Yoga: Theory, Culture and Practice
Professor Laura Douglas
March 1, 2010
I visited Core de Vie studios in Boston on Charles Street. I initially chose this studio because I live only a few blocks away and I have always been intrigued by the beautiful yet simple interior. Also, I was interested in the range of services they provide from spa services in their wellness center to an in house boutique selling all of the best yoga clothing, equipment, and accessories as well as their movement center. I thought this was a very interesting fusion of yoga theory with relaxation techniques for today’s society.
This studio is fairly new. Ellen Comerford and her husband Mark Comerford opened it in 2006. They were looking to create a very unique lifestyle and wellness center based on helping clients achieve lifestyle goals. With this idea came the innovation to have a wellness center, a movement center, spa services, health and nutrition counseling, as well as private and group classes and seminars. They claim to always be looking for the most innovative and approaches to fitness in the areas of flexibility, cardiovascular, and strength exercise.
The studio serves mostly the general community, which is the Beacon Hill area of Boston. The clientele are mainly women looking for a close-knit studio atmosphere rather than that of a nearby gym offering yoga classes. This is why only eight to ten people are able to attend each class at a time. They believe it is more about getting the complete yoga experience with personalized attention to each student, as if it were a private session. The classes welcome walk-ins but are mostly done by reservation, which was difficult for me because most people booked their classes already. It seemed to me that most of the population being served was professional women, which explained the incredibly early class schedule. Also, when I asked one employee about this she said that it was more convenient to hold classes this early for most clientele served, also, they like to hold the yoga classes before the boutique opens to eliminate distraction.
I went in for the Wednesday 8 a.m. class with Amber for Vinyasa yoga, which was a new form, or so I thought. I had wanted to do the Hatha yoga because I was more familiar with it and I felt strange being in such a small class at a new studio, though they were not offering this on the day I went. The instructor told me during our very brief interview that Vinyasa was a take on Hatha yoga except it had more of a flow, which she suggested might be good for me since I told her I used to do yoga when I was dancing ballet. She also informed me that many of the professionals in the studio were former ballet dancers as well. She has a background in psychology and found yoga in a search to discover new forms of healing. She studied yoga in Colorado and then liked it so much that she continued with it and as been an instructor for nine years. She has advanced certificates and studies many various forms of yoga. A few months ago she became a yoga alliance and Kundalini yoga instructor. She is also a certified gyrotonic instructor.
A few of the other members of the class seemed to know each other, which was a little bit intimidating for me at first. Though once the class started I felt more at ease because the room was very quiet except for the instructor’s voice and the relaxed atmosphere of the room put me at ease, though I still chose to practice towards the back of the room. There were no lights in the studio, only one large wall sized window, with gauzy white shades drawn. This surprised me at first because I have never practiced yoga in a room without any lights except for the natural light from the sun. Later I found out that this was ideal for the people who chose to take the sunrise, 6 a.m. class and that it was a very beautiful and moving experience.
I did not feel that their practice of yoga was necessarily influenced by culture, though it could have been that it just was not mentioned. The basis of the class seemed to be wellness more than the idea that yoga was a cultural or spiritual activity. In fact, the entire center is centered on the idea of wellness of the body and mind through relaxation. This did not impress me because I have done the yoga class as a trend already and was hoping to learn more of the cultural side of the practice. Also, I did not find Vinyasa to be very different from Hatha at all. It was the same movements but she did mention to let our body’s flow more, especially between movements. This is one thing I enjoyed the constant flow of one pose into the next, it was perfect for the type of person I am, very organized, consistent, and always moving. One thing I did not like as a newcomer was that when she would announce a new pose or position the other class members would begin to move into it before she had fully demonstrated it so I felt behind though I was moving along as the instructor did. Other than this the flow of the class was very peaceful, it felt as if we were flowing along silently towards a common goal, being guided ever so slightly to help balance the flow.
After the class I poked around the studio a little bit and saw the spa, which included massage, acupuncture, facials, waxing, and many more different things. One room I entered resembled what I imagine an ayurvedic doctor’s office would look like. There were vials of essential oils and little bottles of something or other everywhere. The entire center is covered in white walls and a very clean, light colored hardwood floor and there are so many windows that at 9 a.m. it was so beautiful and relaxing to see the light come pouring in to all the rooms, making them appear vast and simple. There is an equipment studio, which interested me greatly though I did not enter this room one entire wall was made of glass so it was easy to see how expansive their equipment line is. Towards the front of the shop is the boutique, which sells all of the finest, high-end yoga gear one would ever want to find.
This was a very beautiful place, though I would prefer a less high maintenance facility next time I visit a yoga studio. It felt like I was feeding more into the trend of yoga and the view of yoga within the yuppie society than getting the real meaning of practicing yoga. I am positive that most of my classmates were there for trim thighs and toned arms than mindfulness and inner peace. Though, I may have just been spoiled with class these last few weeks and learning the background and the theory to go along with the practice. I felt like the basis theory of their practice was the total body wellness and the idea that the body is to be well taken care of and nourished, though it was carried out in a very new age, trendy way rather than traditional.