Double digit weather and a relatively cool breeze were not the only sources of joy marking Labor Day in Houston this year. It was also Free Day of Yoga here and in several other cities, including Austin, Dallas, Philadelphia and Los Angeles. To kick off National Yoga Month, many yoga studios around Houston opened their doors, offering free classes throughout the day and other events in Menil Park in Montrose.
My husband and I attended a free “Hot 60” class at Yoga One with studio owner Albina Rippy. “We are all here to celebrate yoga and the community that it creates,” Rippy said at the beginning of class.
Though the ancient practice, as I explored recently, has many emotional and physical benefits for individuals, yoga is also concerned with the universe as a whole—with “the setting sun, the rising moon, the ebb and flow of the tides, the beating of our hearts,” as Yoga Journal puts it.
The concept of community is integral to yoga. Though the ancient practice, as I explored recently, has many emotional and physical benefits for individuals, yoga is also concerned with the universe as a whole—with “the setting sun, the rising moon, the ebb and flow of the tides, the beating of our hearts,” as Yoga Journal puts it. This is why many yoga classes are bookended with the chanting of “Om,” which increases our awareness of universal movement and a connection greater than ourselves “that is both uplifting and soothing.”
Jennifer Buergermeister explains, “Yoga means to yoke, or to unite. The concept of bringing polar opposites together in union stems from the yogic philosophy that we are one.”
Buergermeister is the owner of CuraYoga, president of Texas Yoga Association, Texas Yoga Conference and Yoga Teachers Association of Houston and founder of BreathCure and One Yoga USA. “Yoga is designed to bring the mind-body into wholeness and great awareness through a set of practices that promote harmonization," she says.
Over the past year, the collective nature of yoga has informed my practice and enriched my life. I moved to Houston almost one year ago. Joining a yoga studio was one of the first steps I took towards settling in because I wanted to continue growing the practice I had spent two years cultivating in Austin.
Without a job and with only a few friends, I had a larger space in my life to embrace yoga on a new level and engage more fully with those on mats next to mine. The studio became a second home and my practice an unexpected source of relational strength. And yoga continues to mark my days and weeks as I experience the yoga community’s collective desire, in Buergermeister's words, “to celebrate life and grow that which is healthy for all.”
The recent growth in the Houston yoga community offers evidence that others are experiencing similar relational, physical and emotional benefits as they practice. According to Nancy Sheridan, “The yoga community in Houston is brimming with potential. There are so many skilled and empowering teachers, along with a rapidly growing number of enthusiastic and dedicated practitioners and communities.”
Sheridan, a Certified Baptiste Power Vinyasa Yoga Instructor, teaches at several studios around Houston. “There is a palpable excitement and curiosity about yoga in Houston. Yoga is all about connection, service and community, and I think that Houstonians are ready to experience and cultivate this in a big way,” she says.
Buergermeister credits events such as Free Day of Yoga and the work of organizations and companies such as Texas Yoga Association, Texas Yoga Conference, Lululemon, Lucy and Luke’s Locker, with nurturing an enthusiasm about wellness in Houston.
She also cites the contributions of Houston researchers to the growing body of knowledge about the benefits of yoga. Lorenzo Cohen, professor and director of M.D. Anderson’s integrative medicine program, has been awarded some of the largest yoga related grants ever funded and is conducting innovative research on topics such as yoga as a component of breast cancer treatment and the effects of yoga, as compared to meditation and stretching, on work productivity.
As I lay in a pool of sweat at the end of my Free Day of Yoga class, Albina Rippy’s voice rose above the fans churning the 100 degree air: “I always take this time at the end of class to remember how grateful I am for all that I have—my family, my friends and all of you here who create this dynamic community.”
On Saturday, Lululemon is hosting Salutation Nation 2011 on the south lawn of the Houston Museum of Fine Arts. Join Albina and Roger Rippy in a complimentary yoga class and connect with yogis from across Houston.