YOGI TIMES
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yoga sangha | purchased by yoga kula

YOGI TIMES
YOGI TIMES
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yoga sangha | purchased by yoga kula

purchased by yoga kula

On a balmy evening in the Mission, after a long day at work, I”™m almost overwhelmed by the hubbub of 16th Street: vendors peddling exotic flowers and fruits, anarcho-punks posting fliers, grandmothers picking up goodies at the local panaderia, the plaintive throb of trio music permeating the taquerias. 

But then, after climbing a narrow flight of stairs and traversing a long corridor, I reach Yoga Sangha and suddenly find myself amidst absolute openness. I”™m awed by the way the evening light illuminates the space. Floor to ceiling windows open up to a balcony lined with succulent plants; just beyond, a vista of the city basks in the afterglow of the setting sun. The studio could easily hold a hundred or so students, but as yogis quietly enter the room and African music plays softly in the background, I notice the intimacy of the space.

The all-levels class is taught by Skeeter Barker, a no-nonsense yogi with a gentle smile and the blend of humor and compassion that I always welcome in a teacher. Skeeter starts us off with a brief meditation with a heart mudra, which is appropriate given Yoga Sangha”™s grounding in Anusara yoga ”“ a heart-oriented style of hatha yoga that blends tantric philosophy and structural alignment principles, as well as a focus on celebrating the diverse expressions we may all have of the same essence. Skeeter”™s comprehensive, effortless method of teaching draws students back week after week ”“ but that might also be a quality inherent in the Sangha itself.

Jayne Hillman and Katchie Ananda co-founded Yoga Sangha with three other yoga teachers in 2004, when it was known as the Yoga Cooperative. “It was a magical idea that all five of us gave birth to,” says Jayne, “but it was clear that the (three other) teachers had other activities they wanted to do, so Katchie and I carried on and changed the name to Yoga Sangha in 2005.”

From Yoga Sangha”™s inception, Jayne and Katchie wanted to operate their studio with a strong sense of community, and the principles of Anusara yoga contribute to that. “People feel very comfortable, no matter what level they”™re at,” says Jayne. “We have this idea that everyone, at essence, is a representation of universal consciousness. So wherever you are in a pose, even in your resistance to that pose, you can be yourself. And that intention permeates our practice.”

Yoga Sangha”™s tri-part vision is: inhale (the yoga practice); exhale (giving back and acting on our values); and intention (bringing ancient teachings into the modern world through yoga classes, workshops, immersions and teacher trainings). According to Jayne, “We”™re launching into our larger mission, which is to extend back out and give to the community.”

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Yoga Sangha encourages students to use their yoga practice as a way of learning to find what it is they want to give back to their communities. In future teacher trainings, the Sangha will have a service project component. “It”™s about getting in touch with what we value and, in our day to day lives, being able to articulate that,” says Jayne. 

Part of Yoga Sangha”™s commitment to the community is its environmental ethic. The studio was recently designated a Green Studio by the Green Yoga Association. Jayne and Katchie are also keenly aware of socio-economic issues. The studio offers a variety of free classes, sliding scale classes for students with financial limitations, and scholarships. On Sept. 10, the studio will host a “Be the Peace” Yoga Jam, weaving together yoga practice together with speakers, kirtan and Yoga Trance Dance (details at powertothepeaceful.org). 

In Jayne and Katchie”™s yoga classes, participants are likely to be social activists of some stripe. Jayne explains, “What”™s great about the practice is that people who are working towards social change can find a sense of grounding; they can inhale more inspiration into their lives and feel more balanced. A lot of times, when we are working, we are in our heads or emotions, but with yoga, we can move from our center, from a deeper and more effective place.” Jayne, who speaks from ten years of community development work, acknowledges, “It”™s crucial to be able to take care of yourself before helping your community.”

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