Last week while on a trip to Japan with my husband, yoga teacher Jason Crandell, I got to witness the true meaning of yoga, or union: On a sunny Saturday morning, more than 700 yogis gathered together in a grassy park outside of the sleek Roppongi Hills mall in Tokyo to take part in the Yoga Aid Challenge. Now in its fifth year (and with events throughout the year in seven countries), the Tokyo Yoga Aid participants raised more than 1.2 million yen for local charities. The reward for participating? Practicing together in the park while 12 well-known teachers led a two-hour class.
As each teacher took 10 minutes to share their teachings with the crowd, I was struck by how beautifully diverse yoga is: Ms. Michiko Minegishi took to the stage with dramatic music and her inspiring students behind her, Duncan Wong got his groove on while sharing his Yogic Arts style, former San Francisco Bay Area resident and Anusara Yoga teacher Mark Shveima (he now resides in Kyoto) showed his hard-won skills by leading the crowd in Japanese. "Lunge-en-a-pose-u!" said Shveima and the students obliged him with a High Lunge, arms extending skyward. American teachers (like my hubby) and Gurmukh Kaur Khalsa shared their portion of the practice via translators.
Despite the teachers' stylistic differences, the mixed class came together seamlessly. As the practice ended and all 700 of us put our arms around each other and sang with Gurmukh "We are the people, the people of love. Let us people, love today" I was not only feeling the love, I was feeling blessed to have experienced such a sense of union even though I was so far from home.
The video I put together above shows just a few highlights from the day.