Sacred Justice is coming to California!

Sacred Justice workshop in Kitchener.

Sacred Justice workshop in Kitchener.

Next week I’m traveling down the west coast to take part in UC Berkley’s Yoga and Access conference. I’m very excited to participate in this conference, learn from so many inspiring teachers and meet folks in person who I’ve known online for some time.

While I’m in Cali I’m teaching two workshops. One in Oakland and one in Grass Valley.

The Oakland workshop will take place at Underground Yoga Parlour (3209 Peralta st) on Saturday April 26th. I’ll be co-teaching a consent based yoga class from 11 am to 12:30 pm and then offering a Sacred Justice workshop from 1 to 4. More details are available on facebook. This workshop will be geared mostly towards teachers and studio owners, as an extension of the conversation we’ll be engaging in at the conference.

The Grass Valley workshop will take place at Yoga Well (144 Hughes Rd) on April 29th from 6:00 to 9:00 pm. More details are available on facebook. This workshop is geared towards community members, healers, teachers, therapists, youth, educators, PFLAG folks and yogis and meditators of all stripes.

If you have any questions or would like to request a workshop in your community, please leave a response in the comments section of this post, or send me an email. You can find my email in the contact section of my website.

Community Based Yoga …Or.. What yoga can learn from Community Acupuncture

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Community Yoga Vancouver

Right now Community Yoga Vancouver is fundraising for our our very own by-donation studio. You can contribute to our campaign and help make our dream a reality here.

Many of us exit space and time entirely during that first savasana. These experiences uniquely prepare us for empathy. Somewhere we realize: everyone has access to this spaciousness, this relaxation, this non-reactivity. But it is an empathy we haven’t the means to share if we’re not behaving like a culture. Ten minutes of camaraderie in the changeroom after a sweaty class will not organize a soup kitchen.

- Matthew Remski in 21st Century Yoga

When I was at my yoga teacher training two summers ago I over heard a conversation between two people in my training. They were discussing acupuncture and how helpful they had found it. I have had chronic muscle tension in my neck and shoulders for most of my adult life, so over hearing this made me wonder if acupuncture might help me. Thing is, acupuncture is expensive, usually running around $80 for a treatment – not something I could ever afford, especially not for more than one treatment.

When I came home from my training I passed by an acupuncture clinic near my house. There was a sign out front that read “Poke Community Acupuncture” and “sliding scale $20 to $40”.  I thought to myself, “I can afford to at least try this”. So, I did. Poke is set up with about 8 chairs in the back room and the acupuncturist treats patients one after the other, leaving them to sleep together in the treatment room. Because they treat a patient every 10 minutes Poke can charge much less for each treatment. With a communal treatment room everyone shares in the healing energy of the space, rather than being isolated in separate treatment rooms.

Sitting in the chair, watching the needles poke my skin one by one in a circle across my limbs, I instantly felt relaxed and sleepy. It was similar to how I feel in savasana at the end of my asana practice. I was told I could sleep for my first treatment, but I stayed awake just noticing how it made me feel. About half way through the treatment it felt like a marble rolled out of my shoulder, down my arm and out my middle finger. This was the first time I ever felt that kind of release in my shoulder. I was hooked.

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Poke Community Acupuncture in Vancouver

I started volunteering at Poke at the front desk and got free treatments in exchange. I love volunteering at Poke. The space is quiet, calm and beautiful – even while being next to a busy street corner. Poke was my first exposure to a healing space that was truly grounded in a sense of community.  We receive our treatments together. We can see each other sleeping. We pool our money and we hold space for ourselves AND the community to rest, relax and heal. When I couldn’t afford $20 for a treatment I was told to keep coming and pay what I could afford. I wasn’t turned away from Poke when I most needed it. I felt like I truly belonged and was valued. There was something brilliant and radical about this.

At some point in my time at Poke I wondered to myself – why had I never felt this way in a yoga studio?

As I started to teach I realized that the model I was seeing in yoga studios really wasn’t serving as many people as it could – especially when I compared it to Poke, where the patients range so drastically in age, race, mobility, sexuality and social status. This diversity is something I have often felt is missing in yoga studios and as a teacher I wondered – how can we make yoga studios more like community acupuncture? What would a yoga studio look like if its goal was to build community, rather than profit?

The more I thought about and researched this idea the more I started to see, there already is a movement to build community in yoga studios – and it’s growing across North America. I wanted a phrase to refer to this movement and lovingly started to call it “community-based yoga”.

From what I can see, community based yoga projects have a few things in common:

By-donation classes
At Community Yoga Vancouver, where I teach, our classes are all by donation. Right now we’re fundraising to open a completely by-donation studio. Bryan Kest, who founded one of the first donation-based yoga studios in North America, wrote a great piece to get teachers thinking about how to offer by-donation classes. Many studios that I would consider to be community oriented offer less than market rate classes.

Safer Space Classes
Studios like Kula Annex in Toronto are introducing classes like queer yoga and brown girls yoga to create safer spaces for people who might not normally feel welcome in regular studios.  Similar classes are available at Community Yoga in Vancouver and at Ambaa yoga through Queer Yoga Montreal.

Combining yoga with other sliding scale healing modalities
Hemma in Victoria is a combination community acupuncture clinic and yoga studio. They operate on a sliding scale. Same with the Healing Roots center in Kitchener. Sacred Body Community and Healing Arts Center in Ann Arbor combines yoga with all kinds of sliding scale healing modalities.  Same thing with Third Root in Brooklyn.

