If yoga is hot, Jivamukti is cool, and Moksha, the once-a-month Friday night event at Sage Yoga in downtown Toronto, is the coolest. How could it be otherwise with a ravishing young instructor and a live DJ spinning wicked tunes in a darkened room seductively lit by strings of twinkling lights?
Purists may scoff at the very idea of a DJ yoga party, but when you're down on the mat, the magic of Moksha is undeniable. Yes, Jivamukti pumps up the volume, but it also emphasizes the deeper tenets of yoga philosophy -- all classes begin with a short Sanskrit lesson and some chanting followed by a disquisition (some would say diatribe) by the instructor. Each month, the practice is devoted to a different theme; in April, it focuses on Kriya, a Sanskrit word that encompasses discipline, study and devotion.
The Jivamukti "brand" of yoga was born in New York, the offspring of performance artists-turned-yogis David Life and Sharon Gannon. Supermodel Christy Turlington is just one of the celebrity regulars at the pair's shoulder-to-shoulder studio; Sting wrote the foreword to their book. If a 5,000-year-old discipline can be called trendy, then Jivamukti is it.
The style is vigorous and challenging; poses flow one into another connected by the breath, much like Ashtanga. Music is conscripted to inspire and propel the linked postures. "It's almost as though the music itself becomes a teacher," says Sage co-owner and Moksha mistress of ceremonies, YuMee Chung. "Music has the ability to open us up in a way that nothing else does. It goes beyond the verbal and taps right into the emotional."
DJ Richard Martin (a.k.a. medicineman) serves up his groove on Sage's superb surround-sound system. His trippy selections of electro tunes merge and overlap in ever more penetrating waves as the two-hour class unfolds. With a medicineman soundtrack, Savasana (the "corpse pose" or final relaxation) is unlike any other; one month, Pink Floyd-like soundscapes succumb to sonorous Asian flutes, another month, it sounds like a helicopter is landing on the roof -- images flood the quieted mind.
"I take people along on my musical journey, so there is a sharing of energy," says Martin, who hosts No Man's Land on local station CIUT-FM.
"The yoga gig gets the oddest reaction when I tell people about it," he admits. "But that's mostly because people have preconceived notions about what yoga is. I see Moksha as a conduit for bringing together the social, political and spiritual aspects of our lives -- it's a chance to embrace the beauty of music with movement."
Moksha is certainly social. As word of the event has spread, people have started showing up in groups, friends getting together for a fun Friday night of music and yoga. The concept has caught on to the point where advance tickets are now advised because the affair sometimes sells out. (Moksha the event is not to be confused with Moksha, the new yoga hybrid, currently being phased in at several former Bikram studios across the country.)
With its 14-foot ceilings, gorgeous arched windows and pale blue colour scheme, Sage is an ideal venue in which to pursue Moksha's stated goal of liberation.
"You don't have to die to go to heaven," Chung says.
"You can be a blissed-out soul right here and now. We practise Jivamukti with an elevated intention, we're not just going through the movements like it's a calisthenics class; every movement, every breath is designed to move us closer to liberation."
Special to The Globe and Mail
The next Moksha party is scheduled for Friday, April 23, 8 p.m. at Sage Yoga in Toronto, 416-530-0039. .