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Sunday, April 16, 2006

community service

Seva is the spiritual practice of selfless service. Seva, a Sanskrit word, springs from two forms of yoga, Karma Yoga which is yoga of action and Bhakti Yoga, the yoga of worship inspired by divine love. Seva is one of the simplest and yet most profound and life changing ways that we can put our spiritual knowledge into action. Seva is asking “How may I serve you?” Or ask “Can I help you?” Another way of doing service is to roll up your sleeves and help where you notice that you are needed. We can share our resources and energy with those in need and respond positively when a person asks for help. "Being there as the need arises” is a simple definition of Seva by Sri Ravi Shankar of the Art of Living Foundation. When you consider work as divine service, you can do it anywhere, at any time. Doing Seva is uplifting your own self, your own people and your world. Offering our Seva is a way to make a significant contribution to the spiritual community of fellow beings on earth. It is a practice that feeds us spiritually and a spiritual discipline that awakens us to the greater truth of our own being. - shannon brophy, yoga.com

last night, four yoga teachers (seane corn, hala khouri, ashley turner, and julian walker) from three different westside yoga studios (sacred movement, santa monica power yoga, and santa monica yoga) plus a group of kirtan musicians led by suzanne sterling put their collective efforts together for a memorable yoga event: seva - a night of celebration and activation to benefit our community

the evening was to be the beginning of a series of events organized by the yoga groove collective, made up of this group of teachers, to support local artists and healers. for this kick-off effort, their goal was to introduce the music of suzanne sterling to the community and to raise money to produce her upcoming album.

prior to the event, i had decided to take a refresher class with each of the teachers to get a feel for what the evening was going to be like (see my benefit preview post). and sure enough, with all those classes still fresh in my head, it was everything i had expected it to be. we started out with some of seane's prayerful meditation, mixed in hala's flowing movement, added a touch of ashley's power moves, then wrapped it all up in julian's trance dance mixes. and before we ended it all with calming savasana, suzanne sterling, dave stringer, and two other musicians (whose names i didn't catch) led us through a marvelous kirtan chanting session. it was two and a half hours of pure bliss.

there was an interesting and diverse mix of people waiting in the lobby while the group got the room ready. there were some who came alone and either listened to the music at the listening station or browsed through the clothing in the boutique. there were others who were animatedly conversing with familiar faces in the group. i chatted with a woman i had never met before, and we talked about kids and learning and about how school is much more sophisticated these days than we were their age (nothing like a now vs. then conversation to make one realize how old one's getting!)

once the doors opened, the room filled up quickly. those who had never been there before stood and surveyed the space before deciding where to set up camp. others headed directly for their favorite spots. some attempted to squeeze in beside friends, while some just found the first opening and laid down their mats.

trying to do a yoga class where four teachers are tag-team teaching can get quite interesting. you start out with one voice calling out poses and reminding you to breathe, then when you find yourself holding in dog pose, all of a sudden another voice starts calling out another series of poses and reminds you to expand and amplify your practice. then dog pose again, and next thing you know you're swaying and flowing and moving to your ability. and all the while, all four teachers are roaming the room and gently tapping people on shoulders, straightening legs, and aligning hips. the groupies were definitely there; while julian had the floor, i could've sworn i heard that same female who was orgasmically moaning in his class last week! those who were unfamiliar with a teacher's sequencing hesitated a bit when they didn't quite get what they were supposed to do. and there were others, like me, who had taken classes with all four and just kept moving along and enjoying the ride.

as for the call-and-response chanting part of the evening, i just kept singing along, even if i had just a vague idea of what the lyrics and the notes were supposed to be. it seemed like everything harmonized so well and that unless you were totally tone-deaf (which luckily, i'm not), you really couldn't go wrong even if you made up your own music (which i definitely did).

they plan to have more sessions in the near future, possibly at yoga works and/or sacred movement. if they're all as much fun as this one was, i intend to attend each and every one of them!