On State Street, above a flight of creaky stairs over Mr. Greek’s Coney Island, is a room covered entirely in brightly colored mats.
Rows of ropes are suspended on bars along the ceiling, and exotic music thrums in the background. A man in a cherry red bandana and black stirrup leggings chants instructions to a young woman who is stretching her legs at an almost impossible angle.
The instructor, Jasprit Singh, is a professor of electrical engineering and computer science at the University — and happens to be a fiercely devout yoga enthusiast.
Singh said that his yoga sessions relieve stress from his life in academia.
“This keeps me centered,” he said.
Singh’s long history with yoga can be traced back 50 years to his father, a yogi who instructed his son to practice yoga at least one to one-and-a-half hours every day. Singh took his father’s instructions to heart and continued to study yoga after leaving India to study at the University of Chicago in 1975.
Singh started teaching at the University in 1985. Throughout his professional career, he has continued to study yoga on a daily basis.
Five years ago, Singh formed a yoga studio of his own. He developed the concept of RussaYog, which is unique from other yoga practices because it uses ropes in the stretches.
Singh’s yoga studio draws a wide variety of students.
During one session last week, two 14-year-old twin boys accompanied their mother to a session, while several female college students stood together in a cluster. A couple of middle-aged men were also in attendance.
Singh attributes the diverse crowd to the studio’s accessible style.
“It’s an easy style to learn,” Singh said. “The rope becomes your partner. It’s like doing a duet with the rope.”
During the yoga session, Singh demonstrates every stretch in the front of the class. His voice is soothing as he repeats the mantra, “Look inward. Draw your mind inward,” throughout the duration of the class.
The class staggered out after the session. Many of the participants were regulars, who will be back in the following weeks. Some were newcomers, intrigued by the notion of yoga with ropes.
“We get newcomers all the time,” Singh said. “Ann Arbor is a mobile city. Students come in and out. Over 1,000 people have tried (it).”