November 30, 2011

New Yoga Studio Aims to Balance Spirituality, Exercise

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Opening Saturday in the heart of the Commons, The Yoga School hopes to find its place in Ithaca’s crowded yoga scene.

The Yoga School will compete with three existing studios on the Commons, two studios within two miles of downtown, one studio in Collegetown and two more studios near Triphammer Mall.

The Yoga School will predominately teach classes in Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga — a modern-day form of classical Indian yoga — to beginner, intermediate and advanced students. The school will also offer a teacher-training course to certify yoga teachers.

To differentiate her studio from the competition, Lennessa Shantaya, the owner of the new yoga studio, said she intends to focus on one type of yoga and on yoga’s underpinning philosophy.

“A lot of yoga studios downtown offer classes … but it is a new style every night,” she said. “I want to streamline and focus the classes to allow for better yoga practice.”

She added she believes that the study of yogic philosophy will allow her students to live by its teachings.

“Yoga is not just something you do in a studio,” she said. “I really want to offer the opportunity for people to fully learn yoga — to incorporate yoga into every aspect of [their] lives.”

An individual’s relationship with his or her world lies at the heart of yogic philosophy, she said.

“Right away, I will teach the concept of focused breath,” she said. “And through these … you begin to gain a greater sense of yourself and [your] place within the world.”

Shantaya criticized yoga classes that emphasize its physical practices over its spiritual benefits.

“[Yogic philosophy] is not even introduced in yoga classes these days,” she said. “But in India, to learn yoga, your fortitude is examined.  You need to know how you relate to yourself and your world.”

The owner of Mighty Yoga, a nearby studio, acknowledged she does not place much emphasis on philosophy.

“We blend yogic philosophy into the classes a little bit … But we focus more on the physical practice,” Heather Healey, the studio’s owner, said.  “The philosophy can be intimidating, especially in the Western World … More people can connect to the physical practice more easily.”

Still, Healey said she is not worried that the opening of The Yoga School will hurt her business, citing a dramatic increase of interest in the field.

“We have been open for two years, but we have grown really fast,” she said. “I think we will continue to grow. I see more and more people over time becoming more and more open to yoga.”

Steven Valloney, owner of Sunrise Yoga on the Commons, said he was initially concerned about  the competition, but that he ultimately came to believe a new yoga studio will benefit the local yoga community.

“The first thought that came up was that there was going to more competition,” he said.  “But after I thought about it, I realized that this may be what it takes to get more people into yoga — and that’s a good thing.”

Valloney added that his studio has nearly tripled the number of classes it offers, from 10 to 28 — an increase he said he sees as part of a long-term trend.

“When I began teaching yoga at Sunrise twenty years ago, there was one other studio in Ithaca,” Valloney said.  “But since then, yoga has become much more mainstream.”

Original Author: Justin Rouillier