Invisible Voices

a voice for the voiceless

jivamukti yoga

I have a yoga studio that I love that is about a 3.5 minute walk from where I live. That’s part of the love! But it is a great studio overall. A green focus, as is common in the yogic crowd, and the owner and main teacher of the studio is vegetarian, which is also common in the yogic crowd.

But she’s not vegan. And yes, that is also common among yogis who are vegetarian.

I think she even knows a lot of the issues. Or maybe she doesn’t look into them too deeply.

It is cases like this where I end up not really saying anything at all. Yoga class isn’t really the right time for a discussion on animal rights, or the reality behind eggs and dairy. And that’s the only time I see her.

I did give her a calendar. She hasn’t said anything about it, but then she doesn’t know the stories, and how would a picture of Heidi turn you off milk if you didn’t know her story?

So, the yoga studio. She has a great mix of classes, and about once a month does something completely different. A discussion on chakras, a knitting class, or like tonight, a jivamukti yoga class.

I’d never done jivamukti before, had heard of it, but didn’t know much about it. The very brief history is that it was started by people in NYC who thought that we (in America, that is) had lost the root of yoga, and they developed Jivamukti as a way of getting back at the roots, at the core value.

(Anyone else see the irony in this?)

Jiva means “soul” and mukti means “freedom”, more or less.

They have a sort of spiritual aspect, where they focus on ahimsa, non-violence. They have the asanas, which are the physical poses that most people think of as yoga. And they have a lot of chanting.

It was all interesting, and I love having these chances to experience different things, and having them come almost right to my door. Easy is sometimes a good thing!

So, why am I talking about this? Because it blew me away that in the beginning when they were giving us the talk on what Jivamukti Yoga is, and they talked about the focus on ahimsa, they talked about ethical vegetarianism and animal rights.

What I mean is that those very words “ethical vegetarianism” and “animal rights” and yes! even “vegan” were words that were mentioned in this class.

Maybe others aren’t as excited about this as I am, but I thought it was amazing. I’m so curious now as to whether all the instructors are vegan. Maybe that’s part of their teacher training, that they have to commit to that? Okay, I doubt that’s the case, in reality. I hope that most of the teachers are vegan. And I wonder how many of the students of Jivamukti are vegan, or are at least working towards that.

It was like finding out that there is this whole other group of people doing advocacy for one of your causes, and you hadn’t even known before. That makes it feel like a bonus to me, an extra helping of advocacy.

And there is a book recently published, Yoga and Vegetarianism.

I believe they are using “vegetarian” but are referring to “vegan”, and while I don’t know their specific reasoning behind that, I do know that there are more people in this “movement” than you might think who believe that we should “retake” the true meaning of vegetarianism, which apparently WAS veganism? I’m not up on that argument, and personally feel it is a bit of a lost cause, but when people say “ethical vegetarianism”, which is the phrase I heard over and over, I take that to mean “veganism”. Or at least the food portion of veganism.

Does it include products other than food?

I don’t know that answer, but I’d be interested in finding out.

Meanwhile, if you’re in NYC, go to their organic vegan cafe and take a class and tell me what you think.

7 responses to “jivamukti yoga

  1. jules February 7, 2009 at 4:59 pm

    I was so happy to come across your piece. I am a Jivamukti teacher and it is always cool to hear what others are experiencing in Jivamukti Classes. Did you know each month Jivamukti Yoga has a focus of the month and this months focus is titled “Staya (truthfulness) and Veganism” A discussion around why it is important to connect our food choices with our ability to be honest and how that might lead a practitioner to a heightened state of consciousness…


    oh we might not all be vegan but during the teacher training Omega Institute serves vegan meals yay!

  2. mburgan February 8, 2009 at 10:14 am

    Thanks for the tip on the cafe–since we will be moving back east soon, it’s always nice to know of other dining options in NYC. And on the good news front from the other post: Had a friend inquire about vegan recipes I could send her; not the first in the last few months. So, I guess one step at a time…

  3. haldana February 8, 2009 at 6:33 pm

    It seems very geographically specific as to who uses “vegetarian” versus “vegan.” In certain parts of Europe (including where I live, in Scandinavia), people think “vegetarian” and “vegan” are interchangeable but that both also eat fish and dairy (I’m quite sure items like honey have never, ever occurred to these folks). I actually find it confusing to conflate the terms this way because while I respect that everyone is on their own path, there’s also something to be said for naming that place (i.e., “I still consume dairy.”).

