Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Five Questions for Lo Nathamundi.

Five Questions for Lo Nathamundi.

An interview by Sander Hicks.
 Meet Lo Nathamundi, inventor of a new kind of group yoga, called Kaleidoscope. I did Kaleidoscope Yoga with him last summer in a random, lush green park in Bellingham, Washington. I saw my body, my wandering soul, and my fellow human beings in the circle, in a new light. Kaleidoscope is a geometry that has a way of teaching you that we are all parts of a puzzle, and that there are ways for us to fit back together, to heal each other through touch, friendliness, warmth. Hmmmm, I thought, what if someday we did a tour together?

 1. First of all, Lo, tell people what Kaleidoscope Community Yoga is, for someone who has never seen or felt the experience.
Well, Kaleidoscope Community Yoga is people sharing their yoga practice together in groups, making poses that are specifically designed for groups. Kaleidoscope Community Yoga is yoga as the art of collaboration. It's people making living, breathing patterns and sculptures, together, out of yoga
poses. Kaleidoscope is a new style of yoga, it's a new way to practice and understand yoga and community. It's group yoga asana [position], practiced as a social activity.
Kaleidoscope Yoga truly is its own experience—it can only be felt. The photos and the videos help give people some sense of it. You kinda have to try it, though, and feel it to really get it. We make shapes with 3 people, 4, 5, 8, 9, 10, 16, 17, 31, 359, however many people are gathered around. The shapes and the groups are always changing. We 'dance' and 'weave' in and out of different shapes, but we don't just make squares, we make circles, and triangles, and heptagons, and half-moons, and stars, and all sorts of shapes... we make, well, we make Kaleidoscopes. People can check out our website, www.kldyoga.org, that might help give people a sense of it. Like other practices, the longer you practice, the deeper and more subtle your awareness grows. With more experience, the practice and your understanding changes. What you can do with this changes. There are the initial oohs and aahs and wows, and then there are the long-term, more experienced oohs and aahs and wows.

2. What do a lot of first-timers say after they have done it?
A lot of people are surprised when they first try it. We get a lot of people who have never done yoga before, people who don't think of themselves as yogis, who walk away liking yoga (or at least, liking Kaleidoscope yoga). A lot of people say that it's different than what they thought it would be. We also get a lot of people who have been practicing traditional, individually-focused yoga for years and who are very in tune with their bodies and amazingly flexible, who find the element of connection and social contact very refreshing, and find that it becomes a favorite practice for them. It adds another interesting new dimension to their already strong individual yoga practice. The most common things people say are: I've never heard of this, that was a lot of fun, what is this? Where does it come from? A lot of people are surprised at how nice it is to have support from other people, physically, emotionally and socially, while you are in the poses. Some people say that they were surprised how much deeper they were able to breathe into the poses with the support of others. A lot of people like seeing the beauty of the shapes we make. A lot of people say they like being able to talk and have fun during yoga. It's a unique practice, and people are often intrigued and fascinated by it. There's a lot of false mental dichotomies and preconceptions and stereotypes out there, about yoga and life in general, and Kaleidoscope breaks a lot of those down. It's a practice that shows people other alternatives and interesting territory they didn't quite know existed. It helps them connect to people in surprising ways.

3. What is your background, and what spiritual traditions do you draw from the most?
My own background (in this lifetime) is a small-town Baptist boy who grew up in the desert and spent a lot of time reading and swimming... [laughs]. Spiritual practice is wherever you find it. A la Jon Kabat Zinn: wherever you go, there you are. Mini-golf can be spiritual, and there are a lot of metaphorical lessons that can be learned from playing mini-golf. But that's a whole other book to write. Personally, my own deepest affinities and sympathies (spiritually) are with Jainism, Taoism, and Tibetan Buddhism. I'm an old soul, and I like a lot of ancient practices. I like reading Jain and Taoist classics, Chogyam Trungpa, Sogyal Rinpoche, Tarthang Tulku. I studied philosophy in college. I'm an eclectic synthesis, I guess. I believe in everything. Animism, shamanism, earth medicine, Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity, for example, all have something to offer. And that's just a limited institutional view of a few of the more recognized religions. But I actually regard a number of folk practices, folk dances, and movement practices as spiritual practices: qi gong, capoeira, bagua, salsa dancing, ballet, rueda de casino, contra dancing, contact improv, they're all spiritual practices. Anything that connects you to yourself, to other people, and to the earth in a conscious way is a spiritual practice. An integrated view of spiritual life sees the connections between all things.

