Moksha Yoga founder Ted Grand is not the kind of guy who does things by halves. With 70 studios from Sydney, Australia to Paris, France, one of Salt Spring’s great ‘activist entrepreneurs’ believes that yoga is for everyone— and that the practice can be a force for good in the world.
As a young man, he joined legions of people who flocked to the west coast of Vancouver Island in defense of Clayoquot Sound. On the front lines in the War of the Woods back in the early 1990’s, his passionate activism went beyond chanting and placard waving. Grand took to chaining himself to logging equipment and dangling from cargo ships: all to defend the coastal rainforest he loves.
“Ultimately, I burned out,” says Grand. “I still love radical actions, because I think they move the dialogue along very effectively. But, in my own life, I realized that a lot of what I was doing was creating more separation, and more division.” Unable to balance his sense of responsibility with his sense of self-preservation, the chip on his shoulder became a crushing weight. Exhausted and alienated, he made his way up to Birken, north of Whistler, where he started meditating with two Buddhist monks in the wilderness.
Grand feels that a yoga and meditation and yoga practice is “the most counter-cultural thing you can do; it forces us to see the impulses and reactivity that create division, consumerism and selfishness.”
Practicing that other, much quieter form of radicalism is what precipitated where I am today.”
Finding solace and spiritual nourishment in yoga and meditation, Grand immersed himself in yogic philosophy and practice, learning from masters around the world. Along the way, he met Jessica Roberston, a fellow activist who had worked with human rights groups in Central America. Robertson shared Grand’s strong socially conscious, environmental philosophy. Together, they developed Moksha, a form of hot yoga that integrates a commitment to ethical, compassionate, and environmentally conscious living. The pair integrated their values into what would become a network of international yoga studios.
Grand and Robertson’s Moksha (and Modo, as they are known in the US) studios are synonymous with the idea that the yoga community can put compassion into action. They are also on the leading edge of one of the fastest growing businesses in the world, where green technology is integrated and promoted alongside personal growth. Moksha and Modo Yoga studios purchase solar, wind and micro-hydro electricity in order to offset the energy they use
Far from existing in a hallowed world apart, the Moksha network has raised over three million dollars for various non-profits, from rape crisis centres to transgender rights projects to funding teachers who bring yoga therapy to incarcerated kids. Robertson and Grand have recently relocated their family to Salt Spring Island to run their operations from the coastal forest they so love.
This fall, Moksha Yoga have thrown their weight behind the Pull Together initiative. The campaign aims to support First Nations in their struggle to protect their traditional territories against the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline. The goal—to raise $250,000 by December—means First Nations will have equitable access to justice going forward.
Moksha’s five BC studios aim to raise $10,000 for the campaign. With his support for Pull Together’s efforts to protect BC’s wilderness and indigenous communities, Ted Grand’s path traces a full circle.
Stretching across BC, yogis pull together
Inspired by the leadership of Moksha Yoga, and by the encouragement of indigenous leaders, yoga teachers and students everywhere have joined in pledging to “Stretch Across BC” in support of the Pull Together campaign.
Here on Salt Spring, a dozen yoga teachers, dancers, and wellness practitioners are jumping in, organizing bevvy of fundraising events through the month of November. (see sidebar)
“I welcome the opportunity to support the Pull Together initiative using something I know to help people on the front lines,” says Sarah-Jane Smith of The Nest Hot Yoga. “This is a great opportunity to take something that I do well and extend it to help more people than just those in my yoga classes.”
“When I heard the idea, I just thought—wow, what a way to unleash the spiritual warriors of this province,” says Stretch Across BC participant Nomi Lyonns.
A board member of Transition Salt Spring and self styled “EcoDiva”, Lyonns runs boutique yoga retreats from her Paradise Found studio on Cusheon Lake. She teaches everyone from executives to activists how to find resilience in tumultuous times.
Promising to use “the power of yoga to protect BCs sacred places”, Stretch Across BC offers a gentle way for people to move off the mat and into the world, bringing what they learn from yoga into active service.
“Finding out the tarsands were coming right past our home was like a Zen slap to the side of my yogic head,” says Lyonns. “The very real threat of pipelines and tankers landing on our front doorstep—while terrifying—may serve to further awaken us. It reminds us of what our duties are as yogis: if we want to truly be healthy and well, we have to take measures to create a safe environment. We have to protect what we have. It’s called stewardship.”
Lyonns acknowledges that some might call the yogic philosophy airy-fairy. But, she laughs, “it’s not flaky if it changes the world!”
Ganges Yoga Studio, in its new location at 121 McPhillips Ave, is offering free studio rentals to their teachers who are contributing to Pull Together in the month of November. Owner Celeste Mallet will also contribute proceeds from karma yoga classes to the campaign.
Deanna Ziraldo of Abun*Dance is donating a portion of proceeds from her Friday afternoon African Dance classes (featuring live percussion) to Pull Together. Her classes run 4-5.15 pm, every Friday in November. At Ganges Yoga Studio.
Nomi Lyonns is offering a workshop with all proceeds to Pull Together’s First Nations legal fund. Called “Tools for Tumultuous Times”, the weekend retreat is intended for busy activists who need to replenish their reserves. Register through Paradise Found Yoga.
November 8th 7.30pm at Ganges Yoga Studio Naomi Jason will lead a live music yoga class, with hands on adjustments by Amy Haysom. Music with Sarah-Jane Smith, April Laurie and Suzie Gay.
Suggested minimum donation $15
Cate McEwen will give Stretch Across BC classes at the southend Grooveyard every Wednesday in November from 5-6.30. By donation.
Lyndsay Savage is offering a Vijnana Yoga workshop November 23rd from 9-12 at her Bullock Creek Studio. Call 250.538 0177 to book: suggested donation $20 to Pull Together.
Dorothy Price of Santosha Retreats is contributing a portion of her November class proceeds to Stretch Across BC. For a schedule visit her website at http://santosha-yoga-retreats.com/.
Pura Vida Oceanside Therapy Centre are giving a day to Pull Together, offering 45-minute treatments by their 5 registered massage therapists for $70: all funds raised will go to support First Nations through Sierra Club BC and RAVEN Trust. Book an appointment between 1 and 5 pm on Sunday, November 16 by calling 250.537.8432 (VIDA).
To learn more about Pull Together visit www.pull-together.ca