For my midterm project I visited Coolidge Corner Yoga, in Brookline, MA. It is located in the heart of busy Coolidge Corner, but once you step inside the building, it feels as though the city disappears. It is a very narrow entrance, with stairs that led to a staff desk where you sign in. There is also a little shop where they sell yoga mats, clothes, and healthy snacks. The studio is designed beautifully with two big studio rooms. The colors that were painted on the walls are very soothing and the lighting is soft. The studio is only a year old and in wonderful condition. I have been to other yoga studios in the city where there its just one big studio with a tiny entry room to put your shoes. This studio felt like a little hidden gem and had a very relaxing and peaceful vibe.
The studio opened on September 29th 2013 and was founded by Tatyana Souza and co-founded by David Souza. Tatyana completed her PhD in Immunology and was a denior scientist at Pfizer pushing drug research to help people through modern medicine. She discovered the magic of yoga when she was pregnant and from that moment she became a dedicated practitioner. She found that yoga offers more than a workout and its benefits can be stronger than chemical drugs. The mission at Coolidge Corner Yoga “aims to provide a nurturing space where the Brookline and surrounding communities can practice yoga: young to old and novice to seasoned yogi. Through the physical practice of yoga, individuals will be granted the opportunity to slow down the mind by challenging the body. Through this and through focusing on breath we will experience being fully present in the moment.” The studio is dedicated to making a difference in the world and it is their intention to donate half of the profits to worthy causes. Each year as a community, the studio decides where to donate and make a positive impact on the world.
Coolidge Corner Yoga offers a wide range of classes for people of all ages from kids and beyond. They have kids, teen, prenatal, and regular classes that can accommodate any level of skill. They offer classes for kids to take while another class is in session, so if a parent wanted to take a yoga class, they could drop their child off for their class at the same time and they both receive enlightenment! They have vinyasa, yoga for athletes, gentle yoga, yin yoga, forrest yoga, fundamentals, and even a class called urban beatz. Urban Beatz is a very modernized class where the room is heated and music from hip-hop to deep house is played.
The practice of yoga at Coolidge Corner Yoga is influenced by culture because they integrate asana and pranayama into all of the modernized practices. Asana and pranayama both go back to ancient culture and the history of yoga in Eastern culture. Yoga is rooted in Hinduism and was formed thousands of years ago. Back then the goal was to have a higher self-understanding and enlightenment through a mental and physical exercise and the yoga at the studio I chose still has the same meaning and purpose. The studio is trying to connect the mind and body, as well as quieting the mind and focusing more on the body movements to stay in the present moment. The word asana means “seat” in Sanskrit, and asana is focused on being still in the moment. In the yoga practices at Coolidge Corner Yoga, asana means yoga positions with a goal of restoring the mind-body connection and stay in the present. Pranayama is a life force energy and a control of the breath during practice. All of the classes at the studio are focused on pranayama to help you focus on the present moment and breath in and out of postures. At the end of most western classes, savasana is practiced where you lie on your back and focus on pranayama in a deep relaxation. A theory of yoga incorporated into most of the classes is either Hatha, restorative, or vinyasa yoga. Hatha Yoga uses asana and conscious pranayama in combination with mental focus to develop awareness, strength, flexibility, and relaxation.
