The 4th Annual Twin Cities Yoga Festival will take place October 23 at the Holiday Inn Metrodome. For more info and tickets, visit www.TwinCitiesYogaFestival.com.


Yoga is not just for yogis any more. ¶ There was a place and time – and there still is in parts of the world – where certain yoga practitioners known as “Sadhus” renounced the world and subsisted solely through the charity and kindness of others. They were clad in meager attire that bore a striking resemblance to the fashion of Bam-Bam from the Flintstones. Sadhus existed only to serve the Lord through yoga and meditation.

As I write this article, I am in Jamaica and have just left a session with my yoga student, Brother Richard, whose Franciscan-Catholic path is strikingly similar to that of the Sadhus. Richard is young, bright-eyed and clear-skinned except for his apple red beard, and he has taken the Vow of Poverty.

Everything Richard owns could fit into one backpack, he tells me, and if his parents or well-meaning parishioners should give him a laptop or six colorful yoga mats or Jockey underwear, he would have to pass those material goods on to someone else. He explains that if he needed those items for his work in any capacity to serve the Lord, he would have to find a library with an internet or borrow the yoga gear and props from somebody else, returning them when finished (I wonder, as he explains with passion the rigors of his path: could he perhaps keep the underwear?).

Vow of poverty
Recently, my Vedic Astrologer told me that I have an aspect in my chart that incurs poverty. In fact, it holds the combination of planetary action that “10,000 doctors can’t even fix.” Apparently since the Moon, ruler of my 11th house of friends and profits, sits in my 6th house of enemies and antagonists right next to benevolent Venus, I am not able to discern the difference between friends and enemies and, thus, love them all with equal aplomb – and subsequently suffer loss and poverty by being overly generous with the latter and former alike.

“I’m not surprised,” I replied, explaining to Vic that when I was a plaid-jumpsuit beanie-headed convent school 7th grader, I snuck into the sanctuary and joined the novice nuns in taking the Vows of Poverty & Chastity.

(And, of course, my distress stems from keeping one of them.)

• • •

On a snappy November night in 1993, I was walking home from Gurumarka’s Kundalini Yoga Class in Santa Fe, NM, where he had admonished me that my job in the world was to teach people to give. Being my own best teacher, I promptly took the $100 I had earned doing readings earlier in the day and gave it to the homeless shelter. When I arrived home, I found that the electricity had been turned off in our little studio alcove apartment due to non-payment of the bill. My teenage son was exasperated, yet lovingly accepting of the situation, even in the morning hours when the cold bit into his bones.

Now I admonished myself: What’s the matter with me? Giving is one thing, but being “generous to a fault” is another entirely. Other people, such as my son, suffer because of that faulty wiring inherent in me.

Changing their lives
Fourteen years later in October 2007, I was watching a beautiful Kundalini Yoga teacher leading a group through a prosperity yoga class at the Midtown Yoga Festival in Minneapolis. I was helping Lifetime Fitness Yoga Teacher Gary Heyer hand out more than 4,500 SoyJoy bars to the retinue of people who came for the festival or to simply shop at the Global Market, unaware that they were in the midst of an event that would change their lives.

People came for a myriad of reasons: To watch the Bikram yoga competition; to get thin thighs in 30 days through the offerings of Hatha yoga classes, or to dance Salsa and appreciate the spiritual practice of IFA under the guidance of Renee Thompson and Annette Williams. Maybe they came to chant Kirtan with the Hare Krishnas or Sat Purkh Kaur or to teach or sell their merchandise or get to know other yoga studios in the Twin Cities.

The people were as eclectic and abundant in variety as were the dozens and dozens of boxes of SoyJoy bars, which seemed to keep tumbling out of the store room.

Meetup members, small studio owners, staff from the PR firm and students volunteered their time selflessly. Volunteers from the healing community, such as acupuncturist Amy Nystrom and Motorcycle Bill, donated more than 100 combined hours to set up, facilitate and break down the event. Sponsors and donors supported the event with more than $3,500 in cash contributions and in-kind support; Chase Manhattan, Discover and MasterCard and I anted up another $4,500. Vendors at the Global Market had their second best day of revenue ever.

But my stamina and finances were depleted for six months afterwards. There was a nice feeling in me when I overheard a taxi driver speaking to someone else of the event, but I saw my reflection in the window and I looked worn and tired still.

I carried that same pattern of over-giving of my own energies and finances into the 2008 and the 2009 Festivals and part way into the birthing of the 2010 Yoga Festival, until my friend and colleague, Susan, called me on my attachment to lack and bringing poverty thinking into the community by over-giving of myself and under-charging for events that cost people to produce. It was an attachment that was making me physically, spiritually and emotionally ill.

Visiting the Bush Doctor
But now I am in Jamaica, getting ready to drive to Mandeville tomorrow to see a bush doctor/healer who will help me with my chronic fatigue, body pains, confusion, and MS-type symptoms by first “protecting me from my enemies” with an amulet and a blessing.

This I will do and receive, while our team of Organizers and Production Experts work on bringing the 4th Annual Twin Cities Yoga Festival to fruition on October 23.

I don’t know if I’ll be able to change my insistence on not owning things; same as Brother Richard adheres to his protocol. But I do know that by letting go and letting God, letting go and letting Others, we will have a successful, delightful, vibrant Yoga event.

The Festival has become incorporated to bring a sense of community to the creation of the gala, and nearly all the yoga studios in the Metro area are volunteering time and energy to promote and carry the burden and the joy of presenting Yoga to the people of Minnesota and the Midwest.

More than a dozen musicians and more than 15 teachers from around the globe are donating their time, airfare and energy to come and inspire, uplift, poke, provoke and unify us.

I believe that as a community we will be led, and we will teach ourselves and one another how to have a new relationship with Yoga and Prosperity and Thin Thighs.

Can the Bush Doctor in Mandeville do for me what 10,000 doctors cannot? I don’t know. But I know that in Minneapolis, we can do for ourselves together what 10,000 doctors could not.

Gaia Richards is a yoga teacher & freelance writer and a grandmother of three. She and her global crew are envisioning and creating the 2012 International Yoga Festival in Jamaica. She also is instrumental in the creation of the The 4th Annual Twin Cities Yoga Festival on October 23 at the Holiday Inn Metrodome. For more info and tickets, visit www.TwinCitiesYogaFestival.com.

2 COMMENTS

  1. Many of us can relate to “over-giving” at the expense of our own well-being. Although, the Universe replenishes and replaces what we give, the cycle can have lower peaks and higher valleys, and more instantaneous retribution/replenishment, if we ask. Perhaps, we are the “sadhus” of the Western world, because we have our “industrialized” attachments in comparison to the sadhus and their austerity that, I too, have been fascinated with while visiting in India and Nepal. Sometimes, I have envied them and that freedom.

  2. What an excellent comment, Cassandra!

    I had an experience recently here in Jamaica with a visiting friend who had relapsed in his drug addiction to booze and cocaine. Whilst he “gave” generously to Jamaicans and me alike, each dollar had a hook in it — a hook of giving from a place of low self esteem and resentment, not of faith and love in the Universe. This experience showed me of my own prior tendency to give from fear and deplete myself rather than give generously from a true connection to the Great Spirit of the Universe.

    Perhaps also as we are in the Aquarian Age and learning to do this whole experience together, we are collectively Sadhus in training — uplifting and inspiring one another on the path, teaching and being taught, giving and receiving in a constant dance as the Creator intended……

    I come back from Jamaica to Minnesota restored, replenished, renewed and ready to see what the Universe is going to do through and for us!

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