Kristin Mabry tried multiple brands and styles of yoga before stumbling across YogaFit in California. She was leery of it at first, because Mabry, the owner of Mountainside Wellness, wanted to offer something genuine to her students. The YogaFit motto, “yoga for every body and everybody,” and mesh of yoga and fitness drew her in. Now Mabry is sharing what she’s learned with others.
“This program makes yoga accessible,” she said. “It draws in people who aren’t interested in chanting and strengthens the physical body. There is no right little outfit and people don’t have to do the splits or a handstand.”
Mabry began hosting the 2014 YogaFit Intensive on May 18 at the Shrine of St. Therese. She has nine students participating in the hopes of becoming YogaFit instructors, with attendees from Juneau, the Lower 48 and Canada. The weeklong intensive ends today.
The love of yoga and the philosophies it follows are closely tied to the program. For participants at the intensive basic, “golden rule” values of yoga are followed by cooking communal meals together, lending a helping hand and respecting each others’ space. In the classes offered, future instructors encounter yoga the same way many of their students will: through breathing.
YogaFit describes breathing as an individual’s most powerful tool to calm and relax the body and clear the mind. This belief follows closely with The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali that talks of clearing the mind so people can transition from being a physical individual to a spiritual one. The basic concept is that people let go of things like egotism when the mind is cleared and instead see themselves for who they actually are, eventually leading to self-discovery. Through following the Sutras, a sense of community is built because people who practice yoga come to realize that all people around them are good and that wisdom can be gained from others.
To participant Laurie West, the idea of community is important.
“We don’t even know our neighbors’ names,” she said. “People are sick of the 9-to-5 robotic world and of not being connected to their own spirit. We constantly produce and feel guilty to just sit down. It is causing a disconnect from selves, kids, spouses and other people.
“When you die, no one ever says, ‘She or he got everything done on their to-do list.’ They say things like, ‘She or he was a good neighbor and helped me out a lot.”
The knowledge gained from yoga trainings have been invaluable to West because it has caused her to realize the importance of “Self” and how it affects others.
Their daily schedule begins with an early morning meditation at the Shrine of St. Therese. The practice then moves into a morning asana, which means posture in Sanskrit, the language of yoga. A form of asana is what people typically practice in yoga classes at gyms and studios. The group then moves into a Satsang, a time to read and reflect on the wisdom that founded yoga.
YogaFit is growing in Juneau and around the world, leading to the emergence of different styles. Although expanding people’s knowledge about yoga may not be difficult, it can be troublesome to find an authentic practice with trusted instructors. YogaFit tries to avoid that trouble by providing certified instructors that are grounded in yoga philosophy and fitness knowledge.
In Juneau, the practice of yoga is unique because it is deeply connected to environments. For participants in the intensive, living for a week at the shrine created a mini ashram experience.
“Not everyone wants to go live with a mat and a bowl,” Mabry said. “So sharing this space with other people allows participants to live yoga for a week. They have the chance to get down to the nuts and bolts of it without the pampering and spending $5,000 to go to India.”
Mabry is excited that YogaFit is growing in Juneau and hopes to see it continue. For the first time in Juneau’s history, she is offering a YogaFit yearlong training program that allows future teachers to receive their 200-hour training certificate. New trainees are organizing free weekly classes at Mountainside Wellness that will begin in the fall. The classes are called Karma Yoga and allow for new teachers to gain experience while offering the general public a chance to try yoga for free.
Mabry looks forward to the intensives because she gets to lead a class and can see how far her students have come. Most yoga teachers started out as a student who thought that yoga was a one-hour exercise on a sticky mat but later come to think of it as a way of life, Mabry said..
“When someone is new to yoga there is a lot to learn about the physical practice,” she said. “But after a few times, people realize how de-stressed they are. They begin to seek out the ‘yoga toolbox’ on their own.”