I experienced my first “yoga rave” this past weekend, and now I’m a little nervous to go back to my normal yoga classes. I’m going to miss the light installations, the dub step music, the sheer magnitude of what we sweaty yogis all experienced together. I’m just not sure if my regular practice can live up to these exceptional standards now! Maybe that’s kind of un-yogi of me to say, but…let me explain.
It all started when a good friend of mine posted a picture on Facebook of this wicked Kalliope light/sound installation/mammoth cool thing/I-don’t-really-know-exactly-what-it-is―and said that it complemented a yoga class. I immediately needed to research this awesomeness.
What I discovered was Walter Yoga, born from Walter Productions, a company which provides mobile light and sound installations for events. Walter Yoga seeks to create an experience in downtown Phoenix blending the amazing light and sound systems of Walter Productions with the beauty and power of yoga.
Once a month (I’m hoping more frequently in the future, pretty please!), Walter Yoga invites a local instructor to teach a weekend class. And they can use the light and sound system within the Walter Yoga studio however they choose. This means ultimate control of disco balls, projected lights, Kalliope, and a state-of-the-art sound system.
I had to experience this firsthand.
Saturday morning, I ate a hearty breakfast and then stood in line with my mat outside of the most unassuming warehouse in downtown Phoenix. Inside, I was greeted with cool air conditioning and an even cooler practice space. Check this out…
I situated myself up front and smiled stupidly until the room was full. And when I say full, I mean my mat was about two inches away from my neighbor’s, there had to be over 100 people in that room, and the event sold out, meaning they had to turn people away.
The instructor for the day, Anton Mackey, introduced himself and then introduced A Life Story Foundation, an organization dedicated to supporting amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) research and potential treatments for patients with the disease. Also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, ALS attacks certain cells in the brain which compromise an individual’s ability to move. Eventually, the disease progresses and ultimately causes respiratory failure. There is no cure, and after symptoms begin to surface, those with the disease live on average for a mere two to five years.
One of Anton’s friends was diagnosed with ALS at the age of 30, and so he’s become an avid supporter of A Life Story. About three-quarters of the funds collected at this month’s Walter Yoga were donated to A Life Story, because–as Anton so eloquently put it–what better way to fight this disease than by practicing something that is such a celebration of movement and breath. And so we practiced gratitude. We were abundantly thankful for our individual abilities and together we dedicated our practice to those who can’t move, can’t breathe.
And it made me push a little harder. It make me stretch a little further. It made me realize that despite all of the issues I’ve had with my back the past few years I’m lucky that my body still has agency.
The dub step music may have helped, too. So did Anton’s proclamation that we could dance our asses off if we wanted to. Pretty sure he said we could twerk at one point. While twerking didn’t ensue, laughing and swaying sure did.
At the end of class, we formed concentric circles throughout the space, knees touching knees, and thanked each other for the experience together. I hugged the strangers who’d practiced next to me. And as with any rave, I left feeling high–on gratitude, on life, on breath.
Check out more photos (professional ones!) on the Walter Yoga Facebook page. “Like” them to get notifications for the next Walter Yoga session. Check out Anton’s yoga page to see where he teaches and why he’s a spiritual gangster. And, of course, check out A Life Story Foundation to donate to a truly worthy cause.