What kind of yoga do you teach?
I spent the night of September 23, 2011, with a team of volunteers unpacking more than 400 two-foot square three-eighth-inch thick brown puzzle-pieces. This was the flooring I found for my yoga studio after an exhaustive search for something that would separate yogis on their mats from the cement subflooring, cushion their restorative poses, and still be firm enough for balance work. In the newly repaired and painted room, with a ceiling that soars to a peak of some twenty-two feet, it took us six hours to piece the floor together, starting in one corner and working in rows. I would not let anyone cut-to-fit the exterior pieces—that was a job I came back to a couple of days later and completed all on my own. The floor is one of the most remarked upon aspects of the space, where people have been coming to practice nearly every day for three years.
Indeed, Radiant Om Yoga, ROY, turns three on Sunday. Every three-year-old enjoys a party, and ROY will celebrate all weekend with free classes and new tank tops and discounts for fall. And Sunday after special morning classes, we’ll share a bite and toast where we have been and where we are going.
The studio space really is lovely, but what makes the studio spectacular is the people who find their way through the doors, both to teach and to practice. Each class has a crowd of regulars such that in my mind Monday at 5:30 pm is quite different from Thursday at six in the morning, gently shaped by the energies and expectations of the people who arrive. The entire studio is on a drop-in basis; however, and that means we have new encounters just about every day, and it’s delightful to experience the studio and the practice through fresh eyes.
New people often ask questions like how long we’ve been open. I get phone messages on the answering machine asking if our yoga is heated or whether we offer Pilates. It’s when I meet people for the first time, because they’ve stopped by to check out ROY or we’ve met in another venue and they find out I’m a yoga instructor that they ask: What kind of yoga do you teach?
Teaching for eight years, my answers have ranged from the standard, “Hatha or Asana-based yoga with an emphasis on alignment,” to a longer-winded, “I started as an Iyengar yogi, trained with an Anusara-inspired teacher and then did my 200-hour RYT (registered yoga teacher training) in Power yoga,” to the sassy, “boutique yoga.” None of these are wrong, but nor do they adequately describe what I do: I cull from a number of sources, influences, and yoga experiences, from teachers I trust, from articles and books that I read, from living in my almost fifty-year-old body, and I run all of that through a filtering process and offer this ancient practice, of which I consider myself to be a custodian, as a tool for living in the twenty-first century. While I may be late to the buzz, may be picking up on the tail end of a naming trend that is over-used and thus has lost its luster, in thinking today about all things Radiant Om Yoga, I came to a new conclusion. What I teach, what all of the amazing, wonderful, talented teachers at ROY offer, is artisan yoga. (And, of course, artisan Nia, taught by the lovely Moira who is due back at the studio in time for our birthday weekend with a brand new black belt, the next step in her amazing Nia journey.)
Yoga has been around for upwards of 5000 years. It’s only in recent history that yogis could learn yoga via printed text, the Internet, magazines … long before there was spandex, yoga was passed from teacher to student. In the practice we honor lineages, so my teachers and their teachers are my students’ teachers too. It’s one of the longest chain letters on the planet, and while some modern practices and contemporary clothing might make historical yoga gurus gasp, my Dharma (duty/nature/purpose) is to be a link in the chain, a link that both understands where yoga comes from and pulls it where it will do the most for the people who practice with me. That means every class, every private session, every time I practice, I am crafting an experience that draws upon the tools of yoga without being tethered by them.
I am very fortunate that I get to do this work at ROY. Four years ago, if you had told me there would be days when I would miss driving myself around to six different teaching sites, I might have looked at you like you were crazy. I wanted to land once and for all in a studio home. Teaching is the part of the whole enchilada that I like the best. But as a teacher I was a journey(wo)man, not challenged to be an artisan in the medieval sense of one who owns a business. So even on the days when owning a brick and mortar is really, really hard, I can remember that Radiant Om Yoga is a labor of love, a small batch of yoga hand-crafted and delivered with gratitude, creativity, and joy.