Rachel Sloan, who writes the column Fit for Life for My Town: A Great Place To Live - a free monthly local magazine, reached out to Jason for an interview about how he came to yoga and how it's helped influence him. Take a look at his interview below and check out the full interview in the My Town magazine free around town!
Check out the magazine here: http://mytownagreatplacetolive.com/
I see that your studio has been open since 2009. What inspired you to open your studio?
Many years ago, we were a collection of traveling yoga teachers who rented various spaces around town. Years of temporary locations made us long for a home of our own. Opening the studio allowed us to deepen our practice, expand our offerings, and build a stronger community.
About the name Binghamton Yoga…that happens to be in Endicott. There must be a story there, care to share?
In the beginning, many of our classes were taught at temporary locations in & around Binghamton. So, we created a website called www.BinghamtonYoga.com, to help our students connect with our teachers and classes.
When we tried to find a permanent home, we began our search in Binghamton, but we weren’t able to find the right space. Months of searching led us to our current home in Endicott with high-ceilings, tall windows, plenty of floor space, and free parking. By that time, the name was synonymous with our teachers and we decided to keep it. Hence, Binghamton Yoga “in Endicott” – LOL!
Two of my favorite temporary locations were The Art Mission in Binghamton and Rexer’s Martial Arts Academy in Endicott.
The Art Mission was on South Washington Street at the time. Every few weeks the entire art exhibit (and our practice space) would change. One month we’d have gorgeous impressionistic paintings, the next it would be nihilistic sculptures. It made every class into an artistic adventure!
Rexer’s Martial Arts Academy was a buzz with kicking, punching, and screaming! Twice a week, we’d rent a room upstairs from their dojo. We’d light a few candles, play some soft music, and find calm amongst the cacophony. At the end of each session, we always lay in Savasana (Corpse Posture) and at Rexer’s the ruckus downstairs would literally vibrate the floor to the point that it became relaxing massage.
And while I look back fondly, I’m so happy to have a calm, stable studio in which to grow and practice every day.
Were you into sports or fitness as a kid? When did you or how did you discover yoga? How long were you practicing before you opened the studio?
I grew up active. I began karate with Hidy Ochiai in my early teens and added weightlifting and running in high school. I believed in hard, fast, powerful movement and I followed that route into type-A personality sports and workouts for several years. That is, until I began to get lower back pain.
Pain teaches you a lot about yourself. It can be both depressing & enlightening. I was in my mid-20’s and I generally just “worked through” the lower back pain. However, as the pain became more frequent and intense I had to take a look at myself and admit that the answer might not be within my current understanding of myself and/or the world.
So, I started by visiting traditional doctors, but they proved relatively ineffective. X-Rays, MRI’s, and drugs rarely fix anything. Next, I began looking into things that made my type-A personality a bit uneasy, such as holistic nutrition, massage, and chiropracty. Each of these have their merits, but Chiropracty gave me the most obvious and immediate relief, so I began looking for ways to “manipulate” my own body.
I added yoga to my workouts and found that I felt somewhat better. So, I added more yoga and I felt better still! As yoga became a larger part of my workouts, I naturally began to incorporate more of its intellectual and emotional tenants. I realized that as I unloaded the stress from my body, lengthened my spine, and found new ways of looking at things, the pain faded – however, when I went back to my old type-A workout habits,
the pain returned. So, the cure became obvious: insightful, non-judgmental yoga.
It’s been nearly 20 years since I made those initial changes and I’ve been virtually pain-free for years now! I maintain this happy place through a consistent, softened yoga practice, augmented by wellness-visits to a yoga-friendly physical therapist who helps me take an objective point of view on the state of my body. I can’t imagine life without the freedom that yoga has brought to me.
I became a yoga teacher in 2001 to deepen my own understanding and to bring any insights I might have to others. Opening the studio in 2009 was just the natural extension of that desire to continue to get deeper and to spread that peaceful knowledge to anyone interested.
Your studio offers a variety of different kinds of yoga styles. What’s your personal favorite?
Everyone needs a “gateway” practice – something that appeals to them in the moment when they first try yoga. If you don’t find that, then yoga may never speak to you. For me, the gateway was Ashtanga-inspired, power yoga. It just grabbed me and my type-A personality - at that time. As I practiced and evolved, the power yoga lost its luster. I began to find that Hatha-style alignment, awareness, and exploration gave me, and my students, better results. That evolution has never ended. The yoga adventure has taken me to long, slow Yin-style yoga, meditation-like restorative practices,
and even community-building partner work.