For my assignment, I decided to try a class called Forrest Yoga, which I had previously never heard of. Forrest Yoga is an example of a class which is majorly influenced by the Hatha theory and practice. Forrest Yoga is renowned as an intensely physical and internally focused practice that emphasizes how to carry a transformative experience off the mat and into daily life. The practice challenges people to access their whole being and to use Forrest Yoga as a path to finding and then cleansing the emotional and mental blocks that dictate and limit their lives. The creator of Forrest Yoga, Ana Forrest, explains that she “Developed Forrest Yoga as I was working through my own healing. I took poses and modified or created new ones to address today’s lifestyle physical ailments. For example, the ailments that our bodies are manifesting due to our lifestyle – lower and upper back pain, neck and shoulder issues, carpal tunnel syndrome, intestinal disorders.” Forrest Yoga integrates the breath, strength, integrity, and spirit. It helps with teaching you about your inner truth and challenging yourself to heal and grow. The practice is conducted in a heated room of about 80-85 degrees. The practice started with pranayama in a seated position. We would do short breathes engaging our stomachs on the in and out breath, alternating with our hands behind us and forwards. After the intense breathing, we went through a cycle of core work with a block and other seated/ laying down poses. Then, vinyasa yoga was incorporated because there was a long set of sun salutations where our bodies flowed with the breath. The positions got more complicated after the sun salutations, with backbends, inversions, and an eagle and bird pose. At the end, we revisited a seated position on the mat and did some low intensity stretching poses but no yoga nidra, which is my favorite part of the yoga practice we do in class. I wish at the end of every yoga class, no matter what the type there was a relaxation section.
Before I entered the class, I was nervous about what to expect. I had never heard of Forrest Yoga before, and from what I read online it seemed like it was very focused on emotional and physical healing. I was worried that there would be a lot of trauma cases in the class or it would be extra sensitive, but it didn’t feel any different than other yoga classes I have been to. Before we started, the teacher Rachel asked if anyone had any specific pain they wanted to share, and only one woman said her wrist was hurt. The studio was beautiful, with lots of natural lighting and nice air flow. As I gazed around the room, I noticed that there were a lot of age ranges. There were a handful of older women, then middle aged women, one man, and a couple girls that looked to be around my age, or college students. Something interesting I noticed about the people in the class was that there wasn’t much skimpy clothing. Going to a Brookline studio, I definitely expected to see little clothing and lots of lululemon. Most people were fully dressed and very casual. There were some shorts, but the room was heated so thats understandable. For the most part, it wasn’t what I expected the people to be wearing or the ages that they were.
The teacher asked if it was anyones first time coming, and only me and another girl raised our hands. Most of the people in the room seemed to have been intensely practicing Forrest Yoga for a while. I wanted to ask the other participants what got them into Forrest Yoga in the first place, but I was worried it could have been a sensitive subject because it is geared to mental and physical healing. Rachel gave demonstrations and was helpful with adjusting our postures. The intense beginning breathing exercise was hard and awkward, but people that had been going to Forrest Yoga for a while seemed really engaged with it. For some reason, It’s really hard for me to focus on my breathing or use my breathing in the way the teacher instructs. I believe I would have a much better practice if I can learn to master engaging with my breath, because the poses are so much easier when everything is in synch. I want to master this technique, because I believe my poses will be much stronger when I am able to focus on my breathing and breathe fully through the poses. The core work was really difficult, and my legs were shaking during it. I’m not sure if I didn’t eat enough or drink enough before, but my body felt weak pretty early on. I was worried I was going to need to stop, but I pushed through and felt much stronger as the class went on. The plank poses are always hard for me, but I was able to modify poses to accommodate my needs. I really liked the break up of core workout and breathing, going into sun salutations which are my favorite. The way that Forrest Yoga is organized warms your body up for the harder poses towards the end, and the heated room makes it feel like you get a great workout. I wanted to ask Rachel the instructor questions at the end, but she left the room quickly and I couldn’t find her. Luckily on the studios website she had a bio and it explained that she got into Forrest Yoga by training with Ana Forrest and liked the idea of yoga as a healing tool to create more wholeness. Rachel began to uncover more and more parts of herself as she kept practicing yoga.
I believe there are still a lot of unknown parts of myself waiting to be discovered, and I am believe I can find those parts through the practice of yoga. I loved the atmosphere of the studio, the employees, and the general vibes. I loved this experience so much that I bought a mini membership to Coolidge Corner Yoga, so I am excited to be continuing classes and experimenting with all the different styles offered.