Balance, Fall Over, Backbend, Pop-up to Stand, and Laugh with Yoga Shanti Founder Joyce Englander Levy

Posted by AllSwell Creative on

There's a million and one methods to get creative. Yoga get your juices flowing? Cool. Prefer to write instead? No problem. Want to blast music and dance around your house all alone? The choice is yours. We'll be the first to admit that what works for some doesn't exactly work for others, but don't knock it 'til you try it.

On Thursday October 19th we'll practice our preferred creative method at Yoga Shanti New York (hint: pen and paper involved) with its always inspiring founder Joyce Englander Levy. Get know a bit about our co-host below (she's super rad) and RSVP here

When’s the last time you put pen to paper?

This afternoon. Pen-to-paper is the first layer of my creative writing process.  

What’s the greatest gift yoga has given you?

Being able to jump up into a handstand with both feet at the same time, balance, fall over into a backbend, pop up to stand, and laugh. Yoga completely transformed my life, and every time I get on my mat, and play, and discover, and take the time to feel completely alive I simultaneously find the courage to take on another challenge in my life. The time I've put into my daily practice has given me the greatest gift: The courage to follow my intuition. That gift has generated a life full of love, humor, and adventure.

How did you come to open come Yoga Shanti New York?

It was my karma I suppose. I was about 8 months pregnant with my first son when we signed our lease on the ground floor space of The Grand Masonic building on 24th st. It was an interesting moment in time. I didn't really understand how my life was going to change by becoming a mother. My partners, Colleen Saidman and Rodney Yee, wanted to open a studio in NYC. I had been studying with them, and teaching at Colleen's studio in Sag Harbor for a few years when they approached my husband, Ariel and I, and our friend Jenny Hudak, to see if we were interested in collaborating with them.

Ariel found the space, and when our newborn was only a few weeks old, we started the demolition and construction. I have always been a dreamer. Ideas come to me like ants to sugar. Perhaps this is the greatest gift that yoga, and journaling, has brought to my life: ideas. I love being a dreamer. But to see our ideas turn into a space where thousands of people have come to practice yoga, transform the world for the better, generate healing, find community, and experience the poetry of their human experience - this is a treasure beyond my imagination.

You have a background in poetry. Recite your all time favorite. Go!

All I could see from where I stood

was three long mountains and a wood;

I turned and looked another way,

and saw three islands in a bay.

So with my eyes I traced the line

Of the horizon thin and fine,

straight round till I was come

Back to where I'd started from;

And all I could see from where I stood

was three long mountains and a wood.

Over these things I could not see;

These were the things that bounded me;

And I could touch them with my hand,

Almost, I thought, from where I stand.

And all at once things seemed so small

My breath came short and scarce at all.

This is an excerpt of an all time favorite called, Renascence by Edna St. Vincent Millay. It's about a young woman coming to understand the gravity of life. It's quite long, but worth the read.



How do words and writing complement your yoga practice?

The practice itself is my time to be quiet. I obviously love words, but they are by definition limiting. So when I practice - it is a time for my body to break free. Teaching, however, this is where the word-magic happens. I feel like teaching Yoga is the way that I have made a living as a poet. The rhythm, metaphors, repetition, insights - they all come to life in the poetry of teaching a class. I feel like each class I teach is a poetic offering to my students, and it will never exist again in the same way. I write before class to work out my thoughts, so that the philosophy I share with my students has been well thought out, and put into my own words. Then sharing it is my gift to those who show up that day. Although I love bringing the practice to life through words, I am also cognizant that this is the students' time to practice, and go beyond words. Words and silence are important collaborators. 

Conversely, how does yoga get your creative juices flowing?

To be creative you have to be willing to put two things next to each other that don't typically go next to each other. So, when I do revolved triangle pose, for example, I am putting my left hand outside my right foot. These two parts of my body, which wouldn't touch in everyday life, are now touching. This means that my right brain and left brain are also communicating with one another. Enter the sparks.

What are you reading these days?

Poetry Book - Spells, by Annie Finch

Magazines - Darling Magazine & The New Yorker

Yoga Book - The Stanzas on Vibration, translated by Mark S. G. Dyczkowski

Book Club Book - The Artist Way

 
What projects do you have coming up that we should know about?

There is so much. I am looking forward to hosting Laura and AllSwell at Yoga Shanti on Thursday, October 19th. I hope it will lead to more collaborations between her and I, and Yoga and journaling. My main project is to help people embody their lives, live up to their potential, and experience life as poetry. I do this through teaching classes, and I am also beginning a monthly collaboration, one Sunday a month, that will be Yoga + some way of Embodying Your Life. The first one is called Good Mood + Happy Food, and it's Sunday, November 5th, at 12:30 pm. It's a collaboration with my friend, chef Kendra Peterson, who is a brilliant leader in the healthy food culture. We'll practice, talk food, and eat recipes from her new cookbook. I am also submitting poetry for publication, and working on a book of poems that will appeal to the Yoga community. But, mostly, I'm parenting, so all in good time.

 

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