Legend: BLUE-open, RED-closed, GREEN-by donation
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Sunday, November 25, 2007

a celebration of thankful giving

compared to last year, 2007 has been a much better year for me. all my family members are happy and healthy (or happy and healthy enough), i've been surrounded by great friends (even if they think i'm "out there" because of my obsession with all things yoga), i've managed to pull in a steady paycheck (knock on wood!), and my yoga practice has been progressing slowly but surely (despite my assortment of aches and pains).

in short, life has been relatively good to me.

so it seemed appropriate that, in the spirit of thanksgiving, the focus of my yoga practice this weekend was to give back some of the goodness that has been showered upon me.

i suppose you could say that it started tuesday when i helped shanti house prepare food for its thanksgiving feast on wednesday. my small contribution of time helped feed 150 homeless people, making their holiday a little bit brighter. it's true what they say about a little bit going a long way!

on wednesday, i had planned to take a class at your neighborhood studio in culver city, where they were having a yoga fundraiser:

In the spirit of what Thanksgiving is about, this Wednesday the 6:30pm Yoga class will be a donation-only class. The proceeds from this class will go directly to the San Diego Fire Relief Pet Assistance Program.

i was looking forward to taking denise mazan's yoga flow class, especially since it had been a while since i had last seen her. but i made the mistake of trying to squeeze in an acupuncture appointment right before class. after the needles and suction cups were removed from my back, i realized i no longer had any desire to do any bending nor stretching. after all that wonderful systemic stimulation, all i wanted to do was go home and rest. so i did. after all, i needed to honor my body and thank it for putting up with all i had done to it during the past year...

by thursday morning, -- i.e., thanksgiving day -- it was time to rouse my rested body and continue on with my thankful celebration. i headed out to santa monica yoga for their fundraiser:

Thanksgiving Day Class - Thursday November 22
By donation to benefit Westside Food Bank
9:00 am Level 1-2 with Mary Donovan

it seemed like everyone wanted to get their yoga fix in before moving on to their respective thanksgiving feasts... the large classroom was packed! with many students dropping $20 bills into the donation till, it looked like SMY succeeded in raising a good amount of money for the westside food bank.

in exchange for our contributions, not only were our bodies treated to a wonderfully physical yet relaxing flow class taught by mary donovan, but our vocal cords were exercised as well, thanks to andres salcedo and his kirtan-singing and harmonium-playing talents.

the rest of thanksgiving day was a blur. all i remember are visions of turkey, stuffing, cranberries, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, yams, fruit salad, pumpkin pie, chocolate cake... from not just one, but TWO thanksgiving dinners! by the end of the evening, i felt like a beached whale. if it weren't for the waistband of my pants gently reminding me about the food overfilling my belly, i'm sure i would have eventually looked like one :(

needless to say, my choice for friday's class at city yoga was very apropos:

Feeling a little ...full?
Please join Noah Mazè on the Friday after Thanksgiving for an invigorating practice to burn off that bird! 1:00 to 3:30 pm.
Suggested $20 donation - All monies collected will be sent to the Los Angeles Mission to feed the homeless.

i succeeded in driving past all the shopping malls with their black friday sales and arrived at city yoga purchase-free and on time :) when i got there, i noticed that someone had humorously altered the flyer posted on the bulletin board; instead of the original "Burn the Bird", it now read "Burn the Tofurkey" in deference to the vegetarians in the group. regardless, whatever it was that we ate the day before (or even that morning), we were there to burn it off!

and burn it we did, with the two-and-a-half hour session filled with vinyasas, arm balances, backbends, twisting poses, and everything else noah maze threw our way. all that excess fat, sugar, and alcohol that we consumed -- gone! yeah, don't i wish :(

at least i left the class knowing that my small donation helped feed 10 people at the mission. hmmm... maybe next year i'll actually try volunteering at the mission itself...

which brings me to saturday. i couldn't find a fundraiser yoga class, so i opted to volunteer my time at a kirtan benefit at santa monica power yoga west:

Giving Thanks to Shakti: An All Female led Kirtan and Music Celebration in Honor of the Feminine
This event is intended to bring the men and women of our yoga community together during Thanksgiving while partaking in the ancient tradition of honoring the Feminine as the Mysteries of winter approach.
Join us for incredible music led by Wah!, Donna DeLory, Suzanne Sterling, Terra Gold, Daphne Tse, and Jillian Speer who will be joined by many of our friends. We will have an invocation ceremony honoring Shakti that will include Indian Dance by Darshana Thacker. The night will also include Belly Dance with Jacqui Lalita, luscious vegan food from Rawvolution, a female altar of gratitude, yoga stuff by our friends from Natural High Lifestyle...and even more surprises!
All proceeds will go to help support the non-profit organization, Global Fund for Women. Suggested donation for the event is $20.

once andres salcedo's class let out at 6:45pm (yes, the same andres who led the kirtan at SMY on thanksgiving day), our group of performers, organizers, and volunteers rushed in to get the room set up in time for the 7:30pm event. as it turned out, not only was i there to offer seva to the producers of the event, but i was also there to cover the event for LA yoga -- so watch for my article in the upcoming issue :)

from my vantage point right by the entrance to the room, i was able to fulfill both of my responsibilities. i answered questions, gave directions, chatted with performers, listened to the music, and jotted down some notes. i was amazed at how many people showed up for the event. according to terra gold, there were over 200 people in attendance. if you do the math, that equates to a hefty donation to a group that supports women's leadership worldwide!

and just because i couldn't find a fundraiser class, it didn't mean that i didn't take a yoga class at all that day; i drove out to the valley saturday morning to check out lotus kitty yoga, one of the myfoxla nominees for best yoga studio. so in the spirit of giving thanks, i'd like to thank vanessa giorgio (aka kitty) for her first-class-free offer. i'll write more about her studio in a later post... once i get around to writing and finishing my piece on the kirtan fundraiser for LA yoga. my to-do list keeps growing...

while the shakti fundraiser was going on at SMPY west, there was a shanti fundraiser being held down the street at sacred movement:

Ananda Ritam - The Cosmic Dance of Bliss with Saul David Raye
Dancing and singing have long been sacred healing practices to awaken the life force, connect us to spirit and embody an ecstatic connection to the Divine force that sustains all life. Come dance and sing with Saul David Raye and guests and help raise funds for
Shanti House. Join us for this transformational evening of breathwork, chanting, live and electronic music and sacred dance to celebrate life and open to the very rhythm, energy and bliss of existence.

so when that event ended at 10pm, some of the people associated with it dropped by SMPY to check out the music. among them were richard wegman -- who was happy to report that the thanksgiving meal at the bread and roses cafe went extremely well -- as well as joey lugassy, who happened to mention that the stage at sacred movement was left as-is because the musicians were going to return the next morning for both micheline berry's and saul david raye's classes.

so guess where i went for sunday's class?

you know me too well :)

yes, it was a double-header for me this morning. first, it was micheline's vinyasa flow class with some zen dancing thrown in to shake things up, followed by saul's class with meditative chanting to bring everything back to center. with live music provided by joey, josh, michael, tony (who, by the way, will be releasing his latest CD, transcendence, this coming thursday at the temple bar) and others, it was a great way to end the thanksgiving weekend!