On Jan. 7, Antigone Rising, a band that has roots in Glen Cove and Sea Cliff, performed at yoga studio and event center, Buddha Jams, in Glen Cove. Joanie Leeds, who won a Grammy for Best Children’s Album with All the Ladies, was slated to perform but was not able to make it due to a family matter. Guest performers filled in, including the Cantor for Oyster Bay’s Congregation L’Dor V’Dor, Tayla Smilowitz.
And the event, which is geared towards families, donations were accepted to benefit Girls Rising, a non-profit organization created by Antigone Rising that works to empower and inspire girls and LGBTQIA children to pursue careers in male dominated fields through workshops, grants, scholarships and the annual Girls Rising Music Festival that centers around young musicians. The event featured an accessible yoga session, meditation and concerts.
“Our passion and our non-profit is all about empowering young girls to follow that inner voice inside them, to express themselves truly and authentically and not fear that, and to also support that in others,” said Cathy Henderson, a guitarist and founding member of Antigone Rising.
Creating this event with Jason Samel, the founder of Buddha Jams, has been the perfect match. Henderson explained that Samel, who supports the mission of Girls Rising, also comes from a place of “higher being and living.”
“He created this awesome mix of music and meditative yoga experience, which is Buddha Jams,” Henderson said. “I think it’s such a great manifestation of his own elevation, and to give back to people. It’s all about love and giving back to everybody.”
Leeds, a friend of Samel’s and Antigone Rising’s, told Long Island Weekly ahead of the concert that she was inspired by Samel’s opening of the studio.
Buddha Jams opened in April, 2022 and had a grand opening the following June. Samel found the studio because he wanted to share his love of yoga, as well as mix it with his love of music.
“During Covid I became very depressed…I fell into a really dark place of depression and anxiety,” Samel explained. “I went onto [Tappen] Beach [in Sea Cliff]… and in one a-ha moment, I decided to sit down on the beach, close my eyes, rise my arms up in the air on my breath in, bring my hands back to heart center on my breath out, and I just kept doing that movement for about 15 minutes.”
After doing this meditation for about 15 minutes, Samel said he smiled in a way that he hadn’t in years, with an abundance of love inside his heart for everything and everyone around him, as well as himself.
“I came back to the beach and I said ‘you know what, I’m going to try this again,’” Samel said. “And it was during the middle of COVID, so there was no yoga studios that were open and there was no where to get instruction, except online, and I hated getting instruction online… so I went to Tappen every single day. And I went to a few yoga classes in the past with my wife, and I remembered a few poses that we did in class. So I decided to do yoga there every single day… I took my shirt off every single day whether it was hot, even in December when it got cold, even in the snow… even in the rain.”
He calls yoga in the snow, “Snow-Ga,” and yoga in the rain, “Rain-ga.”
Facing the elements, breathing through it and completing the same practice every day was a powerful experience for Samel. “If I can do that on my yoga mat, I can do anything in life.”
Buddha Jams is the manifestation of Samel’s journey. Even with less than a year of being open, classes are well attended, though there’s certainly room for more, Samel said. And the studio employs experienced practitioners including an acupuncturist and healing artist, a yoga physical therapist, a licensed clinical social worker, and several yoga, healing and meditation artists, including Samel, who recently became a certified yoga teacher.
Samel said a community is forming out of this studio.
And what better way to add to that momentum then through a family concert?
“This time of year is when health and being a better person and all those resolutions come into play,” said Henderson. “And hopefully [the concert] is a really cool way to help people keep that momentum going, so the timing is for that reason. But the underlying reason for doing this, of course, is utilizing meditation, and bringing that sense of creativity and empowerment, to the kids.”