Author: Lynda McCullough
Nowadays, numbing out is not an option. Invite your yoga practice to help you uncover your passion and then, without hesitation, dive deeply into it.
Quote from Yoga Mantra + Health
Kinisha Correia, Wanderlust
A plethora of yoga organizations, festivals, and online programs have arisen to meet a need for connecting, learning, and moving into action, reflecting the transformative and inspiring effects of our practice. From Seane Corn’s Off the Mat, Into the World social activism campaign, to several programs applying yoga for disadvantaged youth or people in prisons, to organizations promoting global relief or ecological activism, even online mentoring and education sites, the opportunities are quickly multiplying. These days, a yogi can delve into consciousness studies, health education, mindful eating, or social or environmental groups at will.
Living in Loveland, Colorado, I have become a yearly attendee of ARISE, an event in town described as a “music, yoga, activism, and co-creative camping festival” where people can connect with nature and explore their creative potential. I go for the yoga, but also for the experience of connecting to spirit and to community, to my own passions, and to support for living in new ways. I go to learn about consciousness, permaculture, cultural healing, food, and restorative justice.
ARISE offers a broad array of experiences, welcoming those who want to immerse themselves in yoga, those who want to dance and celebrate to good music, and people who want to explore self-expression or living more gently on the earth or nutrition. It brings together people from different cultures, ages, spiritual practices, and activist causes. It provides a Wisdom Dome, a Healing Village, Children’s Village, workshop tent, art space, a labyrinth, four stages for music, spaces for yoga and qigong, and wonderful food.
I took classes with Gina Caputo and Steph Schwartz, flowing to the music and feeling high in the outdoor setting with breezes blowing through our open tent. In yoga nidra with Nataraja Kallio, I entered a deep, restful peace, and in listening to Nandhiji talk about Mastery of Consciousness, I learned about shifting my energy to be “emperor” of my own time. I attended wisdom panels with Native American youth and Julia Butterfly Hill as well as with environmental activists and spiritual leaders. I learned about permaculture and participated in healing ceremonies with Native American elders. In the late afternoons and evenings I sat on a grassy hill and listened to Elephant Revival, Earth Guardians, and We Dream Dawn.
Yoga and qigong at ARISE provide morning exercise or meditation and play a part in freeing bodies and minds for fun, community, and new perspective. I experienced deeper states of consciousness through yoga nidra and meditative practices as well as through loving interactions with others, the sun and gentle breezes on my skin, and the site of the Rocky Mountain foothills in the changing lights of day.
I think Nadine McNeil’s words above express the state felt by many of us who practice and have been transformed by yoga: Gratitude, awareness, and a desire to serve. Like McNeil, who is a yogini, social activist, and former United Nations executive, we seek to align with many others and to work in social or environmental justice.
The time at home on my mat, and the yoga therapy conferences I have attended, fill in my knowledge, experience, and confidence, and yet ARISE lifts my heart and connects me to a larger movement of people not only exploring their spirituality but changing their lives to honor the earth, whether that be through gardening, claiming their artistic talent, or engaging in environmental or social activism. For three days we live, eat, learn, and celebrate our lives together. The gathering is surely an apt expression of a phrase McNeil uses to describe a phenomenon at work in the world today: “consciousness rising.”
Read on to learn why size really does not matter on the mat, or anywhere else for that matter!