As for my personal yoga background, I've taken classes in anusara, yin yoga, ashtanga, iyengar, bikram, viniyoga, vinyasa, power yoga, to name some of the more popular kinds, all sorts of classes from all sorts of teachers. And there's something to learn from all of them. But that's just me, personally. I can't speak for the yoga project as a whole, or for all of the people who participate.

We have people from many different spiritual backgrounds who practice Kaleidoscope. One of the great things about Kaleidoscope is different people coming together to share their yoga practice. The spiritual traditions that the community yoga project draws from most heavily are traditional yoga and the Hindu tradition, but it's not tied to that tradition. The number of influences on the yoga project are almost too many to count, and we have people of all different faiths and walks of life practicing Kaleidoscope yoga together. That's one of the great joys of Kaleidoscope. And it changes and evolves, over time, and from session to session. We have special guests who lead yoga nidra meditations or chakra-balancing meditations. Sometimes the focus shifts more to hand mudras or breathing exercises. We often incorporate elements of partner yoga, acro yoga, and thai massage. We are in the process of inventing a tradition (or reinventing a lost one), with every Kaleidoscope pose we make.

4. How is your book doing? It's printed locally, is that right?
The book is doing great. A lot of people are enjoying it and benefiting from it. People love it. It's a great resource. The book is a synthesis of a lot of what we've been doing for the last few years. It's really changing things and opening a lot of doors. We've had people from Tennessee, from Los Angeles, from New York, from all over, buy a copy of the book and had it shipped to them. Fans, students, group leaders, dance teachers, yoga teachers. We had someone from Portugal order a copy. Yes, it's self-published, printed locally, under the imprint of Infinite Designs Publishing, through Village Books in Bellingham, WA. It's available for sale through the Village Books website, [direct link here], 1-(800) 392-BOOK. Desirae Hill did a great job on our logo and on the design of the book cover. The photos are beautiful. There are more than 200 photos. 

It's really fun to watch people look through the book for the first time and watch their reactions. I love signing copies of the book for people. Writing dedications in the books is one of my absolute favorite things to do, it brings me a lot of joy. Copies are also available for check-out through a number of libraries in and around Bellingham, WA (where I lived for the last 9 years) and Portland OR (where I live now). As of right now, a bunch of libraries in the Northwest have a copy. Getting this information out to people is very important. 

You can recommend that your local bookstore carry it. We're looking into getting it translated into other languages. Right now, copies of the book are being printed through the Espresso Book Machine. So, up until now, most of the books have been printed at Village Books in Bellingham, WA, and some of them have also been printed at Powell's Books in Portland, OR. But more copies could be printed anywhere there is an Espresso Book Machine and people know about it and have interest in buying a copy. It's a great resource for any community, and people naturally enjoy sharing it with one another.

5. What do you have in mind for the Truth Party 2013 Tour?
the gift of shared yoga practice. I also think it could set the precedent for other touring possibilities. I think this will be the first inklings and experiences and photos and video of where this project, and a shared community yoga practice, are headed. It's going to be fun and educational. I think people are going to have their minds blown by what an enormous amount of sharing and collaboration can look like and feel like. I think we're really gonna see and feel some amazing expressions of collective consciousness. I am looking forward to sharing time with Sander and Crazy Monk, and what they are bringing people, and to the effect the integrated experience will have on people. Sander has a lot of tour experience and speaking experience and is really passionate and fired up about this, and has a lot to share about the political side of things. Crazy Monk? Well, he's Crazy Monk. What more do you want? Listen to the track Sanskrit Manuscripts From the Year 9000. He's going to be bringing the musical element. It's gonna be an incredible community-building experience for people. And the yoga element? I'm probably biased, but I see the community yoga element as something like the invention of the hula hoop or roller skates. Or maybe the birth of tai chi or the invention of the wheel is a better analogy, depending on how you want to look at it. I see it as a deep revolution in yoga. I see inter-connected mandala style yogas like Kaleidoscope Community Yoga as both a natural extension and fruit of the roots of yoga and as a substantial major new direction for yoga in its own right. I think it will go through phases, of being strange and radical and just a subculture and then becoming a fad and a popular craze, and then eventually settling down into a more solid and respected, well-studied, traditional form, practiced and loved by millions of people all over the world, beginners and adepts alike, almost anywhere you look. I see this tour as the start of that. I can see a lot of people really getting down with this style of yoga and Kaleidoscope communities springing up everywhere. I see it really catching on. I see this tour as an information sharing and a seed planting. And I definitely see this as the yoga of choice and an event to remember for a lot of young people of the coming generations.

Come do some Kaleidoscope with us!
Meet Lo and Crazy Monk and Sander on the
Truth Party 2013 Tour - May 2013

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