Archive for the ‘Iyengar’ Category

Today, December 14, 2010, marks the 92nd birthday of Bellur Krishnamachar Sundararaja Iyengar, known to the world as B.K.S. Iyengar, the world’s greatest living yoga master, and to his students as Guruji. 

Read the rest at Elephant Journal


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Photo courtesy of the Wall Street Journal

Today’s San Fransisco-Bay Area edition of the Wall Street Journal featured a piece on “Blue-Collar Yoga”, or “Yoga With Your Boots On”.  This yoga focuses on teachings geared towards people in the construction and labor fields. Despite the popularity of yoga in San Fransisco, the man behind this movement, Allan Nett – 64-year-old contractor-cum-yoga-instructor – says that convincing those in the construction field to participate in yoga is not an easy task. Mr. Nett holds a Junior Intermediate Level III Certification in Iyengar Yoga, and has been practicing Iyengar yoga for 17 years. While he does teach traditional Iyengar yoga classes, his classes geared towards the construction crowd do not involve most of the things many of us experience in every class such as sanskrit, expensive yoga mats, a particular type of clothing, etc.  Instead, his students are attired in hard hats, neon vests, and work boots, and he focuses on the physiological areas which are adversely effected by such physical demanding work like the lumbar spine. Mr. Nett even renames many of the poses in a way that will be more familiar to people in a construction background.  For instance, instead of tadasana (or, mountain pose), Mr. Nett refers to this pose as the Plumb Bob.

The class was “an eye opener,” says Marianna Williams, who lays concrete sidewalks for the city and had never tried yoga before. While she gave a favorable review to the class, it only drew eight workers out of the roughly 400 who gathered that day for a health fair for department employees.

While yoga studios and teachers across the country have maintained relatively steady business despite the economic downturn, such is not the case with Mr. Nett’s class.

Now Mr. Nett is finding the housing bust and weak economy are making yoga an even tougher sell with that group. Though attracting blue-collar workers has never been easy, Mr. Nett says his “Yoga with Your Boots On” classes gained some traction during the housing boom four years ago.

But since 2008, after demand for new construction plummeted, his income from such classes has dropped to nearly nil. Today, Mr. Nett teaches one yoga class for blue-collar workers every few months—sometimes for free to generate interest—down from three classes per week for $75 apiece at the height of the housing bubble.

Since then, demand for Mr. Nett’s classes has been weak. So far this year, he has landed three gigs teaching “Boots On” at health fairs for San Francisco city workers.

Still, it’s unlikely the gigs will turn into regular classes given the city’s budget woes, says Priscilla Morse, San Francisco’s deputy director of human resources. She adds that she hopes to bring Mr. Nett in for more one-time lessons.

My hard hat is off to Mr. Nett who continues to tout the benefits of yoga to a community that is very much in need of it and likely does not have access to it.  In my neck of the woods, so many yoga studios make a killing charging outrageous prices for people to practice yoga.  It makes me think that it would be nice if a portion of the proceeds went to individuals such as Mr. Nett who struggle to teach yoga to underserved populations?

Hey readers, do any of your yoga studios participate in any programs like this?

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Photo Courtesy of The Boston Globe


In tomorrow’s edition Home and Lifestyle section of The Boston Globe, journalist Linda Matchan tackles some huge issues in an article entitled “What Happened to Yoga”.  She does it by traveling to Down Under Yoga, a yoga studio in Newtonville, Massachusettes, where Aussie owner Justine Wiltshire Cohen has assembled some internationally recognized yoginis – Natasha Rizopoulos and Patricia Walden among them – to not only teach some in depth workshops, but to participate in a summit on the future of yoga in America.

To illustrate some of the problems with yoga in America today, Matchen interviewed none other than Stephanie Syman, author of The Subtle Body: The Story of Yoga in America. During the interview, Syman outlines the issues:

[Yoga is] recombined with dominant forms of the culture; it’s very malleable that way,’’ said Syman. There is yoga for every taste, energy level, and aspirant — hip-hop yoga, hot yoga, rock pop yoga, weight loss yoga, Christian yoga, even “Yoga Booty Ballet,’’ which bills itself as a dynamic fusion of yoga, booty sculpting, and cardio-dance. If there is any doubt that yoga has left the ashram and joined the mainstream, consider that yoga was part of this year’s Easter Egg Roll festivities on the White House lawn.

