Bhav Brigade: Year Two in Review

This past month, our entirely donation-based pop-up yoga platform, the Bhav Brigade, had it’s second birthday.

Looking back, I’m not sure how it’s possible, but this past year proved to be even more transformative than our first.

We kicked off the year by collaborating with our friends and local Kirtan band, PranaMuktiBhakti, to host The Yoga of Sound, a yoga fundraiser accompanied by live music where we met our goal of raising $1,000 for ForKids–a local nonprofit providing comprehensive support for homeless families in the region.

Photos by George Vu at The Yoga of Sound.

Around that time, Leah Landau (second from right, top row in above picture) started helping Danielle, Megan and I by substituting our classes as needed and was soon welcomed into the fold as an official Bhav Brigade teacher. Over the course of the year Leah was joined by three other new (to us) teachers, Vanessa Fleming, Diane Malaspina Kassir and Neve Grace Fletcher Loehr, expanding the teaching tribe to seven. Each of these women brings something unique to the Bhav table and is actively widening our reach to more cities in Hampton Roads. Vanessa, having just returned from two years abroad leading yoga retreats internationally, has joined the rotation for our monthly classes and is exploring our expansion to Newport News. Diane, E-RYT, practicing psychologist, former studio owner and teacher-of-teachers, collaborated with us initially by guest teaching to raise money for her 1,000 hour (yes, you heard that right!) Yoga Medicine TT seva, The Emancipation Network, in support of their fight against human trafficking and other forms of modern slavery. She’s now pioneering the Virginia Beach leg of our Hampton Roads community with upcoming regular offerings in the ViBe Creative District and on the oceanfront at Neptune Park. Neve, also an E-RYT specializing in Ayurveda, Bhakti and pre-natal yoga, is partnering with Leah to grow our presence in Portsmouth with regular offerings in the Porsmouth Art and Cultural Center Courtyard adjacent to the Saturday morning Portsmouth Farmer’s Market and at the pavilion by the Portsouth Ferry Station.

Along with the growth of our teaching family, we’ve established new community partnerships with Fit 36, Riverview Village Days Open Air Market, CBRE Commercial Real Estate Hampton Roads, Downtown Norfolk Council, lululemon Virginia Beach, Nauticus, Gold Key PHR, Norfolk FestEvents, 757 Makerspace and (inaugural class at The Grain Rooftop Garden coming soon!) Hilton Norfolk The Main. And while we’re most passionate about bringing yoga out from behind closed doors into public spaces, we also love our local yoga studios and value their irreplacable contribution to the community. We’ve been actively working to strengthen the bonds of collaboration with these studios with the welcoming of local guest teachers and pop-up Bhav studio classes in the works.

Photo by George Vu at Pop-Up Yoga at Lesner Inn.

Last month we made things a little more official with the creation of a website. A labor of love on behalf of our teacher, creative director and Otto marketing executive, Megan Kresse (with a little help from the rest of the Bhav), hosts all the information you could ever hope to know about us in one easy-to-navigate space. You can now visit the site to read about our story, values, and where we came from, get to know all of the many players behind the Bhav Brigade, including teachers, photographers, videographers, marketing/advertising executives, graphic designers, community sponsors and partners (it takes a village, people!), stay in-the-know about all of our upcoming classes, near and far, and find out how to get involved.

Of all these huge developments, possibly the biggest and definitely the most unexpected is our upcoming teacher training program. It’s one that’s comprehensive, holistic and flexible, driven by the Bhav values of creativity, collaboration and community and designed for our movers and shakers, visionaries and advocates, this brigade of people who want to make their communities a better place and believe in the power of yoga to do so. Built from the framework of our senior teacher Diane’s Sadhana Yoga School training program, this offering will be co-led by all the Bhav teachers, infusing it with the soul and flair of this community–meaning that, in addition to the nuts-and-bolts of TT, we’re focusing on things like the anatomy and functional sustainability of the asana practice, the inclusivity of yoga (how to transcend the boundaries of today’s yoga culture and use yoga as a means of bring people–especially the traditionally marginalized–together), how to market yourself/the business of yoga and yoga as a tool for social change. This curriculum will play on the strengths and real-world expertise of each of our teachers to emphasize the areas we believe to be integral to the practice of yoga at its core that are not covered in depth by most teacher trainings…because how lucky are we to have a psychologist, a medical doctor, a communication professor with a focus on power and gender studies, a handful of career yoga teachers–one with international experience, and a marketing executive with three decades of teaching experience and thousands of hours of training between them? We’ll be opening registration soon, but if you’d like to be among the first to know, you can email to sign up.

And now that my other hat is moving me cross-country for residency at Stanford (You can read my exit interview at AltDaily here), we’re going bi-coastal with branches in both Hampton Roads and the San Francisco Bay Area–coming this Summer, 2017. But not before leading one last class all-together as a community, of course. On Thursday May 18th, with the help of our sponsors at Nauticus and lululemon, we hosted Bhav On-Board: Pop-up Yoga on the USS Wisconsin Battleship to celebrate our two-year anniversary and my farewell class in the most “Norfolk” way possible. Nearly 500 yogis of all shapes and sizes, ages, ethnicities and experiences from across Hampton Roads, Virginia and the U.S. (even one from Puerto Rico!) filled the deck of the battleship for the largest ever yoga class in Hampton Roads under the setting sun, paying homage to our city’s undeniable military roots (Did you know that, second only to the Pentagon, we have the largest military population in the country?!) and world-class civic engagement. And it turned out to be yoga on the river for the river, because the organization chosen by the community as the beneficiary of this event was The Elizabeth River Project–a local nonprofit driving community efforts in the restoration of our waterfront’s environmental health. We ended up raising over thirty-one-hundred dollars and it was a farewell I’ll never forget.

Photos by Peter Squicciarini, George Vu, Eva Fuze and Drew Richard at Bhav On-Board.

It absolutely blows my mind that all of this began from advertising with chalk in areas of heavy foot traffic and eventually on social media and then us, a few new yoga teachers, just showing up. On that first day, we arrived on the pier outside the Pagoda in Norfolk and twelve other people joined us, some we knew and some we didn’t yet. And then twelve became 20, 20 became 30, 30 became 50, 50 became 100, one-hundred became two and now we have this: dozens of community partners, seven teachers, tens of thousands of dollars raised for local charities and other worthwhile organizations, a teacher training in the works and a community that is stronger, wider, thicker, more inclusive and more transformative than we ever dreamed possible.

Thank you, thank you, thank you, life. Once again, you’ve created something so much greater and more magical than we ever could have created for ourselves.

Photo by George Vu.

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