On the corner of Division and Goodrich sits a ground-level studio wrapped within a panel of windows through which sunlight penetrates, creating a hazy glow amongst the wooden floors and white walls of the interior. This is the Iyengar Yoga Studio, owned by Jennifer Beaumont, who in 2005/2006 was the first person in Grand Rapids certified in the Iyengar yoga method. The studio itself opened its current location in January of 2016, after launching in 2014.
Iyengar yoga is distinct from other practices in that each pose is an attempt to focus on the synchronization of the body and the mind.
“We replace the thought waves with a focused intention to do something with the physical body,” Beaumont said. “So those physical points help us gradually train our mind to learn to focus and concentrate, evolving us toward a state of being able to meditate and have a flow of concentration which can help still the mind.”
Beaumont has been teaching Iyengar yoga in the Grand Rapids area for over a decade and her studio remains the only location in West Michigan where Iyengar yoga is exclusively taught. All of the studio’s instructors are certified in this method as well.
Beaumont continuously strives to preserve the integrity of this method, heavily disciplined by her teacher Manouso Manos. Manos closely practiced with B.K.S. Iyengar, a lineage holder of this method. After partaking in a workshop of Manos’, Beaumont immediately asked to study with him, drawn to the insightful experience he was able to provide after only one class.
Fifteen years later, their relationship continues to cultivate a space for growth, and Beaumont takes what she’s learned and implements the same values into her own students. She said Manos had recently given her a pose to practice, which took her 13 months to be able to do. She finally achieved the pose this past August.
“Because he understands me and he understands my challenges, he understood that that pose was the pose I needed to do to help me with a back injury that I’ve had,” Beaumont said.
After studying Iyengar yoga at the University of Michigan, Beaumont taught yoga in San Francisco, California for a year, where she was able to study with Manos. Afterwards, she moved back to Grand Rapids and initially began teaching classes at area studios, before joining Yoga On the Hill, a studio previously located next to Martha’s Vineyard.
In all of her teachings, she emphasizes practice — not the sole act of repetition to improve skill, but to additionally unveil the truth in what we have been taught.
“Yoga is the stilling of the fluctuations of the mind,” she said. “Every individual carries a phantom of worries attached to the identity of the life they wish they had or that they try to maintain.
“For example, I’m a mother, I’m a student—whatever it is— and these things stress us out at times when we are grasping toward some place we want to go or something we want to get.”
Beaumont explained that by using the physical body in an effort to mimic various poses in yoga, the mind becomes just as involved, creating a conscious relationship between the two that is focused on the present.
“The mind and the emotions are so difficult to train because they’re fluid, but you can feel whether you’re stretching your arm continuously, and you can feel whether you’re pressing your back heel, and you can feel when your mind goes away from that because it gets distracted.”
With the coming fall and winter, the slight shift in the air tends to be harsher on the mind, body and spirit. Beaumont recognizes these changes as a shift in energy.
“It’s like an increase in pressures,” she said. “There are so many things happening simultaneously, so I like to change my practice.” The change consists of a different method of breathing and yoga poses deviating from her normal routine.
“The change in practice I’ve had to do is actually slowing down a little bit, practicing more restoratives and a little more pranayama, which is the study of the breath to calm my nervous system. It helps fight off illness and recover energy, and it can help us settle down for sleep. And [practicing] more inversions and supported poses; more supported back bends and things like that.”
*Main photo by Mathew Provoast Photography