“There was a huge amount of fear in the beginning,” Diana Charles admitted. “It took a lot of mental attitude. At first, it was a monumental thing just to stand at the ropes. And now, everything has changed.”
For the past two-and-a-half years, Charles — who has multiple sclerosis — has been doing one-on-one training sessions at RussaYog, an area yoga studio that adds ropes to the traditional practice. When she sought out the services of RussaYog those two-plus years ago, Charles said that she had tried yoga before, but that she always “had to improvise” the postures. The rope-based yoga, though, she said — which she started doing in 15-minute increments and now does in hour-long sessions — works wonders both physically and emotionally.
In addition to helping her better move around her kitchen, stand in her shower, and strengthen her core muscles, RussaYog, Charles explained, leaves her “ready to face the day.”
“Chardi kala. That’s my favorite word,” Charles said of the Punjabi saying. It means “unbound optimism.”
Started in Santa Barbara by husband and wife Jasprit and Teresa Singh nearly four years ago, RussaYog Yoga Studio — which was once located on the Mesa but is now at 1213 State Street, Suite L — offers students a strength-intensive practice based on working against gravity. Ropes (russa means “rope” in Punjabi) are securely tied to overhead beams, and students then push forward against the ropes, pull backward with them, or use them to lift their bodies off of the ground.
“It combines the best elements of both yoga and weight training,” said Teresa, who has been Charles’s trainer from the beginning and can attest to the exercise’s ability to transform a person’s body and mind. “It’s good for all ages and body types, for men and women.”
That was the intent, Jasprit said. “I wanted to bring a style that people could do together, without hierarchy. It’s a more democratic style of yoga.”
As a child growing up in India, Jasprit was an experienced yogi from a young age. And when he got older, he said, he wanted to make a practice of his own. RussaYog was born. The Singhs maintain another RussaYog studio in Ann Arbor, Michigan — where Jasprit teaches electrical engineering and computer science at the University of Michigan — but he said that the effect of the exercise is the same there as it is here. “People love how it feels,” Jasprit said. “They can come from a very intense day, and then [by the end of class] everything has melted away.”
Steve Charles, Diana’s husband, has been a thrice-a-week RussaYog regular for the past two years, having started taking the classes after his wife. Praising “the kindness” of Jasprit and Teresa, Steve said that he used to lift weights but that he much prefers the rope-based yoga. “It’s a total mind-body workout,” he said. “It allows me to get away from all the negativity in the world.”
That’s what RussaYog is all about, Teresa explained, saying that she, as an instructor, loves “allowing people to have the space to breathe and be mindful about their movements and to develop tools to deal with challenges.”
Student Ann Barba loves it so much that she makes the trek from her home in Oxnard twice a week. “It’s something for everybody,” she said. “They need to come experience it for themselves.”
For more information, visit russayog.com.