Gannon began her class by greeting each and every individual; a ritual that took several minutes and created a feeling of connection and purpose in the room. She started with a story, and then launched into asana practice with the Jivamukti 'Magic 10,' a series of 10 asanas that can be done in 10 minutes. She deftly weaved philosophy and life lessons into her instruction. For handstand, we each selected a partner and watched as they kicked up (or not) into the pose against a wall. We were told not to judge the individuals, not to see faults or strengths, but to just view our partner as a 'holy being.' Gannon's firm conviction that all beings are holy beings came through as a recurring theme of the class.
Gannon's precise instruction and uplifting music soundtrack, combined with a vigorous sequence and hands-on assists, worked together to create a delightful atmosphere. More than once I heard my neighbor singing along to one of the mantras playing in the background. Several whoops of delight filled the room as we tried a new sequence or finished one side of a practice. As we worked our way through poses, Gannon explained that different asanas can have direct effects on our relationships with different people, and that asanas are even connected to our past and our future. She noted that a physical asana practice can be one yogic path to enlightenment, if we practice with such an intention.
Intention was a major theme of the class. Gannon assured us that our intentions can wield enormous power. If our intentions are good ones, and we follow through with conviction, then the universe (and angels above, if we elect to summon them!) will align to provide what we want. The conscious choices we make and the beings we spend time shape our lives. The best thing we can do is chose to lead a life that is of benefit to others, and to the planet. Gannon noted that there is always choice - whether to be a victim or to make the most of a situation, we can choose our attitude and act accordingly.
'Pincha mayurasana - we're there!' said Gannon, halfway into class. This arm-balancing pose is a particularly difficult one for me, and though I can kick and stay up in it sometimes, my balance wasn't there on Saturday. After several attempts, I rested in child's pose. Reading my thoughts, Gannon commented that it's important not to judge yourself after that pose, and not to think harsh thoughts if you don't get up into a pose on a particular day. 'Just let it go and move on,' she said.
I have been to hundreds yoga classes over the years in the US, Kazakhstan, Japan and India. Sharon Gannon's master class was probably the most comprehensive dose of "pick-me-up life encouragement" I've ever received in a yoga class, not to mention a terrific physical workout that included several poses I'd never tried before.
When discussing how we can work together to make the world a better place, Gannon noted that we are at a critical juncture in human history. Our actions will affect the future of the planet, and all of its living beings. Animals are still used for food, for entertainment and for clothing, and a vegan lifestyle is one of the simplest ways to have a positive effect on our own bodies, on our communities, and on the planet. She spoke with compassion and conviction, noting that as yogis our intentions and actions can help to save the planet. I sat feeling empowered and inspired; instead of the usual comments and raised eyebrows I occasionally get for being vegetarian, here was a teacher celebrating my diet! She also noted that the SAD (Standard American Diet) diet, based mainly on meat and dairy products, is the very culprit of so many modern day diseases, including diabetes, cancer, and obesity.
After the yoga class, we were treated to a sample of dishes from the 'Simple Recipes for Joy' cookbook. As Gannon noted, most of the books' 200+ recipes are designed for the busy person, and can be prepared within an hour. Every bite- sized morsel was delicious, but I particularly enjoyed the dal and tofu skewers.
Gannon stayed on after class, graciously signing her book and taking the time for photos with each of us. She seemed to know at least half of the 100+ audience members personally, many of them her students and teachers of the Jivamukti method. As I exited the studio and walked with my sister toward her car, we chatted about our impressions of the day. We were very grateful to Sharon Gannon, and for what we felt was the main "takeaway" of the day: one of the simplest recipes for happiness and joy is to live a life that helps uplift and benefit other beings. Hari Om!