Moksha

Yoga that’s lean, mean and green

I imagine most of you have heard about the various forms of yoga, and that many of you have been deterred either from trying or from continuing to practice yoga with formal instruction due to the costs involved. Well, I’m pleased to meet you, we certainly have something in common! There is hope, as I have discovered through my introduction to the Moksha Yoga community.

Founded in Toronto in 2003, Moksha aims at reaching out beyond the regular classes themselves, and firmly believes that the individual studios can play an active part in their communities through their yoga and other programs.

Moksha Yoga finds its roots in Hatha Yoga, which was originally practiced as a means to purify the body physically in preparation for further meditation. This is the form that has become so popular in the west, and is commonly referred to simply as “yoga” with nothing further added.

Presently speaking, the word yoga refers to a broad range of physical and mental meditative disciplines traditionally employed by practitioners of Jainism, Buddhism and Hinduism.

Moksha Yoga is a physical discipline, and is one that is likely to push anyone to his or her limit. The series of postures and stretches, that have been styled and compiled by co-founder Ted Grand over the course of his own learning, are performed under extreme heat conditions reaching upwards of 40ºC.

This sounds daunting, and rightfully so. My first experience taught me much about my body’s capabilities. Notable among them is the vivid harmony with which my entire body secreted sweat in an effort to keep cool whilst we held one-legged squats for minutes at a time.

While this all sounds unnecessarily excruciating, one of Montreal’s own Moksha Instructors- in-training, Sophie Latreille, commented that she loves “practicing yoga because I get a physical exercise, and it brings me inward and allows me to connect with my body. Hot yoga asks for tremendous mental focus for containing the postures when your muscles are aching and your mind wants to get out of it; that’s when you breathe into the ‘pain.’

“You see, you can’t just do physical yoga, or at least I can’t. The intention that is set at the beginning of class is a guide not only for getting through yoga practice, but something you can take into the world after class is over.”

The word moksha comes from the Sanskrit word for ‘release,’ and in Indian religious contexts refers to liberation both from the sufferings of daily life, and from the repeated cycle of life, death and reincarnation.

With this in mind, the Moksha Yoga postures specifically target areas of the body particularly prone to built-up tension and pain over time.

“What is unique about moksha,” Sophie adds, “is, aside from the obvious heat, the focus on hip openers throughout the series, and a definite core workout, both of which help with posture and strengthening the spine to keep it healthy for as long as possible. Let’s face it, we are sitting down a lot of the time, and our spine gets lazy over time.”

All Moksha studios share a common philosophy, which involves bringing the benefits of yoga to as many as possible. Newcomers can get an unlimited week pass for $20, and they offer 10 per cent discounts to students and seniors for all their price plans. They also offer what is known as a “Karma Class” every Friday, offered for a donation ($5 minimum) to allow virtually anyone to try it at low cost. Donations from the Karma Class go to local charities, and instructors periodically take their practices into areas of the community where the benefits of yoga would otherwise be inaccessible. They also make an environmental commitment by keeping all of their supplies, materials and machinery as eco-friendly as possible.

Still can’t afford it? Well, you may just be in luck for now. While Sophie is completing her training, she is very kindly offering the opportunity for people to come and learn with her several times a week for free! Her schedule changes every week, so you’ll have to get in touch with the studio to find out when the next free session will be.

The downtown Montreal studio is at 3863 St. Laurent Blvd. Check out their website mokshayogamontreal.com for a host of useful information. Also see mokshayoga.ca for the parent site, which provides even more information about the postures and philosophies of the growing community that is practicing Moksha Yoga.

This article originally appeared in The Link Volume 31, Issue 28, published March 29, 2011.

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