Poetry and Yoga… as inseparable as ocean and sand. Yoga turns us inward as we discover the graceful flow of our bodies interacting with breath and spirit; poetry channels expression outwards, as waves pouring in the shape of words onto paper. Letters bend as a yoga asana, creating paragraphs with our lives. Feelings unravel in the form of sentences buried deep inside.
In a world filled with contradictions, we need steady confusion to assist us in knowing clarity. A light bends into the crevice of a heartache… our compassion opens to the dancing knowledge of expression. We are at the cusp of spiritual revolution in the modern day.
And this collection of modern day poetry is testament. It sings of not only Mirabai and Hafiz… but Swenson and Rea, it breathes not only of Rumi and Gibran… but Folan and Stryker.
This book anthology set is a clear signal that forgiveness and compassion are rooted in our souls… as deep as the need for survival is the need for creative expression and cooperation. Technology cannot dampen our poetic souls. Instead we are creatively learning how to use it as a tool to help us express and release what is locked in our muscles and bones… through spirit-filled words. With all of your loving kindness through this book anthology project, a great community effort has been accomplished.
But how did the Poetry of Yoga project begin?
When not diving into a yoga practice, I am often found with pencil in hand scribbling down a poem, or my nose in a book reading ancient poetic verse. The two seem rather inseparable, since many sacred texts were communicated through poetry, including the Bhagavad Gita, The Tao Te Ching, and the Holy Quran. I feel affinity for how the power of poetry transforms lives, and in a similar way, witnessed my own life changed by yoga.
Doing yoga pushes me inside, and writing helps me communicate outwardly. I was inspired by the creative possibilities of knitting together the two and wanted to share this love and passion with others. In 2009, I started developing a workshop called The Poetry of Yoga, doing just that. To get the formula right, I taught it a few times in my hometown of Washington, D.C., and then took it on tour by the summer of 2010. In the beginning I had no plans of pulling together a book. I was visiting cities throughout the country, encouraging people to write poetry while doing yoga. Each workshop proved a powerful outpouring beyond my expectations. During the workshop, I would teach sequences of asana broken up with creative writing prompts. At climatic moments participants wrote poetry while actually in asana.
In the first two hours, we completed a dynamic asana sequence, after which the participants wrote a few poems about their feelings and experiences during their practice. The next hour we spent in a circle, sharing all we had written. In many cases, the sharing put most of us in tears and proved instrumental to the process of transformation and healing. In the final thirty minutes, I did a spoken word poetry performance that framed service, love, peace, healing, suffering, sustainability, and freedom. About half way through the tour, I realized the soul-stirring poetry we were creating had to be shared with others. And so, was birthed, The Poetry of Yoga book idea.
The new mission I charged myself with was to help kick-start and harness a modern day renaissance of Hafiz, Mirabai, Kabir and Rumi. I figured I could do this through expanding the literary tradition of yoga to include the cultural perspective of the 21st century. Most of the celebrated mystic poet yogis have long been deceased. I envisioned the book as a platform for a new body of work reflecting on how yoga continues to shift the landscape of human consciousness and civilization. A book anthology of modern-living poetic voices was exactly what I was being called to create. I knew they were living amongst us, and simply needed a platform to share their existential expressions.
I began to accept online submissions of poetry in October of 2010 for the book. Over the next six months I received over 1,800 pages of poetry from 16 different countries. The outpouring of breath-giving poetry revealed that I was not the only one with this idea. There came a point, during the final week of submissions, when over 35 poems were submitted each day! I officially closed submissions on April 15, 2011.
To supplement and excite people about the idea, I asked living master teachers and writers from around the world to also contribute poetry to the project. I wanted to get their voices in the mix, and began sending out invitation letters over email to those I knew. I planned to integrate and combine the words of established teachers with everyday people, as well as participants who attended The Poetry of Yoga workshops.
And so I fished for poetry from the far reaches of the globe… searching for the undiscovered modern day Rumis and Hafizs. Posting the International Call for Submissions on websites, list-serves, and using social marketing tools to get the word out. It seems it might have worked. What began as a one-human guerrilla operation became a poetic movement, harnessing social media for extensive outreach in gathering a plethora of submissions.
The reading of all the poetry that came in for the anthology has been an absolute pleasure and joy. It was an honor to have my finger on the pulse of such creative, soul-inspiring, and mystical poetry from around the world. I included poems from Sri Lanka, Ireland, Philippines, China, Wales, Guatemala, India, Norway, Australia, Japan, Pakistan, Romania, Mexico, England, South Africa, Brazil, Canada, etc… in the the books to assure the anthology contained a diverse chorus of voices that represented different geographical regions of the world.
Now, the other part of the mission is for this anthology to raise money for the dynamic work of a great non-profit organization called One Common Unity. Ultimately, I hope these books, will provide a sustainable source of revenue for the work they have been doing since the year 2000. One Common Unity supports a movement for peace education and the building of a non-violent culture through music and art. More specifically, they facilitate arts-based health and wellness, conflict resolution, and nonviolence education for inner-city youth.
Spiritual warriors, compassionate renegades, lovers of truth and seekers of wisdom… the time is now… let these words breathe through the pores of your skin. Let your mind stir, the hairs on your arms stand, and let this be a reminder that we have not lost our souls.
Regardless of your race, nationality, sexuality, age, class, religion, or gender, there is something in this book for everyone. Get the book and read in awe and wonder… as I did… I hope you do… embrace all the magical poetry in this collection. Take it around the world with you and let it serve proof of the modern day poetic soul of humanity.
Creator & Editor
The Poetry of Yoga