It’s a sad day when we have to bid farewell to one of the cornerstones of modern yoga as practiced around the world. BKS Iyengar died of kidney failure on August 20 in Pune, India:
BKS Iyengar, who helped bring yoga to the West, has died Iyengar had been ill for weeks, according to the Times of India, and had been suffering from heart problems. Admitted to the hospital on August 12, Iyengar’s condition had worsened in recent days, and he was put on dialysis.
There will be an outpouring of grief, gratitude and remembrances, as well as attempts to take stock of the state of yoga with the death of one of the three major Indian propagators ( Pattabhi Jois died in 2009 and TKV Desikachar is in ill health) who took the mantle from T. Krishnamacharya. Iyengar left a legacy of literature about hatha yoga, pranayama and other techniques, as well as a focus on the health-giving potential from the practice.
I don’t have much time right now to critique this article from the NYTimes Magazine about Diamond Dallas Page and his macho version of yoga:
The Rise of Beefcake Yoga
Together, Page and Aaron developed a hybrid of Ashtanga, a popular “power” yoga, and Iyengar, a more therapeutic form. Page added some strength-building moves for key muscles groups — the quads, the core — and also built in traditional calisthenics, including push-ups. He incorporated something he calls “dynamic resistance,” which calls for engaging all of the body’s muscles and then moving against that tension. And he tried to avoid all that namaste stuff. “That’s the first thing that makes people go, ‘That’s too froufrou,’ ” he says. “There’s certain yoga terminology that I don’t use. I want to make people laugh.”
The American mixing bowl or melting pot or whatever else you want to label it is introducing new influences into yoga practice. More are on the way. Whatever floats your boat seems to be the rule.
The Washington Post says:
Anna Guest-Jelley thought something was wrong with her body, so she went on 65 different diets. Then, 15 years ago, she tried something that actually made her feel better: yoga.
But instructors didn’t always know what to do with her larger frame, and prodded her into uncomfortable, squished positions. Guest-Jelley remembers thinking, “This isn’t being talked about. I must be the only one who experiences it,” she says.
So the Nashville, Tenn., resident got teacher training and developed Curvy Yoga (curvyyoga.com). Since 2010, Guest-Jelley has certified 158 instructors worldwide — including one in D.C. and two in Alexandria — in her hatha-based body-positive yoga for people of all shapes and sizes. She’ll teach a class in D.C. next week.
This MSNBC article comes one year after I started my summer intensive yoga teacher training at Thrive Yoga.
Yoga teachers: Overstretched and underpaid
In many respects – the low pay, the gig-based nature of the job, and the unpaid overtime – yoga is little different from other freelance professions in the new, service-based American economy. More than one person interviewed by msnbc compared teaching yoga to being a part-time adjunct professor, with all the job insecurity and irregular pay that implies.
The articles drives homes the message that it’s tough to turn yoga teaching into a viable profession in a competitive marketplace. Obviously, I decided that I did not want to pursue teaching even part time or as a fallback option. I’ve made a coldblooded decision to work on a career track that builds on my accumulated experience and skills — and brings a salary and benefits. I am in awe of those who decided to follow their heart down the yogic path.
I’ve been meaning to write an entry about Gita’s Dream, a Kirtan group led by Gita Krista Zember and her husband, Christopher. It runs out here yoga studio, BE Yoga, in Sterling, Virginia (think Dulles Airport). They hold chanting sessions at yoga studios around the DC area, including Yoga in Daily Life in Alexandria and lil omm in DC. Last year, they participated in DC Kirtan Fest; there’s more to the kirtan scene in DC than you might think. She picked up kirtan in 2007 and it’s blossomed into a root of her yoga practice and teaching. Check out the schedule of performances; there’s a couple of things almost every month.
“I now have a Yurt studio out here teaching Hatha Yoga, Meditation, Living Yoga, Reiki, Yoga for Children with special needs and a whole lot of Kirtan! All of the money earned from our kirtans is donated to girls in India rescued from sex trafficking that I go visit and work with there in Kolkata.”
Gita is trained in the Kripalu and Integral Yoga traditions, and has been influenced by other teachers. She leads yoga sessions for special children, which is definitely an under-served group.
I will add her to my DC yoga directory as soon as I can. By the way, a yurt is a portable dwelling typical of nomadic tribes of Central Asia steppes, but in the States it’s come to be an example of sustainable buildings.
The Washington, DC area just got a new yoga studio directory: DC Area Yoga. It looks that it has been operating since the start of the year, according to its blog. It also covers wellness and apparel. More power to them.
The operators seem to have a relationship with a Philadelphia directory and a Chicago one. But if they want to feel intimated, just check out the other Chicago directory and print magazine: illumine. It has more than 200 studios listed, feature articles, commentary and a newsletter.
Each morning at Thrive Yoga‘s yoga teacher training (YTT) participants join a 90-minute yoga practice led by the owner Susan Bowen or two other teachers, Sarah Wimsatt or Krista Block. Except for a few yin session that Susan gave as a change of pace, the classes have tested my yoga: I’ve come out of the practice dripping in sweat, buzzing from the intense rinse cycle that my brain has been put through and feeling as if I had had an out-of-body experience. Just when I think I can’t go any deeper, I am led into new territory.
The physical practice is the number one reason I decided on YTT — I wanted to renew my hatha practice, increase my stamina, strength and flexibility, deepen my understanding of fundamentals and get back into my yoga groove that I lost when my parents died two and a half years ago. Continue reading Yoga teachers as rising rock stars→
One of the perks of yoga teacher training (YTT) is that you do a lot of yoga (duh!), in the case of an intensive program like Thrive Yoga‘s, everyday. We take a class first thing each morning. Right now, I’ve had 10 days in a row of classes (really 13 since I started my consecutive streak on July 5, but I get my first full day off this coming weekend). These can be grueling classes, such as the one Monday when we had a hot vinyasa class with the room’s street door open to the DC area’s humid heat wave. I ended up drenched, my sweat soaking my clothes and yoga towel, and pooling on the mat. Other times, mercy is shown by offering a yin class (long holds of mainly passive poses using props) or a change of pace predominantly focused on the legs (today). But don’t think that even these less intense classes don’t leave their mark on tissues and mind.
The morning class at Thrive has a roster of top-notch teachers (Susan Bowen, the owner herself and two high-energy instructors, contrarian Sarah Winsatt and Jivamukti-trained Kirsta Block) who put together challenging classes. Some sessions may be extensively thought-out while other times the instructor improvises as she reads the class, adjusts to the needs and skills of inexperienced students, or cues modifications for more advanced students. Continue reading Daily practice anchors yoga training→
Recently I checked the class schedule at Thrive Yoga and realized that the original cast of teachers, except for Susan Bowen, the founder and owner, is no longer teaching there. Some current teachers were students on day one (along with me). That gave me pause.
I don’t know the reasons for the turnover. I know several have returned to their “real-life” professions or decided not to give up their free time to teach yoga. In addition, Susan has decided to use instructors that have gone through the Thrive Yoga teacher training program. Rockville is a suburban enclave with a handful of yoga studios spread out across the landscape while Washington, DC, or even Bethesda have more density in students and studios. Students also seem to churn through Thrive, with a few becoming the core constituency of the studio. Since I have not surveyed other studios, I don’t know if this flux of teachers and students is just how yoga works in the States.
But this realization made me examine the strange contraption called yoga teacher training (YTT), which seems to have become the main vehicle for propagating yoga across the American landscape. Just flip through Yoga Journal‘s print advertising or the local listing for teacher training, and you will see a mind-boggling array of options. What are we supposed to make of this proliferation?