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What it Means to be a Karma Teacher – Michael Olivotto

seflessgivingKarma Yoga is one of the three types of yoga mentioned in the Bhagavad Gita. It is the practice of action, the yoga of selfless service. Through our devotion to Love we offer up the fruits of our labour and surrender the concept of failure or success. The action is enough. In this way we learn how to break our conditioned past patterns and emerge like a phoenix reborn. Every moment is an opportunity to be reborn, to burn up our past and BE present.

At Karma Teachers, we practice Karma Yoga. It takes many forms, volunteering at the front desk, guiding asana practice, facilitating philosophical and spiritual discussion, cleaning, hugging and offering love, to name but a few. What unites all of these myriad of forms is the underlying meaning, selfless service and unconditional love. Whether we are holding space for someone to transform, cleaning a toilet or teaching asana we act not from a desire for anything, but from a desire to support, nurture and love. In this way we create space for ourselves to transform and receive the love that resides in all of us. As such, being a Karma Teacher requires us to constantly check-in with the moment and ask: am I being selfless with my actions?

It requires a self-awareness that accepts responsibility for all of our actions without judgement, but with love. In this space of awareness and compassion we can transmute our little question of how can this help me, to how can I serve. Every moment is an opportunity to self-reflect and grow our understanding of our Self, such is the gift of Karma Teachers.

To teach at Karma Teachers is not a right, it is not a privilege, it is not any of the words we like to think of; rather, it is Service. It is service to your Highest Self, to the Self of others and to the unifying beauty that is unconditional love. The purpose is not to promote our amazing gifts, beautiful talents or any other part of ourselves. The purpose is to serve the community, to serve the world. Through our beautiful unique gifts we can help to inspire countless people to discover the Truth that resides in their soul. Yet, it is not about our gifts, they are tools to better impart whatever message we are here to send. Every space is different, every place needs something different. At Karma Teachers we offer the services that are needed, teach what is needed, clean what is needed, serve whatever is needed.

Karma Teachers are not simply yoga teachers, that is but one form of what is needed. Karma Teachers reach beyond what is expected, they soar above the normal approach, they are revolutionaries that demand nothing from anyone but give everything to everyone. Karma Teachers are soldiers of Love, shock troops breaching the walls of fear, greed, and misery with swords of love, messages of peace and open arms of forgiveness. Be the change you want to see in the world, create the opportunities to serve, reach beyond the space of Karma Teachers and bring love into this world.

Yoga is Priceless – by Michael Olivotto

We the PeopleYoga is priceless, and yet it has a price. Ask any serious practitioner what yoga is worth, and they will not be able to come up with a number large enough; how could they, it has, for the most part, changed their lives. However, every day we are confronted with the reality that it most definitely has a cost. I am not here to say that all yoga studios should be free, teachers need bread on their table (often gluten free organic and non-GMO) and a roof over their heads just like everyone else, but how can we reconcile the spiritual with the material?

For the last year I have been the Executive Director of Karma Teachers, a not-for-profit yoga studio that offers all of our classes for free or by donation. We have no minimum donation and no mandatory karmic exchange, all we ask is that you give what you can at this moment. We have never, and will never turn someone away due to financial limitations. Our studio is located in a back alley of Vancouver’s Downtown East Side, one of the poorest neigbourhoods in Canada. By all intents and purposes we should have closed down. Yet our doors stay open, not because we place a price on yoga, but because we see no limit to its value.

I write this statement not because I think our model is the way it should be, quite the contrary, our model simply works for us; it is not the way yoga should be offered, it is not the best way to offer yoga, it is not the only way, it is just our way. We do not expect each student to be the same, so why should every studio be the same? In Vancouver, we are truly blessed with so many different types of yoga studios, whatever you need you can find. We have gorgeous spaces with infrared saunas, we have studios that can fit no more than 10 people and studios that can fit over 100. There are multinational chains with set classes, and experimental spaces that can only be found in Vancouver. Just as our city has many faces, yoga too must have many faces. But what is it that unites us all in our differences? Yoga unites us, no matter the external form with which it is practiced, the underlying truth remains the same.

