Karissa Bryant is serious about her yoga. She has been attending yoga classes, retreats and learning to teach the discipline since the spring of 2004. When she moved to Jeju Island in September 2008, Bryant made it her goal to start free yoga classes for interested English-speakers.
▲ Yogi Karissa Bryant teaches yoga to all comers of all levels at Milana Hall in Shin Jeju, free of charge. Photo by Arielle Ballou
Bryant’s yoga history When Bryant was living in Seattle, Washington, her sister began attending yoga classes at a local gym and insisted that Bryant would also enjoy the Hatha yoga class. Just as her sister had predicted, Bryant loved it. She continued taking the class for about six months, then moved to Boston for a change of scenery, where she attended many Bikram, or hot yoga, classes for the next year. Bryant loved the effects of the discipline so moved to a yoga retreat in Western Massachusetts, where she volunteered for two months, receiving free classes, room and board in return for working 35 hours a week.
After months of retreat classes, Bryant moved to New Zealand for three months, where she worked as a Woofer, the name given to Willing Workers on Organic Farms. Again she stayed in yoga retreats, developing a holistic understanding of many types of the exercise and underlying philosophy. Eager to learn as much as she could about the vast range of yoga, Bryant studied and practiced Hatha, Bikrim, Kripalu and Ashtango disciplines. “I’ve taken so many different types of classes. I feel like I have a good background to give people options when I’m teaching classes,” she said.
After her stint in New Zealand, Bryant returned to Seattle, where she began teaching free yoga classes to friends who seemed to need some balance in their lives. With her newly diversified knowledge, she was more than capable to help them find that balance.
Yoga in Jeju In September 2008, Bryant moved to Jeju to teach English in the public school system. It took her merely a month to attain her goal of establishing free yoga classes on the island. “In the community of foreigners on Jeju there’s a really big need for yoga,” she said. “I feel like I can’t do enough. I could do five more classes and people would still want more.”
Her classes, held at Milana Hall in Shin Jeju, are always full of eager students willing to stretch just a little further for their calm, encouraging instructor. Chantale Desroches, an English teacher from Canada, said, “It’s my first time going to yoga classes like this and she’s so encouraging to first timers, she really makes you feel comfortable.” Fellow Canadian Jessie Dishaw, a regular at the Monday night classes, agreed. “She’s just fabulous,” she said of Bryant.
Her success as a yoga instructor in Jeju has inspired Bryant to continue studying, so this is probably her last year here. From September 2010, she plans to spend at least six months in India learning even more about the practice. She said she would enjoy doing yoga for a living, but asking people to pay for classes conflicts with her attitude toward yoga practice. “I want to be a yoga teacher, but I love teaching for free. Now it’s so expensive for people to take classes, in America. I’d love to have a studio where people just donate what they feel, or just do a community class for free.” Classes During January and February, Bryant will teach on Tuesdays only, from 7 p.m. until 8:15 p.m. at Milana Hall in Shin Jeju. She will be away the last two weeks of January. Her classes offer a variety of yoga styles including Hatha, Kripalu and Ashtango. Newcomers are always welcome, no matter their ability. For more information, check Rhymes with Jeju at http://groups. yahoo.com /group/rhymeswithjeju/, and search for Yoga at the Milano.
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