Raising the heat in a Winter Wonderland – Yoga Raving in western New York

When most people think of Rochester, NY, the first thoughts that come to their minds are not likely to be “cosmic,” “vibrant,” or “spirited.” – But they did not see what was happening last night at the Harro East Ballroom in Rochester’s downtown city center.

For three hours last night this city I call home, which is so often dreary and ever- grumpy during the mid-winter months, lit up with incandescent lights as over 215 people gathered to laugh, dance, stretch and move in an exhilarating yoga practice. This is what happens here when we have an event like a Winter Wonderland Yoga Rave.

A yoga rave is an event that is part yoga practice and part dance party, and uniquely weaves together high-energy music, a spirited vinyasa yoga practice, and an overflow of florescent color in the form of glow sticks, “bling rings,” and glitter. The expertise of professional DJ’s and some of the area’s most acclaimed yoga teachers led the event.

The concept of bringing a yoga rave to Rochester was introduced by Aimee Senise Bohn.  Aimee is a registered yoga teacher with over eighteen years of experience in the practice. In addition to teaching various yoga workshops for both yoga teachers and those who are new to yoga, she also leads yoga study trip to India and teaches her own eclectics style of yoga called Shri Vinyasa Yoga.

Rochester’s first yoga rave was held in March 2012, and the response was so favorable that another one was planned for this January. The event was co-taught and coordinated by Aimee and fellow renown Rochester yoga teacher Randi Lattimore, who is also the Mind-Body Coordinator at Rochester’s Midtown Athletic Club.  Breakthrough Entertainment’s DJ NAPS and DJ A provided a dynamic amalgam of high voltage music to create a perfect blend of party, yoga, and savasana.

 

 

 

 

 

Who would have thought this was happening on an 18-degree (F) evening in western New York? Well, what many people outside of our city may not know is just how amazing (and large) our yoga community is here.  During these months when I start to feel nostalgic for Thailand’s sunshine, or wonder why I didn’t move to southern California or Santa Fe fifteen years ago, our yoga community is one of the things we have in Rochester that makes me most proud to be here. I’ve visited yoga studios in dozens of locations in other cities, states, and even countries, and I am always struck by some of the talented teachers and beautiful studios there are here in Rochester.

We have over twenty-two yoga studios in the greater Rochester area (including surrounding suburbs), and thousands of local yogis who are practicing styles ranging from vinyasa to Iyengar, from restorative to Bikram, to name just a few. So, if you do have a reason to venture into western New York, I recommend stopping in Rochester, and place taking a yoga class (or several) at the top of your list of activities to partake in. And, if you are really lucky, maybe there will even be a yoga rave event while you’re here. I’ll see you there on the mat…or maybe even with a hula-hoop.

Until next time, namaste.

*A special thank you to Juliette Pellegrino and Diane Harris for sharing photos for this post*

The Yoga Diary – January

About a year ago, I was resting in savasana (“corpse pose,” or final resting position) at the end of a yoga class, and without anticipation, a flood of thoughts drifted in and out of my mind…thoughts that were inspiring to my life in that moment, or were just introspective and meaningful to me. Unfortunately, these ruminating moments would often escape me as swiftly and as unexpectedly as they arrived in my mind. I began to bring a journal in my car with me when I attended other teacher’s yoga classes this year so I could write down some of these thoughts that came to me while they were still new. Although I cannot capture every fleeting one that drifts to me during the practice, I am able to at least reflect on some. So, for fun, I thought I’d periodically share a few of these entries with you. I call these musings (which are at times silly) my “Yoga diary.”

Entry #1, January 2013 – Shifting my perspective

Have you ever misread a person based on what you have become accustomed to in your own life, and enjoyed that moment of transformation when your perspective changes? That is what happened to me today when I attended a yoga class.

All day, I had been looking forward to my evening yoga. The chill of western New York’s winter makes my joints stiff, and a heated vinyasa yoga class often feels as healing for me as a burst of warm sunshine.  As I excitedly arrived to class, I laid out my mat and descended my back upon my bolster, peacefully awaiting an inspiring and invigorating practice. I’ve been to this teacher’s class before, and I’ve always left feeling uplifted. A moment later, however, I was abruptly distracted by the person who placed her mat next to mine. An attractive young woman whipped her mat opened and flung it on the floor with a thud. She proceeded to plop down on it, and then began to madly type on her Iphone in what appeared to be a heated and overwrought text discussion. The chomping of her gum sounded like clamps grinding inside of my ears.

Well, we all have our peeves.  Some people get annoyed by loud groans or overtly expressive yogis, or exponentially heavy breathing. These things have never bothered me in class or otherwise. But, chomp loudly on a piece of gum, or chew incessantly on food with a gaping open mouth, or go for an hour madly sniffling the uncontrollable flow of mucus as it dangles from un-blown nostrils, and my yogic disposition quickly goes awry. Whether I’m on a flight, in a yoga class, or next to someone in a meeting, these peeves can challenge me. So, as you can imagine, having this woman park her mat about three inches from mine while engaging in these activities brought an abrupt halt to my previously blissful pre-yoga state I was entering. I reminded myself of what I learned from a Buddhist monk once, who suggested I try meditating in the middle of a busy parking lot to challenge my concentration. That, he said, would make me truly centered. Alas, this reasoning rarely works for me in real life, especially if I try to self-impose it in a preachy way.

Class began with the teacher instructing us the settle into child’s pose (balasana) and release our hips while focusing on our breath. I half followed her instructions as I irritably listened to the semi-rhythmic incisors of my neighbor, wondering how she will keep her gum in her mouth when she is flipped upside-down in a standing splits pose…would she still try to chew it? I wondered. Perhaps she would give it a rest for a while and wedge it behind her molars or under her tongue? Hmmm…I started to think of the potential options she could choose from to keep her gum in her mouth.  Meanwhile, as these “unyogic” thoughts plagued my mind, she quickly exited her balasana for a moment to reply to a text mid-pose.