I will make a bold generalization when I say yoga has affected a positive change in every teachers’ life. It was the messenger that facilitated a shift in their life and provided the tools for them to heal. Why else do they teach, why else do they practice? Consequently, most teachers are ready to share their love of yoga and selflessly give back for a cause, say the tragic events in Nepal. What a beautiful thing for our community to come together to support and share our love and abundance. Recently many studios and teachers were able to selflessly organize beautiful fund raising events to alleviate the suffering of this tragedy, and I applaud them all from the bottom of my heart.

Enter free yoga. There are many teachers who are allergic to this phrase. It is seen as a devaluing of what we collectively offer. Yet, if it is for a cause then we can offer our services for free to raise funds. What if we shifted our collective perspective and saw Yoga as our cause. What if we saw Yoga as priceless? Look around you and tell me the people in this city do not suffer. Tell me there is no trauma, tell me there is no pain, and tell me there is no deprivation of the human psyche. What if our cause was to alleviate suffering at home, in the people around us? We live in abundance, those of us that are lucky enough to practice, that have forged the path to change in our lives. Let’s share our spiritual wealth. Vancouver is a Mecca of yoga in Canada, and North America. Our population is tiny compared to some American cities, say New York, yet the number of practitioners, the depth of our practice and the diversity of the teachings is mind blowing. Change cannot and will not start outside of ourselves.

I have taught all around our beautiful city, I have taught in studios, schools, gyms and community centres, but I have never seen such a diverse demographic as at Karma Teachers. Why, because we have no price to our practice. We have been asked: how do we know we are serving the right population? We know they are the right people because they come to our space. We have practitioners that have never been able to donate in any traditional way, but contribute solely with the means available to them, their awareness and presence. We have practitioners that donate $100 for a class and everyone in between. This is our community, every studio has its own beautiful vibrant community. Let’s open our doors to the world.

Think back to when you began yoga, to the darkness that your world inhabited, to the paths that you have walked, to the darkness that still lies ahead. Think to the helping hand, that beautiful voice that reached into you and showed a wondrous door that you could walk through. Now imagine that this door was never shown because you couldn’t afford to pay, because $5 for a class was too much.

Large corporations are able to sponsor free yoga when it helps them promote their brand, a teacher or a cause. Why can’t we as teachers, students and studios offer free, no strings attached yoga? In the Bhagavad Gita Chapter 2 verse 47 yoga is explained as the non-attachment to the fruits of our labour. It is the joy in offering our teachings for the sake of the teachings themselves. I invite you, whether you practice yoga, teach yoga or have never even considered yoga until now, to examine your life and find one thing that you can do that lets go of any need for validation, any need for success or fear of failure, and comes simply form your heart. The most priceless gift I have ever been given is the smile of a stranger. In their eyes, in their smile Namaste is explained. In that gift, yoga is explained.

I ask this examination not to wag my finger or to tell anyone that they need to change. I love everyone in our yoga community. Every day I am reminded of my gratitude for all the beautiful souls that make this journey possible and enliven these lessons. I ask because I know that together we are stronger, together we can create a new paradigm, we can walk our talk and embody the teachings of yoga. Please come see what we do, please come see the power of our abundance and the transformative effect that it has on our lives.

 

The importance of free, accessible yoga Ljudmila Petrovic

I remember the moment that I realized something was off about the face of the Western yoga craze. I was an undergraduate student during final exams and had finally skulked out of the library for a 60 minute class in an attempt to do something nice for myself. But as I sat in that class, listening to the teacher talk about the importance of practicing as often as possible, of being in touch with oneself, of the unimportance of material things, I was struck by the irony: the number of times I would have practiced but couldn’t afford a drop in, let alone a membership; the number of times I have had to wait for my next paycheque before I could practice; the number of times I have had to make a choice between paying for yoga and paying for something else. Yoga is something so simple, so pure, and so introspective in its essence; surely there had to be another way to practice. Several weeks later, a friend took me to Karma Teachers. She took me down the alley behind Save on Meats and we reached a door, unmarked except for a strip of masking tape that had “Yoga” written in sharpie, and an arrow pointing to the doorbell. I wasn’t sure what to expect; but once I came into the studio and experienced the simple, pure warmth, I never looked back. Since then, Karma Teachers has grown to be a movement, a community, a reminder of the essence of yoga.

