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Our Story

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IN MY YOUTH, I NEVER KNEW MY TRUE SELF.  EVERYONE AROUND ME HAD A TITLE OF SOME SORT; THE 'ATHLETE', THE 'CHARMING GOOD BOY', THE 'REBEL'...

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The only consistent name I received was 'Joy Bird'.  I was always on the go, out the door and into the trees, climbing and chirping a song.  I never felt entirely comfortable in my skin inside, under the scrutiny of adults, teachers, parents or in large groups.  I often had a feeling I wasn't  doing it right, or quite ‘fitting in’. For me, nature was a place of deep comfort and certain ease.   

I was introduced to yoga at the age of 15, and I realized immediately that it led to the same state of bliss I found in nature. It was a practice that I could come back to again and again like an old friend.  By the time I was 20, I had dropped out of college, created my own fitness business, and had my first child.  I was always inspired by the philosophies and wisdoms shared throughout the world that included a love and respect for our true selves, each other, and our place in the greater ecosystem.  Eventually, yoga seeped into everything I taught and practiced.

While reading the yoga sutras I was struck by the word Purusha, which means "the true self". It intrigued me. It was a place beyond good and bad, winning and losing, success or failure.  A place where one could be content with one’s true self - As Is.   In 1999, I created a yoga teacher training school called Purusha Yoga, which was a satellite program that existed in colleges, and partner studios in Massachusetts and San Francisco.

Purusha Yoga School Graduates, Various Years

In 2008, I created the Purusha Seva Project with a deep motivation to serve. 

“Seva” is a sanskrit word, meaning selfless service.  I wanted to share these practices with people who were suffering or experiencing obstacles and could not come to a  yoga studio. Adnan Iftekhar and I started Free Yoga in the Golden Gate Park. Together with my son Alex, my nephew and a handful of young Purusha Yoga School grads, we also began offering free yoga to veterans, families, and folks who were incarcerated or striving to re-enter society after incarceration.  These programs took place on-site at hospitals, schools, shelters and jails.

In 2009, so many of us suffered a huge and devastating loss with the death of my son, Alexander Bray Baxter.  He was one of the most sophisticated, intelligent, simple, spiritual, and beautiful human beings one could ever encounter.  With all that beauty came a great deal of pain and suffering. He took his life to the next realm by leaping off the Golden Gate Bridge on one foggy summer evening.

For a period of time after that, I was lost; without any desire or direction.

Alexander Bray Baxter, 2009

One day, I received a phone call from a 20 year old girl, and she reminded me of the one thing I knew I could do. She asked, "would you teach me how to teach yoga?" 

I had always been afraid to open my own studio for fear that no one would show up. Now I realized a new-found grace to do the things in life I was afraid to do before Alex died. In the darkness of deep grief there is humility -a humble state of emptiness- where a seed of grace may naturally arise if one is open to it.  I put aside all fears in this state, and in the name of Alex and under the love of his guidance, we opened Purusha Yoga Studio in 2010. At Purusha Yoga, in addition to offering community yoga classes & teacher trainings, we continue our dedication to community service. More than ever, I want to share the messages Alex has given us: "let it be love" and to "ease the suffering of others through service”. At Purusha Yoga, we are committed to serving our local community with classes and programs that empower the true self and unite our greater communities.  

My son, Nicholai, and my daughter, Maleeha, kept the faith and supported all of this growth and love throughout these times.  I am also thankful for my past partners; Ken Baxter (Alex and Nicholai's Dad) and Adnan Iftekhar (Maleeha's Dad) for always supporting my endeavors and being by my side to teach, co-parent and share love and friendship.

Maleeha, Nicholai and Joy at Sutro Heights Park

This Life Is Full Of Love And The One True Heart That Lifted My Soul Back Into Flight On This Earth Is The Heart Of Kendall Eric Sparks.

Eric came into my life in 2012 and gave me a new depth of grounded certainty that I could settle into. I am eternally grateful to Eric for listening to my grief stories of my son for 3 years, for step parenting Maleeha and becoming a dear friend to my older son Nicholai.  Our extended families have merged, becoming one big tribe of like minded friends.  Eric has also become an integral part of the Purusha Studio. The studio is now as much his as it is mine.  So many students count Eric as their beloved teacher.  

Together our mission is to provide & create a community space, where all feel welcomed and loved. We are surrounded by a circle of strong people we call our friends.  This circle is our community and it is yours too.  People come and people go. Some people come back and some people stick around in your heart forever.  We look forward to sharing a story, a cup of tea, a gentle practice, or a kick ass sweat.  Our door is always open to you and we hope you will find a home here at Purusha.  Please reach out and share your story!  

In the circle of circles and the love of connection (yoga),

Joy & Eric