Tis the Season for Karma Yoga

The holiday seasons is not only fast approaching, it is on top of us. As I write this, it is December 20th, so Christmas is just five days away for many in the west and those all around the world who celebrate the Christmas holiday. Here in the U.S. Christmas began showing up commercially way back around the time of Halloween. Retailers unpacked their Christmas stock, to what many is considered way too early, and each year it comes out earlier and earlier, so that customers can decorate early and check presents off of their lists. Although Christmas seems to have morphed into a season of materialism it still offers a time of giving to those in need.

This is an old tradition that may even go back to Mary and Joseph being given room in a barn, but at the very least goes back a few hundred years. According to a historical documentary by the BBC, Victorian Farm Christmas,  the Victorians were charitable during the holiday season giving through collections at churches to go to the poor or by giving food directly to those without. Many today continue this tradition of giving at Christmas time, whether it be by dropping change in a red, metal Salvation Army pot, or by making a donation to an organization.

Within my communities I have noticed multiple ways to give this year, such as by donating toys to children without, food to a food cupboard, and yoga classes by donation in which the money raised is given to a specific cause. In fact, I hosted a candlelit Slow Flow earlier in the month that was by donation. Teaching for free or attending a class and donating to a cause is what is classified as karma yoga, or yoga in action.

tis the season

Karma yoga can come in many forms. It might be performing a chore, giving of time or money, or freely sharing yoga with others. Around the winter holidays is a great time to host a karma yoga event or find one to attend. People have it in their hearts to give and it’s cold, so a great time to move towards indoor activities. Of course, however anytime of the year would be a good time for karma yoga, but during the holiday season is a very appropriate time to give.

As a student look for donation classes in your community. If you are a teacher or studio owner, host a class or two by donation and find a local organization that will benefit from the money you raise. It is so easy as a teacher to host a karma yoga class, the skill is already there, and the space if a studio is readily available is there as well, all that is required is organization, promotion, and some time to plan and teach.

May you and yours have a joyful holiday season and may you find ways to give to your community this season and into the new year.

 

 

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Yoga at Ohio City Farm, Cleveland, by Vision Yoga – Class Review

This past week, from July 18-21, a handful Americans convened on Cleveland for the Republican National Convention (RNC.) Events of the RNC for me included some great live music, witnessing protests and stepping in to participate here and there, and at the end of the week a much needed outdoors, community yoga class.

There was a lot of stress and disbelief for me as a newly repatriated American. Tossed into the heart of Cleveland for the RNC was a little overwhelming, the most being hatred, homophobia, racism, and guns. It was an atmosphere that required deep exhalations.  Countless cops from all over the U.S. in the middle of tension on all sides. There was also a some good happening – people protesting and opposing the hate.

The whole thing had me shaking my head in confusion and disbelief which is why I was ever so grateful for a community class at Ohio City Farm . The class was the day after the convention ended (thankfully,) on Friday afternoon at lunchtime. At first I wasn’t sure if I’d attend since temperatures and humidity were high, but the class was in a far off corner of the farm, under a large, shady tree, in view of the Cleveland cityscape,  with a gentle breeze made the heat bearable.

The class was taught by a teacher from nearby studio, Vision Yoga, which is just a block away from the farm. Unfortunately I didn’t get the chance to visit the studio, but saw the storefront after grabbing a much appreciated post-class burrito. Based on their website, they have a lot of classes going on and are even offering a great new student and locals deal of 4 weeks at $40.

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Vision Yoga Studio 1861 W. 25th Street Cleveland, Ohio 44113

Getting There

The farm is easy to get to and is located just a short walk away from the historic West Side Market. Both are located just of of West 25th Street. The Ohio City Farm’s address is:

Stone Ct, Cleveland OH 44113

Follow this link for more detailed directions on how to get to the Ohio City area.

The Class

The farm class as mentioned before was taught at the far end of the farm, so be sure to give yourself about 10-15 minutes to find the spot and to fill out a waiver form if you haven’t been to Vision Yoga classes before. The class time is 12:15-1PM, just in time for a lunch break practice for those working nearby. It is a community class, or in other words, a donation class, so pay what you can and pay happily knowing that your money is going to a non-profit doing great things.

Community classes at the farm are every other Friday, so pay attention to Vision Yoga’s schedule to be sure that a class is taking place on the day you wish to attend. An organizer that I spoke to mentioned that she wasn’t sure if the classes would continue beyond August, but she and I hoped that classes would continue through September, as long as the weather cooperates.

The Refugee Response

The class that I attended was sponsored by The Refugee Response, an organization that works to help refugees settle into American life by offering English tutoring sessions; and something else that’s really cool – they employ refugees on the farm to work the land. Refugees from all over the world get to share their skills and gain a sense of purpose in their new community of Cleveland.

This is an awesome organization; if I were in Cleveland I would love to volunteer and get involved with them. If you’re local to the 216, then follow this link to find out how you can volunteer and help out. Maybe you can do your part by attending the next Community Class at Ohio City Farm.

 

Ashram Life

It’s been just about two weeks now that I have been living, as best to my ability, a yogic lifestyle in an ashram, here in Indore, India. The reason that I’m here is to advance my 20160314_090203studies of yoga, better my asana practice, learn about India and her beautiful people, and of course drink all the chai I can get my hands on (you gotta be fast, it runs out quickly!)

