Yoga: Theory, Culture, Practice
Yoga In America
I attended the Coolidge Corner Yoga studio located in Brookline, MA. Tatyana Souza is the founder of Coolidge Corner Yoga which opened its doors on September 29, 2013. The residents of Brookline built the Yoga studio for the community and anyone else that desires to have a new experience. The studio has one large studio in the front of the building and a second smaller studio. It was built with sustainability in mind with plenty of natural sunlight and bamboo wooden floors and furnishings fabricated from reclaimed wood and antique pieces. There is a small lounge area where you take off your shoes before you enter.
Before Souza found yoga, she was a scientist who had completed her PhD in Immunology focusing on modern medicine. She discovered yoga when she was pregnant with her first child and realized that yoga is much more than the physical workout itself. She discovered that it is about the mind and body and the connection between them. Being a scientist, she believes that yoga may have more positive benefits then the use of chemical drugs. She and her husband created this studio to create a better life for people and to share the positive changes that she went through and see it happen for others. Her yoga classes are for all levels and abilities and embrace a relaxing way to relieve stresses in daily living while sharing both the mental and the physical benefits of practicing yoga. She completed her 200 hour training in yoga at the Back Bay School of Yoga, to become a certified instructor. Since then she has been teaching and helping others enjoy the rewards of yoga and sharing how yoga has helped her and influenced her life.
Coolidge Corner Yoga offers many classes including; Vinyasa, Awaken Your Spirit Sunday Vinyasa, Core Flow, Fundamentals, Flow and Restore, Forrest Yoga, Foundations of Forrest, Gentle Yoga, Kids Yoga Lab, Prenatal Yoga, TranceFlow, Triune Master Class, Urban Beatz, Yin Yoga, and Yoga for Athletes. The class I took was the Gentle Yoga class that is taught by Nicole Clark. The class was an hour and a half (7:30-9pm) but it felt like the time flew by. Gentle Yoga is a class where it is less strenuous than Vinyasa. It is more about the relaxation and the use of gentle stretches and breathing. The class is designed for helping the motion of your joints, muscles and tissue. Nicole was always intrigued about understanding the body and its nature of movement and healing.
For eleven years Nicole Clark studied yoga in New York and Los Angeles. She has studied and practiced Vinyasa, Jivamukti, Hatha, Sivananda, Bikram, and Forrest Yoga. She also works with students that have injuries and at the beginning of the class the first thing she asks is if anyone has an injury and she goes out of her way to care for those injuries. Nicole made everyone feel welcomed and would help students that needed assistance or she corrected us if we were doing the stretches wrong. Something that I personally enjoyed was that she kept reminding us that we do not need to feel forced to do a pose. She also had an assistant to make sure we all had what we needed and to make us feel as comfortable and relaxed as possible so our minds were clear and we did not have to worry about anything.
Coolidge Corner Yoga’s mission is to help individuals lead a healthier life such as having a calm/relaxed mind and just being happier with themselves and in life. Its goal is to have us take the time to slow down and challenge our mind with the body. Tatyana’s mantra “feel good, do good” is about letting individuals simply nourish and replenish to create a better place. The studio does practice the “do good” and chooses a charity to donate half of their profits to a worthy cause. Yoga is so profound, and it is not just about the challenge to our body but to also help each of us discover who we are and find our identity. The staff strives to create an environment where people can come to practice yoga and feel comfortable doing so. Anyone is welcome to come whether you have experience with yoga or if you are brand new to it. I personally agree that yoga is the best way to relieve my stress.
One thing that makes this studio unique is that it offers classes for all ages. It is open to children, teens/students, prenatal, and adults. Coolidge Corner Yoga serves the community of Brookline and anyone that surrounds it. It is opened to new practitioners and those who are more advanced. They encourage people who are looking for a new or different way to control their stress to try a class. They also serve to the needs of people and understand people are busy and have other obligations in life such as work and children. They allow classes for kids so that it will give that parent the opportunity to take a class of their own.
