Last Wednesday in New York City, local yogi-poets gathered at The Jivamukti School for the first official book launch event of The Poetry of Yoga. Co-hosted by two soulful pioneers, Sharon Gannon, co-founder of Jivamukti yoga, and HawaH, poet, artist, yogi and seminal editor of The Poetry of Yoga, the evening was a deeply moving, uplifting and inspiring entrée of yoga’s natural and nuanced companion, poetry, to the fore.
From humorous takes on the pains of complex asana, to a soaring spoken word stream wrapped up in rhythmic flute beats, this yogi-poet was on hand to not only get you the scoop, dear reader, but to also share her own contribution to this monumental work of art, one representing our generation’s “spiritual warriors, compassionate renegades, lovers of truth and seekers of wisdom.”
Yoga, as we’ve discovered this past headline-rich week, is more than what it seems, and certainly more than meets the eye. Oh, we know what it looks like: graceful (or not) postures, lotus seats and eyes a-closed on inner landscapes. But now, society at large is gradually waking up to the reality that defining and, moreover, understanding yoga, begets a complex and richly faceted discussion, one that only just begins with the body.
Looking closer, we see that yoga is undoubtedly something of an art form, a holographic tool which, at the level of the body and with a great teacher to get you going, is accessible enough to send ripples far and wide, initiating personal observations, expressions, and insights. The vessel of the body in yoga postures has put countless into contact with the awakening of more fulfilling patterns in thought, speech, and action. But it’s the philosophy, an ancient and simple wisdom, when packaged with movement, guided breathing and responsible awareness, which triggers that more profound and subtle awakening towards the ultimate: a unified state of consciousness. When actually combined with written meditations of poetry and prose, the art of yoga, of honest reflection and attention, becomes truly grace-full – serving as an inspired guide for how to live, work, and thrive by connecting seeds of inner intentions to blossoming outer manifestations for a higher good.
One man with his hand definitively in the pot of co-creation is HawaH, who in 2009, started developing a workshop called The Poetry of Yoga. He took this workshop on tour throughout the country, encouraging people to write poetry while doing yoga. When, through this alchemical work of weaving writing and movement, he discovered its instrumental role in transforming and healing, HawaH “realized the soul-stirring poetry [they] were creating had to be shared with others.” In the fall of 2010, he sounded the call for yogis around the world to share their yoga-inspired word-art. Thus began a modern-day renaissance of those mystic poets Hafiz, Mirabai and Rumi, brought to life through the lens and pens of a 21st century culture.
With the help of social media, HawaH received over 1,500 pages of submissions originating from 16 countries. Distilled into 333 pages of poetry, volume one of The Poetry of Yoga was released in November 2011, featuring works from internationally celebrated master teachers and authors, including: Sharon Gannon, Krishna Das, Lilias Folan, Rod Stryker, Swami Ramananda, Tias Little, Sianna Sherman, Judith Lasater, Doug Swenson, Chuck Miller, Erich Schiffmann, Joseph Goldstein, Leza Lowitz, Shiva Rea, Michael Stone, Aadil Palkhivala, Douglas Brooks, Climbing Poetree, among many more.
Featured poets for the evening included: Fred Arcoleo, Sarah Herrington, Alexandra Moga, Anandi Premlall, Lacretia Mohammed, Lauren Milano, Susan Littlefield, Barry Denny, Katie Capano, and Alixa Garcia of Climbing Poetree. The night began with a powerful invocation by Sharon Gannon who, with clarity and a motivating confidence, invited all those present to attune their receptive antennas to the grace and beauty of the sharing that was to take place.
HawaH next addressed the warm (literally and metaphorically) room of over 100 guests, giving his testament that “as deep as the need for survival is the need for creative expression and cooperation.” To that end, the dynamic work of the non-profit One Common Unity supports a movement for peace education and the building of a non-violent culture through music and arts. To sustain One Common Unity’s mission, 50% of book sales feed back into arts-based health and wellness, conflict resolution, and nonviolence education for inner-city youth.
As a contributor and participant, I felt that the cathartic act of sharing my written work aloud, a work drawn out of blessed moments of revelation, electrified me and consequently, the room I was so connected to. As any performer, speaker or teacher can attest, when sharing spirit through your words, there is a definitive coming together. And isn’t the essential goal of yoga just that, unity?
During Alixa Garcia’s powerful spoken word piece, you could feel the words thread themselves through her rhythmic delivery, pounding into ears hungry for meaning, down to hearts all together understanding, in a flash, at once uplifting the energy of the room fiercely. Applause shook as she dropped her last word, tying up our newly painted picture and eliciting a deep appreciation for her delivered truths.
Fred Arcoleo, a musician, poet and yoga practitioner had this to say, “I became aware of the beautiful melding of body and mind when poetry dances with yoga, particularly evidenced for me during the musical numbers and during Susan Littlefield’s spontaneous stretching interlude. I think this is just the beginning of a journey for me to weave poetry into my yoga practice and vice versa.”
When compiled and offered as a global reflection, the many poems, colors, perceptions and cadences, in The Poetry of Yoga together stand as one glowing source of light. Throughout the night, as authors’ voices articulated their very own creations, source and tone reunited, resonating still words from a page into feeling embodied as originally experienced and intended.
Perhaps it is our job to take the fundamental goal of yoga: unity of body, mind and spirit, and work to elevate it beyond our ever-conditioned, oft-dogmatic systems of belief into a direct and unfettered personal experience. One that when shared, helps us to realize the more we choose to find and express it, the more we are indeed one whole, poetic and common humanity.
Buy the book: thepoetryofyoga.com
Look for The Poetry of Yoga Volume II coming 12.12.12
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