Where Did the Year Go, Part 3: Johanna

RhythmAsana Friends,
I’m nearing the completion of a whirlwind 2018 tour next month. I imagine arriving back home to the Oregon winter, to the deep beauty of stillness, at long last. And the image that comes up most often in my mind is the RhythmAsana gathering in January. Huge steaming clouds arising from pools. The comfort of like-minded creatures. And Breitenbush’s legendary food and hospitality.
As I look back on the year, it’s been more crazy and abundant than I could have imagined. I’ve toured around the country offering kirtan, Lullaby Yoga, live music yoga, workshops, and service music in the Midwest, South, West Coast, East Coast. I’ve stopped in to play at Bhakti Fest, Shakti Fest, Resonance Restival, Northwest Yoga Conference, Beloved Festival, Zen Awakening, Mahabhuta Festival, Midwest Yoga and Kirtan Fest, Floyd Yoga Jam,  the entire 2018 Festivals of Color USA tour, and as headliner at the recent at Lawrence Bhakti Festival. Whew! Just writing that list was exhausting! In addition, I produced (with an amazing team) the first annual Shakti United! Weekend Gathering in Ashland, Oregon. It was a success in spite of the short incubation period and the thick smoke from nearby wildfires.
The inspiration for this festival came from a Facebook group that I created right after RhythmAsana last year. ShaktiUnited! is devoted to women in yoga and healing arts with the goal of empowering each other to create and to share our beautiful and unique voices in song and inspiration.  I’ve been delighted to offer Shakti United! events in Eugene and in Asheville, North Carolina. I’m excited that a portion of the sales from these events and from my pop-up shop support the holistic education of dramatically underprivileged girls through the Mitrata-Nepal Foundation. So many ways to give, to receive, and to give back!
Wherever I go, whether on the road or off, I’m driven and supported by the universal heartbeat that holds us all together, even as things appear to be fraying around the edges. So I’m taking all the healing juju of my travels into the studio, where I’m working with producer Ben Leinbach on a brand new album. I’m excited beyond words by this creative collaboration and by the universal soul-inspired tracks that are emerging.
Please come to share in the joy and the silence and the movement that is RhythmAsana. Your presence would make the circle complete.
Our hearts truly beat as One.

Where Did the Year Go, Part 2: Geo

RA friends,

Nine months! That’s how long it’s been since the last RhythmAsana retreat. Here’s the good news: It won’t be long until we can come together for our next RhythmAsana weekend at Breitenbush Hot Springs.

In her recent blog Lea did a great job of answering the question “Where did the year go?”  Now it’s my turn.

The opening sentence at RhythmAsana.com says “RhythmAsana is a unique and joyous blend of yoga, movement meditation, dance, and heart-opening music from all over the planet.” In some ways, that describes much of my year.

It’s been a joy and an honor to DJ for more than a dozen global music dances in Oregon, including an amazing Saturday night dance at the Breitenbush Summer Solstice Healing Gathering—their biggest event of the year. Here in Corvallis, I’ve worked with a team of movers and shakers to transform the venerable Planet Boogie into its 2019 incarnation as Dance Planet.

On the live music/yoga front, I’m a regular player in the New World Kirtan Band. I’ve also played some sweet gigs with Sid Rosen’s Guitar Masala. And I co-hosted an acoustic revival of the Corvallis Beatlesfest featuring a stellar collection of musicians playing Beatles songs to raise money for the Corvallis Folklore Society. But some of my most memorable musical moments happened when I was able to join Johanna for her Pacific Northwest gigs—Bend, Breitenbush, Corvallis, Eugene, Ashland, Seattle, and Beloved Festival.

Add to the mix travel, householder projects, community work, and family stuff and you have a pretty good answer to the “Where did the year go” question.

But that was then and this is now. Now is the time to get ready for RhythmAsana: Moving Into Deep Joy at Breitenbush Hot Springs January 25–27. Call Breitenbush, 541-854-3320 to reserve a spot or two and score an early-bird discount. Let’s move into deep joy together!

George (DJ Geo)

Where Did the Year Go, Part 1: Lea

Hey RAers!

Do you realize it is only a tad over three months til our next Breitenbush Retreat January 25-27?  Hooray! Have you gotten your reservation yet? Early bird discount is on now and the sooner you sign up, the more likely you are to get your favorite cabin.

Right after our 2018 retreat, I jumped onto a steep  growth curve studying New Media and was a guest on lots of podcasts and on-line summits. (There was so much I didn’t know that I didn’t know until I fumbled my way through mistakes and embarrassing moments!)