Yoga is about unequivocally accepting oneself in that moment, which is something revolutionary for many marginalized communities that have been taught shame their whole lives. Studies have proven again and again that yoga has positive effects not only on the body, but on our mental, emotional and spiritual well-being. Yoga has been used as part of treatment for addiction, mental health issues, and trauma. Over the years, my yoga practice has had an immense role in helping me get in tune with my body and recover from an eating disorder. It has helped me stay grounded and stable when life stressors threatened to throw off me off my path of recovery. For me, yoga is not just about flexibility, it is not just about strength, it is not about looking good. Being on the mat is a time for introspection, for oneness with myself, with my body and my mind. It, quite literally, keeps me sane. And that is why, whether I was practicing in my cramped bedroom in front of a YouTube video or shelling out three weeks’ worth of groceries for a yoga membership, I always found a way to practice. That is why a community like Karma Teachers is so valuable: a place where I can give nothing one week and more the next, where I can always practice no matter what.

It is usually vulnerable populations—those battling addiction, those living with mental illness, those with PTSD and traumatic pasts—that can receive the most benefits from a healing practice. And yet it has somehow grown into something inaccessible and elite. You shouldn’t have to put a price on your health and wellbeing. You shouldn’t have to skimp in other facets of your life in order to practice yoga. And that is where Karma Teachers comes in, stripping away all of the name brand yoga gear and expensive practice, down to the true essence of yoga. It is a vulnerable position to be in, being dependent on donations and kindness, but the growing success of the concept also teaches that vulnerability isn’t necessarily a bad thing when you’ve got a community to catch you.

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FREE! yoga + acoustic music festival May 29th

Vancouver, are you ready for this?

FREE! yoga + acoustic music festival
The most epic, heart centered and revolutionary yoga event of the year and it’s absolutely FREE! The Free or By-donation yoga movement has evolved and we would like the celebrate our community by doing what we do best – selfless service. Featuring Vancouver’s Most Inspiring Yoga Teachers and most talented yogi musicians! Absolutely, No strings attached Free Yoga and Music Festival to celebrate Oneness and promote the act of Selfless Giving.

Yoga Is Priceless!
The Yoga Schedule:
9:00 am Reno Muenz Dharma Yoga
10:30 am Chris Duggan Funky Flow
12:00 pm Shannon Cluff Hatha
1:30 pm Dr.Genieve Burley-Howes Core Flow
3:00 pm Slava Goloubov Acro Yoga
4:30 pm Tina Pashumati James
6:30 pm Teresa Campbell
7:45 pm Michael Olivotto + Emerson Lim Yoga
email info@karmateachers.com for more information or visit www.karmateachers.com
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Acoustic Music: Jodi Mariko Okabe, Elise Surya Jene, Karthik Chatapuram, Soraya Fateh Bir and many, many more

We believe that money should not deter anyone from practicing yoga, realizing their dreams and cultivating their true potential; ‪#‎karmarevolution‬ is the direct manifestation of that belief. Our primary purpose is to provide high-quality Yoga classes to people of all situations and circumstances, of all systems of belief, of all ages, races, sexes, sexual orientations, genders, cultures, ethnicities, levels of fitness, economic statuses, social statuses, ad infinitum. At Karma Teachers, we celebrate the beauty of difference; the only requirement for inclusion is a desire to become part of a community of motivated, passionate, and like-minded individuals.

We are ONE!
Dharma Yoga Vancouver, One Yoga for the People Vancouver, Loka Yoga Whistler, Stretch Vancouver, Ocean Breath Yoga, Kits Space Beach Yoga, Yoga at Dude Chilling Park are all going to be offering a FREE yoga class on this historic day of FREE! yoga in Vancouver. We are reaching out to other studios today as well. Watch out for more announcement and free yoga class schedules. https://www.facebook.com/events/748371965306769/

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A Mother’s Day Story – This will make you cry.

testimonials

A Mother’s Day Story – This will make you cry.

A sweet, enthusiastic and touching letter from one of our at-risk youth student. This one will make you teary eyed. This is one of the reason why Free and by donation yoga is so important. Yoga is Priceless!

