Local Yoga Instructors Form Classes for Everyone
Aug 31, 2015 04:44PM
● By Sheila Julson
As recently as the 1960s and 1970s, yoga, an ancient spiritual practice that originated in India, was still an enigma to the Western world, primarily practiced only by hippies, artists and musicians. The Beatles’ George Harrison embraced yoga after the band returned from India in the late 1960s, thus bringing the fusion of Eastern and Western philosophies into the mainstream.
Today, yoga has branched into a well-known and respected discipline for the mind, body and soul. Survey results published in February 2015 by the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) show that as of 2012, approximately 21 million adults practiced yoga—nearly double the number from 2002. Additionally, 1.7 million children practiced yoga—a testament to the growing awareness of the positive physical well-being and mental peace yoga can bring.
Berks and Lancaster Counties are home to several yoga studios led by innovative teachers customizing yoga classes to suit all ages and people with physical limitations, as well as those seeking more unusual classes that combine additional elements of holistic and Eastern wellness into their yoga offerings.
Kula Kamala Foundation Ashram
17 Basket Rd., Reading
Kula Kamala Foundation is a nonprofit, educational and philanthropic movement dedicated to the healing of all beings everywhere. Sudha Allitt, Ph.D., founded the organization in New Jersey with her husband Ed in 2008. Both have been inspired by the profound healing benefits of yoga.
Now branching into Pennsylvania this year, Kula Kamala’s educational programs serve professionals seeking yoga teacher training, special needs populations and the general public. They integrate yoga, yoga therapy and a broad range of holistic approaches into their programs.
The studio encompasses all facets of yoga, including asana, pranayama, meditation, Reiki, Ayurveda, art, music and movement in order to reduce suffering and enhance the wellness of individuals and communities. “We are dedicated to walking the path of progressive nonsectarian spirituality, to enhancing human holism and to supporting the experience of oneness,” Allitt says.
Classes for beginners, intermediate and advanced levels will be starting later this year. Sessions such as Yoga Over 50 are designed for older adults and those with limited flexibility. Yoga Nidra, also called Yogic Sleep, will be available for anyone suffering from fatigue and stress. Allitt says all instructors at Kula Kamala work to create an environment that is conducive to true yogic living and are deeply committed to heart centered practices and philosophical teachings which espouse that to love is the only path to true happiness. They will also offer kirtan (devotional music), healing bowls and spiritual counseling, in addition to classes.
Instead of working to set Kula Kamala apart from other yoga studios, Allitt says they try to work for integration and unity of the yoga community. “The truth is, all yoga schools, studios and teachers have something special to offer students.”
West End Yoga Studio
221 W. Walnut St., Lancaster
Lancaster native Jonina Turzi created West End Yoga Studio because she wanted a space that offers a diverse array of classes. Her studio schedule lists hatha, vinyasa, yin, Yoga on the Wall—slings and straps attached to wall sockets to assist students with various poses—Yoga for Women, Yoga Basics, prana vinyasa, restorative, kundalini, tai chi, qigong, kirtan (chanting), meditation and community wellness classes. The studio shares the Wacker on Walnut building with other wellness professionals, and a soon-to-open vegan restaurant.
“We provide a variety of yoga and movement therapy classes from basics to advanced practices,” says Turzi. “We also have an Iyengar-style yoga wall for modifications, added resistance, feedback, traction and inversion assistance.”
West End Yoga Studio’s teachers' backgrounds include physical therapy, integrative medicine, structural bodywork, Rolfing, massage therapy, dance and various yoga styles.
“We want to provide a communal learning environment that is dedicated to healing and compassion—a practical, modern-day resource for holistic health care,” Turzi explains.
Down Dog Yoga Wellness Center-
525 Reading Ave., West Reading
Anthony Kocur got started in yoga after training in martial arts, and his career eventually led him to meditation, Reiki and massage therapy. Fascinated by how all of those different modalities shared common ground in the area of wellness and holistic health, he chose to fuse them together into a yoga class.
Down Dog Yoga ranges from traditional classes, such as hatha and the Indian-based vinyasa flow, to Dragon Flow, which incorporates Kung Fu movement and kicks; Energy Flow, working with earth, metal, water, wood and fire; and yin, consisting of prolonged stretching. Whether a student desires a gentle or advanced lesson, the instructors always customize classes to fit all levels. Options and alternate postures are provided to increase or decrease the level of difficulty. There is always a strong focus on breath-work and pranayama.
“My vision is to provide a yoga studio/wellness center that focuses on grounding,” Kocur says. “I aim to provide classes and workshops that facilitate the mind, body and spiritual connection—to have students be strong in their mind, with meditation, and condition the physical aspect of the body with poses and sequences that are challenging, yet can always be modified.”
They also offer massage therapy, Reiki and Thai yoga massage. Workshops and seminars are provided, such as kundalini trainings and kids/family yoga.
Studio 328, inside GoggleWorks Center for the Arts
201 Washington St., Reading
Gayatri Wellness is a sustainable community organization fostering healthy living initiatives for the society. The organization was founded in 2010 by Lucine E. Sihelnik and was originally located in Bernville. In addition to yoga, the organization also offers cooking classes and a community supported agriculture program with produce from Berks County farms and artisans.
Sihelnik was inspired to name the organization after the Gayatri mantra, a devotional chant associated with physical, emotional and mental healing. Sihelnik has been practicing yoga since 1998 and has a background consisting of myriad hours of yoga and yoga teacher training.
Gayatri offers all levels ashtanga vinyasa flow for private lessons, community classes and corporate wellness. Sihelnik includes hatha and chair yoga, introductory classes, Yoga for Self Care, Zen Flow, Yoga for Teens and Children’s Yoga.
“Every time I step on my mat, I am open to learn from my practice. It doesn't matter if I’m teaching or participating,” says Sihelnik. “At Gayatri Wellness, teacher and students create and hold a space together for an environment for each person to discover the balance yoga brings body, mind and spirit. I am not afraid to laugh while I teach and what I learn from students is the best gift.”
Sheila Julson is a Milwaukee-based freelance writer and contributor to Natural Awakenings magazines throughout the country.