‘The wealthiest yoga booster that we’ve come across yet’

Inside Philanthropy — an extremely mainstream and respected publication focused on I’ll let you guess what — has a piece up on the Sonima Foundation and the prana (instead of power) couple behind it: Paul Tudor and Sonia Jones:

Sonia also has a deep history with this yoga method and teamed up with the heirs of an Ashtanga yoga master to open studios, called “shalas,” in order to continue teaching Ashtanga. Sonia helped finance some of these studios, one of which operated for a while in Greenwich, Connecticut, where the Jones family lives. In the Jones’ residence—which, by the way, resembles Thomas Jefferson’s home, Monticello (only with a 25-car underground garage)—Sonia, Jones, and all their children have practiced Ashtanga as well.

OK, so Sonia is all about yoga.

But the interesting thing about the Sonima Foundation is its focus on children and youth, particularly those who are at risk. No, this isn’t about introducing yet more privileged thirty-something yuppies to the power of yoga. Sonima wants to empower the most vulnerable using yoga and other wellness strategies.

[snip]

Another component of this new partnership is research and a research team at Stanford University will be tracking the progress of these students for the next several years. Dr. Victor Carrion, Head of Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University and a Sonima Foundation Advisory Board Member, will helm this research project.

In Carrion’s words: “We’re really looking forward to a year from now, when I tell you this is effective, for you not to only take it on my word, but for you to also have data.”

All told, it’s a pretty positive piece. And the type that might get others in the philanthropy community to go, “Huh, if they are investing in yoga and meditation, is there a reason we should look at that, too?” Because that’s how those things work.

Posted by Steve

Ashtanga in the news

This one, I’ll admit, is a bit tangential, but Pattabhi Jois, Ashtanga and the University of Virginia’s Contemplative Sciences Center all get mention.

Why? Because of something that Jois Yoga backer Paul Tudor Jones said at an event at his alma mater (hint: it’s UVa). And because it ran on Friday in one of the nation’s biggest newspapers — admittedly not quite the mark of praise it once was — I’m just passing it on.

The newspaper, by the way, is the Washington Post. Here’s the crux of the story:

Four legendary investors gathered at the University of Virginia in late April to share their philosophies and strategies for success, personal fulfillment and philanthropy. All four were men, white and aging, and that prompted several audience members to submit questions wondering: Where are the women?

Paul Tudor Jones II, a 1976 U-Va. graduate and billionaire Greenwich-based hedge fund manager, took a stab at answering. According to those who attended, Jones explained how traders must have extraordinary focus and commitment, working long hours and forgoing personal time. A lot of women opt out of such a high-intensity career, he said, especially once they have children.

Carl P. Zeithaml, dean of the U-Va. McIntire School of Commerce, said that he immediately received complaints from alumni and faculty members who were concerned and, in some cases, appalled by the substance and framing of Jones’s comments.

There you have it. And then here’s the Ashtanga-related stuff:

In April 2012, Jones and his wife, Sonia, announced they had donated $1 million to U.Va. to create a Contemplative Sciences Center, which pulls together different academic disciplines to study contemplative and yogic traditions. In a video posted on the university’s YouTube channel, the couple explained how Ashtanga yoga changed their lives and how they hope the center will transform higher education.

Jones said: “This new center will tie these people and programs together and weave them into one fantastic whole for the benefit of the entire community.”

That announcement came as Vanity Fair’s April 2012 edition featured a lengthy article about Sonia Jones, the “lithe blonde” who started yoga studios and a clothing line inspired by her Ashtanga yoga teacher, Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, who died in 2009. Some followers of Jois have criticized Sonia Jones for starting these businesses so soon after their teacher’s death.

One thing I’ll point out comes from the last line I just quoted. As more and more media cover the Joneses, or Ashtanga, in a natural fashion — events like this creating stories — quick takes on Ashtanga and its various “controversies” will get distilled down like this. That’s already a pretty quick take on the Vanity Fair story, which itself was a take on things. And when the next reporter is doing a story and searches about for information, this will pop up and that will be the basis for his/her quick explanation of things.

And so it goes.

Posted by Steve

Big weekend ahead for Jois Yoga-backed center at UVa

As I’m sure most of you know, Saraswati and Sharath are beginning their time in America. (So it’s a good time to brush up on your Led Primary etiquette!)

One of their early stops is in Charlottesville, Va., at the University of Virginia. Yes, it’s the site of the Contemplative Sciences Center, which was funded by Jois Yoga backers Paul Tudor and Sonia Jones. On Friday, students, faculty and staff at UVa have the chance for a free 90-minute class and lecture featuring both Saraswati and Sharath.

Not a bad deal, huh? Here’s a bit from the center’s announcement, Gurus on Grounds:

After a hour-long yoga class, Sharath will discuss the benefits of yoga and answer questions in a seminar moderated by UVA alum, yoga-enthusiast, and dear friend of JPJ, Paul Tudor Jones.

[snip]

Admission to the event will be on a first-come, first-served basis, and necessarily limited by the maximum legal capacity for the space. Please be prepared to arrive early to ensure being among the fortunate 300 first arrivals who will receive a commemorative t-shirt.

No prior experience with yoga practice is required to participate.

Non UVaers are told to register here, which is the Jois Greenwich site.

But it isn’t just the Friday class that is making for a big weekend. All day Saturday, the center is hosting a conference titled, Contemplation and Medicine in South Asia & Beyond. There are three focuses: Yoga and Ayurveda in Premodern South Asia; Mindfulness, Compassion and Ayurveda in Contemporary Clinic Care and Research; and Healing Places: Contemplation and the Build Environment.

No doubt the Contemplative Sciences Center is off and running. We’ll keep watching where it heads. (And that’s no April Fool’s Joke!)

Posted by Steve