolutely essential, but if they’re not partnered with guidelines and insight for spiritual evolution, then they’re no different than a gym workout. Yoga is everything, and it’s my hope that all teachers, instructors and light-bearers understand this.

What I want you to know is this: You are not allowed to have rights and squander them by not knowing how they were hard-fought for, by being indifferent, lazy or dispassionate. It is your responsibility to know who fought for what rights you have, especially those you take for granted, for those that you think are normal in this day, age and geographical location. If your skin colour is anything other than what’s considered “white” (but which is, in fact, more of a pinkish-beige), you better pay attention. If you’re a woman, pay attention. If your sexuality is anything other than 100% hetero, pay attention. If you fall into ANY visible or audible minority, pay attention. In fact, you know what? Pay attention, every single one of you.

Yoga is activism. It is a call to what is and a call to right action in the face of what is. It is finding your voice and then using it to ensure that no one feels excluded or inferior, and to make sure that the freedoms we are blessed with at this point in time are never snatched away in the name of power and oppression. Freedom should never directed towards some, it should be the right of all.

There are moments where I struggle to find inspiration to channel and pass on, but I definitely find it on occasion. I want to thank Allison for inspiring me all those years ago. I want to thank Sharon Gannon & David Life for creating the Jivamukti community and inspiring action, change and freedom for all. I want to thank Seane Corne for living everything I’m trying to express, for being the example, for being an inspiration and for the teachings, past and future, that I have been graced with. I’m doing everything I can to inspire and awaken, and will continue to do so until I can’t find the air to propel my words from my body. Until then, I’m focused on being awake, and on waking everyone else up.

Stay alert, stay together and stay awake. We are changing the world, one unique voice at a time, and, occasionally, as a collective roar of peaceful warriors. Let’s keep it going ๐Ÿ™‚

Winding Down

I’ve just lay down on the couch with the winter storm wind howling past the windows of my flat and my dog curled up asleep against my legs. Today marks the end of in-class teaching for me for 2012, and the past few days I’ve felt this post taking form in my mind. Now feels like the right time to get it all down and attach the symbology of words to it.

This year has proven to be another massive opportunity for growth and learning, and as each year passes, I realize that that is what’s constantly available to us: the opportunity to view all that occurs in our lifetime as catalysts for growth and change. I do my best to ensure that every class I teach, every student I mentor, and every word I speak or write conveys certain things to those with whom my path crosses: that yoga is a big toolbox that provides us with what we need to live life fully, passionately, with full awareness and presence of mind…that we have the choice as to how we approach and end up living this life we’ve been blessed with…that how and where we find ourselves is exactly how and where we need to be to accomplish and fulfill our goals and dharma. We are each here for a reason – you are not reading this by accident, and you are not alive in this moment in time haphazardly. We each have a mission to carry out, and I believe that mine is to bring people together by waking them up to what matters on a fundamental, heartfelt level.

20121222-171342.jpgWith that said, I would get nothing communicated or expressed if no one thought me worthy of their time and attention. I’ve expressed my gratitude to students before, but this year has brought me to a place where simple gratitude pales in comparison to how I feel about those of you who encourage me to keep teaching, typing, and barreling onwards.

To those of you who have come to my classes, I thank you. To those of you who have joined me on retreats, I thank you. To those of you who have participated in the workshops and teacher training I’ve given, I thank you. To those of you who have followed my blog and taken the time to read my words, I thank you. To those of you who have taken any of my insight to heart and let it guide you closer to a place of truth and light, I thank you. To those of you who have laughed with me, I thank you. To those of you who have let down your guard and shared your stories, your suffering, your hopes and your journeys, I thank you. To those of you who have trusted me enough to come to me when it mattered, I thank you. To those of you who have taught me when you had no idea you were doing so, I thank you. To those of you whom I’ve disappointed and had enough respect and love for me to let me know the error of my ways, I thank you. To those of you who have let me assist in your healing, I thank you. To those of you who have shared your energy with me, I thank you. I thank you all from the bottom of my heart, and will never stop doing so.

