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Monday, February 25, 2008

old school yoga

acrobatic yoga, hip-hop yoga, shake-your-booty yoga, yoga for sports, yoga for better sex... yoga classes have been constantly evolving to keep up with the ever-changing needs (and whims) of yoga students, especially here in LA. it's gotten to the point where, at times, they barely resemble the form of yoga taught by the father of modern yoga himself, t krishnamacharya.

today, if you want to practice "old school" yoga, you'd have to practice the style of yoga developed by the gurus who studied with krishnamacharya himself -- gurus such as bks iyengar (iyengar yoga), pattabhi jois (ashtanga yoga), and tkv desikachar (viniyoga). or by his contemporaries, like paramahansa yogananda (self-realization and ananda yoga) and swami sivananda (sivananda yoga).

you could drop by any of the studios around town that teach those more traditional styles of yoga. or if you happen to be near pasadena, you could also take a class at yoga kingdom sanctuary with naader shagagi, whose teaching style is greatly influenced by his early training at the self-realization fellowship center and at the bikram yoga college (and yes, while bikram choudhury has trademarked his own form of yoga, he learned everything he knows from bishnu ghosh, younger brother of paramahansa yogananda; draw your own conclusions).

Yoga Kingdom Sanctuary
553 South Lake Avenue
Pasadena, CA 91101
(626) 792-7871
website: www.yogakingdom.com

The Hatha Yoga system is distinctly different form other forms of exercise. It teaches people how to concentrate their attention, not on instruments, muscles, or body movements, but on their awakened energy, which is the direct giver of power, strength and vitality to all bodily tissues - including the muscular. Hence, the faithful student will find in time that the yoga exercises invariably and consciously develop his will power, along with his bodily strength.

A developed will can control and correct inharmonious physical manifestations. These yoga exercises are a non-mechanical scientific and natural means for the strengthening of all living or atrophying muscle fiber. The system teaches how to revive and strengthen them, awakening new life force energy in lazy muscles and other tissues. The correct use of these postures helps to strengthen injured or underdeveloped osseous or bony tissue as well.

i don't even remember how i came across this studio. i may have found it through a random google search or through yogafinder; either way, it was here in LA and i had to check it out. and it just so happened that of all the studios still on my short to-do list, it was the only place within a reasonable driving distance that had a class after 3pm on a saturday (ok, so maybe i didn't check the handful of possible bikram studios because i wasn't in the mood for a steambath...)

yoga kingdom is conveniently located in a small shopping mall anchored by a pavilions market. not only is it easily accessible via california or lake, but there's FREE parking in the large parking lot. there are two entrances: one from the back right off the parking lot, and one in front on lake avenue. either way, you need to climb a flight of stairs to get to the studio (and i didn't check to see if there was elevator access. my guess is no).

given that it sounded to be a small studio with a small advertising budget, i was surprised to find an enormous space when i walked in. there was a rather spacious lobby with an adjoining retail area. there was an entire display devoted to homeopathic and ayurvedic products. there was a room full of clothing and yoga accessories. there were books, CDs, and DVDs of shagagi's hatha yoga classes. and of course, there were the classrooms -- two of them. the classroom we used had a mirrored wall, a linoleum floor (if my memory serves me right), and was large enough to pack in at least 20-24 students.

besides the "classical hatha" class i chose to take that saturday afternoon, yoga kingdom also offers ashtanga/vinyasa flow, curative yoga, prenatal yoga, childrens yoga, and meditation classes. also on the schedule is a FREE laughter yoga class on friday evenings, which could be the perfect way to unwind at the end of the week, don't you think?

according to the posted schedule, the 4:30pm class i showed up for was supposed to have been taught by naader himself. i soon realized that it wasn't to be the case when jennifer jensen walked up to the front of the room and started us with some breathing exercises -- exercises that felt strangely similar to the pranayama practiced at the start of bikram classes. hmmm... in fact, as the class progressed, i found that there were many more poses that were bikram-like. granted, it wasn't the exact same sequence of 26 poses, but there were the obvious bikramish idiosyncrasies. like having to touch your forehead to your knee while in pyramid pose. and having to face away from the front on the room when you're lying flat on your back.

at least jennifer didn't clap her hands and count. nor did she turn up the heat in the room to a steamy 100+ degrees. in fact, the room was actually nicely cool and dry. not only that, but throughout our practice, we were inspired while the angelic voice of snatam kaur played softly in the background. thank goodness for little pleasures!

the class also reminded me of the more traditional classes i had taken at the SRF in hollywood and the ananda center in santa monica. while it was nothing fancy nor extremely difficult, it wasn't so easy that anyone past beginner would feel utterly bored. in fact, because it was somewhat simple, i was able to spend more time concentrating on my breath and relaxing into the poses. or at least trying to.

while i have to admit that i thrive on the novelty of all the new-fangled yoga forms, it's good for me to return every now and then to the old way of doing things. maybe by doing so, i'll get a better understanding of what yoga is really supposed to be all about...


Blogger mb said...

my very first training was with naader and i always say...i learned The Roots from him. i always return to those roots time and time again ,just to remember the beginners mind, ya know?


7:55 PM  
Blogger joni said...

i understand completely!

thanks for chiming in, mb!

10:38 PM  

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