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Connecting Breath and Body

Shakti Yoga with Michele Gigante

Anyone who has been to Grant Street recently has probably noticed the subtle transformation that’s been taking place on Buffalo’s West Side commercial district. Guercio’s Food Market, Frontier Liquor, and Italian Village restaurant now share the street with Sweetness 7 Café, Krudmart, the Meating Place, and the new home of Shakti Yoga, which moved from Lexington Avenue into an impressive former bank building at 133 Grant. In addition to yoga classes, Shakti is host to several other activities, including dance performances, live music, capoeira classes and other things. Artvoice visited to speak with Shakti Yoga director and instructor Michele Gigante.

AV: Tell us how you became involved with yoga.

MG: I found yoga a number of years ago as a way to heal myself. I had been working with traditional doctors and I met with a lot of frustration in the healing process. And once I started the physical practice of yoga it created a great sense of relief and a great state of peace. Along with that it brought me into a state of balance so that the natural healing process could occur. My yoga practice along with the Western medicine healed me. And so now I’ve made it my mission to help other people heal.

The type of yoga we do here at Shakti is called vinyasa. vinyasa is a practice where you link breath and motion together. And when those two things come together as one there is a greater sense of peace, there is a natural energy flow that moves through the blockages that we all have in our daily existence from toxins, from stress, etc. A typical practice here at Shakti would involve a series of postures that will present some challenges. And you get to decide whether or not you’re going to participate in those challenges. How you decide is based on the breath. So basically, your breath is your guide and your breath becomes your healer. Your breath is your source energy.

It’s my belief as the director here at Shakti that yoga is for everyone. You don’t need to walk in the door already calm; you don’t need to walk in the door already flexible or strong. Those things happen on your mat and they come to you if you choose to come back and repeat the process. It is very much a process where we see the growth one baby step at a time.

Here at Shakti we have the benefit of practicing in this beautiful space. It’s typically full of like-minded human beings that are eager to move forward on their path. Their path is very specific to them but generally it has something to do with wellness. The practice that you do on your mat, and the way we instruct, enable you to easily take the methods you’ve learned with you, off your mat. You don’t even need a mat; you can sit under a tree and do a few postures or take it to your hotel room. There’s no specific time that this practice needs to be done; it pretty much becomes a part of life, a way of life that you can do for ten minutes or an hour and a half. And there is absolutely no equipment needed.

In addition to our vinyasa style of practice that we have here we also offer gentle yoga. This typically targets people that are looking for a much simpler and gentler practice, a slightly more restorative practice that is less physical. This typically draws people that are recently retired. And in that age group we’ve noticed that the joints start to lose their flexibility. So through this repetition of practice in gentle yoga here or at your home or at your office, we’re able to continue onward to improve flexibility. Basically the more you do it the easier flexibility gets; the more you do it, the more accessible flexibility becomes. The body muscles start to remember the postures. The body remembers what it feels like to be limber and it maintains that after some time.

When someone finds that they’re ready to begin a yoga experience, I strongly recommend that you go and speak to all of the directors in the local community, go and see the studios and let them give you some information and some consult so you can find the one that best suits you. There are a number of different styles to practice and it’s important that you find the one that suits you so that your well being continues to grow.

—AV Interview by J.M.

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