Jason Varney, owner of Portsmouth Yoga Shala, has been teaching yoga on the Seacoast for more than 10 years and recently opened his studio at 909 Islington St.Ioanna Raptis photo
PORTSMOUTH — At Portsmouth Yoga Shala, you will use the Ujjayi breathing style and technique. You will begin by heating your body with a system of postures. You will find precise gazing points. Upward Dog and Downward Dog are here within a series of Sun Salutations. You will end with the resting pose — savasana. You will experience all of those things and more, but most importantly, you’ll learn why.
Owner and instructor Jason Varney said, through breath, body and movement, you will become less stressed, more centered and just feel (and look) better.
Portsmouth Yoga Shala
Owner: Jason Varney
Address: 909 Islington St., Portsmouth
Events: Ashtanga yoga demo and Buddhi Boutique trunk show, 7-9 p.m., Friday, Dec. 9; attendees get 50% off a 10-class card.
Varney has taught at local yoga studios such as Zev Yoga and Yoga East and studied with many masters, including Guruji, Sharath and Saraswati at the K. Pattabhi Jois Ashtanga Yoga Institute in Mysore, India, and Nancy Gilgoff in Maui. But it’s here in Portsmouth that he decided to finally open his shala, which means “house” in Sanskrit, in September. It’s a bright, open space with plenty of room for practice.
“It came out of a transition in my life. I went to a cabin in Eliot (Maine) for a year without any teaching and went into my own practice, and what came out of that was a different aspect and attitude. I was told that after 10 years of practice, you either give it up or stay with it, and I was contemplating that. I decided to stay with it and take it to this level.”
Ten years ago, yoga studios were much less prevalent here, but Varney said more studios means more people will make yoga a part of their lifestyle.
“In high school, I loved sports but not the competition, and I got away from sports and went on a journey. Yoga came along and it was exactly what I was looking for. I took a class with Jonas and it was Ashtanga yoga. I fell in love with it. Since taking that year off, I feel like it’s all in alignment now. Opening a business has definitely pushed my buttons, and now I have a lot more responsibility. I know there are many yoga studios now, but the more yoga, the better. This is powerful stuff.”
Ashtanga combines the Ujjayi breathing technique with a precise sequence of poses, and Varney provides hands-on instruction during each class, encouraging interruptions for questions on technique and even the reasons behind each pose and element of the practice. This “honing” of the practice helps another important part of his teaching — his weekday morning Mysore classes, during which yogis can come in at any time from 6 to 8:30 a.m. and practice on their own, with help and guidance from Varney.
“You can come into the Mysore practice no matter what your experience. You can just start at just a part of the series, and I’m there to help you build on that. A lot of my vision is to educate people to know this stuff, to explain it. It’s such a powerful way to do the practice. Taking time will bring so much. When you do the practice, you look at yourself. Even someone who comes in for just the workout aspect of it, they’ll come back for the deeper aspect. You’re seeing the fluctuations of the mind at a cellular level. That’s what we’re learning on our mats. We can bring ourselves out of our pain body. We get into situations that aren’t comfortable, but you just breathe through it.”
Varney also leads a class in therapeutic yoga.
“Yoga is meant to be a healing practice. I worry that people are getting hurt because they are not taught correctly. My teacher, Nancy, said we don’t do yoga to create sensation, we’re there to release it, and that’s what I try to help people do in that class. The postures aren’t goal oriented; you’re just trying to be present.”
Varney hopes to bring his practice and teaching to corporations and schools to help increase health, wellness and well-being. And, he says, yoga is for everyone.
“If you can breathe, you can practice yoga.”