|(Ron Reid (left), Marla Meenakshi Joy (right)|
"R eally?" I hesitated..."I'm not sure I want to do ashtanga".
"Ok but honestly just check it out. You'll love it. It's like free jazz or something!"
Free jazz?? That was an unusual thing to say...I was nursing a green tea at the Golden Turtle on Ossington St. with Gary, a Toronto filmmaker and ashtanga yogi who knew a thing or two about jazz. And it was clear he had a distinctly fierce reverence for one of Toronto's most treasured yoga instructors Ron Reid and his "yoga jam" class. Sure, I'd heard of Ron Reid's virtual Jedi status - an uncanny ability to work with the "force" of hatha yoga - for years. But I was skeptical about taking the class.
And who could blame me??
How could I know that the deeply musical sensibility of Ron Reid and his wife and musical collaborator, Marla Meenakshi Joy could summon a kind of ashtanga that was skillful enough to accomodate improvisations? Or that a vigorous ashtanga practice in intelligent hands could morph into something that was always intuitively subtracting from the strenuous?
That's not suprising considering Ron Reid has been practicing Yoga for over 30 years and teaching since 1988. Ron has studied with Sri K. Pattabhi Jois and Sharath both in India and North America and was one of the first Canadian teachers to be authorized by Pattabhi Jois. In addition to regular classes at Downward Dog, he conducts workshops and teacher trainings in Canada, Europe, and the U.K.
And if that weren't enough, Ron Reid makes up only half the equation in a story of a greater partnership. Marla Meenakshi Joy first traveled to India in 1988 to study meditation and the philosophy of the Vedas with Swami Shyam, as well as other learned scholars in the Himalayas. She is a Certified Meditation and Yoga Philosophy teacher from the International Meditation Institute in Kullu, Himachal Pradesh, Himalayas. She was involved in Downward Dog’s first teacher training program in 1999, as both a teacher of Philosophy and Sanskrit, and as a student. She has over 500 hours of Teacher Training with both Ron Reid, Chuck Miller and Maty Ezraty, among others, and is a Yoga Alliance Certified Teacher. She currently teaches Ashtanga Yoga, Swaha Yoga, Restorative Yoga, Yogadance, Meditation, Yoga philosophy, Sanskrit, and Chanting privately and in yoga studios in Canada, the U.S. The UK, Europe and Asia.
|(Marla Meenakshi Joy)|
Ron and Marla are life partners whose deep bonds were forged from a musical synergy. That unique chemistry led to the creation of Swaha, Ron and Marla's kirtan band, who just returned from a high profile performance at Bhaktifest in Joshua Tree, California. And as you will see in our interview, the relationship between music and posture practice is so intimate for Ron and Marla that there may as well be no verbal distinction made. In fact, it's a curious thing that in this interview disciplinary distinctions seem to disappear. Ask Ron or Marla about music, postural practice, the cycles of life, astrology, or ayurveda and you'll get the same sense that all things are but limbs of life; all things are ashtanga ("eight limbs")... And if you learn to use your limbs well, you inevitably extend your reach back to your best self. In the following interview, Ron and Marla offer valuable insight into the history of the their own ashtanga practice, raise critical concerns about ashtanga's evolutionary blindspots, and throw the spotlight on what it means to work within a tradition whose very existence is based in innovation.
"You see people try to say "No this was the original practice intended by the yoga sutras". Well that's just absurd. I'm sorry! It never was. You know it was just a very specific practice and it's from a particular time. And I think once you know that, it's liberating. To me, it's liberating. It makes a lot of sense... And so the practice that Pattabhi Jois developed based on what he was taught by Krishnamacarya was his own practice specific to his constitution and context." (Ron Reid)
"Our joy is to be able to allow the soul to grow and feel its own levity and its own unlimited nature. And so our teaching style, hopefully, reflects that...We've seen it time and time again in those teachers that have made the choice to do traditional ashtanga, what that's created in their teaching style, their method and also their adjustments. The way in which some of those teachers touch people violates the very first yama of non-violence." (Marla Meenakshi Joy)
|(Mysore class with Ron and Marla)|