Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Sunrise Yoga Studio, Part 1: Celebrating Local Studios!

After our fantastic experience over at Sunrise Yoga, I thought I'd approach the owner of the studio- Jack Godfrey- about a feature here on 'the blog' so that other Haligonian (and those visiting!) could learn about his studio. I also talk a lot about eco-aspects I'D like to see in studios, but thought it was high time I celebrate what is being done locally already. :)

Jack Godfrey has practiced Ashtanga yoga since 1998 and yoga in general since 1968. He's trained with local Ashtangis (Jody Manley) and 'biggie' Ashtangis such as David Swenson, Darby and Patabhis Jois (to name a few!). His approach to teaching Ashtanga contains humour and his goal is to help students explore yoga poses safely and with insight. (I can attest to the humour part, as we were practicing Yin with the wonderful Helen Fong, I could hear his class laughing during what I knew was an intense primary series practice).

To my surprise, Jack answered each question with such thoughtfulness and without any sense of hurry. Even though I know it must have taken him time to formulate and write. As a result, the post is a bit lengthy- so I thought I could post them in two parts. Also, check out his blog, with posts on Mysore, class etiquette and yoga.

Without further ado, part 1 of my e-interview with Jack!

1. You're biography is impressive and filled with wonderful experiences such as several big name Ashtangi workshops and long time yoga practice. What first drew you to Yoga initially, and why did you eventual choose Ashtanga?

What first drew me to yoga was the Beatles.  In the mid 60's they went off to India to do some yoga.  At the same time, my mom took an interest in yoga.  I tried a few poses from the books and really liked the challenge in attempting to do the poses. 

Over the years I kept poking away at yoga but never really made a solid connection until the mid 90s.  At that time the fitness facility at work was adding yoga classes.  I decided to get involved and did a search on the internet and discovered the book Power Yoga by Beryl Bender Birch.  When I read the book, I had an epiphany.  The Ashtanga system provided the missing piece that I was looking for over all those years.  I thought that there had to be a proper sequence to the postures.  If you did them in this order you would get more benefit than if you did them in a random order.

The Ashtanga sequence of the postures filled this missing need for an order to the postures.  The other aspect of the Ashtanga system added to this.  The breath, the gaze, the jump backs.  The heat.  The challenge of doing a pose well.  The thrill of doing a posture slightly better than last time.  The humbleness when you do the posture not as well this time as previously.  Becoming more aware of your body and improving the health of your body.

The Ashtanga systems teaches you humbleness, patience, and determination.

I have improved the health of my body and reduced my weight by over 20 pounds over the last 15 years.  I am more aware of my body and its health as a result of yoga.  

2. Visiting your studio imbued a sense of community and warmth in our Coffee and Yoga group. How do you mesh the necessary business-commodity aspect of teaching Yoga for a living and running a studio with the Living Yoga aspect?

Right from the very beginning, I decided that the studio would be as friendly and accommodating as possible.  All of the teachers make sure that all of the people in the class know each others name.  If we have new people in class, we introduce them to the other members.  We encourage conversation before and after class.  We are deliberately trying to build a friendly place that people want to come to for more than yoga. (Lisa's note- VERY true!)  This has several benefits for the member and the studio:
  • The member will come more often
  • They will bring their friends
  • They will rave about the studio to their friends and neighbors
  • They will recommend us.
  • The more they come the better their body will become.  They will become healthier.  More in tune with their body.  They will become hooked on yoga.  The more you do it the better you feel.  When you stop doing yoga you will feel less well.
  • We have a quarterly pot luck at our house to which the members bring their family,friends and food to share with everyone else.
  • We offer credit.  If you are buying a pass card and forgot your wallet, no problem, we will make your card up.  Pay the next time you come.  We do not keep records of the IOU.  We tell the member that we expect them to keep track and pay up when they can.  We have never had this hurt us.
  • We do not have classes that you enroll in.  This means that you do not lose money when you miss a class.
I have done all of this in an attempt to make our members as happy and as comfortable as possible.

I see no conflict between the business side and the yoga side.  The happier we can make the members the more they will come and the better they will feel.  And they will tell their friends and they will come and so on and so on.  We get 50% of our new members because of referrals from our existing members.

3. I've heard that your studio does many things to lessen it's environmental footprint. What sorts of things are you currently doing to make your studio 'green'?

One of the things that we do is the mat cleaning.  We supply clothes and spray bottles for our members to use.  The clothes are called bar mops when you buy them at the dollar store.  We have a dilute solution of vinegar and water in the spray bottles.  Shirley (my wife) takes the clothes home and washes them.  We have our hot water supplied by solar panels.  Shirley times the washing to match the supply of hot water from the solar panels. That way we do not use any energy to heat the water. We have free hot water and no carbon footprint for this.  We do not have a dryer.  Shirley hangs the cloths in the laundry room / furnace room to dry overnight or they go out on the clothes line if the weather permits.

We sell three types of yoga mats.  The ones that I selected are as durable as possible.  The high end mat has a life time guarantee.  I have been using one of these mats for over 12 years.  The mats themselves are not as eco friendly as they could be, but if you only need one of them for a lifetime of practice then the carbon foot print over the years is very low.

I have moved the registration system to online for the Intro classes and will be moving the other registrations online in the future.  This will reduce the amount of paper we are consuming.
4. Are there areas you find more challenging to 'eco-fy', or are on your wishlist to green up?

I will be moving the class sign in process to a computer based system and eliminate some more paper consumption in the future.  I will be using one of the little netbook computers for this.  This will get rid of the sign in sheets and the pass cards.  Again trying to minimize the impact on the environment.  Get rid of the paper and minimize the impact on the environment with the smaller computer.

5. How do you view the Yoga community's role with environmentalism and the green movement?

I view these as a person's individual commitment.  A yoga practice will make a person more aware of their impact on the environment and will lead them down the path to reduce their impact.  Becoming more in tune with their mind and body, I think leads to becoming more in tune with the environment and their impact on it.

Thank you Jack very much for the thoughtful and indepth answers to my questions! I hope, lovely readers, that you will take the time to check out his beautiful, warm studio in Dartmouth. Well worth the trip over the bridge! Part 2 of this interview will occur next week, same time, same place :)

article copyright of EcoYogini at, photos used with permission from Jack Godfrey.  


  1. One of their employee, Jeannine, was my first "real" yoga instructor (she used to live in my area). She is an amazing human being. I miss her so much. She taught me that yoga is so much more than strength and physical exercice.

  2. this is great, how interesting, I find particularly inspiring the connection with environment and yoga as in being a question of awareness, which yoga raises. Thank you for this

  3. This studio sounds a lot like my studio. Community is important and holding on to the vision is key. Great idea for a blog post.


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