If you’re considering doing a YTTC or retreat at an ashram, here are some basic considerations of life at an ashram. My course is with Paramanand Yoga Institute, in Indore, Madhya Pradesh which is centrally located in the peninsula of India. Living a simple lifestyle won’t be for everyone, so do your research and contemplate if you’re up for life at an ashram before deciding to study one.

 

  • Yoga – It’s what I’m here for. In my advanced studies I’m learning a lot not just about the postures but about the other aspects of a yogic lifestyle, and it’s very much encouraged to go as deep as you can into it. That means trying to limit social media time, self practicing asana and meditation, and loads of personal reflection. If you go to an ashram to do a training be sure to look into the style of yoga that they practice and teach, as it’s very likely that it will differ greatly from the western, vinyasa flow/hot yoga that you’re used to. Go with an open mind and take as much as you can out of the variety of yoga styles that there are.

 

  • Vegetarianism – Ahimsa, or nonviolence, is a part of Yama, or self conduct, which is part of the Eight Fold Path of the Yoga Sutras by Patanjali, and this  might include vegetarianism in most ashrams. If you stay here in India, then you won’t even miss the meat, because the food is good. My friend forewarned that I’d probably even put on some pounds from all the ghee (purified butter) and sugary chai (both made from dairy, so let someone know if you’re vegan ahead of time) and she might be right.

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  • Karma Yoga – This is no hotel living. No one is going to clean your room for you or do your laundry, living in an ashram means doing things for yourself and taking joy and responsibility in your duty (dharma.) Not only will you be expected to care for your own space, but everyone is required to maintain the common areas. Personalized projects that cater to your interests are a possibility as well, i.e. – blogging!

 

  • Lectures – Whether  you do a yoga training, a short retreat, or a temple stay, remember that time spent in a new environment is time to learn and grow. At Paramanand Yoga Institute, there is a tightly packed schedule with classes on everything from Yogic Philosophy to Asana class.

 

  • Modesty – From attire to behavior there are rules here. 1. Shoulders must be covered, and only loose fitting pants (so leave your MPG at home.) 2. Opposite sex should not embrace/Don’t enter the rooms of the opposite sex. In a way you could almost think of an ashram as a monastery, essentially it’s religious, but before you wrinkle your nose too much, consider how a regulated day, diet, and schedule can be really good to push the reset button on your life. It’s also an integrated cultural experience that likely won’t be happening at a beach side resort.

Like everything outlined here, this may not be the case at the ashram that you find, but scour their website or send an email asking outright about style of yoga and behavior guidelines. If it sounds too intense, then look into a weekend visit or shorter trip than a month long training. Whatever length you choose, it’s beneficial to at least dip your toes into another area of yoga beyond asana.

Hosting Karma Yoga Classes

A karma yoga class is a class in which the payments are donated to a charity. As a teacher, they are very easy to  host and you do your part by donating the money, but also by teaching others about a charity or non-profit that has a lot of meaning to you (not to mention by giving everyone a well deserved yoga class!) Donations Only classes can be taught regularly or during special holidays or vacation times.I find that hosting karma yoga classes during holidays gives them just a little extra meaning; for example, I recently taught a class on Valentines Day, a great day to spread some love around. Here are some tips in hosting a karma yoga class.


Venue: 
Holding a donation based class outside at the beach or at a park is great, Beach Yogabecause no money gets lost to rent payments. When I first moved to Busan I hosted early morning beach yoga classes on the boardwalk and gave payments to my local non-profit of choice. Not much was raised, because not too many people are early risers, but every little bit counts!

Cost: Choose a minimum donation cost that is required, $5.00 is a good place to starDonationst. When I create my events I describe the cost as Minimum Donation of xxx, this way people might consider donating more. When class is finished and everyone is making their payments, I remind them that I have change for them if they need it, but if not their extra money is greatly appreciated by the organization. Many students will be generous.

Choose an Organization: Find a cause that means a lot to you personally and that you are knowledgeable enough about to tell others about in detail. At the beginning of the class, explain your organization of choice, where and how the money will be used, and other ways that people can help. Below is a description of the non-profit that I have been donating to.

BAPS- Busan Abandoned Pet Sanctuary

Busan Abandoned Pet Sanctuary is a privately run dog shelter in Busan, South Korea. The dedicated couple that run the shelter have rescued, medicated, and rehomed hundreds of dogs since 2008. Dogs have been saved from off the street and from the local pound; these are dogs that would have otherwise not had much of a chance at survival. BAPS is a no-kill shelter, so dogs are cared for until they are hopefully adopted for life. Money from donations goes to dog food, shelter upkeep, medications, male neutering, operations, etc.

My personal attachment to this non-profit is my love and joy, Fred, who I adopted from BAPS in 2011 with my boyfriend. He’s come a long way from his skin-diseased-street-dog-days and now lives a life of comfort, spending most of his days sleeping, curled up on my bed. He also loves to join me at beach yoga class. He takes a nice little nap in the sun while others flow.

To learn more about BAPS, visit their website or search for them on Facebook. Donations can be made within Korea by bank transfer or internationally by using Paypal. Information on how to donate is easily found on their website. There are even weekly dog walking volunteer events if you’re missing your furry loved one from back home, those can be found via Facebook.