There was quite a buzz surrounding Ryan Leier’s yoga class in Stanley Park last weekend. He was closing the Vancouver Seawheeze festivities and my yoga lovin’ friends were extremely excited to have him in town. The staff at Lululemon seemed beside themselves about practicing with him and their eyes lit up when they spoke his name. All of this piqued my curiosity. So, off I went on a pilgrimage to Stanley Park to see what this yoga teacher was all about.
Ryan opened the class by asking us to dedicate our practice to someone we love. My older sister Inga’s face immediately entered my mind. Inga died a very violent death over ten years ago but I still feel her spirit all around me from time to time. There have been many First Nations healing ceremonies around my sister’s death and First Nations believe that when eagles show up at a ceremony, it means our loved ones spirits are there with us. Eagles have flown above us at an extraordinary amount of these ceremonies. So many, that I now think of Inga as my Eagle Spirit Sister. I put my hands on my heart and dedicated the next hour to her.
Next Ryan invited us to put our hands on the ground beneath us and feel what the earth had to tell us. Feel how we are a part of it. Feel the wind and the sun and how we are part of that. The two major spiritual experiences of my life have been sitting by the ocean and realizing how connected I am to nature, the world, the universe. Not separate at all but profoundly connected. I started to have this feeling again and felt the tears flow. He instructed us to feel the spirits around us and let them lift our arms up into the air. He told us to say hello to the sun, to flap our wings and fly like a bird. Soar like an eagle. Become an animal. Drum our hands on the earth. Scream, shout, shake it all out. He told us to do the things we never get to do in our society. To yell, to be free, to be connected. And as I followed his instruction, I realized how I was starving for…this. The tears flowed again.
Next he asked how many old people in the crowd remember Steve Miller. My hand shot up and I waved it as I shouted “I’m old! I do, I do!!” And, sure enough, the hypnotic strains of Fly Like an Eagle followed. Oh yes, my favourite song to listen to when smoking weed in high school. But between the association with my sister and this beautiful yoga experience, more tears. Good, detoxifying tears. Wow, I thought, we idolize people who make huge amounts of money and have power over other people in this crazy culture but we don’t idolize awake, aware teachers like this who can help us heal our souls. Bizarre.
After doing several yoga poses with my eyes closed, I looked down at my mat and saw that a perfect feather had landed right in the middle of it. It wasn’t an eagle feather but I took it as a sign that my sister’s presence was there with all of us in the park and it felt just beautiful. I think when you get to a place of healing and connection with nature and the universe, all kinds of signs and serendipitous events begin to happen. This, to me, is the ultimate way to live and the path I want to travel on.
At the end of class, Ryan asked us to reach for the stars then roll on our sides in a fetal position and remember far back in time when our brain was connected to our heart, in the womb. I remembered.
I don’t know quite how to explain Ryan Leier, other than to say that when you are in his presence you know you are in the presence of a connected being. A true free spirit and a wise soul. A teacher in the biggest sense of the word. And it was magic.
Leaving the class, I said to my friend that this is the kind of yogi I could follow everywhere. I could buy a turquoise VW van and follow him all over North America. Happily. And, who knows, maybe one day I will.
I left Stanley Park feeling like a true nature’s child and I could feel my Eagle Spirit Sister walking beside me.