Dawson City – get ready for yoga with Sabu Chaitanya. He’s on his way to instruct a full one-month intensive in the Klondike.
The course begins June 6 and concludes on July 1 and it’s called an “intensive” for a reason. It’s a comprehensive, rigorous course requiring participation five days a week, in sessions held in the early mornings or evenings. Students learn and practise increasingly diverse and challenging yoga poses (asanas), and breathing techniques (pranayama), as well as the philosophy and psychology behind it all.
“One month is the basic teaching,” says Chaitanya. “It’s challenging, but always worthy.”
Originally from Kerala in India, Chaitanya has been teaching Hatha yoga for almost 30 years, initially with the Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Organization in India and internationally, and later as an independent instructor, operating as Shanti Yoga. He’s taught intensives in Whitehorse since 2007 and in Dawson since 2008. While the courses in Whitehorse have tended to be three or four weeks, those in Dawson City have been shorter. This will be the first full-month class.
“Normally, one month makes people feel much more satisfied. It’s a very big commitment for people, but when they finish, [their practice] is very much established,” Chaitanya says. “One month in the year is significant.”
The benefits of regular yoga practice are wide-ranging and widely touted. Chaitanya and his continuing students speak of feeling purposeful, positive, healthy, and energized.
This becomes increasingly clear as students work their way through the four-week course, making noticeable progress and beginning to achieve some of the more difficult poses, such as the headstand, handstand, scorpion and peacock.
“In every pose there is a lot of variation. It never ends,” says Chaitanya.
“Each day, we can choose more variations and we are always improving.”
He reassures people that flexibility is not a prerequisite, saying it takes many years to become and stay flexible: it is “eternal homework.”
“Generally people are not flexible, and so for someone who could not do the wheel (backward bend), achieving the wheel pose is a real accomplishment,” he says.
A core group of devotees have attended most, if not all, of the short intensives Chaitanya has held in the Klondike.
Long-time resident John Steins’ first-ever yoga experience was with Chaitanya.
“It was fantastic,” Steins says. “It really is the perfect exercise. I feel enormously lucky that we have that guy here.”
Local yoga instructor Anna Claxton notes how the combination of sustained daily practice plus the confidence Chaitanya has in his students can help them accomplish poses they assumed were out of reach.
Chaitanya is also known for his culinary skills; he enjoys of preparing a feast to share with students. It’s typically a vegetarian buffet, specializing in dishes from his homeland in southern India.
“We’re all fond of Sabu; it’s like he is part of the family,” says Dawson resident Monina Wittfoth.
Kerala, India, is a long way from Yukon, Canada and it was a chance meeting in the Bahamas that inspired him to venture north. While Chaitanya was instructing at a yoga centre in Nassau, one student originated from the Yukon and encouraged him to teach a course in the north.
He said he had no idea where the Yukon was.
“I said: ‘Is it the place where the sun sets very late?’” Chaitanya says. “She said, ‘Yes, that is the place.’”
It seems fitting then, that Chaitanya will be instructing yoga in Dawson for summer solstice – a day coincidentally recognized as International Yoga Day.
The Yoga With Sabu Intensive will run from Monday, June 6, until Friday, July 1.
Classes will be held at the Robert Service School Ancillary Room from Monday to Friday at 6:15 a.m. to 7:45 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m.
All levels are welcome. Registration is required.
For more information or to register go to www.SabuYoga.com.