Yoga is in the heart of the practitioner

With all of the tweets, blogs and Facebook posts it can be difficult to discern what’s legit, what’s important or what matters to the person that wants to start a yoga practice. We have yoga-centric publications like Elephant Journal, Yoga Journal, Yoganonymous along with teachers writing endless articles on any number of yoga-related topics ( irony alert!!!).    It’s similar to the dilemma of a person who wants to start a healthier diet and is blown away and confounded by all the choices and information and feels paralyzed. I say, just start eating 3 raw veggies a day and some fruit..increase your water intake and start from there.

The Chicago yoga scene is robust and dynamic and affords the new student a dizzying array of choices. Below is a little information that will help you wade through what seems like a brand new language and a confusing kaleidoscope of options.

Pattabhi Jois, the founder of the Ashtanga style of yoga put it simply, “Practice, practice, practice” as the answer to the perennial question, “What is the meaning of yoga?”. I think he said that before yoga would become a full-fledged industry complete with drop-in classes and a smorgasbord of studios offering specific styles or brands: Power Yoga, Baptiste, Bikram or “Hot Yoga”, Kripalu, Anusara, Jivamukti, Dahn and all of the other independent traditional studios that incorporate HATHA yoga (Hatha is the underlying system of stretches, bends and balances and breathing techniques from which all of the other styles of yoga derive their practice). Personally, 2 teachers whose style I tend to follow are BKS Iyengar and Dharma Mittra (DM created the “Master Yoga Chart of 908 Postures”. Yes 908! ).

BKS Iyengar, the enigmatic and somewhat strict teacher who focused on alignment in his classic book, LIGHT ON YOGA, once commented during an interview that yoga does and will evolve and should be open to new techniques and ways of looking at alignment based on more knowledge gained. It made me love and respect him even more. I never was lucky enough to practice with the man but his style and method of teaching and focus on alignment influenced me greatly as a teacher.

So, from these two gentleman we were given what is really the foundation for the modern physical practice of yoga. There are others forms that center on meditation, exploring a spiritual connection, etc.

This is a very brief take on what is a vast discipline that is much more than a warrior pose or a handstand. But I think it’s important to help new students to understand more clearly that no matter what label or branding is used, that anyone can start a practice. One of my goals as a teacher is to remove the obstacles of confusion and mystique and encourage those seekers to jump into a class. As Pattabhi Jois said, “Practice, practice, practice”. Trying to understand yoga without going to a class and practicing is like trying to swim without jumping in the water. If you are interested in exploring yoga in a safe welcoming environment come to my a basic 1 hour HATHA YOGA class, Monday 5:30pm at Grace Place 637 S.  

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