Welcome to the fourth interview in the Gaiam/Yoga and Body Image Coalition “Yoga for Men/Men in Yoga” series. We’re honored to introduce readers to Jivana Heyman, the founder of Accessible Yoga – a community that offers teacher trainings, conferences and networking. Accessible Yoga’s vision is to bring yoga to excluded and underserved communities, support yoga teachers, and advocate for accessible yoga. Jivana believes, “if you have a mind and a body, you can do yoga!” We couldn’t agree more!
If we’re lucky, the yoga seed gets planted early. Even if it falls dormant for a period of time, those early experiences with yoga can flower years later and create much beauty in our lives. Long before “kid’s yoga” was a thing, Jivana Heyman was fortunate enough to be introduced to yoga as a child and re-discover it as a young man.
“My grandmother introduced me to yoga when I was a young child. She lived with us so I was aware of her daily practice and I enjoyed watching her. Sometimes, she’d let me practice with her which is a joyful and special memory for me. My grandmother had studied with Swami Satchidananda. It wasn’t until years later when I fell into a yoga class after college that my personal practice began in earnest. I was having health issues, digestive and back problems, which inspired me to pick up yoga seriously. Funny enough, when I stumbled upon yoga on my own, I discovered Integral Yoga founded by my grandmother’s teacher, Swami Satchidananda. So I had the beautiful experience of rediscovering it as a young man after having done it when I was a child.”
Yoga offers us timeless gifts as well as offering us something new and different at each stage of life. And this certainly applies to Jivana’s experience of yoga at various life stages, from a fond memory of time spent with his grandmother to creating a full blown paradigm shift and nurturing introspection and insight as a young man.
“Yoga was a revelation to me. I had so many spiritual questions that I could not find answers for – no matter where I looked. When I re-discovered yoga, I found those answers. Yoga and meditation had them all. Yoga philosophy is so profound and clear in offering answers to these basic life questions that I had searched for, such as “why are we here?” and “what is our purpose?” It was an incredible gift to find all these answers at that point in my life because I was pretty lost. I had come out as a gay man when I was 17 and I had always felt separate, different and out of place. Yoga helped me find some clear direction, redefined my life, and gave me purpose in wanting to practice and then share what I found with others.”
Little did Jivana know the extent to which yoga would change his life or the ground-breaking ways in which he would share it with others.
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By sharing stories with one another, we can inspire even more yogis to get started with their yoga practice, and empower one another to keep coming back to the mat. Regardless of who you are, how old you are, what size you are, what color your skin is, and how much experience you have, you are a yogi if you want to be!
AUTHOR BIO: Melanie Klein, M.A., is a writer, speaker, and professor of sociology and women’s studies at Santa Monica College. She is the co-editor of Yoga and Body Image: 25 Personal Stories About Beauty, Bravery + Loving Your Body (Llewellyn, 2014) with Anna Guest-Jelley, a contributor in 21st Century Yoga: Culture, Politics and Practice (Horton & Harvey, 2012), is featured in Conversations with Modern Yogis (Shroff, 2014), a featured writer in Llewellyn’s Complete Book of Mindful Living (Llewellyn, 2016) and co-editor of the new anthology, Yoga, the Body and Embodied Social Change: An Intersectional Feminist Analysis with Dr. Beth Berila and Dr. Chelsea Jackson Roberts (Rowman and Littlefield, 2016). She co-founded the Yoga and Body Image Coalition in 2014.