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The Yoga of Symbiosis

September 29, 2015

I had no idea what I would be receiving from my first real “California” festival. I’ve been living in California for 5 years now and between visits at the very naked hot springs up north, pot lucks with 8 different kind of kale salads all grown within a 2 yard radius and hugs with strangers that last a lifetime, I thought I had been fully immersed in the eccentric berkeley/hippie/new age culture that is the fabric of the Bay Area.  Little did I know that part of understanding this place more deeply was to participate in a ritual that involved thousands of people converging in a state park at a festival called Symbiosis Gathering. Now that I’ve been I can truly say that this festival not only is an integral part of the culture here, but simultaneously embodies all aspects of this hippie dippy, progressive, artistic and spiritual place that I call home.  All in one day I went to a Qi Gong class, joined a yoga class, participated in a sacred leadership class, a workshop on the “yoga of bass”, a performance by Saul Williams, a talk by Amy Goodman, I drank in a tea house, I dropped in on a workshop about sexuality, I howled with hundreds as the sun set, I swam naked in the lake, went to a radical operatic electronic looping show and listened to a middle eastern band.


Photo: Jamie Rosenberg

As I woke up Sunday morning after a full day of experience and learning, I couldn’t help but recall how Claire Thompson and Darin McFadyen (Yoga of Bass) talked about the parallels between yoga and music, specifically the moments in music that we are struck by something greater than ourselves.  The music not only becomes a way of deepening our spiritual journey, but it is also the spiritual journey within itself.

So, aside from simply teaching me more about the heart of California culture, what is the yoga of Symbiosis? What parallels are there between this ancient practice, this “coming together”, this inquisitive path of alignment on all levels of our being and a festival in which participants stay up all night dancing until the sun rises?


Photo: Jamie Rosenberg

1. Coming Together in Community

Yoga means to “yoke” or to bring together and not just internally, but in the greater context. The importance of community on the spiritual path is not to be overlooked.  We feed off each other’s energy and support.  We learn from each other and teach each other.  There is power in the support of community and there is a reminder about what’s important that we get by being in community.

2. Losing the Small Self in the Art

The practice of yoga is a journey finding oneself by losing oneself and losing oneself to find oneself, over and over again, until losing oneself and finding oneself are indistinguishable (or until you reach enlightenment or whatever you believe).  Art has a way of doing this to us without even looking for it.  Creativity has a way of taking us in and out of our bodies. Dancing and singing have a way of taking us out of all the details and into the heartbeat.  The amount of art and creativity and opportunities to dance at Symbiosis created an atmosphere compromised of these moments.


Photo: Jamie Rosenberg

3. Submerging Ourselves in Vibration

Chanting, singing, dancing, gongs – SOUND.  Every cell in our body is a moving, changing vibrating life force and part of the healing that comes from yoga and other spiritual practices involves raising, changing, inviting vibration into the body in order to shift alignment and let your body function more fully and energy move more smoothly.

4. Moving Our Bodies in New Ways

As we get older our bodies find patterns based on what we do with them on a daily basis.  Many of these patterns are based on constraints like sitting on a computer, driving a car or walking down a flat, straight sidewalk. Our bodies thrive in learning new movements and shifting out of old unhealthy patterns.  Specifically, being barefoot and dancing more than you’ve danced all year can do that!  Every cell in your  body will thank you for offering a chance to re-pattern in a away that is more aligned with it’s nature.

5. Challenging Our Habits and Patterns

Not only do we re-pattern our bodies by moving in new and more dynamic ways all weekend, we also challenge our mental and emotional patterns and habits.  At Symbiosis almost everyone is camping, sleeping on the earth, being affected by the sun, the sounds the human beings.  We turn our phones off and talk to real people all day long.  We eat with others, we get dirty, we don’t have any of our daily luxuries like not using an outhouse or all the water we need.  This is challenging and challenging is good, especially when the challenge is easily met and these changes are met with the sweet rewards of music, dancing and celebration.

Photo: j_rosenberg-626. Learning & Curiosity

Learning and curiosity are fundamental in all aspects of spiritual growth from Buddhism to Kundalini.  We have a natural desire to learn more, about the body, about life, about where we come from and where we are going. At Symbiosis there is opportunity around every corner for learning and discovery.  Yoga workshops, permaculture immersions, thread making, smoothie workshops and so so much more.  This place is saturated with curiosity and learning.

7. Holding Space for the Self While Bringing Awareness to the Ecosystem 

It’s easy to get so obsessed and entrenched with self discovery that we forget that we are part of a larger organism called the world.  What I love about yoga and the awareness that all this interwork only functions with outward expression and understanding.  Symbiosis pairs the inner exploration with deep awareness of what’s going on in the world. It’s important to hold both things all at once.  Just like we practice doing in yoga, strength and surrender, rooting down, reaching up, Symbiosis does by inviting speakers like Amy Goodman to talk about what’s going on in the world and Suzanne Sterling and Gerri Ravyn Stanfield holding space for Sacred Leadership in a changing world.