Every year I look forward to the Global Mala on the Asbury Park Boardwalk in September. It’s a special occasion for so many reasons:
- It’s a celebration of the autumnal equinox – my one last chance to yoga by the beach before the air gets too chilly.
- It offers a forum to commune with so many fellow yogis and teachers from different New Jersey studios all in one place, many of whom I practice regularly with during the year.
- I’m physically inspired by the once-a-year challenge of moving methodically into 108 sun salutations, tapping into the group energy for support.
- Nothing can beat the collective energy of hundreds of yogis gathering together to raise funds for carefully curated local charities.
- The visits to the vendor tents and the impromptu after gatherings always kept the yoga high going well after the practice (the tightness and aching don’t set in until the next morning!).
I’ve attended every single Mala except the first one, when I was more than just a little intimidated by the physical challenge of doing anything for 108 times. Last year’s event was extra special because it was the 10th anniversary celebration; so we had 20 instructors leading us, all who had taught at previous Malas. It was as beautiful as I had anticipated, the icing on the cake being Patrick (Bridget Riepl’s 7-year old son) leading the final om’s from the stage.
This year was going to be unique too, because we were planning to gather at Porta in April to celebrate the halfway point to the Mala with a tag-team-taught practice, followed by pizza and libations and conversation. But no one anticipated that we would be in virtual lockdown this spring. The event was canceled twice, and I gave up hope of any large communal yoga gatherings for the foreseeable future.
Fortunately, Bridget Riepl and a team of motivated yogis had other ideas. What better time to organize an event to raise money for those who‘ve lost so much in the current crisis? So last week, we got together for a Zoom and Facebook Live Mala Event. The format was the same – 108 sun salutations led by 10 different instructors to raise funds for a local non-profit – but this time we would all be physically isolated at home.
I signed up immediately, mostly because I wanted to “see” all my friends (I had practiced many times with every single teacher in the line-up) and to donate to Fulfill of NJ (formerly the Food Bank of Monmouth and Ocean Counties and the event’s chosen charity), but I had serious doubts about whether I could really do 108 sun salutes by myself in my tiny hallway yoga space.
To my great surprise, as soon as the event kicked off last Sunday, I could feel the buzz and magical energy. Every single instructor let their unique perspective shine through across the airwaves and I sensed the love and intensity of the whole group. We were there to serve, unite, and celebrate in the face of adversity.
The session alternated between unicorn fun (care of Serena Sofer), modification-friendly flowing (Amanda Feinstein), methodical pacing (Jen Vavakos), Jivamukti jump-backs (Thanks, Tim Shaw), inspired and spirited cuing (Bridget Riepl), soft yet strong direction (Ellen Mosko), slow precision (Christian Valeriani), loving, heart-felt prompts (Lisa Triolo), a mellow final push (Jeff Seymour) and a sunny, warmth-filled wind-up (Vanessa Van Noy with Borne and Earl)!
Lisa Triolo then serenaded us through the sweet savasana with her stirring voice and guitar. And Bridget returned to lead us in a resounding communal om (but where was Patrick Riepl?)
I completed all 108 – with relative ease and calm – careful to ride the movement on my breath, seeing the group with me in my mind’s eye. If possible, I sensed a stronger connection than in prior years – with my fellow yogis, the Earth, my fellow humans – and I felt so much gratitude for this loving community. It turned out to be a beautiful oasis on a stormy day and made me look hopefully toward the next Mala on the boardwalk, whenever that may be. By the way, over 200 people joined us and we raised enough money to provide for 6000 meals!
If you were unable to join the celebration last week, don’t worry – it’s preserved indefinitely on Facebook Live on the NJ Yoga Collective page. Hop on and join in for all or any part of the joyful practice and prepare to be inspired! And if you feel the urge, please donate to Fulfill!
May Louie first took yoga in college to fulfill a Phys-Ed requirement and immediately fell in love. She, unfortunately, did not continue with her practice but reconnected with it when she retired from her corporate job in 2002 and has since become a serious yoga enthusiast. After her second retirement in 2017, she completed her 200-hour RYT certification, studying with Dina Crosta, Ellen Mosko, and Jamie Segal Hanley, with a focus on alignment based flow.
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