The yoga site that I went to was the Samadhi Integral Life Practice Center in Newton, Massachusetts. It offers many different services including meditation, dance, and acupuncture. It was founded five years ago by John and Nicole Churchill who have “over 30 years combined experience in alternative health, yoga, movement, meditation, and integral and contemplative studies” (Home, 2010). They created a contemporary yet traditional center so as to make it more modernized and appealing for the city it resides in. The center was a calming and serene place that as soon as one walked through the door they instantly felt welcome. The center combines both Eastern and Western ideas into all practices of yoga offered and creates a great suburban yogic environment.
Samadhi's main goal is to “provide you with a full-spectrum approach to personal growth, health and wellness” (Home, 2010). Although the center is modernized, it draws “upon the wisdom of ancient traditions and the cutting edge of contemporary culture” (Home, 2010). Samadhi incorporates “the ancient Yoga and Buddhist trainings in a modern context” which helps the students understand the poses. The center has different types of yoga offered, but I practiced Vinyasa Yoga while I was there. The Samadhi website defined Vinyasa Yoga as
A sequential, flowing yoga. This yoga develops strength, balance, flexibility and breath awareness. It increases concentration, decreases stress and brings the practitioner into a profound state of mind-body integration. The practice is suited for students who have experience with vinyasa styled yoga. This is a class which activates “tapas”; transformational heat in the body, burning away that which obscures (Home, 2010).
The first time I took a Vinyasa Yoga class at the site, Nicole Churchill was the teacher. Before taking the class I talked to Nicole and told her that I am used to Hatha yoga from class and had very little yoga experience otherwise.
During the class there were around ten students, with ages ranging from twenty to probably sixty-five. All the students were females, and it was a very relaxed class. The poses were explained, repeated, and not too difficult. During the boat pose in particular, Nicole made a note to give an alternative way to do the pose that was more Hatha yoga oriented. It was nice to know that she had knowledge in other yoga besides Vinyasa and catered the class to the students that she had. She also spoke much of the breath and the role it took while practicing yoga. Nicole made sure to remind her students to keep the mind in the here and now as opposed to what we had to do after the class or what we did the night before. Being reminded of only paying attention to the present reminded me of Hatha yoga and the goal of living in the present only. When I left the class I felt refreshed, relaxed, and rejuvenated. I felt one with my mind and body and felt completely in the present.
The second time I visited the site, John Churchill was my Vinyasa instructor. The class was much more fast paced, difficult, and in my opinion more Westernized. The class felt more physical than mental. There were around twenty people in the class, men and women, age ranging from around sixteen to sixty. The poses were more stressful on the body and the focus of the breath was not as prominent as the Vinyasa I practiced with Nicole. John would mention to focus your breathing towards certain parts of the body. For example, during the pigeon pose, he told us to focus our breathing to our hips. Focusing the breathing towards the part of the body that the pose was focused for made it easier, although for some reason my mind was not at ease. Although John mentioned to hold a certain pose for a certain number of breaths, (varied from two, three, or five more) I kept finding myself forgetting to breath deeply and clear my mind of thoughts. While in certain poses I found my body shaking, and it was difficult to keep a clear mind and breath deeply simultaneously. I left the class feeling somewhat rejuvenated, but I did not feel as relaxed and refreshed as I did after leaving Nicole's class, or after practicing Hatha yoga in class.
The culture of the center is portrayed through the disposition of the students. When walking into the yoga room, many of the women attending the class were socializing with one another. All of these women were dressed in “yoga” clothes and appeared to make the yogic practice a social event. Some of those who attended the class wore normal comfortable work-out clothes, and would sit on their yoga mats either relaxing before the class started or practice a few poses to warm up before the class began. All of the women who appeared to be between the ages of thirty and forty five were wearing “yoga pants” and tank tops except for one woman who wore comfortable clothes and sat in the back of the class. That one particular woman I feel encompassed the center's culture and it appeared that she understood the theory and practice behind yoga.
Samadhi is located in a middle-upper class suburb of Boston. Many of the people who practice yoga in Newton do not even know of the theory behind it. Yoga is practiced as a means of exercise and flexibility as well as a way to reduce stress. Samadhi had to try and incorporate the theory into the classes while still staying Western enough to draw Newton residents to the center. As a way to do so, Nicole and John Churchill founded their center “on philosophical principles that embrace the cutting edge of contemporary culture and the deep wisdom of humanity” (Home, 2010).
During the classes they incorporate traditional poses in a contemporary atmosphere. The room that the yoga is practiced looks more like a dance studio, with one full wall completely floor to ceiling mirrors and hardwood floors. During the session with Nicole, Indian music was playing softly in the background as she spoke gently and soothingly throughout the entire practice. The wisdom that yoga brings is one of Samadhi's main goals. They aspire to have all their students embrace their body and the relationship it holds to all that surrounds them. The center transforms Eastern yogic theories and thinking into a Westernized way for the students to apply them to their lives. One of the goals of the center is to aim for the highest individual and humanitarian development. The center takes Eastern thinking and joins it with the Western contemporary thinking and ideas of the city it is located in to try and achieve the best yogic experience possible for the students.
The theories of the two sessions were completely different. During the first session the theory of the class was much more introverted and oriented around the unification of the body, mind, and the present world encompassing the student. The focus of the practice was to let go of all the things one needed to do later on during the day. Instead of having thoughts that were not set in the present moment, the students would focus their thoughts on their bodies and their breath and how they intertwined with themselves as well as their surroundings.
In the second class, the theory was more physical exercise oriented. Poses were held for longer, and there was stress given to breath into the poses so that they were not as painful. The goal was to break a sweat and “feel the burn”. Looking around the room, many students muscles were shaking, and one could see the lack of focus on the breathing and their place in the present moment. Instead, the focus appeared to be just to be capable of holding the pose for the length of time and to keep one's balance.
Although the second class I attended was not my favorite, I am glad that I practiced Vinyasa yoga at the Samadhi center. I feel that with Nicole teaching the class, I can grow as a yogi and broaden my horizons with Eastern theories. From her class alone I understand how Vinyasa yoga incorporates the mind, body, and breath and makes one feel at relaxed and rejuvenated. I plan on attending more classes there when I have the time during the semester, and hopefully it will aid me in my personal development.
“Home ~ Samadhi Integral Life Practice Center." Samadhi. Samadhi, n.d. Web. 10 Oct. 2010.