Monthly Yoga: July, Jivamukti Yoga

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About this series: For 2012, I vowed to try a new type of yoga each month and write about it here. This is the seventh of 12 reviews–keep checking back for more!

Apologies for the wait in the write-up! August continues to be a busy month as my school year starts. I’m finally back to teaching after a semester off, and while it does cut into my yoga time, I’m incredibly happy to be back!

Before I begin this month’s Monthly Yoga installment, I have some exciting news. The first is big: Baron Baptiste is teaching a master class next week in Rochester! I signed up the day the enrollment opened up. Baron, as you know, is the creator of 40 Days to Personal Revolution, the challenge I completed in the spring, so I’m really excited to study with him. The second bit of news goes along with the first—40 Days is back! It runs from September 17 to October 26, and I’m participating again. Although my schedule will be busier, I am determined to make it through the challenge once more. (Due to time constraints juggling teaching and the 40 Days challenge, there’s a good chance that Baron’s visit will count as my monthly yoga requirement, but if I can, I’ll try to fit something else in.)

For the month of July, I visited Prana Yoga in Fairport for a Jivamukti class, which the studio offers in addition to their usual vinyasa classes. My instructor for the class was Carrie, Prana’s owner and certified Jivamukti instructor. So what is it exactly? Jivamukti is a style of yoga that originated in the 1980s in New York City, created by David Life and Sharon Gannon (who are kind of fabulous) and loosely translated as “liberation while living.” Essentially, it’s a vinyasa flow, but it incorporates a bit of philosophy and chanting. It is somewhat controversial for emphasizing a vegetarian or vegan diet through the principle of ahimsa (or non-violence/non-harming); however, this aspect was not brought up in class. Carrie said, toward the end, that doing yoga (asana) without the philosophical understanding is robbing yourself of a true yoga practice. While studying the philosophy behind yoga was not an initial goal of mine when I began practicing, it reinforced my assertion upon starting my blog that I am a “novice” with much to learn—and I’m glad for it!

Inside Prana’s studio.

This class was fairly small, perhaps because it was a Sunday morning, with only three other students (who all seemed to know each other and sat together, which could be awkward, but I didn’t mind). The class followed a pretty standard vinyasa flow; there were some variations on sun salutations and side angle that I wasn’t used to, but they weren’t too extreme. Carrie was very specific about side angle pose and where each arm goes (lower hand goes outside foot, not inside like I’m used to, and the upper arm hangs at a very precise angle). It wasn’t quite the “anything goes/take a modification” attitude I’m used to at breathe. To be honest, I didn’t really like that, but every studio/discipline is different. Since it was only one part of an otherwise very enjoyable class, I’m not too concerned. Toward the end of class we did frog for our hip opener, and we set up shoulder stand with blankets—something a bit different than what I’m used to.

Before our Savasana we got to the chanting; that day we chanted the mantra “lokah samastah sukhino bhavantu.” It sounded quite beautiful, actually, and has this very long meaning (from the Jivamukti page here):

May all beings everywhere be happy and free, and may the thoughts, words, and actions of my own life contribute in some way to that happiness and to that freedom for all.

Let’s look more closely at the meaning of each word of this invocational mantra:
lokah: location, realm, all universes existing now
samastah: all beings sharing that same location
sukhino: centered in happiness and joy, free from suffering
bhav: the divine mood or state of unified existence
antu: may it be so, it must be so (used as an ending here transforms this mantra into a powerful pledge)

Even though I’m not used to chanting, I actually kind of like this phrase. It sounded very pretty coming from all of us at once. I’m not necessarily sure that the chanting itself does any good, but I think taking the attitude of happiness and love for all off your mat certainly has benefits (power of positive thinking and all that!).

Overall, this wasn’t a bad class; it made me want to investigate yoga philosophy a bit more (especially after overhearing one of the other students discuss her teacher training, which is something I think I could be interested in eventually, if anything for the additional instruction on philosophy). I think studying some of these ideas might be a good way of keeping myself centered for 40 Days and throughout my semester—if I can get the time!

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3 responses »

  1. I really enjoyed reading this post. I practiced at Prana for a bit before they started offering Jivamukti classes, and I still have a couple classes left on my pass. I may have to try one!

  2. Pingback: I’m Back! + The Year 2012 in Review « The Novice Yogi

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