If your favorite Bikram yoga class isn’t meeting your mind-body needs, head over to a Moksha yoga studio. We talked with Moksha Yoga co-founder Jessica Robertson to learn more about this form of cardiovascular hot yoga practice.
Meet the expert
Jessica Robertson is the co-founder of Moksha Yoga, New Leaf Yoga Foundation, and Moksha Yoga LA as well as co-director of Moksha Yoga International. She is trained to teach Bikram, Sivananda, Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy, Yin Yoga, Restorative Yoga, Power Yoga and Kirtan. Her greatest learning comes from being in nature and from practicing every day (even when she doesn’t feel like it!).
SheKnows: What is Moksha yoga and how does it differ from Bikram yoga?
Jessica Robertson: Physically, Moksha yoga is a cardiovascular hot yoga sequence that works to stretch, strengthen and tone the body while calming the mind. Every class is rooted in the Moksha series to build a depth of concentration, but in contrast to Bikram, teachers are encouraged to bring a dash of variety into each and every class. A Moksha class also brings focus to the upper body, with some downward dog flows and a focus on opening the hips to prevent and treat lower-back and knee pain. Moksha is also unique in that every studio is designed and operated under strict (and loving!) environmental commitments.
SK: What inspired you to get involved in Moksha and franchise it?
JR: Ted (Grand) and I, and our partner at the time … noticed that what we were offering in our Bikram studios wasn’t aligned with what Bikram wanted. We weren’t teaching classes with a set dialogue, we weren’t using carpet on the floor and we were offering straps, blocks and modifications based on our backgrounds with other yoga teachers and styles. We started Moksha because while we wanted to respect Bikram’s wishes; we needed to offer what we felt best teaching. The licensing came about because, quite simply, one of our studio owners was moving far away and wanted to share the Moksha vibe with her new community. This was a fun process because we really had to define what it was that makes us, “us.” So we wrote an operations manual… and the rest is history!
SK: What are the mind and body benefits of Moksha?
JR: Oh goodness, there are so many… I’ll do a shortlist. We see weight loss; stress reduction; improved digestion, sleep-wake patterns, and immune function and more. Because the mind and body are so linked, these benefits usually come hand in hand. For example, students feel less reactive in relationships or less stressed at work, and in turn their chronic back pain/migraines/insomnia disappears. It’s not just a physical before and after. We also see it in the community spirit around each Moksha studio. A lot of people express a lack of community in their lives and being able to go somewhere “where everybody knows your name” (yes, like Cheers — did that age me?) has marked benefits for depression and anxiety as well. And it’s just plain fun, which is a great benefit too. The heat causes sweating, which is fantastic detox — our skin is the body’s largest organ for detoxification.
SK: Is Moksha yoga for beginners or seasoned yogis?
JR: We’ve identified seven pillars that showcase our philosophies, and the second is accessibility. In over 500 hours of training, all Moksha teachers learn how to make every class accessible to both stiff-as-a-board first-timers and Gumby-like yoga veterans.
SK: Are there segments of the population that should avoid Moksha?
JR: We recommend that women in their first trimester [of pregnancy] avoid the heated room. Also, if heat or cardiovascular activity is counter-indicated; as is the case with some severe heart conditions, we ask that students check in with their doctor. Generally if physical exercise is OK and you’re not expecting, time to get sweaty!
SK: Where can yoga lovers go to take Moksha classes?
JR: Several in every major city in Canada, as well as New York City, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, northern Kentucky and Cincinnati.
SK: Final words on Moksha?
JR: Well, I read a Thoreau quote today (and, I admit, tweeted it!) about the ability to change any time. We all have areas in our lives, or in ourselves, that we want to improve. We want more discipline, or more adventure, or perhaps less stress. We set our goals and somehow we ignore the things that are most important. I know I have a big old bias, but I feel so strongly that Moksha is so much more than the physical postures and the toned body-mind that accompanies the practice. Moksha studios offer a chance to get together with others who are working on living more rich, full lives. The studio owners and teachers are there with the intention to support positive change. And our collective goal is that if we can all do this together, we can move from micro to macro — from our mats to our families, to our communities and out into the world. And I think this is powerful. So I hope to meet you one day soon… in a sweaty room!