“Unless your heart is love, your life is just your dying.” – Gurumatha Amma

I bet the thick silence that comes after each song must be a shock to those attending their first kirtan (devotional call and response) singing circle. It’s been too long since I’ve taken part in one, and at the First Annual Montreal Yoga Music Festival I have to remind myself to resist the urge to clap and whoop in appreciation. Each song works itself up into a frenzy of celebration, everyone singing, music speeding up, until it winds down, settling into nothingness. I sit with my palms upturned, absorbing the wild energy that’s let loose, basking in the electrical charge of so many hearts opening at once, and my own excitement.

I’m just in time to see The Bhakti Connection bring the goods to the table yet again; people don’t seem to be singing along that much (or maybe just quietly) despite the song list and lyrics provided to get you to do just that. The audience is beaming though; compelled as they watch The Connection’s collective radiant talent pour forth under the chapel’s stained glass, crest to the rafters, and spill out ever so gracefully onto the lawn to create a fairy music background to Dr. Bali’s calm, measured words.

Festival organizer and Kirtan mistress in her own right Lea Longo explains that happy fluke brought the musicians into the chapel. The concerts were scheduled to be held on the lawn of the picturesque Loyola Campus in NDG, but at the twelfth hour some sort of noise regulations were brought out, the chapel there was offered up as an alternative, and well…nothing could be more perfect, in my humble opinion.

We take a break from the tunes (read: I tear myself away from the final, and one of my fave songs, an old Celtic blessing, Longtime Sun), to get a tour of the grounds from Lea, who moves in a glow of joy and easy kindness. We’re swept up and barefoot, forgetting that outside the real world is a seriously scorching million or so degrees not counting humidity beyond any human saturation point, and Iana, our brave and intrepid photographer, snaps pics while veritably hopping across concrete, smiling the whole time.

I admit that I was spying on Dr. Bali; having heard so many things second hand, spoken with considerable reverence by a few discerning folk who I consider interesting folk on that particular path, I don’t know what I’m expecting, but know I can’t help but stare. He’s older, Indian, and dressed starkly head to toe in white, right down to his white sneakers and white tennis socks. He sits on a folding chair as he instructs the group on the lawn, and while I didn’t have the chance to hear much, what I heard resonated with me, and what more can one ask for? My curiosity’s been peaked further, but I know none of that will be resolved…today.

Finding myself itchy for souvenirs, the Festival didn’t disappoint, and in between performances and lectures I picked up T-shirts, CDs, coconut water from CoCos~Pure, browsed lovely local veggies, handcrafted mandalas, Lolë clothing, and such supporters. It was quite the fun li’l carnival in an end of town that doesn’t usually have mats strewn across lawns, or Krishna chants-a-chanting the way the Plateau tends to. It was a charming self-contained reality, the campus all to ourselves. I was beginning to think it couldn’t get better.

And then there was Gurumatha Amma. Now, this is not Amma the Hugging Saint who draws hundreds of thousands of people to hear and hug her, but this Amma drew me, and hugged all who wished to hug her. She was already speaking when we walked in, and when I caught up with what she was saying, I feverishly began taking notes in the quickest (most terrible given the circumstance) way that I could, and subsequently looked like I was texting through her wisdom. Shameful though that may be, I don’t regret the fragments I captured, nor the blatant, public tears I shed as I hugged her, taking part in my first darshan, and being fully moved by it, as Le Noble Chemin played us on. I sat with a friend right after as I collected myself, and he shrugged, unmoved by her, though he’s been moved by others. I think of times I’ve heard teachers who I couldn’t learn from, and I’m grateful today was wasn’t one of those times. I’m grateful that there are as many teachers as there are students, as many paths as there are seekers, and an infinity of wisdom to tune into.

By midweek, mantras are still running through my head as I walk to work. Not unheard of, but it’s been awhile. The Festival left me recharged, and with a distinctively centered bounce in my step, so thanks to Lea, the musicians, and all the people who shared smiles for being intricate parts of just such a dog gonned happy day. Namaste.


“Have a mind like Buddha,

heart like Jesus,

actions like Michelangelo.”

– Gurumatha Amma


Watch Gurumatha Amma here.


Sorry you missed it? Well, be sure to be there next year :p
And check out Bhakti in the Woods in August. Looks like it’ll light up Ladysmith.

Loan me your wisdom @McMoxy

*all photos by Iana Kazakova

yoga festival

Bhakta = One who practices the yoga of devotion

yoga festival

Break out your ankle bells and meditation pillow, the 1st Annual Montreal Yoga Music Festival gets grooving this weekend at Loyola campus. With 2 solid days of scheduled kirtan (devotional call and response singing), talks from such infamous locals as Dr. Bali, and even Kids’ Yoga to keep the wee ones engaged, the fest is poised to make quite the splash on the city’s spirit and yoga scenes. Normally you’d have to wait for periodic events at local studios to showcase even one of these performers, whereas this time you get ten different musical groups and side events so you can make a whole weekend of devotion.

Admittedly, we won’t be welcoming kirtan kings like Krishna Das, MC Yogi, or Bhagawan Das (this time out), but we don’t have to shell out crazy big duckets or float our yoga butts down to Wanderlust either. Ottawa natives Bhakti Connection (who I’ve seen more than a few times and can’t wait to see again) will be coming in to regale us with their talent and passion, as will NYC based Ma Kirtan, Guru Matha Amma, and Eric Iverson of 5 Rythms will be leading a moving meditation celebration trance dance bound to feel like a party in your body.