Yo Karma Teachers and mike,
Woot Woot! I just want to let you know that you guys rock. I used to practice lots of yoga w/ my mom before i got kicked out. my mom passed away and my dad could not handle me. i was a basketcase, a boozer and a druggie. long story. long sappy sad story. I am blown away by your studio. You guys are yoga studio that evolved. Mike’s Power Rock is power yoga evolved. Ecstatic yoga is ecstatic dance and kundalini evolved. I love Ecstatic! lol You guys are da future and Vancouver is lucky to have you. I am so glad that that you guys exist. I am flat broke and I would have spiralled into depression or killed myself without you guys. Keep the good work and keep it free o r by-donation. I love you dudes and let me know what I can do around the studio. By the way I want to become a yoga teacher too but now i live in shelters. I am an at-risk youth and discovered you guys through emerson’s at-risk E yoga w/ like a thousand people at the community centre. lol I am inspired by emerson, he is like a superhero in the at-risk community, but i want to be like you, mike. strong dude that does power yoga. i want to make a difference , i dont want to a be a loser anymore. iwant to be like emerson and you, epic role models. i want to evolve.
everytime i go to to your studio, i feel that i never really lost my mom, for an entire month i used to stand outside of the yoga studio my mom and i used to go to expecting her to come out and everything will be fine again but thats not real and when i had to courage to go in, the receptionist girl told me it was 22 bucks to get in, i was suicidal then i found out emerson teaches at your karma teachers and its free thats when i started healing. everytime you say inhale i think of her everytime you say exhale i let go of her. sory im sappy,
Feel free to share this note to emerson or heck to everyone, just dont share my email, i am not going to be at risk forever, i just sent an application to be a yoga teacher. a yoga teacher my mom would be proud of. YEAH! . i am now going to shout “i love karma teachers.’ all over vancouver.
Peace out!
Kev da Yogi

 

Karma Teachers College: “One of the most intense, beautiful experiences of my life.” by Ashima Suri

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Karma Teachers College Toronto: “One of the most intense, beautiful experiences of my life.” by Ashima Suri

I can’t say enough good things about Karma Teachers. In one short month of Teacher Training they transformed lives, gave us hope, sparked a light and then helped us to fly. It was one of the most intense, beautiful experiences of my life. The partial-scholarship they provided for me enabled me to participate and get trained. I couldn’t have done it without the financial help. As a new mom, my project (work) had ended right when I gave birth and with crazy child care costs, there was no way I would have been able to afford the full cost of the training. With Karma Teachers however, I was able to access yoga and be part of the karma revolution movement.

The Yoga Teacher Training is far more than just asana and anatomy teachings. I walked into my training the first day with a group of strangers. By the end of the training, I left with a family of love. With Emerson and Michael’s guidance, I, along with the other teachers, were able to demonstrate the skills we learned in a loving and supportive manner. We learned by example. Emerson and Michael gave so much love and support that it allowed us to see what it took in being a good teacher. They were non-judgmental, loving, funny, real and just a beam of light. And that light washed away many of our own darknesses.

Now the love and support did not stop when the one-month training ended. Emerson and Michael continued to mentor us after we were done by providing a studio where we could teach and give back. They made us accountable and responsible for our actions by giving us a 40-day yoga challenge. This accountability allowed me to really own my own light. I continue to practice yoga daily and it has been 60+ days since my yoga training has ended.

In addition, Karma Teachers provided us a closed Facebook group where we can continue to support each other. That support lives on and it is so nice that we can approach our Karma Teachers at any time.

Whether it is a partial scholarship or a full-scholarship, Karma Teachers is absolutely fantastic in making yoga accessible to everyone!! This is incredibly necessary for the whole world. It is a movement like no other.

Due to their unconditional kindness through the training and the challenge, I am now teaching yoga to others, giving back to the community and teaching at a love-based studio. Emerson and Michael’s teachings live on inside of me as I continue to deliver heart-based yoga and help shed a little light to others like I have received from Karma Teachers. I am proud to be a Karma Teachers graduate. I not only understand yoga better, but I understand love a whole lot more. And that has transformed my life.

With gratitude
Ashima

Ashima Suri www.iamlimitless.ca

Power to the Peaceful 2: Asana the Great Teacher by Michael Olivotto

 

 

 

 

Michael Olivotto Asana

Asana the Great Teacher by Michael Olivotto

Asana is the practice of letting go. It is the place where we are confronted with our most deeply held beliefs and asked to surrender them to our Highest Self.
Asana is art. It is creative volition. It is physical prayer. It is a lesson of release.
Asana is the Great Teacher that prepares you for your journey, but it is not the journey in itself.

