Founder of Jivamukti Yoga to teach at Bethel Farm for the first time Saturday

Last modified: 11/15/2014 12:40:03 AM
Sitting on a yoga mat in a studio lit by a strand of white lights and tea candles, Stephen Bethel leads a class in a yoga style known as Jivamukti. It’s the style at the heart of Bethel Farm in Hillsboro, a living arts center that fuses yoga and organic farming.

Tomorrow, Sharon Gannon, founder of Jivamukti yoga, will teach a class at Bethel’s center as part of her national vegan book tour.

“It’s really rare for her to be teaching in this rural place, in this intimate setting,” Bethel said. “We’ve of course been in touch all of these years. . . . I guess it was just time.”

Gannon, who founded Jivamukti with David Life in 1984, began teaching Bethel about 12 years ago in their New York City school.

“When I went to that first class, it all sort of came together,” Bethel said. He has now been teaching Jivamukti yoga for about nine years.

According to the Jivamukti website, there are less than two dozen Jivamukti-affiliated centers in the world; Bethel Farm is the only affiliated center listed in the state.

“We offer regular classes and we also have capacity to host retreats. We’re also a farm-to-table retreat center,” Bethel said.

Tomorrow’s guest-taught yoga class will be followed by a book party, signing and reception, and later by a dinner.

Gannon recently published Simple Recipes for Joy: More than 200 Delicious Vegan Recipes and is touring the country to promote it. She is scheduled to teach a class and hold a book signing at Jivamukti-affiliated Karma Yoga Studio in Boston today.

Jivamukti yoga centers are spread throughout the world, with locations in Germany, the United Kingdom, Australia and Canada. Affiliated centers extend Jivamukti’s reach even farther, with classes in South Africa, Mexico, Norway, Switzerland, Russia and other nations.

Jivamukti yoga’s core philosophy centers on a “nonviolent, compassionate lifestyle,” “acknowledgement that God/self-realization is the goal of all yoga practices,” meditation, “the development of a sound body and mind through deep listening,” and the studies of ancient teachings, such as Sanskrit chanting, according to Gannon’s website.

One piece of Jivamukti’s core philosophy derives from the Sanskrit word “asana.” Jivamukti defines this as a relationship to the Earth.

“That ethical foundation . . . of doing as little harm as we can,” Bethel said. “That foundation has expanded to concern for animal rights and finding its expression here in the vegan cookbook that Sharon has written.”

Thirteen students practiced Jivamukti yoga during Tuesday’s open class. Bethel led the group – which ranged from first-time practicers to more advanced students – in chants, breathing exercises and poses for an hour and 45 minutes.

Beginners to advanced practitioners are welcome to practice at Bethel Farm. “There’s a place for anybody in this Jivamukti method,” Bethel said.

As encouragement, Bethel Farm is offering free classes to residents of a specific town, a first-time offer. “This month is Hillsboro month. . . . In succeeding months, we’re going to target other towns,” Bethel said. “Our intention is to be well integrated with the community. . . . That’s the inspiration behind these free months.”

(Susan Doucet can be reached at 369-3309, or on Twitter @susan_doucet.)

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