It’s also been “monetized,’’ Syman said. Practiced by celebrities, fitness buffs, and fashionistas, yoga is a $6 billion industry with some 16 million American followers. Many of those millions are pouring into the trendy lululemon yogawear stores — purveyor of $90 yoga mats, $25 yoga water bottles, $40 yoga towels, and other nonessential yoga accessories such as yoga thong underwear and an $88 “yoga mat carry system’’ with a “Helmet friendly design.’’ [So you won’t hit your head with your mat while riding your bike.]

The article also touches on the recent debacle, which I wrote about, regarding the sexualization and Westernization of yoga, which is obvious in many of the advertisements in the popular yoga magazine Yoga Journal:

Even the venerable magazine Yoga Journal, considered the bible for yoga practitioners, has evolved from a nonprofit publication founded in 1975 in a Berkeley basement to a glossy magazine with celebrities on the cover and sexy ads for pricey yoga gear, a trend that’s infuriated one of its founding editors.

“I feel sad because it seems that Yoga Journal has become just another voice for the status quo and not for elevating us to the higher values of yoga: spiritual integration, compassion and selfless service,’’ Judith Hanson Lasater wrote in a recent letter to the editor.

Yoga Journal’s editor in chief, Kaitlin Quistgaard, said she “completely respected’’ Lasater’s letter, “but we also need to run a commercial venture. . . . We are Americans and one thing Americans do is shop and like nice things. And one of the ways we identify ourselves is having a certain look. The yoga industry does support our desire to create self-identity through what we wear or what we purchase.’’

Cohen seems to set a new standard for taking yoga back:

Her website makes it clear where she stands on the question. “We believe that yoga studios should act in ways that are consistent with the teachings of yoga,’’ it says. “We will never sell plastic water bottles that go into landfills [becauseahimsa means ‘do no harm’]. We will never sell $150 yoga pants [because aparigraha means ‘identifying greed’]. We will never accept offers from companies to promote their gear in exchange for free publicity or products (because satya means “truthfulness’’). We will never brand, trademark, or pretend we’ve made up a new style of yoga.’’

The article is packed with the biggest issues facing yoga today.  Matchan even goes so far as to address what she calls the the “irksome” trend of Anusara yoga and yoga rockstar John Friend:

One brand, though not the only one, that seems particularly irksome is the growing Texas-based global empire of Anusara yoga, a relatively new hatha yoga system founded by John Friend, who teaches worldwide and sells clothing, jewelry, and music. He blogs, tweets, and characterizes himself on his website as “one of the most charismatic and highly respected hatha yoga teachers in the world.’’ Friend was recently featured in a New York Times magazine article, which he noted in a three-page rebuttal posted on his website was “the largest article on yoga ever published in a major newspaper. . . . For me, it is another clear sign that Grace supports Anusara.’’

“The minute yoga is packaged and branded, you’ve lost it,’’ Wiltshire Cohen contends.

You can visit Cohen’s website at www.downunderyoga.com, where she outlines her yoga manifesto.  You can also read the full text of the article here.  What say you, yogis?  These are some pretty huge issues.  I say at the very least, kudos to Cohen for tackling them.  Maybe we need some more summits like this one?

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A study published in the September/October 2010 edition of Cancer Nursing confirms what many already know … that yoga heals.  This particular study shows that Iyengar yoga improves the quality of life of women recovering from breast cancer treatment.  The 12-week study performed at the University of Alberta, Canada, and spear-headed by Amy Speed Andrews, Ph.D., evaluated the quality of life and psychosocial functioning of women undergoing treatment or recovering from treatment for breast cancer.  Subjects completed questionnaires after undergoing 12 weeks of Iyengar yoga, and their post-program responses demonstrated significant improvement in mental health, vitality, and bodily pain.  The study encourages cancer nurses to use Iyengar yoga as a possible intervention strategy to improve quality of life and mental health of breast cancer survivors.

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