Are you obsessive, don’t worry Asana will show you. Do you feel unworthy, don’t worry Asana will show you. Do you judge yourself and others, don’t worry Asana will show you. But Asana does not teach in the way we are used to being taught. We are used to being lectured at, being told exactly the right way to think, to move, to live. Asana is not a school teacher, it is a loving but strict mentor. Asana will never set the curriculum, it will not tell you no, it simply provides you the space and support to learn whatever lesson you have asked to learn. Asana invites you to take responsibility over your life, to own your existence. Let’s be honest, how often do we find ourselves wishing for something more, asking the universe why me or blaming others for the course of our lives? We are all victims in our own universe, powerless to change, helpless innocents or cruel villains, we are ruled by our fear.
How easy it is to forget that with every moment we have a choice, do I choose Love or Fear? While we have no control over what life throws at us, or the actions of others, we do have control over how we proceed with our life situations. Enter Asana. Upon the mat, life is made so simple.
Here every breath reminds us of our power to choose. I have no control over the postures offered by the teacher, yet I can choose to attend a class or conduct self-practice; I can choose to participate or I can refrain, I can determine the depth of every posture, I am in complete control over myself regardless of what transpires around me. The veil over my body is slowly pulled away and I am able to see all my glorious imbalances, my strength, my weakness. Both my positive and negative self-images are dispelled and all that is left is the raw truth of where I am, the beauty that is my reality.

In this space a mockery is made of my pursuit for external validation. My search for a deeper wheel, a longer handstand, a more harmonious OM does nothing to change who I am at my core. While the external depth of my practice can garner praise and acclaim it cannot change me, unless I choose to open to my Higher Self. It makes me giggle, yes giggle, at the parallel between my mat and my life. Here on my mat, with Asana my beautiful teacher, life becomes so easy to see, to feel, to understand. But, that is my lesson, for now, and herein lies the true beauty and depth of my lovely teacher, your lessons will be different than mine. They will be tailor made to fit with what you are here to learn. So, with no judgement for anyone else’s lessons, embrace your path and find your lovely mentor in whatever form it needs to take.

Namaste my beautiful friends,

Michael Olivotto

“I have been waiting forty years for this one month.” by Meagan Donnelly

“I have been waiting forty years for this one month.” This was the testimonial I gave verbally to Emerson on the day of my graduation from the one-month intensive 200-hour teacher training in January 2015, and I meant it with all my being! “Karma teacher training transformed me, changed my perception of my existence and saved my life.” This is something that I have said everyday from about day 3 on. The experience that I had created in my life was so different then the one my heart and soul wanted to create. Mental health issues and addictions had driven almost all of my familial and personal relationships. I grew up in a fear based home but I also grew up knowing that I was loved and that unity was first and foremost as was service to humanity – a dichotomy I had yet to understand.

 

“ You are not your story, your thoughts or your feelings”.  These were gems that both Emerson and Michael reminded us of routinely. I remember that first day of training. We started off with a meditation I couldn’t silence my fears in and an asana practice that literally brought me to tears. I felt like a farce, a poser, and an intruder unworthy of the scholarship Emerson had provided. The first weeks were so emotional. There were times I cried out of sadness, others out of frustration and sometimes out of habit. Out of habit? Wow! That was an amazing discovery for me. There came a point in training where I was tired of feeling like a victim, tired of being a victim, tired of acting like a victim. I began to ask myself what I was crying for. How were my tears and pain helping me anymore? It was time to stop feeling so much and to start taking more action. “Your pain is just lessons, only hold onto it as long as you need to.” This was one of the messages that Michael gave as he guided us from yoga doers to yogis. I still cry sometimes but I have learned to love those tears and the release and revelations found in the space where they were generated.

 

We have all found ourselves struggling along our path at some time in our lives. We have all looked for the lifeboat to save us when we felt we were drowning. What I learned is that we possessed our own lifeboat all along  – yoga showed me that and Karma Teacher training brought me to its door, walked me in and showed me the space that was always there waiting for me. I entered that studio on the first day with very little yoga experience having spent most of my previous years in my house, shades drawn, sedentary and eating my emotions away. I walked out one month later a yoga teacher.

