April 20, 2009

Conscious Citizen Interview: Yoga Retreat Leader and Psychotherapist Ali Kane

Name: Ali Kane

Age: 30

Hometown: Santa Cruz, CA

Studio: Facilitator for Young Adult Retreats and The Teen Yoga Retreat in the Bay Area of California

Yoga Style: Eclectic

Training Background: Sivananda Yoga Teacher Training (Quebec), Kundalini Yoga Teacher Training (3HO, Oregon), Hatha (Archa Mati, Toronto); Doctorate in Clinical Psychology and Transpersonal Somatic Psychology (California Institute of Integral Studies); Transpersonal Bodywork (Pacific College of Awareness and Bodywork, Kauai); Contemplative Psychology (Naropa University, Colorado)

Website: doctoralikane.com (in the works)

Email: [email protected]

Ali Kane is a yoga retreat facilitator: “The retreats are usually a week long, focused around teenagers and young adults. They combine a traditional retreat format of in-depth silent sitting and movement practices with conscious community building, interpersonal activities, and expressive arts workshops. We also have two group process circles a day where the participants express and share what’s coming up for them in their practices, which brings in the psycho-therapy aspect, and we have different activities to facilitate the interpersonal openings and exchange.” To learn more about the retreats, email Ali at [email protected].

How long have you practiced yoga? 13 years.

What is yoga? Ultimately, the meaning of the word is union: to yoke, to unite the opposites, to bring into balance. Its the archetypal alchemy of the polarities of the universe: the male and the female, spirit and matter, dark and light, cold and hot, ect. There’s also the way yoga is understood in the west and how in India its a comprehensive integral system that encompasses every area of life and being. Yoga in the west is understood mainly as asana practice. Its an important part of it, but not all of what it means to be on the path of awakening.

Why do you practice yoga? Yoga keeps my being in alignment and balance. I find it so important to draw my awareness and intention inwards to connect to my body and breathe, and to move through whatever blockages and stickiness may have attached itself to my being since my last practice – the practice of full conscious embodiment of ecstatically embracing my existence in this physical form.

What is your regular practice? An hour-and-a-half a day of asana, I sit in meditation from a half-hour to an hour each day, and I chant kirtan at least a few sessions each week. Ultimately, its all practice: on the mat, off the mat; on the cushion, off the cushion; chanting to God, or speaking to my neighbor.

Yogini Diet? The yogini diet involves presence and attunement to what is. Its not about rigidly following codes that someone else told you (although that can be useful for a while) and meeting each moment with freshness and responding to what the body asks for. Things that my body asks for on a regular basis are greens, roots, herbs, fruits, whole grains, superfoods … and organic!

Favorite asana? Oh, having to choose one is challenging … but simple straight-up standing forward bend does wonders for my body. Lengthening of the legs, full surrender release of the upper-body. Ah, I love how just thinking of yoga poses induces such bliss!

Weakest asana? Headstand.

Strongest asana? Warriors and twists. The question almost doesn’t make sense to me. Its not about comparison or good and bad – its about being present to what is, without judgement.

What do you focus on in your classes? I like to combine a really invigorating and engaging physical experience with awareness and conscious evolution.

Nude Yoga? Heck yeah, in nature preferably!

Any religious affiliations? Not so much organized religions. The retreats I teach are mostly Buddhist and I’ve studied much Buddhism. But I believe in the One, and enjoy sipping on all the wonderful parts of this chalice of creation, and drawing on all different sorts of practices, metaphors, and wisdom teachings as serves the One and brings healing in that moment.

How does yoga work with the ego? So much of it is based in our intention and motivation. For example, someone can be doing the postures from a very ego-based mindset and the shifts in consciousness resulting from that practice will be slower, but they will still happen because even if the mind is not trying to free itself, the ancient wisdom of yoga is still having an effect on that person’s being. Simply the process of unwinding and releasing physical and therefore psychic tension liberates and facilitates the flow of prana, which is inherently blissful and brings us back to divine remembrance.

What else are you into? I’m a transpersonal somatic psychotherapist. I’m a dancer. I study and practice creative and spiritual expressions from all the world’s traditions. I love ceremonial healing and prayer space, devotional music, and spending time in reverence and gratitude for this beautiful earthly creation.

Favorite yogic philosophy? Tantra, which involves embracing it all – celebrating and unconditionally welcoming in all the forces of creation … the alchemy of transmutation … non-duality.

What was the last thing you did to make the world a better place? What I am learning about more and more in my life these days is the power of simply being. I used to think it was all about the doing (and doing is still very important and beautiful) and at the same time simply being in a consciousness of attunement to God impacts all of creation so potently.

Any thank you’s? I have so many thank you’s! I am so grateful! I’m infinitely, unconditionally grateful to every aspect in the universe. And I am grateful to all my practices, because they help me remember and that is what I really need to be in my joy – to just remember.

Ali with The White Angel Dance Troop at Burning Man 2006.

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