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We’re bringing back the People of People’s Yoga feature in which we do short interviews
with those who regularly find their way onto their mats at our Studios.
Follow along to learn more about our extended community of yogis!
First up is Kevin LaChapelle, a regular at the SE Studio as well as a LKLaChapelleMT who practices
out of one of the massage rooms in the new SE space.

How long have you been practicing?
I have been practicing yoga since Winter Solstice 2012.
I visited the People’s Yoga on a 10-day pass during a 10-day winter
cleanse. I guess I enjoyed TPY so much that I became a membah!
I enjoy all the instructors and find TPY to be warm, inviting,
and accepting.

What brings you back to your mat day after day?
An Accident – knowing that we are never assured of the next
moment or the next breath.
An Idea – that we give ourselves a gift each time we snuggle
up onto our mat and make the effort to be fully present.
An Article – about the venerable Gao Fu.

What’s your favorite thing about the People’s Yoga?
I am inspired by and grateful for the other practitioners at TPY for making me smile, laugh,
and for sharing in the experience of “eating bitter” from time to time. I am quite grateful
for all the instruction and care that I have received. TPY is wicked awesome!

What are you up to off your mat?
Yoga helps keep me limbah and flexible for my co-ed softball team, indoor/outdoor basketball,
hiking, and cycling. I have been a practicing Licensed Massage Therapist in Portland since 2007,
working both with acute/chronic injuries and simply for relaxation. I love yoga, massage therapy,
and smelling summer roses after they have been perched under the sun for hours.

I walked into my first yoga class in an inner-city YWCA about a year and a half ago. The instructor sprinted in two minutes after 6AM, breathless from the spinning class she’d just taught. Her voice had the harsh twang of a hopeful Liz Phair impersonator as she intoned, “Circle sweeping the arms up; swan diving down.” Up, down, up, down, and then we’d get to the push-ups. 55 minutes of something resembling sun salutations, then we’d spend the last five minutes of class laying “in our safe happy place” while she ran out to unlock the cycling studio again.
After about three classes of that, we had our first sub. She made us connect each movement of that mad caper to a breath—inhale up, exhale down. Like the difference between being hooked on phonics and real reading, the jerky motions acquired a cadence as they came into focus on the movement of the breath. My curiosity was piqued: with approximately 30 years experience holding my breath in stressful situations, I wondered what would happen if I cultivated the habit of breathing. And so I kept showing up, day after day, 5-6 days a week.

I first showed up at a yoga class because it was a cheap, conveniently located antidote to grueling Minnesota winters and sedentary 60-hour work weeks. My expectations were pretty low: do something that didn’t involve those treadmills under the blaring TVs, but didn’t exceed the boundaries of my Y membership, so handily subsidized by my health insurance at the time.
A motley assortment of seniors, a few dudes in baggy jeans, and the occasional marathoner visiting for a quick stretch, it was the perfect group for me. After we’d rushed through our day’s sequence, we bowed to the mirrors, the teacher in front of them, and the impatient crowd queuing up at the door for 7AM Zumba class. Everyone would intone the requisite “namaste”–except for me.
Raised in Eugene, I was skeptical of anything that smacked of the loose new age-Eastern-self-help-feelgood spirituality that was proclaimed from bumper stickers and dangling prayer flags. I’m one of those people who actually reads things before I sign them and I couldn’t bring myself to recite a word I only understood another slogan. And so I’d incline my head, silent but full of a wordless gratitude.

I didn’t expect that my yoga habit would follow me when I moved to Portland, especially when I discovered that the only place I could afford on my meager freelancer’s budget would be a 5-mile bike ride away. Perhaps it was my favourite spot under the sky light, perhaps the lovely teachers, but once I found it, I kept making that trek across town to People’s.

It’s too soon to tell what sort of a difference yoga makes in my life, or at least to make a statement that sounds impressive. For me, it’s the small things: Slowly I’ve been working on the habit of breathing, in, out, up, down. Some days, I’m completely bowled over by trying to stand on all four quadrants of each foot. A new angle of a hip reveals some nuance of posture that engrosses my attention for a week, on and off my mat. This week it’s been my index fingers: those slightly stumpy digits can change the sensations of a pose all the way back to somewhere around the waistline. I hold out hope that some day my elbows will get with the program, or at least give me a few hints about their program might be.

And yes, I did eventually come round—if you end up practicing next to me, I’ll be saying namaste along with the rest of the group. There wasn’t a grand conversion moment, just one day at the end of class, Suniti offered one of her simple glosses of the term. Oh, that? That’s one of the things I believe. Check.

