Stories by Annie Bananie

Rama Lotus Closure

I sit here, writing in shock as I absorb the news that Rama Lotus Yoga centre has permanently closed. Rama was founded by Robert Hay in 1994 and later acquired by Tara Cousineau. It has been an icon in the yoga community for bringing yoga to the public before it became mainstream. It’s teacher trainings have created wonderful teachers, that students can find in the community at large. It’s a place where you would walk in and feel completely at peace and know that you are meant to be.

I remember my first time walking into the studio, I was three months pregnant and just returned from two and half years of living in South East Asia. There were so many changes going on for me at that time. Not only was I adapting to reverse culture shock, but I was to become a mother! So many changes, that I felt a little lost and my footing on the Earth a little wobbly.

My very first class at the centre was a prenatal class in the Earth room. The Earth room was my favourite room, with the painting of the universe above the platform, it’s sky light windows and room to move. I can still picture Kristine Karpinski walking to the platform with her long hair flowing at her back and her nurturing presence emanating to her students. On that day, I met Amanda Porter who sat beside me. While we waited for the class to begin, we chatted and I felt a kinship with this beautiful woman. We would soon become great friends and to this day our girls Zoe and Lila still hang out and say that they are sisters born from different mothers. That first class and the atmosphere of Rama Lotus and it’s people reassured me that was I safe in all the life change before me.

That first introduction to Rama Lotus was more than a feeling of finding a new home and new friendship, but also my first introduction to Kundalini yoga. I must be honest that I walked into that class with a big ego. Six months prior to attending the class, I had spent 3 months in India. One of those months, I lived in an ashram doing meditation and traditional Hatha yoga twice a day. So when Kristine started the class in the Kundalini style of opening with One Namo, Guru Deve Namo and an approach to yoga that I had never experienced before, my ego was jostled. That little voice in my head said: “this is not yoga”, but my heart fell in love with the chanting and the feelings of elation post-class. So, I kept going. Six months later, I gave birth to Zoe on my living room floor and felt the experience was a spiritual one, it opened my world wide open and in pushing her into the world, I felt connected to all women of all time. I breathed through the contractions and felt that the practice of Kundalini yoga helped me give me a positive birthing experience. The breathing exercises helped me through each contraction. Giving birth rocked my world and Kundalini yoga was a big part of the empowered feeling that I felt and I wanted to share it with other women.

Ten months later when Zoe was 10 months old, I took the Kundalini teacher training with Robert Hay. It ran every second weekend for 6 months. Rob my husband at the time would bring Zoe over on our lunch break for some breastfeeding and mommy time. I made new friends with whom, I am still friends to this day.

Once the training was over, I began teaching prenatal yoga and loved it. I loved guiding women in different stages of pregnancy into a meditative state where they could tune into their body, their breath and their inner strength. I can still picture a room full of beautiful women, holding their bellies as they sway to the soothing sounds of Snatam Kaur’s voice.

One of the beauties of Kundalini yoga is that the practitioner keeps her eyes closed during the class. This really allows one to feel the body, the breath and go deeper into the meditation of the practice. It’s perfect for prenatal women who are going through one of the biggest transitions in their lives. It’s a perfect training for giving birth as you learn to follow your breath and move through challenging postures like holding your arms out in line with your shoulders for over 3 minutes. Try it, its not easy, you really have to dig deep inside of yourself and build that stamina of mind over matter. In class when women were in this posture and there was 30 seconds left, I would say “30 seconds left, you can do absolutely anything for 30 second”. I would see these women on a weekly basis and watch as their bellies grew and one day, they would stop coming. Often, I would see them on the street pushing a stroller and often they would say: “Thank you for the yoga classes, when I was giving birth I could hear your voice saying “you can do absolutely anything for 30 seconds.” There was such a reward in hearing those words. It was an acknowledgment that I was doing what, I had set out to do; empower women.

Later, I taught a regular yoga class, which was as equally satisfying. My current partner Jay Flesher attended that class religiously. Don't get me wrong, I did not leave my husband for him. If truth be told we laugh about him being my yoga student. Never did I think that the quirky, bald guy in yoga class would become my boyfriend and never did he think that the hairy arm pitted yoga teacher would become his girlfriend. Yes, in the throws of my hippy days, I forewent shaving. It was a symbol against society and the impositions we pose onto women. Our coming together happened as a surprise, after I separated. All this to say that Rama Lotus is a bench mark in my life and I believe this to be true for many of it’s students and teachers throughout the years. It was a place where many people found solace in their pain, a place where lives were changed and life perspectives evolved. My memories of that place are plenty and I could go on, but I won’t because this post is long enough!

The news of the closure, just came out today and Facebook is exploding with teared up emojis. The community is in shock. I send all the people that were involved with the centre much love and compassion. Yoga is forever in your heart, it is a lifestyle and a way of life. Rama Lotus might have brought new insights, and you carry those insights with you, wherever you go. Walk in peace, compassion and love for all of human kind. Thank you Rama Lotus for all that you have given to our community and the world.

Sat Nam and Namaste.

I like posting a photo with every blog entry.  I couldn't find a photo of my time at Rama Lotus, so I posted this one. It’s a picture of a film photography image, that I took at the edge of the Ganges in Rishikesh, India. Here is to all the teachers and experiences that teach us the ways of the spirit.

I like posting a photo with every blog entry. I couldn't find a photo of my time at Rama Lotus, so I posted this one. It’s a picture of a film photography image, that I took at the edge of the Ganges in Rishikesh, India. Here is to all the teachers and experiences that teach us the ways of the spirit.