Behind the craze for yoga, the maquis of training and the precarious daily life of teachers

Tibetan prayer flags have appeared along the Saint-Martin canal. This territory of barely five kilometers long, in the very center of Paris, concentrates the very latest trends: trendy boutiques, cocktail bars and, since 2020, a center of 420 square meters dedicated to jivamukti yoga.

Developed in the 1980s in New York by two animal rights defenders, this discipline combines physical exercises and philosophical teaching, and attracts young people wishing to reconnect with a form of spirituality.

At the end of February, around thirty students attended the course given by Ian Szydlowksi-Alvarez, a teacher of Chilean origin, who passed through Berlin, Munich or Barcelona, ​​before heading to Paris: “I started yoga in 1988. At the time, there weren’t really any schools, it was a marginal discipline, which my mother, who was a hippie, introduced me to. Today, it explodes: I worked in a studio in New York where we welcomed 500 people every day. » At the beginning of the lesson, the teacher vibrates his harmonium and invites the class to sing, after him, words in ancient Sanskrit. “These are verses taken from Yoga-sutras of Patanjali, a collection of aphorisms. Jivamukti is a physical, ethical and spiritual practice”he specifies, before moving on to a series of rather sporty postures.

“Each class includes chanting, meditation, breathing and recitation of ancient texts”, explains Sonia Gabriel. The 30-year-old immersed herself in yoga more than ten years ago, after the death of her father. In 2019, she resigned from her post as professor of economics at the University of Beirut to open the Jivamukti studio in Paris, which receives nearly 5,000 people each month – mostly women, young, often highly educated, and eager to deepen their passion.

“Reconnect with your humanity”

While the practice of yoga has more than tripled over the past ten years, from three million to more than ten million practitioners in France, according to a survey conducted by the National Union of Yoga Professionals (SNPY), more and more yogis enroll in professional training.

“I have been practicing yoga since I was a teenager. I discovered jivamukti a few years ago, in Amsterdam, thanks to a friend I met in Bali. It’s more than just a sport.”, testifies Francesca Dunne, 36 years old. This former communications officer left her post at L’Oréal in 2022 to become a yoga teacher.

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