The People’s community is a great group of people. Where else can I find a sympathetic group of mostly strangers to laugh along with me as I fall flat on my face, or otherwise teeter about? As a confirmed perfectionist, that’s the sort of thing that nightmares are made of, but, regardless of the class, this group makes it pleasant.

When not at the studio, I keep myself occupied by biking all about and doing a range of things for love and money. I’ve worked in fair trade coffee for nearly a decade, most recently doing freelance communications, copy writing, etc. Between 8 and 5, you can find me at Equal Exchange, one of the pioneers of the fair trade movement, working on making international trade more fair, transparent, and equitable for everyone involved.
When not at work, I put words together for fun and money. On the side, I generally comport myself like a granny: gardening, preserving things, sewing, and knitting in public places.

I first came in to People’s on Alberta in 2008. I think it had opened not long before that. I had been to a bunch of other studios (mostly on “intro special” deals …still have never been to a $12+ class!) and rec center/community college classes, but was on the verge of being convinced that, despite feeling the benefits of the practice, this was really…not my scene. People’s changed that, by representing accessibility, DIY attitude, diverse community, a sense of humor. When the studio moved and started offering scholarships I was so excited. Getting a scholarship to help maintain a steady yoga practice was like having a little bit of health insurance, for real, because having this available meant making healthier choices and taking better care of myself. As classes started getting bigger I started seeing folks from the studio around town or friends from elsewhere in class (a shout out to all the secret punk rock yogis!). More recently my mom even started coming to classes with me. The scholarship got me thinking of how to give back and I started doing various sorts of work trade…painting, flyering, and mostly cleaning. It was so nice to know that those times when I especially couldn’t afford yoga classes (which often happened to be when I needed them most) I never had to go without.

I think I’m slowly learning to name the differences the yoga practice has made in my life. There are big life changes coincide almost exactly with beginning this practice that I did not immediately believe were related. Around that time I quit smoking, stopped having panic attacks. There are probably connections I still haven’t made. I’ve become a little more bold, a little less cynical, and less of an introvert. Even my friends and family have noticed I seemed more comfortable in my own skin. And I’m still working on this one but, I used to deal with hard times by running away whenever possible. I’d convince myself I wouldn’t have problems with depression if I didn’t live under such gray skies all year, so I could probably fix it by taking off for Mexico til winter was long gone. I traveled a bunch and turns out people are feeling a bit doomy and desperate about the state of the world pretty much everywhere. Being conscious of so much suffering is hard to deal with, but how do you begin to change anything without facing it for what it is, even when it’s super fucked up. I think this is true for both personal/internal and social/global struggles. So this piece about learning to sit with what troubles you is a pretty relevant teaching when you have grown up being taught to pretend everything’s okay, or to look for a quick fix.

Outside of my time as the studio, I work at a day center in Old Town for folks who are mostly house-less or in need of some basic needs sort of stuff or other help finding resources. I also work on-call in an emergency shelter for survivors of domestic violence. I’m going on tour this summer with some friends in a Portland punk band…I’ve been sort of their go-to roadie for years and this time we’re going back to Mexico City! It’s been pretty much the only sort of traveling I’ve done lately since I went and became a student again…and I’m starting nursing school in the fall. I recently got back in to making art after years of having no real such outlet…this happened by accident, started by being gifted a bunch of materials and getting friends together to crank out protest art, props and banners for political street actions and demonstrations. I’ve been genuinely excited over the last year or two about what seems like a big shift in the local/global social climate, getting a sense that some sort of real change could be on the horizon and may be inevitable. I’m equally excited for what looks like it might be a real summer in Portland with a healthy dose of cold river swimming.

 

Jeevan has been a member of the TPY community for two years. She spent the vast majority of that time helping us through cleaning trade for yoga.

“I love the philosophical aspect of yoga that I’m able to gain so much from each class and everything is so symbolic. These things that I learn about my body help me with other aspects of my life. Learning to move in my body helps me to learn to move in my mind. Yoga is really grounding for me and brings me back into myself and that benefits everything!”

Jeevan is also a talented musician and if she isn’t at The People’s Yoga she’s probably working on various creative projects. Recently she’s collaborating with Seth Neefus (Red Clouds Collective) on a folk music project called Old Friend. Jeevan and Seth will be playing at Valentine’s on April 24th with Alina Hardin and Ryan Francesconi!

Myspace.com/jeevansingh