 

There are so many beautiful people to acknowledge and to thank for guiding me and for sharing in my journey. My fellow students, thank you for actively creating a community of support and safe space for sharing and healing.  Guest teachers, your knowledge and light is crazy amazing and advanced our courage and practice beyond our imagination. To the assistants who helped us find our pose, thank you for holding us at our edge and for making savasana a greater state of bliss!  Nargis, your beauty, smile, encouragement, hugs, belief and patience grace Karma Teachers and you are a blessing to each and every student and soul that enters the studio. Derrick, oh Derrick, you clearly have been giving love in all your past lives. Your presence is like a warm hug that you have been waiting your whole life for and your excitement, encouragement and belief in us is infectious. Your participation and place in our training was immeasurable!

 

Now for Michael and Emerson…

 

Michael, I can’t even properly express how beautiful and amazing you are. The gift of your light, love and guidance in the yoga teacher training experience is incalculable. You are a perfect mix of strength and compassion. You guided me to my edge and showed me how to love myself wherever that edge was. You are light, passion, strength, courage, fire, safety, honesty…you are love. Emerson, I overflow with feelings when I think of you. You are truly a soldier of love who stands with no armor, fortified only by your love, light, honour, humility, kindness and selfless giving. You carry your intentions with you everywhere. I would not think you were real if my path was not blessed by crossing yours. Thank you both for sharing your journey and for guiding others along theirs. Thank you for transforming me, for giving me tools, for helping me to save my life and for giving me the gift of being able to help others save theirs.

 

These souls, these lights, this essence and intention are gems that cannot be hidden in the alley where Karma Teachers is located.  As you walk down the alleyway your consciousness is necessarily awakened to the location yourself and of others have in this world. When you walk through the doors it is reminded of what matters most, of the importance of compassion and giving and that we are all of the same light and love.  I cannot think of a better place to enter this center of truth.  We are all brothers and sisters and there is no separation in yoga – it is union.

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Power to the Peaceful Blog by Michael Olivotto

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Why I practice by Michael Olivotto

I practice because I am love. A bold claim, I know, but there is no more concise a reason. I practice every day whether my foot steps on a mat or not. Because, for me, yoga is a state of being. It is a perspective that shapes my world rather than some outward force that I must make manifest in the physical reality. My Asana practice is but one form that helps me to connect to my soul, to my light and to my darkness. Moving my body is but one tool in my little yoga box. For a philosophy that teaches non-judgment we seem to place a very positive label on our physical practice, as though moving the body is the answer to all of our suffering. Don’t get me wrong I love Asana, it opened my heart to the truth of my soul, but why is it all that we see? I will confess here that sometimes my daily practice consists of getting out of bed and having a shower, of affirming my love and experiencing my darkness.

For most of my life, and it continues to this day, I have been battling with depression. Now those of you that know me may find this hard to believe, but I am just that good at dawning my masks. Before I started to practice I cowered from my darkness, built walls around all my suffering and waged an internal war to be happy. I created a terror state, an apartheid system in my soul. It was a dark place to live, and I almost gave up several times. I kept fighting and running until I was broken physically, mentally and emotionally. In this state I came to yoga, reluctant, fearful and dismissive. Yoga didn’t care, it took me in its arms and showed me a different way. As the walls around my darkness came crashing down I discovered that there was nothing left to fear, that it was all light, even the darkest crevices. My suffering resulted not from the darkness but from my segregation, from my denial of love, from my fear. And what was I afraid of? Funnily enough, my love.

So  how do I practice yoga? Every day I practice compassion for my wounded child. I practice true sight to see my darkness and my light. I practice letting go of my fear of the past and the future to stop stealing from the present. I practice honouring the divinity inside of me. I practice gratitude for everything in my life, what I see as good and as bad. I find cleanliness in my thoughts, contentment in my perception, discipline in my actions, an inner focus of my awareness and surrender to my guiding light. I experience ease in my body, I sit with myself. Sometimes I stand on my hands or tickle the back of my head with my toes. Sometimes I cry in a shower and experience connection with myself. Whatever I do, I find ease in this body and love for my soul. I find stillness with every breath that I can. With every step in my practice, I am present. As I sit with friends, I am present. As I cry out my pain, I am present. As I live, I practice yoga.

