Last summer, Montauk-based yoga instructor Ashley McGee provided solace for yogis during the pandemic at her innovative YOGA+SOUNDS+ART Experience. On Sundays at 10:45 a.m., McGee will once again host the highly popular series, which highlights yoga – of course – along with local musicians and artists.
We spoke with McGee about the Open-Level Flow Yoga classes, series collaborators, her practice, and much more.
How many years have you been practicing yoga?
AM: I’ve been practicing yoga for about 12 years.
What drew you to yoga?
AM: I was a dancer growing up and was inspired by the elegance, grace, and mindset of yoga.
How many years have you been teaching?
AM: I began teaching in the fall 2019. One of the things that I’m incredibly inspired by is that my work and journey as a yoga teacher have just begun.
What led you to present the outdoor YOGA+SOUNDS+ART experience in Montauk?
AM: When COVID hit and yoga studios had to close temporarily, I decided to create an outdoor YOGA+MUSIC+ART experience on a beautiful, magical lawn in Montauk where guests can hear the ocean waves crashing from the property. I wanted to not only hold space for the community to practice yoga, but also to create a multi-sensorial, cultural experience that supports local artists and musicians. The wind speaks in a sort of mystical way on the lawn. The sunlight sparkles in a really special way under the canopy of the trees. We are surrounded by the music and beauty of Mother Nature.
How long will you be doing your outdoor YOGA+SOUNDS+ART experience?
AM: Last season, we went up until around mid to end of October, so I imagine we’ll have a similar schedule this season.
Who are the artists/musicians involved and are there different musicians/artists featured on various Sundays?
AM: Different musicians offer eccentric sounds + different artists exhibit eclectic artwork on various Sundays.
– Montauk local artist, exploring different emotions in her ocean & seascape paintings, Candace Ceslow
– Art Basel featured mixed media Painter incorporating Braille messaging into her work, Juliana Purcell Sheehan
– Whimsical surfcentric artwork by Illustrator, cartoonist and scrimshander, Peter Spacek
– Parish Art Museum Featured Artist, Illustrator and Designer, Scott Bluedorn
– Sitar + transcending sounds by Gian Carlo Feleppa
– Electronic sounds by Producer/Musician James Ryan
– Guitar + percussion by Musician/Artist/Photographer/Surfer, Dalton Portella
There will also be tarot card readings with Sarah Weitlauf. Sarah has a gift of psychic abilities and tarot is a language she can use to communicate with you and your best self. Feel free to share questions ahead of time, come with a list, or just let it speak to you.
As a culmination of the 2020 summer season and in honor of the Full Moon, I did something special for my Sunday series. I brought all of the musicians who had played music during my classes together for an unprecedented, musical collaboration. The musicians were creatively inspired as was I. They birthed an entirely new music child. It was epic and I’m planning something special for this season, as well…
What is your process for putting together yoga sequences?
AM: It is constantly evolving. When I initially began teaching, I’d plot out a given sequence and practice it myself so I could develop a script of every instruction/alignment cue for every pose, transition, and moment during class. I’d memorize the script so I felt confident teaching it. Now, while I have a similar process, it’s looser with less scripting/memorization. Sometimes, my sequences have themes leaning into moments of time and cultural events such as lunar phases, the weather, seasonal changes, or holidays. Sometimes, I get inspired by my teachers’ sequencing and riff off of that. I’m always refining and iterating my sequences along my journey.
What are your other passions when not teaching/practicing yoga?
AM: Surfing and music have both been significant elements in my life since I was in my mother’s womb. I relish being in or close by bodies of water. I adore animals and have always had a strong connection with them. I love tending to and harvesting bountiful produce from my wonderful garden.
What brought you to Montauk and how long have you been here?
AM: I used to live in the city and started coming to Montauk in the summer of 2012. I fell in love. I’d come to Montauk every weekend and it became home to me. I became more and more bummed when I’d have to go back to the city for work. In 2018, I made Montauk my home base.
Is there anything else you would like to share?
AM: I’m hosting a YOGA+SURF+ART Retreat in Nosara, Costa Rica this February! My background is largely rooted in creating artful, unexpected experiences where there is a shift from when the participant enters and exits. I’m so grateful to have the opportunity to do what I love, to be able to express myself creatively, and to feel creative fulfillment along the way.
For more information, visit www.AshleyMcgee.yoga.