In February I launched my own weekly radio show We Are More.  It is fun and fascinating to have regular conversations with visionaries, change-makers and everyday heroes, including an environmental scientist turned animal communicator, an ex- government secret agent who is now a Super Power Expert and a folk rock icon.

I am honored to have been featured as a “leading talk show host” (Haha! Who, me?)  in the book Conversations Behind the Mic, and in another anthology set to publish in January.

Here on our farm in the woods near Corvallis I blissed out this summer in Mama Mode. In June we adopted a pair of orphaned 5 week old kittens – they are the dearest little fur babies  ever!– and then put together a big wedding here at home for our daughter Emily. Such an amazing, sacred and joyful experience, with lots of family and friends pitching in over many weeks of projects and celebration.

Yoga-wise, I have two new areas of study from which I will be integrating my favorite gems into our January RhythmAsana retreat. More on these in our next note!

With love and joy,


Planetary Polyrhythms


We love polyrhythms—complex rhythms created out of a mix of simple rhythms. Probably the simplest polyrhythm is the three-against-two rhythm that’s at the heart of so much of our favorite world music. Tap your right hand to a two-beat and your left hand to a three-beat. Each hand follows its own rhythm, but they always come back together for the one.

Our team has been moving to different rhythms since our beautiful retreat in January. But soon we’ll come back together on the one.

In this case the one happens at the apex of a global rhythm—Earth’s trip around the sun. We’re thrilled to be able to do a very special RhythmAsana Summer Solstice Celebration at the Unitarian Fellowship of Corvallis on Tuesday, June 20–Summer Solstice evening. We think our unique blend of movement meditation, gentle yoga, dance, and heart-opening live music might just be the perfect way to say good night to the sun on the longest day of the year. Check out the details below, along with information about several other RhythmAsana-related events between now and then:

Johanna has several CD Release events scheduled to coincide with the release of her brand new album Beyond Love. She’ll be singing, playing, and leading chants in Corvallis (this Friday), Portland, Vancouver Hood River, Salem, Eugene, and Breitenbush Hot Springs before she heads south toward ShaktiFest, where she’ll officially release the album with many of the kirtan luminaries who are featured on the recording.

• On May 21 Lea will lead a very special workshop to help you Manifest Your Heart’s Desire. Activate your natural powers of nature, dreaming, imagination, play, movement, community, breath and body to become a joyful creator of life.

George will be playing with the New World Kirtan Band on Friday, May 12 (and the second Friday of most months), The following night (and the second Saturday of most months)  he’ll be the DJ for Planet Boogie, Corvallis’s popular Freestyle world music dance.

There’s way too much to list here so be sure to check our web sites (rhythmasana.comjohannasings.comleabayles.com) for details.

Looking forward to singing, dancing, moving, and just being with you soon,

George for Lea, Johanna, and Lyris

Moving into Deep Joy

One evening nearly a year ago, a feeling caught up with me

I realized something was missing. It wasn’t a feeling of unhappiness or of sadness.  It was a longing. Not a longing for more things or ideas or entertainment or distraction. A subtle longing for something I didn’t have words for.

Curious, I dropped inside,
felt the slight aching in my heart,
softened to give it more room,
sensed breath flowing in and through and
gently waited….

Soon the answer came.

I was missing dance and movement play.

More particularly, I was hungry  for the sort of danceplay and movement groups I had been leading until a weird inflammatory illness five years ago before stopped me. My symptoms redirected me to focus on healing my body and cultivating vitality from a deeper, more sustainable source.

Then, as I was feeling strong and healthy and vibrant again, this longing arose to guide me to the next step.

Ahhh, Thank you. I get it.  Time to find my way into sacred, playful movement leadership again. I felt the peace and clarity and the deep joy of landing into the wisdom of longing. There was a sense of trust it would happen, even though the “how” was unknown.

A few day later, as if by magic, my dear friend George called to ask if I was interested in taking over as movement guide and teacher for RhythmAsana, an innovative and revitalizing program he co-developed.

RhythmAsana blends yoga, playful dance, creative movement play, drumming and live world beat music by incredible musicians.


The tagline of RhythmAsana is Moving into Deep Joy.

Even more perfect.

Two invitations for you:

Invitation Number One: Embrace Your Longings
Notice if perhaps you are also feeling a longing: a body sensation or small voice asking you to listen more deeply, eager to guide you more fully into the joy of being who you really are.
I think of this sort of soul longing as Divine Discontentment.
What is your Divine Discontentment calling you into now? Something to learn, embrace, transform or, perhaps, let go of?

