I believe that once in a while everybody needs to slow down, spend time alone and connect to his inner self.
Having got my monthly pass to a yoga studio I devoted myself to learning different practices, discovering my body capabilities and the art of meditation.
I knew that yoga was quite a popular practice, however I was still surprised to see that morning, midday and evening classes were always full of people. What has made yoga so popular in a modern society? What are people looking for?
To find it out I met with Jessica Goulding, who has been teaching yoga in the USA for more than 13 years.
Formerly a professional dancer, Jessica Goulding (E-RYT 500) has been teaching alignment-based contemplative and therapeutic yoga since 2004. She thoroughly enjoys bringing the rich healing methods of yoga to all challenging aspects of life. Jess’s teaching style is both fun and informative, as she meets each student right where they are and takes them deeper into their own personal journey. Now Jessica is weeks away from being a Certified Yoga Therapist. Yoga Therapy is the active linking of breath, mind, and body awareness to optimize health and well-being. http://www.jessgyoga.com
What is yoga?
The sutras, which is the foundational text of yoga, say that yoga is a cessation of the fluctuations of the mind. It is when mind becomes still and you can focus your attention in one direction for a long period of time.
What we have done in the West – we have picked up what is called “asana” -postures – and it has become kind of an exercise form. But when you do the exercise you are focusing, because you are putting all the right parts in the right places. You are also breathing, trying to get breath smooth and easy, which takes a lot of focus. So, there you have cessation of fluctuations of the mind (the mind stops spinning) simply by focusing on the posture and breathing. The nervous system settles down and you can think clearly. Sometime people get very insightful during yoga class, because everything is quiet.
According to one of the online sources 36.7 million Americans or 15% of US adults practice yoga in the US in 2016 vs 20.4M in 2012 (80% increase). What is the key reason for such growth?
I think it’s becoming acceptable. There are more opportunities for different population to take yoga. For a long time, it had more of a look like for young flexible women. That is still what you see on the magazines unfortunately, but now that there is more and more science in a health benefits, balance benefits, mind benefits of yoga it is reaching more and more populations. You can get your grandma to do it, you can get your husband to do it, you can get yourself to do it. Even kids are doing it at school. It is becoming more mainstream.
Who are your students?
They are predominantly female. But I do have a lot of men. It’s everybody: young women, young couples in their 20s, and there are a lot of couples in their 60s, even up to 70s. During the days, these are retirees or moms with kids who are at school. Or people who have flexible schedules, men and women. There is no one thing. It’s really everybody.
What are the most common problems in modern society which yoga helps to deal with?
Life gets faster. People are recognizing: “I can’t keep going like that, I’m going to burn out. What can I do?” And yoga helps them feel better. Yoga is one of those places where life is quiet and slow. Unless your intention is to do a faster paced vinyasa class. That is something different with a different purpose.
Is yoga aimed to heal the body or soul?
All of it. We are made of five layers: the body, the spirit, the emotions, the mind, the energy.
What is the main layer and how do these layers interact with each other?
Going at any layer effects all other ones. The body is the easiest one to get to. It is hard to go right at the soul. It is easy to get to the breath, to the energy. The breath calms the mind. You calm the mind – you calm the nervous system – there is your body.
Or you can stop the body, turn to the breath, still your mind. Whichever one you do, affects all the other layers.
For example, one may come to the class and say: ”my hip hurts”. You can give them all physical elements in the world and it’s not going to get better until you address the fact that their hip hurts, because, perhaps, they are locked in their emotions.
Isn’t it similar to “Psychosomatics” theory in psychology?
Yes. They say “the issues are in the tissues”. In yoga, the breath is a communication between the body and the experience.
There are a lot of different schools of yoga. Do they strictly follow the teaching of ancestors or have they been largely adapted to a modern life?
Yoga is an ancient practice but it has new teachers now, it has new ideas. Now it has science coming alongside of it saying “yes, it is actually true what they thought many years ago”.
There are some who teach on a lineage. It is very strict way of doing things. And there are some who’ve said “ok, now I am going to apply this principle”, so we have hybrids that pop up which is really interesting, because you have physical therapy and other things that are coming together, like dance and yoga, or Pilates and yoga, or hand writing and yoga. You go do anything and yoga. So, it is very versatile, but its ancient.
Yoga looks very different here (than in India), and one of my students who went to visit India told me once “go to America -there is where all the teachers went”. So much has come over here and it’s really flourished. But happily, India is also reclaiming it.
What school of yoga do you teach and why?
I am not affiliated with any particular school. I “grew up” in Anusara, a lineage which came out of Iyengar. And now I am highly influenced by Viniyoga as my teaching comes from a more therapeutic place. The alignment of Anusara taught me very strong directions and teachings. It is about how to do the pose and how to do it well. Viniyoga tells how to do it more therapeutically. Another thing I kept from Anasara is my class has a heart theme, which gives a purpose to doing postures other than just doing postures.
Can yoga protect from diseases and ensure 200 years long life?
I think whatever the lifespan you are blessed to have you’ll feel better the entire time. Yoga doesn’t eradicate the disease but if it arrives, you know how to keep it in perspective. You know how to manage your symptoms and live a joyful life anyway.
About the author:
Oxana believes that every person’s life can make an intriguing story for a book which can teach a lot of wisdom. Life in Russia, England, France, Hungary, USA and lots of travelling around the continents introduced her to exceptional personalities. She loves to share stories about people and destinations which bring new ideas and help to find a way to your true self. This is why she started her blog “In search of the genuine”