Ghetto Yoga - The Reykjavik Grapevine

Ghetto Yoga

Ghetto Yoga

Published May 31, 2007

A new yoga class has recently started in downtown Reykjavík and the best thing is that it doesn’t cost you your month’s salary. GhettoYoga founder and instructor Bergsteinn Jónsson takes pride in not charging for his classes.

“It’s part of growing as a person,” Jónsson said. “I never wanted to make a career out of it. I just wanted to do it for me,” he added.

According to Jónsson, the story behind starting Ghetto Yoga is neither interesting nor romantic. “My wife’s friend is a dentist and she wanted to enlarge her practice and had some free space,” he explained.

Jónsson emphasises that his classes are available to everyone. “The ideological message is to personally illustrate that you can be an accountant and a yogi – that anyone can lead a yogic lifestyle,” said Jónsson, whose day job sees him working at the UNICEF office in Reykjavík.

Yoga has taken the world by storm in recent years. Made fashionable by stars such as Sting and Madonna, yoga classes are today offered at most gyms around the world.

Jónsson says that Ghetto Yoga’s no-charge policy is not the only way in which his classes differ from others. The name Ghetto Yoga illustrates his philosophy.

“It’s a grassroots kind of thing […] the name comes from the fact that the classes are held in Hlemmur, being the ghetto of Reykjavík, and also that yoga should be as fitting in a ghetto as in the high street,” he explained.

“Sometimes places that teach yoga are too sanctimonious about it,” he added.

Jónsson, who has been teaching yoga for around six years and practicing for 13 years, teaches Hatha Yoga for beginners and says the poses taught are specifically aimed at preparing the mind and body for “potent, tantric style meditation.”

The word Hatha derives from the Sanskrit words Ha and Tha meaning sun and moon and follows the same concept as yin-yang, balancing mind and body through physical poses, controlled breathing, and the calming of the mind through relaxation in pursuit of enlightenment. Hatha Yoga differs from other forms of yoga in that it focuses on simple poses that flow from one to the other at a comfortable pace as opposed to being geared towards strength and stamina.

The creation of yoga can be traced back as far as 5000 years ago in India.

Today yoga is practiced as much for its physical benefits as for its original purpose of achieving inner peace.

Ghetto Yoga classes have been attracting a steady attendance but anyone interested in joining can simply turn up to one of the scheduled times. The classes are open to everyone – including children.
Hverfisgata 105, 2H Hlemmur, 101 Reyk

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