Namaste my beautiful friends.

Karma Teachers by Ross McKeache

Karma Teachers is a warm embrace on a dark, rainy Vancouver night. In the city’s famously psychotic Downtown Eastside, this is a sanctuary of sanity. Founded on the principle of selfless giving, this studio – tucked in a back alley off East Hastings Street – offers free or by donation yoga and meditation classes. And it’s not like they say it’s by donation and then there’s a front counter with a till and a sign saying “Suggested minimum $15.” No, it’s not like that at all. In fact, it feels like a miracle that the place is able to stay alive – with its broken little plastic donation box. But it does work and here’s why: This community is not profit driven, it is driven by love, compassion and the true desire to offer something accessible and helpful to those who are interested. And it does just that.

During the four months that I volunteered on the Karma Crew, I witnessed just how capable human beings are of healing their own trauma and wounds – physically and emotionally – when they are empowered and supported in doing so. When a person who’s been hurt, and hurt themselves, gets into an environment grounded in unconditional love, they learn that they are capable of the same. At Karma Teachers, a person is inspired, by the example of others, to take responsibility for their own health and wellbeing. There are no victims here; there are only those who formerly may have played that role. This is not to say that everyone who practices yoga here is fundamentally sick or damaged. There are many who have not experienced any significant trauma over their lives and they just come to experience the community and improve their own yoga and meditation practice. And there are those who come to learn more about what it means to be involved in selfless giving – the act of giving your time, energy or other resources without self-interest.

If you went and hung out in the studio for 24 hours, you would leave wondering who is in charge. That is because NOBODY is in charge! At least not in the traditional way that we view an organization being run. And guess what? It’s nothing like Lord of the Flies. There are people with specific roles and titles – Founder, Director, Teacher, Volunteer Coordinator, Karma Crew Volunteer – but there is no office and no formality of hierarchical decision making. The founder, Emerson Lim, leads by example and acts as just another friend within the community. He’s unbelievably dedicated and creates a safe and open space in which all participants are given permission to join in and contribute. The idea is to participate, collaborate, share and expand your own sense of self and to experience (within) your own inherent value.

Ecstatic Yoga, Emerson’s creation of yoga and dance – in a soul-nourishing rave party – leaves each participant sweating, energized, laughing, open-hearted and…..hugging! Hugging happens at Karma Teachers. It is a natural result in this type of environment. Hugs are always available (though not a requirement) and one may find that this practice is both nourishing and contagious. 

During my time here, I was not only accepted and treated with integrity, I was loved. Emerson and Michael Olivotto (Director of Karma Teachers) were relentless in their inclusion and kindness. I volunteered on Saturday and Sunday mornings. During this time, there was a Karma College teacher training happening. Everytime, when my shift was over, they made sure I was invited in to participate. When I thanked them, I was simply told that “if there’s space, there’s space. Of course you should join in.” And they were excited about sharing this beautiful practice with new teachers, enthused about the guests who led focused trainings. And the Karma College students were just bursting with spirit and a desire to put love into action. I’d be sitting in the hallway and, when they came pouring out for a break, their happy voices and singing laughter tickled my ears.

 

hluNc0k__400x400Karma Teachers is a place of joy, with the door swung wide open. The sign reads “Everyone Welcome” and the people in this expanding community really make it feel that way. This organization is on the leading edge of a new form of business emerging in our neighbourhoods and our world. Compassion, kindness, love, collaboration and service are the foundation which enable its’ success. A fundamental understanding drives the actions at a place like this: There is no separation between the success of an organization and the success of each individual it touches. Because this community supports, it is supported – this is the cycle of Karma in which you receive what you give. And for this reason, the movement it is a part of is not only sustainable, it is rippling outward and touching each individual involved in a profound way. I feel really grateful for all I learned during my time there and I wish to see Karma Teachers, and all organizations of its kind, flourish into the positive future.

 

 

 

About Ross McKeache:

 

Ross McKeachie is another guy on the journey of personal/spiritual evolution and is his joy lies in expanding the energy of love in action. He is a writer/poet & performer with a background in marketing/entrepreneurship that has led to an interest in conscious business and the emergence of organizations and systems created by the new human paradigm.

www.rossmckeachie.com

www.imdb.me/rossmckeachie