I’ve never been to an outdoor kirtan, and it seems perfectly apropos to sing our hearts out and into the sky with our toes in the grass. The goodness goes on rain or shine, though meteorologists are all but guaranteeing sunny skies the whole way through. While I do expect the requisite show-offs and cross promoting, I feel confident that the seekers, revellers and pure of heart will be there in droves, and I can’t wait to lose myself with them.

Bring your mat, your blanky, whatever makes you comfy and thrilled. Bring water, water, water. Bring munchies too, ‘cuz there’s no food being sold there, so picnic lunches are highly encouraged. Once you have your pass in hand, you can wander off the grounds and back, but once you’re in the zone, why on earth would you want to leave it? Tix and deets available here.

I’ll be Tweeting while chanting…it’s almost like bilocation… @McMoxy

Also share this article and leave a comment below to win a free Yoga mat and passes for sessions at Happy Tree Yoga!

We make a lot of assumptions about people. It’s a holdover of our survivalist wiring that we assess people within seven seconds and it’s social survival that we fill in the rest. As Westerners we do a lot of judging on careers and positions within them, which makes it extra interesting to find that the DJ’s a sales manager by day, or that good ol’Chucky Bukowski really did devote over a decade to the post office.

I work at a yoga studio. One of the perks is telling people that I work at a yoga studio; it feels like a concise way to communicate quite a bit about myself. I’ve noticed a few prevalent cliches though, so I thought I’d try to clarify.

No, I’m not a vegetarian.

Not every yogi goes that kinda green, and not every vegetarian practices yoga. I have nothing against vegetarians who have nothing against me. Same with vegans as long as I don’t have to attend a potluck with them, in which case I will straight bring a fruit platter.

In some circles my appreciation for salad is enough to get me looked at sideways, but with yoga folk I’m an unenlightened eater. I’ve had more McDonald’s in my purse than anyone I know and hide it in my desk regularly.

Sometimes being there does make it easier to make a healthy choice, but contrarily, people can be quite free with their opinions and I don’t care to hear them. And while the majority are reasonable people, often there is one person who’s bursting about how they just finished their year long cleanse of eating nothing but sunlight and lotus petals while practicing hot yoga for an hour and a half each day and are now totally revved to get to their raw food dinner to celebrate. In my opinion, the line between food conscious and food obsessed is far too thin to spend so much time hanging out on, staring at and discussing, especially for women, but maybe that’s just me.

Yes, I am “spiritual.”

So “spiritual” in fact that I have the brass ovaries it seems to require these days to publicly admit believing in god. I avoid the word “religious” because I don’t really have a religion. I’m of the heartfelt opinion that god is too big to fit into any one book, so I’m going to keep on believing that they’re all different paths up the same mountain (with the exception maybe of some scary cultish neo-tribes, I’m looking at you, Scientologists) at best and opressive political mob mentalitied patriarchs on bad days.

Yes, most yoga folk are at least quasi-spiritual (please, never talk to me about The Secret), but every now and again, someone wanders in looking for a class with “none of that” and I grit my teeth and wonder why they don’t hit the gym. The vast majority of our classes don’t focus “on that” enough to offend anyone anyway; we are after all a business. I believe that’s some solid irony.

Yes, I wear Lululemon

No, I didn’t pay for a stitch of it. Look, it’s kind of a neat trick they have going there: they pay teachers for in store classes and events in clothing! Then the yoga peeps you look up to rock the clothes and go spend more on a pair of pants than I spend on groceries. So, thanks to colleague kindness, studio clothing swaps and an in store event, I can wear an outfit that would’ve startled me retail, for free, and no one knows it.

Well played, Lulu. Yes, my ass looks great. Yes, the girls are well tucked for yoga and dancing. Yes, these clothes are sweat wicking. Yes, I wear them to fancy places (with the right shirt, they’re black pants!), and the fit and material of everything are ideal if you’re partying till the sun comes up; I wonder if they know that. No, I still wouldn’t pay for them.

Yup.Yoga girls are hot. The guys too.

Hot pants and crop tops aside, anyone who can slow lift into a handstand is pretty comepelling to look at. Anyone who takes the time to go inside and learn about themselves is attractive. People who are smiling and comfortable in their own skin are gorgeous. Yup; we’re a beautiful bunch. Somehow though, when guys giggle about yoga, I don’t think that’s what they mean. So yes, we’re also bendy, and I’ve seen some amazing feats that can only be explained with double sided tape.

Yeah, I’m a hippie…but that’s me…

A whole variety of people take classes. Bankers love to relax after a hard day and they generally don’t seem the Tam-Tam type. Women you see in grocery aisles are standing on their heads when I see them. Rugby guys, martial artists and retired math teachers all get down with the down-dog, you just don’t know it. I do though 🙂

I curse, drink, slack, gossip…I could go on…

My version of being perfect is a matter of authenticity; not repressing, but rather being honest with myself. Should I be cranky? No. Can I be cranky? Yes. If my only progress in this life if full honesty with myself, I’ll be thrilled.

All yogis do things you would think to be unyogic. Any who don’t are lying, or about to cumbust from all that repressing and self-deception. Fuck off. You’re not better than anyone no matter where you practiced, with who, for how long. You are not more enlightened because you can hold your breath, or support your whole body weight with one hand.

I imagine it’s an especially tricky thing for teachers to manage; the expectations vs the humanity. Personally, I will always prefer an honest teacher, one who embraces their humanity as a vital part of their experience here over one who’s forsaking it all or one who sneaks out the back to get their fix, whatever that fix may be. Me, I’ll be in the front with my tunes turned up,

Namaste, bitches.

Tweet me from your mat @McMoxy