Houston Community College
Yoga For A Healthier Life!
By Silvia Stagg
John Coon, a native Houstonian and director of the Yoga Center of Houston, began his yoga studies at the age of 17, after acquiring his black belt in karate.
"yoga is not unlike martial arts. As martial arts is the child, and yoga is the mother, martial arts comes from yoga, "Coon said, "In martial arts one moves into and out of postures, for the most part quite rapidly without a lot of holding."
Finding yoga physically challenging, Coon developing a respect for the discipline and became engrossed in studying and practicing yoga and martial arts concurrently.
In his late twenties, Coon discovered that he had been born with polycystic kidney disease, which manifests as a gradual shutting down of the kidney function. At the age of 29, Coon was faced with two options, either lifelong dialysis or a kidney transplant. Coon chose to have a kidney transplant. During the course of Coon's treatment, his doctors were amazed that other than the associated fatigue and bruising, he did not suffer from coma or brain death. The doctors surmised that it must be a result of his regular martial arts and yoga practices that enabled his body to adapt to such a high level of toxicity. Once Coon had the kidney transplant he recovered quickly and shortly thereafter, returned to work teaching martial arts.
Approximately five and a half years ago, after beating the odds so to speak, one of Coon's outspoken yoga teachers, Yoga Bhajan wrote and encouraged him to open a school solely devoted to the teaching of yoga.
"The ultimate goal of all forms of yoga, though yoga is not a religion, is to united one with what their real purpose of existence really is," Coon said. "The truths that bind us are more pervasive than the barriers which separate us." In Sanskrit the goal of yoga is, as Coon described it, "Atma Pratishta. Atma meaning the soul or spirit and Pratishta meaning to stand up, to let the spirit stand up."
Coon went on to explain the importance of proper diet. "Yoga goes hand in hand with a science called Ayurveda. Ayus means life. Veda means knowledge. They are sister sciences. One is not really separate from the other. In fact, there is a trinity of practice in traditional yogic terminology. Ayurveda deals with the body: Tantra deals with the mind; and Yoga deals with the spirit."
Though Coon is against the use of labels and he primarily teaches Hatha and Kundalini yoga, when asked to explain the various types of yoga, Bhakti Yoga is the yoga of devotion. Hatha Yoga is the yoga of the sun and moon; it is called the yoga of the Force, as it delves into the application of this living field of energy and how we can tap into it. Jnana Yoga is the yoga of the intellect. Karma Yoga is the yoga of work, good action and service to others," said Coon. Traditionally it has been the teacher's job to observe the student and see what their level of evolution is at the beginning and assign the correct practices to help them evolve from where they are onward, not to just arbitrarily say everyone is going to do Hatha yoga or Jnana Yoga or Bhakti."
When asked to explain the role of breathing and postures in Hatha Yoga, Coon said, "The ancients realized that by practicing certain breathing techniques, that one could harness this energy (prana, in Sanskrit, means an energy field which penetrates all of creation) in the body and direct it in certain ways to facilitate increased energy levels, and so these various techniques are called Pranayama. There are two primary methods by which human beings can influence the Prana in their bodies. One is through specific breathing methods; this is the Pranayama practice. The other is by the quality of food and liquid taken into the body." When Pranayama is combined with the Asanas, (Asana means seat or position) in other words, "you strike a particular pose in yoga and hold it for a long period of time. That position of the body becomes the dwelling place for the Atma (the soul)," he explained.
Coon is a firm believer that yoga should be mainstreamed into every day life, including the public school systems. "I think it would increase their (the children's) ability to concentrate in class. I honestly believe that if children could develop this one-pointedness called Ekagra that the teachers would not have such a hard time with discipline, because the students would be more focused," Coon said.
Coon offers yoga classes that address stress management, and he is often referred pain patients from Herman Hospital. He feels that yoga is unmatched in the benefits that it offers in alleviating these common problems (and others) that are so prevalent in our society today. "Typically, if a student comes to my school two or three times a week, they will see some type of positive change in a month's time," said Coon.
Coon was fortunate to have studied and spent personal time with the Dalai Lama in 1990 and 1991. "The Dalai Lama is a very simple, wonderful human being. It is very difficult to squeeze him into a box and define who he is," said Coon. "He is someone without a second agenda, meaning some people talk one thing and walk another."
"Spending that much time with someone of that evolution spiritually is an incredible lesson in itself," said Coon. "It makes one really reflect on one's issues and motivations and gives one a very clear perspective of what one needs to work on."
The Yoga Center has morning and evening classes Monday through Saturday. the center is located at 2438A South Blvd. off of Kirby Drive. the telephone number is 524-4572.
End of Article by Silvia Stagg
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