Trying to stand out in island’s yoga scene
Sally Ker admits to being a little strict, as yoga teachers go.
If she needs a piece of equipment while teaching, her students better make it snappy with their help.
And she tries not to let students at The Club Yoga Centre in Paget get away with sitting out an activity because they think it’s too hard.
“We say just come and try this much,” said the 76-year-old.
But if she’s firm, it’s because she’s determined to help her students improve and learn.
Always an athletic person who ran and played tennis in her younger days, she first discovered Iyengar yoga while living in Canada in the 1970s. She took classes and then taught for 20 years.
Then in the late 1990s, her children were grown so she decided it was time to move home.
“People said ‘why are you going?’” she said. “I said because it is my home, and not only that I need to go home and take Iyengar yoga with me.”
But when she and her husband, David, arrived in Bermuda in 1997, yoga hadn’t quite caught on yet.
“There was less yoga going on, but there was some knowledge among the general population about yoga in general,” she said.
While some organisations like the Bermuda College, were happy to offer space for her classes, a few churches wouldn’t rent to yoga teachers, believing yoga conflicted with Christianity.
There were other yoga teachers on the island, such as Frances Marshall, but Ms Ker was the first to teach Iyengar yoga.
Iyengar yoga, founded by Bellur K S Iyengar in Pune, India in the 1930s, is a method known for its use of props as aids in performing asanas (postures). It emphasises the development of strength, stamina, flexibility and balance, as well as concentration and meditation.
Ms Ker said the yoga scene in Bermuda has changed a great deal in the last 22 years. For a start, no one is nervous about renting space to yoga teachers.
“Yoga has become extremely popular,” she said. “As I tried to make Iyengar grow, there were other people trying to make other types of yoga grow. Now there is a yoga studio on every corner.”
But that presents a challenge for the veteran yoga teacher.
“If everyone is selling the same product then you have to talk real loud about yours,” she said.
And that can be hard in a discipline that prides itself on humility.
To cope with the competition, Ms Ker is offering free classes to top Bermudian companies and long-term employees, sponsoring guest teachers from overseas to teach weekend workshops, and maintaining a social media presence. She also provides discounted introductory classes for new students.
“My biggest challenge is getting more people to attend class so they learn and get this appreciation of yoga being a subject,” she said. “Yoga is a science and art with a philosophical base. There are a lot of yoga students for the size of the island, but not a lot of yoga practitioners.”
She defines yoga practitioners as people who take it seriously and practice at home.
“Yoga is learnt in the classroom from the teacher to you, and then you learn on your own, trying to do it by yourself,” she said. “It takes a pretty keen interest.”
Ms Ker said sometimes students come to her with baggage.
“They say I have read about yoga; I know what it is,” she said. “If you know what it is, I don’t know why you’re coming to me. Then they run into this confrontation, I thought I was going to do yoga and this isn’t yoga. Iyengar said you have to sweat, physically and mentally, to progress yourself on all the levels you are.”
Classes at The Club Yoga Centre at Fritholme Gardens, behind the Elbow Beach Hotel, are generally small. Seven to ten students are typical. Most students are 30 years old or older.
“I have one student who is 90,” Ms Ker said. “There are not a lot of really young clients. The younger people are very busy at their work and there is pressure. That is why they need to come in the first place. There are a lot of stresses going on for the younger population. For people who are a bit older, perhaps they have moved up the ladder and can take the time to go to evening classes.”
Currently, she has a yoga teacher working with her from Long Island, New York, Ann McDermott-Kave, who is here until December.
“Iyengar’s method is more than physical exercise,” Ms McDermott-Kaye said. “It is really an integration of what you do with your body, how you incorporate the breath and integrate the mind. It is a whole self approach.”
For more information call 236-5691, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or see tinyurl.com/yfokrk56
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