These days I have a large toolbox of styles that I use to produce different sensations, alignments, and workouts. Personally, I practice a combination of everything I’ve ever done, with a focus on inner-guidance.
Do you have a favorite pose? Why is it your favorite?
Poses are like words. I love stringing them together to form sentences and paragraphs, to tell a story about how I’m feeling or to explore certain alignments and sensations. Therefore, my practices progress from one posture to the next toward a particular posture, like a story with a plot or theme. Two of my favorite postures are Half Moon Pose and Cat Tail.
Neither one of these postures is meant to be done in isolation. They are the full expression of a progressive practice that works up to these positions.
How does yoga help you in your physical as well as emotional life?
Like I said, yoga has given me the tools to “fix” my back pain – which is priceless. It has also freed me from the jail cell of being afraid to try new things or look ridiculous doing something. It has literally & figuratively turned my world upside down and given me a new perspective on myself, my relation to others, and with the universe. I’d never want to go back!
How do you recommend someone new get into yoga?
Find a class, style, or teacher you love – embrace it – and then GROW (into it, beyond it, etc). Yoga teaches that we can (and should) continue expanding our awareness. Notice your real limitations – they may be hiding beneath the type-A workout personality you wear to the gym or the couch-surfing sloth you become most nights after work. Ultimately find a modality that connects you to yourself and you’ll never give it up.
Do you offer classes for physically handicapped persons, the elderly, or the physically challenged?
Yes. Binghamton Yoga has 9 teachers and 26 classes a week. We teach many styles – from flow yoga to restorative yoga. I believe we excel in alignment and gentler styles. We are located on the second floor, so we can’t handle every demographic, however, you’ll find 4 Gentle supported yoga classes per week, which are perfect for any one at any age who wants space & time to find alignment and movement with little or no weight-bearing on hands and/or knees. You’ll also find 4 Restorative and Yin-style classes, which focus on a more meditative approach to yoga where we use time and gravity to produce the practice more than physical exertion. The remainder of the classes are a combination of movement, breath, and alignment.
Meditation is a practice that helps us become familiar with ourselves - our thoughts & emotions. When we choose to sit and enjoy our breath, we witness the inevitable thoughts and emotions, and kindly return our attention to the breath. We become more connected in body and mind, cutting through the accumulation of stress and anxiety to develop clarity in our everyday lives.
Meditation gives us the opportunity to sit with ourselves, the way we are that day - busy mind or quiet mind, tumultuous emotions or calm emotions - and simply choose to witness our breath instead. We welcome our mind to our breath over and over, kindly and gently guiding our minds back to the moment when we wander, because no matter how experienced, we all wander but that does not mean we are lost.
Yoga gives us an opportunity to affect our physical, emotional, and mental health. Our practice begins in stillness, taking the time to focus our minds so we can practice being present.
A garden doesn't grow overnight, and the benefits of yoga start small, as small as a seed. With time, the seeds will flourish, and you'll harvest the fruit of your practice. The fruit you gather will help you to live life well.
As Yogis, we come to our mats for different reasons - meditation, movement, andeven to stretch. But so often, flexibility becomes a focus for the practice. It becomes the reason to do or not do yoga. While a great benefit, yoga is about more than gaining physical flexibility.
The practice can require a degree of mental flexibility, but physical flexibility isn't the focus, just one of many benefits. You don't need to be flexible to spend time with yourself. Don't let that stop you from being with the best person you know - you.
Everyone comes to yoga for different reasons. Some want to be more flexible or hope to live a healthier life. Others have heard that it can help relieve stress. Many have pain and seek to ease the ache in their bodies.
Whatever the reason for trying yoga, many people stay with the practice because yoga offers something for everyone. Like dance, yoga has many styles, and each style appeals to different people.
"What kind of yoga should I do?"
At Binghamton Yoga, we recognize that the human body is meant to move, stretch, and engage in every direction. We are home to many different styles of yoga - Hatha, Iyengar, Restorative, Chair, Power - to honor the many ways your body can move.
Many of our students ask, "What kind of yoga should I do?" Finding the right yoga class takes some exploration. We encourage our students to try different classes with different teachers. Each teacher offers careful instruction, and keeps in mind that each student will have a unique experience to a stretch or a posture.
Keep your body open to change...
In life, it's in our nature to stick with the things we like - certain foods, clothing, even exercises - because we know what to expect and how to deal with that expectation. But habit can limit our needs. Our bodies need different things at different times. At one point, you might need one posture, and in the next day, year, or even hour, your body could need something else. With change, we see what our bodies need.
Change allows us to observe ourselves in different environments. When you keep your body open to change - in your practice or in your movements - you can affect your body and mind in new ways.