    I had the best yoga studio in Boston, Karma, and the first time I went in, they had a guinea pig named Apollo living under the front desk, waiting to be adopted. The people who ran the yoga center would often take animals from the local shelter who would otherwise be euthanized and keep them until they found a new home, using the yoga center to spread the word that someone needed to be adopted. They had Vegan Outreach fliers in the lobby, but no one ever said anything explicit. Still, despite what an amazing space they have, what truly gifted instructors, and insanely yummy teas; it was just one more reason to go in there. You might meet a new friend, squeaking under the desk!

  4. Deb February 8, 2009 at 6:49 pm

    jules, I was so excited about their discussion of veganism, I didn’t even talk in this post about anything else, but I really did enjoy the asanas as well. I found it harder to get into the chanting, but even that was partially because I was so interested in listening to it (the yoga studio had really wonderful acoustics for something like that). Thanks for stopping by. The discussion of the month sounds interesting, especially this month’s!

    mburgan, I’ve got a good friend from Queens who did a vegan tour of nyc (mostly the lower east side) online at one point. I’ll have to see if I can find it and send you the link. Might be nothing new to you, but you never know! There are new places opening up all the time too. Did you know there is a vegan ice cream parlor?! I wanted to go there over Thanksgiving weekend, but it was closed. 😦 Maybe we’ll have to meet up in nyc some time – I get up there a few times a year, generally. And we tend to do a lot of eating!

    haldana, that is awesome about your yoga studio in boston! I’d love to have something like that here! Not to knock the studio I go to, because I do love it, but sometimes I wish I could love it that little bit more.

    I do tend to agree with you regarding the term vegan and vegetarian. It is hard enough to get people to understand without trying to “take back” a term that has actually started to have soft edges itself, but I can still see the point that the others are trying to make. I think the main reason people do it, though, is because “vegetarian” is already known and is seen as less threatening, less “extreme”. So they use that term, and later let it be known that they are really talking about veganism.

    Works okay for in a book, not so much when explaining to people in your life!

  5. Kate February 27, 2009 at 4:27 pm

    Oh, I didn’t know you were interested in jivamukti!! I was going to jivamukti classes at Flow Yoga in DuPont for a while–unfortunately they don’t have that ‘advanced beginner’ level (or ‘non-novice’ or ‘not-exactly-new-to-yoga’ or whatever) any more–and have been doing it at home with the DVD from the NYC facility. A few months ago, David and Sharon actually gave some workshops via Flow at the Kennedy Center, if memory serves—but the tickets sold out before I even opened the e-mail. We should go to a class in NYC! I’ve been nervous to go by myself because Hooman’s neurotic cousin said it “did [her] head in” when she tried to get into a class :p

  6. Deb March 2, 2009 at 8:31 pm

    Kate, that’s awesome that you used to go to jivamukti at flow! I hadn’t really heard much about them until they came to my local yoga studio. What do you think of the DVD?

    I looked up the schedule for the schools in NYC, and I think it would work out to go to a class before the bookfair! Rich is game too. 🙂 We’ll have to look at it and plan. If not in April, then next time! It would be great!

  7. Ximena March 12, 2009 at 10:46 am

    Deb, Hi! I just happened to stumble across this and was happy to read about how much you seemed to have enjoyed the workshop at your studio. I was one of the teachers there (assisting Agi) and I was actually in charge of speaking on the topic of Ahimsa/Veganism. Unfortunately we didn’t time everything properly and had to cut my portion short. I am vegan and went vegan after reading the Jivamukti Yoga book almost 2 years ago (I was a vegetarian for 12 years prior). I will be attending Jivamukti TT next month and am so unbelievably excited! There will be a handful of us going to Jivamukti TT this spring, so hopefully you will see more Jivamukti classes popping up around here.

    Kate, I’m not quite sure what you mean by Flow not offering non-novice Jivamukti classes anymore. Jivamukti is taught in and Open-level style (so I can almost say ignore whether or not it says Flow 1.5 or Flow 2).

    Highly recommend the center in NYC, it is beautiful (and the cookies are great)!

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