“We’re going to need your help and your great imaginations,” says Grasshopper. “We need you to participate with us and sing, dance and stretch.” So begins The Ohmies!, an interactive theatrical production of world music, yoga postures and wisdom inspired by The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali.
The Ohmies! began off-Broadway in 2001 and relocated to Los Angeles in ‘4. Co-creators Ben Tollefson and Laurie Miller developed the idea as a means to help students, young and old, remember the sun salutation sequence. Tollefson says, “We thought maybe it would be easier for them to remember by associating the movements with music.” Miller adds, “We wanted to introduce kids to different styles of music.” The original score includes African percussion, Latin salsa, hip-hop, Jamaican music, and traditional American music with an Eastern Indian flair.
The Ohmies! also introduces children to yoga techniques that quiet their minds and strengthen their bodies. It promotes pro-social behaviors, such as helping and comforting others, friendship, teamwork and diversity, through participatory play and song.
We follow young butterfly Penny’s pre-dawn journey through Ohmland to surprise the sun; it is a journey of self-discovery through Pyramid City, the Echoing Canyon, Giggly Gulch and the Stream of Consciousness. Along the way, Penny learns surya namaskara, a sequence of yoga postures honoring the sun. But her adventure nearly comes to an end when she encounters “the Worries:” doubt, indecision and haste. Sage Patanjali refers to these Worries as inevitable obstacles (antararyas) on the path to spiritual enlightenment and says it is not uncommon to experience sadness and frustration as a result. Patanjali’s solution? “One-pointedness of mind” (eka tattva-abhyasah).
The Ohmies’ solution? Sing, clap and stomp the Worries away. Patanjali offers several suggestions for attaining one-pointedness of mind: practice friendliness, compassion, goodwill and acceptance; concentrate on your breath, a subtle sensation, inner luminosity, someone else’s quiet mind or a dream; and, if all else fails, find something you enjoy to focus on in order to overcome such obstacles. The Ohmies enjoy song, dance and laughter.
The Ohmies, incidentally, are Penny’s colorful animal friends: Grasshopper, Down Dawg, Up Dawg and Snake. They, too, have met the Worries, and so they teach Penny to “never give up” (abhyasa) and to “always let go” (vairagya). Abhyasa, or practice, and vairagya, or non-attachment, are the two core principles on which the entire system of yoga rests. Practice leads Penny in the right direction, while non-attachment keeps her from heading down the path of despair.It is with one-pointedness of mind, dedication to practice and letting go that Patanjali says we reach our destination and experience the fruits of yoga. For Penny and friends it’s the Sweeping Bluff and a big surprise for the sun: surya namaskara, free of the Worries and full of life.
Visit theohmies.com for performance dates, locations and DVD information.
Darlene D’Arezzo is founder and director of Kids’ Yoga Circle. She leads yoga classes, workshops and retreats for children, families and teachers. KidsYogaCircle.com.