To my teachers who have provided me space in their spheres of wisdom, namely Joan Ruvinsky, Jennifer Maagandans, Mark Darby, Kelly McGrath, Sharon Gannon, and David Life, I thank you. With my head bowed in humility and my heart open to learning, I thank you.

My path has been and continues to be blessed with messengers and bearers of light, and my hope is that in attempting to do them justice by passing on the wisdom bestowed upon them by their teachers, I can reflect and project that light as brightly and brilliantly as they do.

Without them, and without you all, I would merely be speaking words into empty space.

With love and heartfelt gratitude for you all, I wish you the brightest, happiest and healthiest of holidays. Thank you for accompanying me on this journey, and we’ll see where it takes us in 2013!

Like Sands Through The Hourglass

It’s been a week since my first encounter with Sharon Gannon and David Life, the creators of Jivamukti Yoga. Spending last weekend in Woodstock, New York at the Jivamukti Immersion Weekend was a fantastic opportunity to spend time with some friends who work in yoga as well, so time together is usually scarce at best…and our exposure to the teachings of Sharon & David was enlightening, to say the least. We were taught countless things, while being reminded and re-directed to countless others, but among everything we heard and discussed, I found myself honing in on something that became my focus of the week for my classes over the past 5 days, and I wanted to get it down here as well.

How often do we say yes to things that we’d rather say no to? How many times do we agree to do something when we’d rather do something else, or even do nothing at all? How many people do we keep in our lives who bring us more suffering than peace, and how many times do we spend time with these people when we’d rather not? How often do we avoid confrontation or having to defend our reasoning by agreeing to something? Think about it. We spend so much time being agreeable, settling for less than we want for ourselves, making other people happy. We forage our way through life treating the time we are blessed with as if it’s a renewable resource…we agree to do something, to use up some of our time, to get something done or make someone happy, attached to the moment that we’re done so we can get back to what we originally wanted to be doing. And I’ll tell you something massively important – if we do these things, if we choose to sacrifice our time in ways that don’t fulfill us, we’re deluding ourselves that our time isn’t valuable. And it is.

The majority of us were raised by parents for whom this type of thinking was laughable and quickly dismissed. Our parents came from a generation where things had to get done, regardless of how they felt about them. The fact that I’m writing this blog post and encouraging us all to live with greater integrity and accountability to ourselves proves that we are blessed with options our parents may not have had. It’s in our nature to NOT prioritize ourselves or our time, to always be available to others, to put ourselves last. If the teachings of yoga and the majority of what I believe in provide a call to the NOW, then why not start treating time like the gift that it is? Every single one of us is here for a reason – one that is greater than ourselves, and greater than the sum total of ourselves. The more time we pay attention to that, honouring the paths we feel compelled to travel, the closer we get to figuring out what our mission is and how we can affect change in the world around us. These bodies of ours, our ability to discern universal law from government-enforced legislation, our attraction towards light and all it represents, are all gifts, but like any gift, ifย  put aside to be opened at a later date, they’ll probably go unnoticed and forgotten before long. Open your gifts. Use them. Let them wake you up to why you’re really here. Incorporate them into your daily routines and see what you notice in your own behaviour and understanding, as well as in the world around you. See the time that you have been allotted as non-renewable, and allow that comprehension to affect everything in your lives. What would it change for you if you knew that your days were numbered? Because they are. Without getting morbid, let me remind you all that no one is given immortality to get everything they want to do done. Get things done. Tell people you love them. Stop wasting your time, and make the most out of this moment. Now. Consider this a rarity, because being reminded that everything could change within one second seems to be unpopular. I’m willing to be unpopular.


