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Swami Sivananda, contemplating the future (image via lightwaves.cc)

While visiting Yasodhara Ashram, a spiritual community on 120 acres of woodland resting on the shores of Kootenay Lake in southeastern BC, I had the opportunity to sit down with some of the leaders in the community and talk about transition, sustainability and renewal. What I’ve learned from my own yoga practice (on the mat, off the mat and through this blog) is that it’s a constant inquiry. At the root of my practice is the question, Who am I? The desire to find the answer to this question is what keeps me going, especially during times when I feel disconnected and alone.

So what does it mean when a whole community based on yogic principles and practices engages in a process of inquiry? I explored this with Swami Sivananda, a long-time ashram resident and teacher.

Let’s start with the basics. What happens in this community?

Our main idea is to provide a safe environment for people to get their foundation back under them, so they can start looking at things more deeply. There’s no dogma here. There’s an emphasis on spiritual values but not in a dogmatic way. But even if you don’t have that tradition within yourself, there has to be that respect for other people.

People come here and get themselves sorted out emotionally, drop emotional burdens from the past, memories, that kind of patterning that frustrates us. Then they just bloom on their own.

Yet we’re not a social service agency; we’re a spiritual community. We have a tradition, a body of teachings, and those teachings came from our guru. But we’ve broken the mold on the old guru-based community. It doesn’t need to be that stuffy and stiff as a lot of people think. Or as blindly surrendering. Surrender is a very important thing to learn, but it isn’t what most people think. The thing is, it requires super highly developed discrimination. Read the rest of this entry »

Mandala House, the ashram's main building (image via yasodhara.org)

Hola from western Canada! I fled Montreal just before the heat wave hit and have been enjoying the cooler climate of British Columbia (where it’s unseasonably cool and rainy). I just spent a few days at the beautiful Yasodhara Ashram, where I had the full intention of blogging and taking pics. However, I had limited wifi access and a full schedule of karma yoga (selfless service in action), enjoying nature, thinking about my life and reconnecting with old friends. My photography ambitions were thwarted when my camera battery died and I realized that I’d forgotten my charger.

Yasodhara Ashram is a spiritual community on 120 acres of woodland resting on the shores of Kootenay Lake in southeastern BC. Founded by Swami Sivananda Radha (a disciple of Swami Sivananda and one of the first western women to be initiated in the yoga tradition) in 1963, the community continues to uphold her teachings while staying relevant to modern life. The ashram is run by initiates, but these are swamis who wear cardigans and khakis and pack around laptops. Rooted in tradition and simple living, the community also thrives on innovation and progressive ideas ~ collaborative working styles, sustainable building design, integrated food systems, new business models. The ashram has won provincial sustainability awards and aspires to be carbon neutral by 2013, when it celebrates its 50th anniversary. Read the rest of this entry »

image via hubspot.com

Why are you here? This was the lead question in Carol Horton’s post Why Yoga Blogging Matters on elephant journal a couple of weeks ago. It generated a some interesting responses here, here and here, and of course, got me thinking about why I’ve re-entered the yoga blogosphere and what I’m doing here. In preparation for it’s all yoga, baby: the next generation (my pet name for this new phase of being) and next month’s Yogging Heads panel discussion at the Yoga Festival Toronto, here are top 5 reasons I nurture this little corner of the internets.

1) Community – This has been the most exciting thing about blogging. I’ve loved connecting with practitioners and teachers from all over North America, and from other places (such as Emmanuelle from Belgium while she was in Montreal last fall!). This little blog has been my tool for connecting to not just the yoga community, but my local community as well and I’ve ended up getting involved with the Montreal Girl Geeks and WordPress communities.

2) This is what I know – through years of practice, living in an ashram, editing a yoga magazine, being involved in online conversations, dialoguing, debating, and then more practice, I’ve managed to build a body of knowledge about yoga, and I continue to be fascinated by how it fits within North American culture. My inner cultural studies geek likes to observe and analyze, and I’ve come to see the world through a yogic framework. This is my place to comment on what I see. Read the rest of this entry »

maybe this is why more men aren’t doing yoga… (image via chiropractic-help.com)

The old “where are all the men in yoga class” conversation is making a quiet return in the popular press and the blogosphere lately. Even the most casual observer of yoga culture would notice that women outnumber men in the average yoga class, despite the fact that many of the highest profile teachers in North America (and traditionally) are men.

As an article on Yoga Modern last week noted, women make up 72.2% of the 15.8 million people who practice yoga in the US and thus the yoga community feels a need to reach out to men. The title of the article asked, Does marketing yoga to men reinforce gender stereotypes? “Surely there is a way for the yoga community to be inclusive without falling into reductive and overgeneralizing gender stereotypes. After all, are men and women so different that they can’t practice yoga together?” Staying true to the name of the website, the article gives a historical overview of women’s place in the world of yoga, and cites “the non-dualistic philosophies of Vedanta, Yoga, and Tantra.” Read the rest of this entry »

Happy Canada Day! Did you know that the Canadian yoga community is getting a bit of a reputation for being intelligent and innovative? It’s true! It’s also true that the conversations in the yoga blogosphere (an act known as “yogging”) are helping to push the contemporary North American yoga community in new directions. Yogging as a practice will be explored in a special panel at the Yoga Festival Toronto (August 19-21, 2011) which I am very happy to be part of, along with Carol Horton and Bob Weisenberg.

In preparation for this panel, I’m going to be investigating what it means to be on the cutting edge of a supposedly ancient tradition, why I blog about yoga, and what blogging can contribute to the practice, and you can keep up with all the action here on it’s all yoga, baby. Carol already got the party started on elephant journal with her provocative post, Why Yoga Blogging Matters.

I had the pleasure of attending the 2010 Yoga Festival Toronto and it was one of the most inspiring and affirming yoga gatherings that I’ve ever been to. Here’s an introduction to the festival, with an interview with the organizers, and my post-festival roundup.

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