Crowd funded
If you search “community yoga” on indiegogo lots of campaigns come up. Grow yoga project fundraised to send Angélica De Jesús to a teacher training, with the expressed goal that they would give back to community with more accessible classes when they graduated. Community Yoga Vancouver’s new studio will be crowd funded. Same with The People’s yoga in Oregon and Tri-yoga in Pensylvania.

Consent Cards
Queen St Yoga in Kitchener, Kula Annex in Toronto and Community Yoga Vancouver all use consent cards to allow students to indicate whether they would like to recieve physical assists. This keeps the students safe and opens up communication between the teachers and students that prevent teachers from making assumptions about people’s needs or their bodies.

Community Yoga's consent cards

Community Yoga’s consent cards

Many of the studios listed above embody several or all of these characteristics. What is most noticeable though, is that the goal behind these studios is not to make excessive amounts of profits – but rather to offer yoga to as many people as possible.  Accessibility is the bottom line. In these spaces, it seems money is exchanged to keep the spaces open and the teachers paid. We pool our funds collectively to allow community to grow. My feeling is that we do this because we’re stronger supporting each other to heal, rather than doing it all on our own. Community acupuncture recognizes this and slowly yoga is starting to catch on too.

There is a big difference here, I think, between charity and community building. We’re not asking teachers to work for free – which is challenging for anyone struggling to pay rent, as most yoga teachers do. We’re working together to support each other to heal and grow. In the same way an acupuncturist sits in the chair at the end of their shift at a community acupuncture clinic, with community based yoga teachers can take classes in studios that reflect their values and their community connections. We’re creating horizontal networks of community ties and we’re changing what it means to practice yoga in North America.

In my daydreams I wonder if one day all these community based yoga studios will eventually join together to create an organization similar to the People’s Organization of Community Acupuncture. What if we joined all these community-oriented studios together to support each other? What if we shared funds through crowd funding when one of us was threatened with closure? What if we could move from one city to another and know there’s a studio we can land in for instant community? What if we built a movement with yoga and we dared to boldly dream that healing, peace of mind and spiritual growth could be available to anyone who wants it – no matter who they are.

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My hope is that you’ll treat this as an introduction to some of the other people and places across North America who feel the same passion you do. An introduction to spaces working tirelessly to keep their doors and hearts open.

Whether we realize it or not – what we’re doing here is building a movement.

One breath at a time.

I want to thank Matthew Remski whose brilliant piece in 21st Century Yoga has been an inspiration to me as I’ve organized with Community Yoga Vancouver. I also want to thank Carol Horton and Roseanne Harvey for putting this brilliant book together.

 

Community-based yoga studios:

Canada
De La Sol Yoga – Hamilton, On
Healing Roots center
 - Kitchener, On
Queen St yoga – Kitchener, On
Kula Annex - Toronto, On
Community Yoga – Vancouver, BC
Hemma - Victoria, BC

Europe
Edinburgh Community Yoga - Edinburgh, Scotland

USA
Just B Yoga – Lansing, Mi
Yoga to the People - Berkley, Ca
Third Root - Brooklyn, NY
Yoga to the People - New York, NY
Lotus Seed - Portland, Or
The People’s yoga - Portland, Or
Yoga to the People - San Francisco
Power Yoga – Santa Monica, Ca
Yoga to the People - Seattle, Wa
Tri-yoga - State College and Spring Mills, Pennsylvania
Yoga to the People - Tempe, Az

Feel free to introduce me to your studio by emailing andrea.grace.macdonald@gmail.com and I will add you to this list.

Sacred Justice Workshop Tour

Poster for the workshop in Vancouver.

Poster for the workshop in Vancouver.

This summer I’m travelling across Canada teaching Sacred Justice workshops. Details are available on facebook here.

This workshop will illuminate the connections between solidarity work and yoga. With meditation, asana and group discussion we’ll explore dynamics of power and privilege and how these affect the ways we relate to each other and build community. So often we hear the phrase, “we’re all one”, but what does this really mean? How can we come to a grounded understanding of interconnection without glossing over the real differences in our lived experiences and political realities? Perhaps we can use the concepts of community support and solidarity as tools to acknowledge the fundamental sense of union that our yoga practice teaches us to explore and honour. All levels of experience with yoga and social justice activism are welcome.

Locations:

In Vancouver details here: http://unityyoga.ca/events/

In Toronto: details here: http://www.mykulatoronto.ca/workshops

In Kitchener details here: http://queenstreetyoga.com/workshops#justice

In Montreal details here: http://www.ambaayoga.com/events-0

If you don’t see a workshop in your city, or would like to host one in your studio or community space, you can contact us at communityyogavancouver@gmail.com

Accessibility details for each location are available upon request or on the Facebook page (see above) or here.

Full moon yoga

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Next Saturday, June 22nd, I will be teaching a by-donation class under the (almost) full moon at Trout Lake park. We’ll meet at the corner of 15th and Victoria at 8:30.

No mats needed. Dress warm and bring friends. All levels of experience welcome. Class is weather dependent. Bringing a blanket is usually a good idea.

We’ll work through moon salutations and long-held yin poses with some meditation on either end of the class. The focus will be on grounding out, tuning in and keeping close to the earth while we soak up the moonlight.

Count yourself in on Facebook.