As we proceeded through the practice, however, a shift occurred. We began to flow through our sun salutations, and I noticed that she was quite lost in the practice. She frequently looked over at me, imitating my movements. I glanced at her from the corner of my left eye, and she smiled at me. “I have no idea what I’m doing, but I’m glad I’m next to someone who does. I’ve been wanting to try yoga for a long time, and I’m finally at a class!” she exclaimed. At that same moment, the teacher stated “our actions and feeling in life will be guided by our thoughts and perceptions, so make the choice to shift your perceptions to those that make you feel good.”  I suddenly saw this young woman in a different light. She had never tried yoga before. Instead of seeing an annoying, gum-chomping, ignorant girl, I suddenly saw someone who is just conditioned to the use of modern technology and external distractions as most of us are in our outside lives. Having never previously practiced yoga, there was not any reason for her to act otherwise in class. Her intentions were not even slightly malicious. I found myself wondering if some of those who are new to yoga come to class and see these experienced yogis lifting their legs over their shoulders with ease, or launching effortlessly into parsva bakasana (side crow pose), and feel too intimidated to ever walk into a class again. Most of us are conditioned to a paradigm of constant distractions in our daily lives…texts, e-mails, social media, etc.  Becoming disengaged from this, even for an hour, can seem almost foreign to someone who has never been introduced to the concept.

As I switched to a place of compassion, I thought instead of how great it was for her to just be there. It changed the entire experience for me in class. I remembered how much yoga transformed my life years ago, and how unaware I was in the beginning of the yoga concept of Dharana, which means (in short) to cultivate inner awareness, and how often I still don’t practice this outside of (or in the case of today, even inside of) the yoga room. I was able to laugh at the situation, and at how my reaction and judgments were just as affecting to my practice as the gum chomping and texting may have been to hers. But I was even more struck by how profound a smile and a friendly face is. It can literally transform everything about a person, making our initial judgments of someone change entirely. This concept is far from new to me, but being reminded to stay aware of it still felt new in that moment.

My practice that day had turned into one of the best yoga classes I have attended in weeks. I felt revived after this experience, noticing how simple and powerful shifting our own thoughts can be. I then trailed off into a blissful savasana before reenacting my senses.

Reflecting on past years: My Previous Travels

 

As we begin 2013, I have found my spirit creeping into a melancholy place.  Amongst many things, I realize that it has been almost seven months since I’ve traveled overseas.  Perhaps I should attribute my gypsy spirit to my Hungarian ancestry. – Or, maybe the frosty guise of the earth in Western New York’s wintry spell, exposed beneath a lid of bleak grey sky, has led me to a despondent state. Winter is a time of hibernation and rest, which gives way for self-reflection and contemplation. This is a subtle gift of sorts.  If approached with perspicacity, it can open one to growth in previously unforeseeable ways, as the chill of winter inevitably transforms into the newness of spring.

Gratefulness has always been a powerful concept for me.  My emotions have never been shielded beneath a very thick barrier. When feelings are present, be it anger, hurt, joy, or any number of fleeting thoughts, my eyes will almost immediately disclose them, and my urge is to express them, even though I often cannot, nor, perhaps, should I.  Gratefulness is what grounds me most during these moments. It reminds me that the simple joys of being alive, such as my health, my loyal and beautiful friends, and the experiences I’ve been bestowed with in my life are gifts. Gratefulness takes my focus away from my yearnings, my perception of life’s losses and what is lacking, and shifts my awareness to a place of abundance and contentment. This may only last a few moments. I may need to remind myself to revisit this place often, but every moment of peace creates a glimpse of a potential opportunity, so, I frequent there whenever I can.

In celebration of the New Year, I have unearthed some of my old photos from my previous travels, which I share here with you.  Indeed, I have had some amazing life experiences, and there are bound to be many, many more to come. Perhaps next time, I will even see you somewhere along my journey.

2004 – I traveled to Lhasa, Tibet, Chengdu, China, and Qing Chen Shan, China. This trip was planned through Rebecca Kali, a Qigong Master and owner of the Dao of Well-Being. I will never forget the magical Tibetan landscape, or the smiling faces of the people. Although eight years ago feels like a lifetime, almost, I recall these moments as if I was just there. Rebecca creates the opportunity for people to visit this exotic, and not often traveled to place. For more information about Rebecca’s amazing journeys, visit her website at: www.dao-of-well-being.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2006 – During this year, I took a group of Massage students and graduates from FLCC’s Therapeutic massage program to Hangzhou, China to study TuiNa massage in a hospital environment. We also traveled to Beijing to visit the Great Wall and the Forbidden City, and we spent a couple of days in the majestic Yellow Mountains (Huang Shan).  I traveled to these same locations in 2005 with one of my then graduate professors, Darlene Easton, and a group of her Acupuncture students from New York Chiropractic College. Most of these photos are from the 2006 trip that I took with my massage students and graduates:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2011-2012 – Of course, I’ve shared many photos of my visit to perhaps my favorite destination of all: Thailand. One place I visited last June that I did not mention, however, is a beautiful resort northwest of Chiang Mai in a town named Maerwin. The name of this destination spa is Panviman Chiang Mai Resort, and it is absolutely breathtaking. I traveled here with the group of FLCC graduates who were in Thailand with me in 2012. The owner/administrator of the SVG Thai Massage Training Center, Parawat Poungpiam, designed this breathtaking resort. If you have the amazing opportunity to visit Thailand, I highly recommend taking the trip north to experience this place. For more information, visit the website at www.panviman.com.