Thursday, November 1, 2012

Refreshing, inspiring, transformational - the Ojai Yoga Crib

I just returned from an unbelievable weekend at the Ojai Yoga Crib, an annual gathering in Ojai, California created by the inspiring yoga teacher Kira Ryder. This gathering of yogis from all walks of life seemed to be a synchronistic convergence of forward-thinking, creative and innovative individuals, meeting and connecting in a deeper than usual way.

The Crib is set up as a weekend of 2 1/2 hour workshops and an optional all-day intensive workshop with a teacher of your choice on the Thursday before. Aside from the contemplative beauty of Ojai, cradled in the Topatopa Mountains, the attraction is the outstanding teachers and thinkers who draw on ancient ideas and bring them into modern western culture, making new combinations of old ideas, and taking novel directions to expand the body and practice of what is called yoga.

Among some of the workshops I attended, there was much more going on than the standard yoga asanas. Scott Blossom talked about digestive fire from the Ayurvedic perspective, then taught a yoga asana practice to address kindling that fire in the body. Chandra Easton offered Women's yoga for the three stages of a woman's life, with flavors of Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine. Ravi Ravindra talked about the Rig Veda, an ancient text that infuses the philosophy behind yoga and Uma Goswami  - a psychiatrist - talked about Eastern thought and culture and how these principals inform and guide her practice and help her patients. She also taught us mantras and traditional Indian dance as a way to go deep and release embedded maladies. Erich Schiffmann taught Freedom Yoga with such humor and wisdom that it left us laughing, crying and in awe.

In the evenings there was a truly mind-expanding dharma talk by the same Erich Shiffmann, and a kirtan with the vibrant and beautiful music of Sean Johnson and the Wild Lotus Band.

I came away with a tangible sense of the living, evolving nature of modern yoga. I saw for the first time, the possibility that modern yoga is a sort of 'movement', and one that may be playing a vital role in a coming transformation of the human experience.

For more on the teachers and programs mentioned, see Lulu Bandha's Ojai Yoga Crib.

As I was transforming myself at the Crib, my husband Rob was running his 5th and hardest 100 mile run in the mountains above Ojai. He and his friend Gary were tackling the elusive "Coyote Two Moon", the annual race - which no longer exists - which took place every March on the full moon weekend in and above Ojai. It was the hardest because of the terrain, the steepest coming at the last 25 miles. But tough physically and mentally because it is run over two nights, instead of the usual one night of most 100 mile races.

There were several years in which the racers were pelted with rain, snow and even sleet. This year - for just the two of them plus crew - was warm and clear with pink-mountain sunsets and moon-lit nights. And so the weekend for both of us was transformational and unforgettable.