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Ganondagan’s virtual Thanksgiving yoga focuses on gratitude, responsibility

Nov 25, 2020

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The pandemic is preventing many people from gathering with their families and friends this Thanksgiving. But Ganondagan is offering a way to set a proper tone for the day with a yoga session that focuses on gratitude, community, and our duties to one another.


You can wake up on Thursday morning and, without having to leave home, join a virtual Gratitude Flow & Restore yoga session, which will be streamed for free on Ganondagan’s Facebook Live from 9:30 to 10:50 a.m.

Thursday’s session is the first of three in the Community Yoga Series and will be led by Rohsennase Wahkskarewake — Akwesasne Mohawk, Bear Clan, also known as Dalton LaBarge. Two more workshops in the series will follow on Dec. 5 and Dec. 19.

Concepts presented during the guided yoga sessions are drawn from the Mohawk version of the Ohen:ton Karihwatehkwen, or Thanksgiving Address. LaBarge will create a virtual space for participants to come together and learn the fundamentals of the Haudenosaunee worldview while engaging in restorative movement.

The session will begin with an introduction and some guided meditation, LaBarge says. And that will evolve into a yoga class that’s split between active movement and postural yoga, finishing with restorative, restful poses, during which the address and its English translation will be recited.

Thanksgiving is a complex day for Indigenous folks, LaBarge says, but the workshop is open to anyone who wants to participate. The toll that 2020 has taken on everyone, from heightened anxiety to full-on existential crises, calls for rest and healing, and a focus on what’s everlastingly important.

The address begins:

“Today we have gathered and we see that the cycles of life continue. We have been given the duty to live in balance and harmony with each other and all living things. So now, we bring our minds together as one as we give greetings and thanks to each other as people. Now our minds are one.”

Just like prayer or meditation, the Thanksgiving Address is “a tool that we can use to have a good mind,” LaBarge says. “And then there's a full day afterward to keep reflecting and connecting.”

Despite sharing a name, the Thanksgiving Address isn’t specifically tied to the holiday — it’s a series of affirmations that are recited before important gatherings, whether political, ceremonial, or social.

Some members of the Indigenous community recite the address every day, LaBarge says. “And as a community, we absolutely do it before any big community event, whether that be more of a political meeting where decisions are going to be made, or a social gathering, or a more ceremonial gathering. It's always used to sort of right away, right off the ground, build that community consensus, get everyone on the same page with one mind.”

LaBarge says that it makes sense to blend these Indigenous and yogic traditions in the context of the day.

“The Thanksgiving Address is all about connecting back to ourselves, each other, and the natural world,” they said. “It reaffirms our responsibilities as individuals, to our community, to the place that we live, to all of the living things that we share the space with. And so that points to the same sort of philosophy held by the yogic tradition, which is: Through yoga, you are bringing yourself back to awareness of how you fit into this larger context.”

Rebecca Rafferty is CITY's arts & entertainment editor. She can be reached at becca@rochester-citynews.com.