YS a bright star on yoga map
- Published: April 25, 2012
You’ll see them downtown in Yellow Springs this weekend, people who walk a bit more gracefully, stand more erect and breathe more deeply than the rest of us. Some will sport a radiant smile and a rolled up yoga mat under their arm.About 100 yoga practitioners from all over the country and other countries as well are descending on the village to study yoga with Judith Lasater, a California-based and internationally-known yoga teacher.
“We usually have a sort of contest in Judith’s workshop to see who came the farthest,” said Patricia Schneider, who with Andrew Junker is sponsoring the local workshop. “This year’s winner will probably be the woman from Indonesia.”
The event, at the Bryan Center gym, begins on Saturday, April 28 and continues through May 2.
Lasater, described on Wikepedia as “one of the nation’s finest yoga teachers,” has been coming to the village to give workshops since 1986.
“She keeps coming back because we are friends and she loves us,” Schneider, who with Junker was last week still living on their boat in the Virgin Islands before returning to Yellow Springs for six months, wrote in an e-mail. “She loves Yellow Springs. She loves the Midwest. She loves the students.”
Many of Lasater’s students have been coming to the Yellow Springs workshop for 10 to 20 years, Schneider said, “and it’s a little bit like a reunion.”
One of those longtime students is villager Mary Donahoe, who’s been attending the Lasater workshop for about 10 years. She appreciates that Lasater, a physical therapist as well as a yoga teacher, “has incredible knowledge of the body and how it works,” Donahoe said.
Lasater, a yoga teacher since 1971, is known as one of the first teachers to bring to this country the style of B.K.S. Iyengar, with whom she studied in India. Iyengar is a form of Hatha yoga that makes use of props such as belts, blankets and foam blocks so that people can precisely execute the postures, or asanas, thereby reaping more benefits for the body and avoiding injuries. Iyengar yoga is known “for its great attention to detail and body alignment,” according to Wikipedia.
Lasater is also one of the first teachers to popularize restorative yoga, a style that emphasizes calming postures.
“She understands the stress of the world and works to help us find moments of healing,” Donahoe said.
Lasater first came to Yellow Springs in 1986 when Schneider invited her here to teach a workshop. Schneider and Junker, who at that time were both new yoga teachers and newly a couple, found in Lasater a warm friend as well as a teacher, Schneider said, and Lasater’s trips to Yellow Springs soon became annual.
“The Midwest in the 1980s was so hungry for a solid, intelligent yoga teacher that we all took to her teaching like sponges, soaking it in,” Schneider wrote.
Junker had moved to Yellow Springs in 1979, and ran the human factors engineering program at Wright State. Schneider came as a single mother in 1980 with two young daughters, because she wanted her daughters “to grow up in a community that supported and encouraged diversity, creativity and safety.” A nurse in an addictions unit, Schneider found that her work sparked in her “the beginning of a deep longing and spiritual awakening,” she wrote, and panic attacks later led her to a stress management program that suggested she try yoga. She did, shortly finding an influential teacher in villager Patricia Wing. Several years later, when Wing moved to California, she passed her local students on to Schneider, who had begun teaching. At about that time Schneider began showing up at the Rockford Chapel yoga classes taught by Junker, and the friendship and shared passion for yoga and spiritual journeys led to a relationship that has lasted 25 years.
As well as Lasater, Schneider worked up the courage to invite other well-known teachers to the village, and found that most of them came, and kept coming. The couple met Angela Farmer and Victor Van Kooten at a Florida workshop, and the two older teachers, who live in Greece, began traveling regularly to Yellow Springs as well. And more recently, they have brought Erich Schiffman to town. This year, besides Lasater, Schiffman and yoga icon Lilias Folan will hold workshops in the village.
“We are definitely a bright and shiny star on the yoga map,” Schneider said.