Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Samavesha celebration

Abpve the timber line

Recently Chaya and I went to northern California to the Samavesha festival, which is an annual gathering of Anusara yogis, both teachers and students and I wanted to share some of the experience with you.  It was held at the Mt. Madonna Center, in the redwood forest, and although we had been travelling all day, we took the longer route via the incomparable Route 1 up the Pacific coast and couldn’t help but stop at one of the many beaches to walk through the waves and breathe the sea air.  The Center itself was quite beautiful, located “above the timber line” (more on that later) overlooking Santa Cruz and the ocean. In addition to housing a Yoga School, a private K-12 school, and the College of Ayurveda, it is also home to an intentional yoga community, many of whom had lived there for 20+ years. At the center of the grounds was a Temple dedicated to Hanuman, where they did an arti or offering service each day which added music and blessing to each morning.

Hanuman taking his famous leap

Stopping at the beach along Route 1 to put our toes in the sand

Anusara Yoga, or now ASHY (the Anusara School of Hatha Yoga) has been very busy establishing itself as a teacher-led school.  There is a core group of teachers and leaders who have been purposefully refining the amazing system first created by John Friend, and the method is stronger now than ever before. There were participants from all over the world and it was so awesome to meet so many like-minded folks speaking the same language of yoga and holding the unique vision we all hold so dear. 
A couple of big updates:
·      ASHY is now officially a non-profit organization, with all the benefits that entails.
·      ASHY has just elected its first Board of Directors, hailing from 9 different countries – including our own Chaya Spencer!
·      ASHY Immersions and Teacher Trainings are currently ongoing in 15 different countries.
·      Immersion and Teacher Training materials have been reworked to present one of the most in-depth, comprehensive and well-respected yoga methods worldwide.

Chaya being honored as part of the first Board of Directors

I have to admit that I was a little nervous heading to the retreat, but it was such a relief and a renewal to see Anusara alive and well and flourishing worldwide.  The highlight of the week for me was being there with our own amazing Chaya.  She does not like this kind of attention so she downplays it, but really everyone, we have a rock star in our midst.  At every session and meal we attended together dozens of people would come up to thank her for staying with Anusara, for helping to create and hold the vision for the school of yoga we study and practice. She was honored as one of the first Board Members, and was asked to introduce the sublime Sally Kempton who was there teaching a couple of sessions.  Sally spoke about her time at the Siddha Yoga ashram 40 years ago when she and Chaya were roommates, practicing and studying yoga together.  What an unbelievable gift we have to be able to study with someone who helped to shape modern yoga as we know it, who learned directly from some of the greatest yogis our generation has known and is right here in Saddle River bringing those teachings to us!

Chaya introducing Sally Kempton

Old friends reunited

Sally led us in 2 beautiful guided meditation experiences, and they were the high point of all the sessions I attended. We were invited to invoke the goddess energy of Bhuvaneshwari, imagining her sweet and loving motherly presence in our own hearts, and then in the space behind the heart.  We did this in partners and we were invited to sense the space behind our partner’s heart, and the goddess presence there. It was a sweetly transcendent moment of connection, feeling the oneness of all beings reflected back to you in the eyes of another. It was a true moment of being “above the timber line” in my own awareness, and an experience I will carry with me for a long time as one of being loved and held by a divine energy that loves and holds the entire universe. 

Although what we teach at Shree is modern yoga at its best, this is not “exercise yoga”.  It has the support and framework of a thousands-year-old tradition of freedom and connection to the divine at its heart and as its ultimate goal. Chaya, our director and leader, carries with her the blessing and wisdom of a lifetime of study and practice, and is an equal among peers that are some of the most well respected teachers and practitioners of modern yoga.  I am refreshed and renewed by the direction ASHY is heading.  I have never been prouder to be an Anusara Yoga teacher, and to hold a place on the roster of teachers at one of the oldest, most well-established, intentional yoga schools in New Jersey. I hope you’ll join me in congratulating Chaya on her appointment, and celebrating our part in this ever evolving and growing school. Join us for one of our many inspiring Anusara classes soon to do it in person!

Sunrise over the mountains

Beautiful outdoor meditation space
Bill Mahoney sharing the wisdom of the Upanishads

Kirtan with Shantala
Lots of heart-opening yoga

Mt. Madonna Center