Monday, May 21, 2012

Freedom and Cake

This past weekend was one of the best of my life. It was spent with Belinda and Monica and amazing yogis at the Yoga Service Conference, at the Omega Institute in Rhinebeck, New York. It is going to take me some time to decompress and sift through the ideas, concepts and realities that I gained from the conference. In the meantime, I wanted to share some new happenings I found in my last two asana practices.

James Fox, founder of Prison Yoga, explains that yoga is a three layered cake. Mindfulness on top, pranayama in the middle and asana on the bottom. Pranayama is the middle layer because it affects both of the others. Thus, I say asana practice because it is simply one of the eight limbs of yoga. Asana does not equal yoga.

On Sunday, Seane Corn led us through a sweet physical yoga ritual practice. We languished in our sun salutations. Different presenters that had led discussions over the weekend were asked to speak to who they serve, so that we could dedicate each sun salutation. Wow. A slow, methodical and intention filled practice with over 150 folks who are dedicated to their own practices and to serving others. That made for a powerful class. Full body prayer.

One panelist shared testimonials from her prison outreach group. A woman who has been sentenced to life in prison at the age of 17...said that through her yoga, she has found freedom. She will be behind bars for the rest of her life, and yet she feels free. If she can find moksha, freedom and liberation, who I am not to access that freedom in every breath? How dare I not practice to my full potential in every moment? How dare I not serve? Be present; be here. Float. Fly. Speak the truth. Be brave. Walk with confidence. Relax.

This does not simply apply to being on my yoga mat in a class or at home. No, this applies to every breath I take. Within every action and interaction, I have the opportunity to completely be. From the moment I wake up until the instant I go to sleep every day. I can choose.

Tonight, as I found my ashtanga practice at Hilltop Yoga, I could not stop thinking about the different groups the Yoga Service Council members serves. Sex traffic victims. Prisoners. Juvenile detention centers. Children. Teenagers. Addicts. Victims of natural disasters. Community. Our neighbors. Everyone. As Seane says, "we are one." I am they. They are me. Each movement tonight had me thinking of a different group, of a different individual, of my fellow yoga service warriors. Breathe. Move. Flow. Find my freedom. Float to the top of my mat. Hold that half headstand a little longer. Find that bind. Breathe and move with intention and focus. Practice to my edge on the mat and off the mat.

I walked away with the reminder on my wrist - a bracelet that says "off the mat, into the world".

I am a proud new member of the Yoga Service Council. I am thrilled to keep practicing my practice with a new illumination. Truly, who am I not to find my freedom in each moment? As yogis, we work within to work without. The revolution begins on the inside.

Much more. Much later.