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Participants in a recent meditation class at Jaya Yoga, 320 S. State St., Clarks Summit, relax in a candlelit atmosphere.

Look within.

That's what organizers of a free study group focusing on yoga philosophy and meditation beginning on Monday, Jan. 27, at 7 p.m. at Jaya Yoga Studio, 320 S. State St., Clarks Summit, are hoping participants will do as a result of the two-hour weekly workshops.

"There is a lot of misinterpretation about the practice of yoga; people still think that yoga is some sort of cult, which it is not at all," said Hilary Steinberg, the owner of Jaya Yoga. "Yoga encourages people to look inward for the answers. It challenges you to remember that you are stronger than you think and reminds you that you know yourself better than you think."

"Our inner dialogue is so much harsher than what we have with anyone else in our lives," she continued. "We would never speak to anyone else the way we speak to ourselves. Understanding some of the philosophy behind the postures, poses and physical practice of yoga will give people a better connection to themselves and their yoga practice."

Besides breaking common stereotypes about yoga, the group, which is led by Janet Dunn-Davenport, aims to teach people about yoga sutras, the eight limbs of yoga, and the "Bhagavad Gita," an important yogic text.

"The goal of this class is to teach people about where yoga comes from and why we do it," Dunn-Davenport said. "We all have a desire deep down inside of us to become a better person and to help the world. Yoga is a deep, profound way of living. It isn't just exercises on a mat. Its goal is to get you to become more present, more in the moment."

Dunn-Davenport also discussed the benefits of yoga.

"I believe that even though there are all different types of yoga, the intent is all the same, which is to get connected to the root of oneself," she said. "When we start yoga, we become more mindful; for example, we might become more mindful of the exercise that we do or the food that we put into our bodies. We eventually peel away at all of the layers of ourselves to get to our heart. We become more compassionate with ourselves, others, the earth and the world."

Steinberg explained why her studio is offering the study group as a gift to the community.

"People shouldn't have to pay for information about something like this," she said. "I see this studio as a place for people to learn. We're offering this course as a community service; this studio is a place where people can learn and deepen their practice."

"We want to be able to answer questions about the practice of yoga," Steinberg continued. "Giving people more knowledge and more of a connection to themselves and each other on the mat and out in the world is really what is behind this course. I want to give people a place to come together - that's the definition of community."

For more information on the study group, call 319-1726 or visit www.jayayogastudio.com.