Gorilla Yogis take over the T Plaza

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The Gorilla Yogis were able to raise $600 during their day at MCTC. (Photos: Trevor Squire/City College News)

By Trevor Squire
News Editor

Through the typical school week, MCTC’s T Plaza is a common gathering ground for students on break between classes in need of food or a smoke.

Saturday mornings are a different story, where a stroll through the plaza would remind you of a walk through a VHS store. Barren, desolate, unlively are words that come to mind; but Saturday, Nov. 8, the plaza was stripped of its tables and chairs and replaced by a spectrum of yoga mats, yogis, and turntables for a session pushing the practice of yoga into the urban jungle.

MCTC’s Yoga Club hosted the Gorilla Yogis for an hour-and-fifteen minute vinyasa session where $600 in proceeds were raised and donated to the Harriet Tubman Foundation.

Supporting over 40,000 victims of domestic violence here in the Twin Cities, the Tubman shelters have been 20 percent over capacity for the past two years. Most filled with women and children who’ve fled their own homes and now lack that place of peace and solitude.

With Green Dot Day upcoming on Nov. 19, Yoga Club advisor Jennifer Mason saw the Tubman Foundation fit to receive the funds donated.

“The majority of women and children in emergency shelters are doing so because they are seeking safety,” Mason said. “The point is that anybody can find themselves in that experience. It doesn’t mean you’re a drug addict or you lost your job.”

Though temples and monasteries are commonplace in Southeast Asia, yoga has progressed to an everyday philosophy that takes place outside studio walls. The Gorilla Yogis’ primary goal is to migrate yoga sessions into the urban environment to spread awareness of the practice, while also gaining money for various organizations.

DJ Omaur Bliss is not amused by the Yoga Gorilla.
DJ Omaur Bliss is not amused by the Yoga Gorilla.

The weather limited the session to the confines of the building, but with a classic blend of 80s and 90s R&B selected by DJ Omaur Bliss, the energy and environment differed from a traditional yoga setting. The Yoga Club’s treasurer, Kelsey “Vireshwarana” Dakini, felt it was more like a party.

“It was a really good class for beginners to come to,” she said. “There was no judgement – not that there ever really is – but people were goofing off and kind of dancing while they were doing it which is fun.”

With the level of endorphins released inside the building, Mason may be onto something feeling a buzz about a yoga studio when no one is focused on the past or future. Those bravehearted who snuck a bite of the complementary garden-grown peppers before the session started may too have felt the vibrations of the atmosphere.

“It reminds me of a flashmob, people breaking out of their shells even if they don’t know each other,” Vireshwara said.

Aside from the physical benefits, Mason has read handwritten testimonies from students about the changes that have occurred to people who frequently practiced yoga. Weight loss, quitting smoking, even cases of parents who lose patience with their kids and give them a spanking expressed their new ability to relax and talk to their child and build a better relationship.

“The magic I get to read about what yoga has done for people is amazing,” Mason said. “Yoga is about mindfulness and we’re moving to push that movement into the mainstream.”

Studies from the Yoga Health Foundation have found the discipline lowers depression, relieves stress, and lowers blood pressure in patients. With this combination of relaxation and meditation, Vireshwara feels yoga can bring people to their peak level of performance and authenticity.

“The most productive, happy, and financially successful I’ve been was when I was doing yoga everyday,” she said.