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JIVA YOGA BLUFFTON’S SUNDAY COMMUNITY YOGA CLASSES GIVE BACK.

With the press of a button the music begins: the soothing, multi-layered instrumental mix of hammered dulcimer and pan flute that has served as the soundtrack to yoga classes for decades.

Rachel Carlson sits at the front of the class at Jiva Yoga, facing a group of nine students, and leads them all in a quick pre-lesson “ohm.” The collective voice of the students and their teacher reverberates off the studio walls, a rich major chord of thirds and fifths.

Then the class begins, and all the soothing music and spiritual breaths in the world can’t fight the fact that you are working up a sweat and bending in ways you didn’t realize your body was capable. For some students, the Sunday class marked their first yoga experience. For others, it’s become a treasured tradition.

“This is when I can really get away,” said student Jennifer Yeager. “I’m a very type A person and this settles me a lot while I’m still getting a workout. It stretches, it makes me feel better … it just makes you feel good.”

Yoga3The true beauty of the Sunday community yoga classes at Bluffton’s Jiva Yoga Center is threefold: first, all are equally welcomed, regardless of experience. Second, these classes are free to the public.

Third, and perhaps most important, donations are welcome for a rotating roster of worthy recipients. These past few months have seen Jiva Yoga’s Sunday classes raising money for May River Montessori, Lowcountry Legal Volunteers, Palmetto Animal League and local firefighters.

“It’s a great way to bring focus to causes people don’t know about,” said Jiva Yoga owner Jean Rioux.

The Sunday community yoga classes evolved from the Bluffton studio’s unique idea to help give incoming teachers training time before they begin leading paying classes.

“I’ve been certified in yoga. I’m not new to yoga and I’m not new to teaching, but I’m new to teaching yoga,” Carlson said.

In a previous life (metaphorically, not metaphysically), Carlson taught seventh-grade math. The main difference between the two experiences, she said with a laugh, is that the yoga students tend to listen more.

Indeed, Carlson leads the class with practiced grace, guiding transitions from downward dog to warrior II, encouraging proper breathing and illustrating how to hold your spine during tree pose. As her students learn, Carlson learns to teach.

“There are five new teachers rotating through these Sunday classes,” Rioux said. “It’s a chance for them to work on their teaching skills and create community with their teaching.”

Yoga4In addition to Carlson, other instructors at Sunday community yoga classes include Anne Caywood, Mary Kerdasha, Rosemary Clark and Kristy Abney.

“This group has been really special,” Rioux said. “They’ve been so motivated. They really organized it and promoted it, so they’ve gotten a lot more return and participation than ever.”

Sunday community yoga classes are held at 4 p.m. at Jiva Yoga’s Bluffton studio, 3 Godfried Place. To learn more, go to jivayogacenter.com.