Immersed in Niyasa

20120331-132033.jpgAs many of you already know, the past few years have been formative ones for me, almost Richter-scale-esque on many levels. My time at Centre Luna Yoga continues to be a real gift, and because it’s the closest thing to a Jivamukti studio that can be found in Montreal, I have been majorly influenced by the teachings of Jivamukti founders Sharon Gannon and David Life. After years of reading their wisdom, of reading their focuses every month, and of operating under their influence, I have to admit that despite the sense of familiarity I developed from having them as indirect teachers, I was still somewhat intimidated at the thought of actually being in their presence. The past few years culminated in my finally taking a 3-hour class from them yesterday…and if I felt a kinship towards them and their approach to yoga before yesterday afternoon, I now find a real sense of admiration for them…and possibly a tiny bit of love ๐Ÿ™‚

Hearing people around me constantly refer to Sharon and David almost de-sensitized me to how approachable they might actually be, but this weekend’s classes gave me a first-person perspective on how witty, down-to-earth, and refreshingly informative AND approachable they both are. Despite leading amazingly active and challenging classes, they managed to keep us all laughing in a state of unwavering presence, focused on their instructions and anecdotes, all the while speaking to us directly, in language we could understand and relate to. They never speak in obscure language or talk down to their students, and for such revered personalities in the global yoga communities, I found the combination of both their energies absolutely inspiring.

Our focus for the weekend was presented to us as the role of the student and the role of the teacher, and we’ll continue exploring the subject as we work through the weekend.

We woke up this morning with a heavy blanketing of snow muffling all sounds, something I found conducive to spending the day nestled away studying and learning from Sharon, David, and each other. As we continue to explore our selves and our practices, one thing has kept coming back through Sharon’s teachings: the concept of Niyasa, which translates to “to place consciously”. As some of you already know, there have been moments in the classes I teach where I encourage people to move/breathe/set intention “like they mean it.” The Sanskrit word Niyasa never presented itself to be included in my vernacular until today, but essentially the concepts are the same. To practice Niyasa fully is to be aware of the most seemingly innocuous and insignificant of moments, and to do whatever we’re doing with complete awareness, with complete consciousness of our actions. Like we mean it. Because we mean it. Because it’s an expression of our intention. Because everything we do and say and communicate with these bodies that we’ve been graced with has the potential to be complete, to be a direct expression of truth, of light and of consciousness. Niyasa has now nestled itself into my consciousness, and you’ll be hearing a lot more about it, I’m sure ๐Ÿ™‚

We go back to Sharon and David’s house for lectures, meditation, chanting, and a Q&A period after the lunch break. I am fully immersed. I am full of joy, really and truly. I’ll sign off now with something I overheard Sharon whispering to someone she was giving a massage to in Savasana: Be Happy. Chant it in your head. Be Happy.

And now incorporate Niyasa. Love to you all ๐Ÿ™‚


Immersing Myself

I’m in Woodstock, New York on a brilliantly sunny Friday morning, staring at the diffused sunlight pierce through the natural cotton drapes covering the windows in my room. The sounds of life in the house where I’m staying are starting to become more frequent as one by one, the others staying here with me wake up and go through their daily morning rituals.

We’ve all come down here together from Montreal to participate in the Jivamukti Immersion Weekend with Jivamukti creators Sharon Gannon and David Life. Some of us here have already spent time with them in past immersion programs and in their annual teacher training, but this is a first for me. After hearing about them, reading their insight and teachings, and occasionally subbing for a Jiva teacher, I am filled with a real sense of excitement and anticipation at not only being on the cusp of receiving their teachings first-hand, but I’m just happy to be experiencing their energy in person. As I wrote about in a 2011 post (Guises of the Guru), a fellow teacher and friend Dawn Bailey had told me about how simply being in the same orbit as Sharon and David’s energy elevated her own energy, and so it’s with real joy that I now roll off the bed and let my footsteps bring me towards an experience that I’m sure will influence my teachings, my interpretation of the world around me, and my overall frame of reference. I’ll be coming back here all weekend to share my experiences with you all, so stay tuned!