Invitation Number Two: Move Into Your Deep Joy with RhythmAsana

Come move and play and celebrate with us! All levels and all abilities are so very welcome.
Saturday November 21 10:30-noon Unitarian Universalist Fellowship 2945 NW Circle Blvd Corvallis Oregon. RhythmAsana’s luminous lead singer and songwriter, Johanna, will be in our hometown this one weekend as part of her west coast tour. If you are anywhere in the area, please join us.

January 29-31 2016 Moving into Deep Joy: Winter Retreat at Breitenbush Hot Springs, Oregon. Harmonious and playful blends of yoga, movement, meditation, dance, drumming and singing will open our bodies and hearts to joy and connect us with our inner selves and with our global community. Revel in this rejuvenating retreat center set in majestic, magical old growth forests with rustic -and comfortable!- cabins, natural hot spring pools, extensive trails and a rushing river. All levels and abilities welcome. Sign up soon to get early bird discount and your choice of cabins. Click here for more information.

Blessings and love,

PS A few comments from recent RhythmAsana participants “RhythmAsana is the one of THE most joy-generating things I have ever done!” “A wonderful experience! I can’t wait to do it again!”  “An unexpected awakening of joyful depths … community moving as one.” “I feel like I reconnected to soul and heart and body.”

PPS Click here  to listen to some of Johanna’s heart-opening music, including her brand new CD.

Lea Bayles, M.A. Holistic Wellness Consultant, Author, Speaker

(this post first appeared in Lea’s blog.)

Neurophysiology of Deep Joy

If you’ve spent time with me over the last couple of years, there’s a good chance you’ve been amused or annoyed by my clumsy attempts to put the RhythmAsana experience into words. There’s something about the Deep Joy of RhythmAsana that transcends the verbal plane. And if it’s hard to describe the “what” of the RhythmAsana experience, it’s even harder to explain “why.” What causes the Deep Joy?

When I heard Dave Stringer talk about the neurophysiology of kirtan a few weeks ago, I wasn’t thinking about RhythmAsana. Like everyone else in the room, I was focused on kirtan—the call-and-response chanting often associated with yoga. But when he described the effects of kirtan on the human nervous system, I suddenly found myself listening to his words on two parallel levels. The kirtan musician in me appreciated his insights into the effect of group chanting on the brain. But my inner RhythmAsanator realized that he might just as easily have been talking about RhythmAsana.

I can’t hope to capture the depth and breadth of Dave’s wonderful presentation in these few paragraphs; if you want the whole story you’ll need to go to the source. But, at the risk of oversimplifying, I will share with you one small part of the talk that seemed particularly relevant to our journey.

As you may know, each of us has two nervous systems: The parasympathic nervous system, which is typically associated with inner peace and rest, and the sympathetic nervous system, which is associated with excitement.

In a typical kirtan, the group starts by chanting (and breathing) slowly together. Most people find this experience deeply peaceful, probably because they’re stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system. As a chant speeds up and the energy rises, hearts pulse faster and, in all likelihood, sympathetic nervous systems are activated. But because the group is still chanting and breathing together, there’s still a shared sense of inner peace. The end result, according to Dave, is that kirtan is one of the few human activities that activates both nervous systems simultaneously, producing a unique and powerful experience.

This theory may not (yet) be lab-tested and peer-reviewed, but it has a ring of truth to it. And it seems to apply to the RhythmAsana experience, too. We start by breathing and/or singing together; we move through gentle, slightly rhythmic yoga poses into group movements with more of a pulse, then into high-energy dance. Because of the gradual flow from restful to energetic, and because of the shared movements to a common pulse, we maintain a sense of deep peace and comfort while at the same time feeling waves of excitement and bliss. It’s an amazing space to explore together.

I don’t know whether the two-nervous-systems theory truly explains what’s happening here. It might be at least part of the reason we feel so good when we do RhythmAsana—and often, for long periods of time after we’ve moved back into our day-to-day lives.

I do know that there’s something profound about sharing space, time, and movement with others in this way is very special. I’m blessed to have the opportunity to do it with you.


RhythmAsana in Motion

RhythmAsana is, at its core, all about movement and music. Movement and music are, by their very nature, kinetic. You can’t have movement without change, and you can’t have music without movement. So it’s no surprise that RhythmAsana today is very different than the original RhythmAsana.

