“Yoga Citta Vritti Nirodah. The restraint of the modification of the mind stuff – is yoga.” -Yoga sutras of Patanjali
This quote from Patanjali is the very first lesson we learn as yoga students. Yoking the mind, creating stillness – this is the basis for going deeper in the path of yoga. With the chaos of our world and complexities of contemporary society, yoga has become a part of American culture as well as the Ark-La-Tex.
Roughly five millennia after Indian mystics created a path for enlightenment, yoga is very present in our culture, and has become a part of our lives. Insurance companies realize the power of Pranajama (deep breathing), celebrities have found that it can change their bodies (Adam Levine tours with a private Ashtanga teacher), and public schools have incorporated yoga into their curriculum. A 2012 Roper poll estimated over 12 million Americans practice yoga, and over 65 percent of health clubs offer some form of yoga class.
A recent search on Amazon pulled up more than 72,000 titles, from “The Sutras of Patanjali” to “Yoga for you and your Cat”. We also see yoga used in advertising (the Aflac duck cannot hold his tree) to Janelle Monae’s dance hit with lyrics like “Baby bend over let me see you do that yoga”, but this is just the American way. Capitalizing on any current trend is how we digest information and make it a conscious part of our lives. As in so many important lessons, I have learned to not take offense but realize American media has to demystify and “poke fun” in order to make this foreign concept part of popular culture. If you ridicule an idea will it still be relevant?
Well it has lasted, and for over 50 years it has become a part of our national need for physical fitness and mind transformation, but it was and still is a strong part of Shreveport-Bossier reality. One of the area’s original teachers, Paul Coates, who established a practice in the 1960’s, was the catalyst that has set in motion the awareness and power of a regular daily practice, along with the rich culture attached to yoga. Karin O’Banion was also instrumental in developing a very loyal following that grew and was extremely dedicated. These two dynamic teachers set the foundation for current revitalized passion that we now have for yoga in our community.
All of the present teachers and studios that are now in our city carry a large amount of respect and credit to Adrienne Davis, and her studio Explore Yoga. Adrienne was the first Yogi to take the big leap and open a free standing studio. While creating an environment for regular practice she established a program for future yoga teachers. “Build it and they will come” feels as though it should be Adrienne’s mantra. Adrienne has a thriving studio that offers Ashtanga based classes as well as some new approaches such as “Strongpose”. She has also incorporated a wellness center with acupuncture and message therapy. Aspire, owned by Heather Delia, which opened over 2 years ago, has developed a very personal focused practice that centers on smaller classes so teachers can take some time to help students in an intimate setting. Then there is our city’s newest studio Breathe Yoga. Owned by Aimee Ballard and Emily Sample, these two teachers saw a need for incorporating children’s yoga, Iyengar, Barre’, and Vinyassa bases classes such as the dynamic energetic flow, or candle light, which creates a softer introspective environment. Aimee and Emily are dedicated to a community centered practice that merges teachers, students, and education, connecting the “right” class and practice for the “right” students. These ladies are inspired by all the textures, philosophy and energy yoga can bring to their city. That brings me to Yoga Jai, the outdoor donation based weekly class that meets every Sunday at 3pm in Betty Virginia Park. This class was created by Jill French Anderson and myself as an outreach practice celebrating the environment, our community, and you. All of these great studios and teachers have inspired a community of Yogis who want to make our great city a place for practice, meditation, and awareness. Like all communities there are these individuals who have created a visual presence, but there are so many people who teach and practice at fitness centers, churches and homes that are a part of this small revolution taking place here. All of these practitioners are a part of an eclectic yoga society that has a very rich past and an exciting future.
One of the beauties of yoga is that it encompasses so many different philosophies and ideals, and that perspective includes a direct awareness of our essential nature as spiritual and free. For most contemporary practitioners, our spiritual aspirations don’t involve renunciation. They involve living in the world in a way that is alive. Opening our hearts to our families, caring for our aging parents, being truthful with our friends, and doing work with integrity. Ultimately, perhaps there is not all that much difference between the ancient yogi’s transformation, and our contemporary practice. For millennia, yoga has asked us to find mental stillness so we can look deeply within and around us, while societies and empires have changed almost beyond recognition, the human heart has not. Whether we are a Hindu monk meditating in a cave or dressed in Lulu Lemon sitting in the backroom of a fitness center, the eventual struggle is the same. Delving directly into the complex processes of our minds and the sensitive nature of our bodies, the path of Yoga is here waiting for you. We have teachers and studios to help you with this journey.