The yoga practice at Coolidge Corner is influenced by today’s society and what I mean by that is how we think we need to dress to participate in a yoga class. It is not just about yoga but it is about the business itself. I feel that the culture here is about the clothes you are supposed to wear. Automatically when people sign up for a yoga class that means they have to buy and wear yoga pants. It should not be about what we wear and, “oh I need to buy yoga mat because I am taking a yoga class.” When you go onto their website it even has a section on what to wear which automatically influences a person because maybe that person does not feel comfortable wearing yoga pants or spandex type of tight clothing. Yoga should not be about the clothing but about the practice itself. A lot of times I think our culture here is about competition and how we compare ourselves to others and need to be the best and that you have to be as good as that person next to you. I was very comfortable in the class and did wear comfortable yoga clothing so that I could move and stretch to do the poses. If I could not do a pose I did not feel obligated to do it. The atmosphere was one that I could actually just focus on myself. It is a judge free zone.
Another thing I felt about this studio and about any studio is that it is run as a business to make a profit. I walked in asking for any brochures and the girl said they did not have any but instead she gave me their business card and a small flyer saying “New Members 30 Days for $30”. With its recent one year anniversary in business, I believe that there is a lot of advertisement supporting it and felt it was the best place to choose. I know when I am new to a place and new to the experience I like to find things with some information more about the yoga rather than just looking at what classes to sign up for. When you walk into the building they sell yoga clothes and mats as part of the business. If you forgot a mat you had the choice of buying a new one or you can borrow one for two dollars. Yoga clothing is a huge business today and it has had a negative affect on the sale of denim and jeans in America. People are wearing comfortable yoga pants to work, to grocery shop, and out to dinner with friends. Yoga has the ability to change how we feel, how we eat, how we dress and what we can accomplish. It is a well positioned business with many opportunities to profit. Classes are very expensive and therefore will attract a certain clientele in a certain income level. One drop in class cost $16 with other options up to a $1000 yearly membership. How are they able to compete in the exercise industry with local gyms such as Planet Fitness where you can go for unlimited visits at $10 a month or Gold’s Gyms have $20-$30 a month unlimited access to equipment and classes including yoga, Pilates and more. Coolidge Corner Yoga offers a variety of yoga classes to bring in different ages to get a bigger client list but if the classes were more affordable would more people enroll in yoga?
I believe the culture of yoga in America is about the clothing and about running a business rather then focusing on the actual practice of yoga, where in other countries people practice yoga for hours everyday while in America we pay to take a class once a week or do it just to try it out. I believe we cheapen and misuse the foreign culture of what yoga is actually about. For example, yoga is marketed as and offers instant spiritual enlightenment where again in other countries these people practice just one pose for three hours and have to train for years for meditation. In some other global countries, men practice meditation and yoga yet here in America, it is mostly women that seek out yoga. On the website it gives you a list of the instructors and a majority of them are women. In my class there were a few men but mostly women.
Yoga is more commercialized here in America. In other countries meditation/yoga are ways of life where here it is more about taking a class for fun or to get some exercise. On the website they have a Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram links that you can follow. When I entered the studio for class the lights were off and dimmed with candles and had music playing in the background. To me, I feel because I have never experienced a class at this studio I just assume that is how all the rooms are supposed to look and be like. I think we also look at yoga as mental therapy and a physical exercise for stretching and strengthening our bodies. Other places do it because it is their culture and a serious part of their life. At the Coolidge studio it felt like a small session of therapy trying to better myself. Also the Gentle yoga was not about mastering the pose/stretch unlike some other cultures. I do feel that with continued practice and patience you can strive to master poses.
The Gentle Yoga class I took was different then what I first thought it would be. I came in thinking we are just going to do the typical series of poses for example child’s pose but it was a completely different style of yoga. I felt that the stretches went deeper then “I am doing this pose” and more about the feeling when you are doing the certain stretch. It was more of how I felt emotionally and how I felt after the class. It made me feel less stressed and relaxed but also increasing my energy and bettering myself. I was more focused on taking the time to slow down my mind and dig deeper into the meaning of doing the stretch and how it was making me feel at that exact moment. I hope to make meditation and yoga a part of my daily activity as a way to let go of anxieties, relieve stress, and be more energized and balanced.
Taken by Megan Whitney
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