Founded in New York in the 1980s, Jivamukti yoga focuses on chanting and music to put the spirituality back into yoga. Juliet Rowe talks to the owners of the London studio.
Founded in 1984 in New York City by David Life and Sharon Gannon, the Jivamukti yoga school was created to reintroduce the roots of yoga that had long been diluted via its long journey to the west.
Jivamukti focuses on the original Indian yoga system in an easy-to-understand way. After my first class, I felt uplifted, alert, totally worked out, and completely euphoric – and all in a studio off a main road in very urban West London.
Yoga had become just a little too physical, according to Life and Gannon, and has somehow lost its spiritual purpose along the way.
The pair wanted to incorporate and subtly blend in other elements such as philosophy, meditation, massage and chanting as well as dynamic movement, giving its students an all round – cardiovascular, mental and spiritual – workout.
Physically, students at Jivamukti sweat, just like in Bikram, but without the artificial heat. This gives the same feeling of ‘lengthening’ of the limbs, but in a natural environment. There is a range of music from all ages and all tastes, from all over the world.
The class starts with chanting from the Jivamukti hymnbook, and a philosophical lesson given by the teacher. According to Manizeh Rimer, who opened the centre in 2005, many students are apprehensive when they first do the chanting and then it ‘gets to them’ after weeks, or months. It’s not uncommon for it to become their favourite part of the class.
Rimer calls chanting a “lazy man’s meditation which cuts straight through the mind and into the heart”. She says it’s difficult to understand the benefits until you actually experience it.
Rimer was a student of Sharon and David’s for years in New York, before she moved here four years ago and, after trying all the London yoga schools, realised Londoners were missing out.
She was not satisfied because she felt she was missing the spiritual element in her group practice. She knew Londoners ready for it.
I asked Rimer what her favourite pose is. She answers: “The shoulder stand. If this position is held for a couple of minutes, the endocrine system is released.
"That is to say the hormones and secretions and by holding this pose you are regulating any imbalances….and turning upside down changes our perspective on life”. She goes on to say the sinuses are cleared which in winter is powerful against picking up colds or the ‘flu.
Founder Gannon says practising the asanas (yoga poses) is a way of “tapping into your own pharmaceutical library.” Why not try it? It's worth it just for the divine massages each student receives throughout the class with the special Jivamukti magic potion.
It’s safe to say we London yogis are definitely ready for it.
Juliet Rowe is a PR consultant and freelance writer. Contact julietRowe@aol.com or 07956 658352.