Some devotees call her the rock star of the yoga world. Yoga pioneer Shiva Rea came to the Joyful Warrior Yoga studio in Fair Oaks on Sunday to launch a two-day workshop titled “Igniting The Inner Fire.”
Rea, who grew up surfing at Southern California beaches and learned yoga at 15, is credited with helping bring Vinyasa – or flow yoga – to thousands of practitioners worldwide.
“She’s like the Dalai Lama or Joan of Arc of the yoga community,” said Holly Baade, owner of Joyful Warrior, which is devoting her studio to Rea’s style of Prana Vinyasa (breath-flow yoga). “She’s bringing it back to its sacred origins, a union of mind, body and spirit.”
Rea, now 47 and living in Malibu, calls herself “a movement anthropologist.” She said she first learned yoga from a book and then studied under a teacher from the Himalayan Institute. She did volunteer work in Kenya before teaching yoga around the world, blending traditional yoga poses with dance. “Prana Vinyasa is based on the pulse of life,” Rea explained. “Every cell in your body is pulsing, and the goal is to connect movement and breath.”
The capability of doing yoga is already in everyone ready to be tapped, Rea said. “Don’t feel that you have to be flexible or that it’s hard or difficult to meditate. Everyone is born doing yoga in the womb.”
Inside the studio, Rea told 32 students who unfurled their yoga mats to “go through your body to the sacred place inside you – our body is the soil.”
After chanting to ancient music, she has her students do chataranga (plank pose) “to offer your strength to the earth.” Rea then encouraged the class to inhale and “feel the tide pulling you.” She asked the class to envision “something you want to see changed in the world – everyone of us has our own small, medium or large way we’re engaged in something we care about.”
Some yoga traditionalists criticize Rea, who has instructed the pop singer Madonna, for what they call her trance-like music and free-form movements. But that blend appeals to Sean O’Brian, 29, who called Rea’s style “a nice blend of dance and yoga.”
Kelley Doyle, a yoga instructor from Bishop, described Rea as “the pioneer of Vinyasa, maybe the first person who ever raised a leg in a yoga studio.”
“When she first began her energetic Vinyasa,” Doyle continued, “she was very criticized, but I was inspired by her courageous yoga movements.”
Most of yoga, which originated more than 4,000 years ago in India, builds on 108 sacred postures, Doyle said. Rea builds on those, combining breath and fluid movements that “connect you to the rhythm of your breath and the pulse of your heart,” Doyle said. “She has hundreds of thousands of followers.”
Patsy Keehan, a student at Sierra College, said she’s followed Rea on YouTube for five years and was excited to finally take a live class. “I like the way she goes slow,” Keehan said. “She’s fun, she dances and gets your fire burning – she’s full of life.”
On Monday Rea offered “Tending The Fire: Chakra Vinyasa,” designed to awaken one’s “inner fire” through rhythm, meditation and mantra.
Call The Bee’s Stephen Magagnini, (916) 321-1072. Pete Baosfin contributed.