The seeds of RhythmAsana were planted when I stumbled (literately and figuratively) into Angela Grace’s Zumba class. As a drummer and a world-music lover, I was immediately taken by the high-energy beats, the global sounds, the engaging dance moves, and Angela’s joyous energy. I became a class regular, gradually liberating parts of my body, mind, and spirit that had been locked down for decades. When Angela became my yoga teacher at Live Well Studio, I had a new Saturday morning ritual: yoga, dance, bliss. After a few months, I suggested to Angela that this combination was too powerful not to share. She agreed, and RhythmAsana was born.

The early RhythmAsana (which went by a different name) was little more than my Saturday morning routine without the pesky commute from the health club to the yoga studio. It didn’t take long, though, before we were able to refine it into something much more sublime. The changes have come gradually over time, often as imperceptibly as the opening of a flower. Deeper, richer music from around the world; more powerful movement flows; creative community-building moves; fantastic free-form interludes, live drumming; and occasional live music from a the full Rhythmantra band. Those who’ve been with us throughout the journey might take these changes for granted, but people who return after being gone a while can’t help but notice that RhythmAsana is on the move.

We love the direction RhythmAsana is heading. We love the response we’re getting from those of you who are traveling with us. And we can hardly wait to see where we’re headed. If we’ve learned nothing else from RhythmAsana, we know that it’s all about moving into deep joy. And the joy just keeps getting deeper.


Moving Beyond Words, Moving Beyond Stories….

After I wrote a few books I got the idea that I was pretty good at translating ideas into paragraphs. But when I try to explain RhythmAsana to the uninitiated, I’m humbled by my inability to communicate with words. Oh, it’s easy to give a thumbnail description: RhythmAsana is unique blend of yoga, guided dance, and world music. But that does nothing to explain how powerful, joyous, and transformative the RhythmAsana experience can be.

In some cases, my lack of clear communication may be a good thing. Case in point: A few months ago I told one of my yoga friends about RhythmAsana and she showed up for that weekend’s RhythmAsana class. Apparently I’d done a really bad job of describing RhythmAsana. When the music was over and we were packing up, she told me three things:
1. She really didn’t know what she was getting into.
2. If she had known, she wouldn’t have come because she doesn’t do “dance things.”
3. She loved it and she’d be back.

She was good for her word. In fact, she’ll be joining us for our Breitenbush retreat next weekend.

Her experience was dramatic, but not unique. I’ve had many people tell me variations of the same story: I didn’t know what to expect, and I was a little intimidated by the possibility that I’d be out of my comfort zone, but I’m so glad I overcame my resistance because I had a fabulous time.

Dancers tell me that they don’t do yoga. Yogis tell me they don’t dance. Runners, walkers, bikers, gardeners, and couch potatoes tell me they don’t do either. For many of those people, my blizzard of words does little to convince them of the virtues of RhythmAsana. But if they’re willing and able to get past their “I can’t dance” and “I can’t do yoga” scripts, they’re often amazed at how much fun they can pack into 90 minutes. And how good they feel as they go back into their lives. And how much they look forward to the next time they can share the RhythmAsana experience with others.

If you’re living with one of these scripts, take some encouragement from these RhythmAsana converts. Let go of your story and experience the deep joy of RhythmAsana! And bring your friends!

Is RhythmAsana Yoga?

RhythmAsana is a unique blend of familiar yoga poses—asanas—and rhythmic movement. A RhythmAsana session is a joyous journey from stillness to activity and back to stillness. Because RhythmAsana incorporates elements from a multitude of cultures, people have trouble putting a label on it. We’re occasionally asked if RhythmAsana is yoga. To answer, we first need to ask: What is yoga?

Most Westerners think of yoga as stretching, pretzel-shaped poses, new age music, and lululemon outfits. But people familiar with the underlying philosophy of yoga know that our Western view reveals only a tiny fraction of what yoga offers.  Yoga sage Patanjali wrote about eight limbs, or techniques, of yoga, only one of those tools is asana. So if yoga is more than poses, what is it?


Douglas Brooks defines yoga as the virtuosity of becoming yourself. We use the tools of yoga—how we treat others, how we treat ourselves, physical poses, breath work, watching how we use our senses, focus, concentration, and meditation—to discover who we are.  We discover what makes us deeply contented and what brings a profound sense of purpose and belonging. We step into our strength, our confidence, our creative power.  By this definition, yoga happens when an artist creates or a singer is lost in song. It happens when a scientist is immersed in an experiment or a gardener ponders the quality of the soil. It happens when lovers gaze into each other’s eyes, and when we passionately debate issues of social justice.

Yoga happens when you quiet the mind enough to hear, to feel the vibrations of anadamaya kosha, the deepest energetic layer of your being. And when you catch a glimpse, hear just a few notes… let the dance begin….