This morning I sat on Justine Cohen’s bright yellow Victorian couch, my shoes off and laptop in hand. She’s the founder of Down Under School of Yoga in Boston and as she sits in front of me, I’m thinking we are worlds apart. She’s a former lawyer, owner of one of the most popular yoga studios in the city, and her parents taught English to monks in Tibet. But when she begins to speak about her experience with panic attacks, we are instantly connected.
Residents gathered at Cypress Field on June 20, for a peaceful evening of yoga in honor of the International Day of Yoga. This was the second year that Brookline has held the free annual event. Led by instructors from Down Under School of Yoga, Coolidge Corner Yoga and Healthworks Fitness Center for Women, the yoga session attracted participants of all ages.
“The reason most yoga teachers are independent contractors is because they’re being exploited,” says Justine Wiltshire Cohen, director of Down Under, which has three locations in the Boston area. “If you teach one class for me you are an employee, and the only benefit that is tied to the number of classes you teach is health care.”
Wiltshire Cohen argues that the current American paradigm of hiring most yoga teachers as independent contractors is antithetical to the principles of yoga.
“Yoga’s dirty little secret is the vast majority of yoga studios are still calling employees independent contractors, so they don’t have to give security and benefits,” she says. “It is almost impossible to make a living as a yoga teacher this way. The practice is meant to cultivate single focus, but 99 percent of teachers are traveling all over the city (from studio to studio). Very few have weekends, let alone two days off in a row.”
Walden is one of only two North American instructors to hold an advanced senior certificate in Iyengar yoga, a slow, methodical style that emphasizes proper alignment. If you think you have the chops to join her intensive weekly class series, you’ll need to be patient. Each one of her exclusive workshops is currently sold out, and existing students get first dibs when new sessions begin. Word to the wise: Get on the waiting list now.
Sensing stress in their student body, the management and faculty at Down Under School of Yoga brainstormed ways they could acknowledge the current political climate while maintaining the principles of yoga. On Friday, they hosted “Down Under Unites: Yoga Stands Up” to strike a balance between yoga and fundraising.
Boston was asked to vote for the fitness teachers that move them most and Kate made the list. In Kate’s classes, you can expect precise instructions to create dynamic postures that will work together to not only bring more strength and suppleness to the body, but also to bring the body, mind, and spirit into the present moment.
In 1996, while hiking the northern section of the Hollywood Hills, Natasha Rizopoulos had a “moment.” In that reflection, in the balm of Beachwood Canyon, she experienced a bit of a homecoming. After years of professional roaming, the moment was a bow to the ever-present voice that had been long dimmed by the “shoulds” that can mute a life.
Yes, entering the world of motherhood is beautiful, but it's also overwhelming and at times, isolating. Finding places to connect with your mom community is imperative to a happy first year and beyond. Whether you meet up for a cup of coffee at the library or strike up conversation while getting your sweat on at the gym, surrounding yourself with moms who are going through a similar experience will only help make parenthood more enjoyable.
LOCAL INSTRUCTORS ARE PUSHING FOR A MORE INCLUSIVE AND DIVERSE YOGA COMMUNITY.
In studios, community centers, churches, and schools around Boston, yoga is changing.
A small but determined group of local teachers are challenging ideas of who a yoga student is, and what a yoga body looks like. They’re guiding yoga away from stereotypes, and toward a future of acceptance, inclusivity, and diversity—toward some of the ideals preached by the practice itself.