Jivamukti Yoga is a modern and creative style developed in 1989 by New York-based dancer-artist-musician-activists Sharon Gannon & David Life.  It represents their commitment to conveying the depth of traditional yogic techniques and philosophies that they studied with Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, Sri Brahmananda Sarasvati, and Sri Swami Nirmalananda while emphasizing that enlightenment is the goal and living an engaged life in the world is one of the principle means.  The Sanskrit word JIVANMUKTIH means liberation while living and a JIVANMUKTA is a “free soul.”  Although official sequences exist and certain essential elements ensure balance, teachers are granted considerable autonomy to choreograph in support of coherent themes and their corresponding physical, mental and spiritual aims.  As such each session is highly unique.  Through the ‘Focus of the Month’ students and teachers alike are encouraged to keep learning and to bring various aspects of theory and practice into their everyday lives.

There are 5 main components that supplement each and every challenging vinyasa yoga class:  SHASTRA (study of Sanskrit texts and other great spiritual traditions, focusing on their relevance today), BHAKTI (devotion and dedication to a higher, selfless purpose), AHIMSA (non-violence, and even beyond that calling for social, political, and environmental activism, highlighting animal rights), NADA YOGA (inspiring music, chanting, and cultivation of deep listening), and DHYANA (meditation instruction and practice).  Through continuous practice on and off of the mat we realize the oneness of being and get in touch with our true nature, which is unconditional love and boundless joy.  (See also jivamuktiyoga.com & jivamukti.de)

I attended my first Jivamukti class in 2003 as a skeptical graduate student studying stress and brain plasticity. It was my 2nd yoga lesson ever, and I nearly died of embarrassment when our teacher Emily began chanting lokah samastah sukhino bhavantu (“May all beings be happy!”). At first, I cringed at what I believed to be a shameless expression of sentimental New Age idealism. And yet, as the mantra sank in, my Scrooge heart started to thaw out, and I began to feel that somehow doing research and hoping that someday somebody might develop a pill so that some people might feel a bit less miserable in a specific way for a short time (at the cost of much animal torture) was thinking small relative to my true wish for the unconditional happiness and liberation of all beings! It wasn’t long before I hung up the lab coat and devoted myself to the mat.

I am an 800-hour Advanced Certified Jivamukti Yoga Teacher and completed my first 300-hour training with Sharon Gannon & David Life in New York in 2005. I then began teaching full-time at the Jivamukti Center in Munich and all over town. Over the next six years I apprenticed, traveled, and played kirtan with my mentor, Petros Haffenrichter. I mentored 500-hour Jivamukti teacher trainings, gave numerous workshops in Europe and Asia, and assisted Sharon & David in Europe and the U.S.A., most recently in Boulder during Sharon’s book tour of 2014. I am grateful to Sharon & David for emphasizing the true purpose and potential of yoga, which is nothing short of enlightenment, not just for ourselves, but for all beings. So often I see people consuming yoga as just another narcissistic activity, but as David always says, “Why settle for a banana when you could have nirvana?!”  (See Jivamukti Yoga: Practices for Liberating Body & Soul by Sharon Gannon & David Life.)  Jivamukti yoga can easily be adapted for all kinds of bodies and lends itself to teaching technique progressively in an entertaining and effective way. Please contact me to learn more.

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