Composer and performer Igor Iwanek has spent the past two years teaching music-based yoga classes in the Jackson metro area as part of his "Mindful Sound Experience" program, which was originally titled "Music and Mysticism."
"I changed the name of the program as the focus on the classes shifted," Iwanek says.
Iwanek, 36, was born in Łodź, Poland, and moved to Boston in January 2001 to study music. He received a bachelor's degree in music composition from Boston Conservatory, and a doctorate in music composition from Boston University. Iwanek and his wife, Divya, moved to Madison in 2015 after she took a job as a physician with University of Mississippi Medical Center.
Mindful Sound Experience started in 2015 as a Millsaps Community Enrichment course that he says focused on the exploration of musical cultures of the world and the sacred aspect of music and sound. After the Millsaps class ended, he began teaching in his living room.
"I would do lectures spanning the world, featuring the music of India, Cuba, Bali, North Africa and other places," he says. Over time, the mindfulness aspect grew, so he changed the name to Mindful Sound Experience. He later began hosting classes at places that would put the music in cultural context, such as the International Museum of Muslim Cultures or the Beth Israel Congregation.
Rather than focus on the physical postures, or asana, Iwanek's classes incorporate what he calls postures for the mind. He uses mindfulness tools such as breathing, meditation, chanting and other sound-based exercises to help practitioners direct their senses to within themselves.
In addition to teaching classes in the Jackson area and southeastern U.S., Iwanek has also worked with Bilal Qizilbash, who runs local charity organization "R U Hungry?," to organize mindfulness courses for Jackson's homeless population.
"What I like most about Jackson is the spirit of openness and exploration I've found here," Iwanek says. "A lot of people ask what's in it for them when they enter my workshops, and in the end, I don't know, but I do know that music (quiets) people, and let's them look inside. It's a door you open and enter, and it's difficult to say what's behind it. ... (It) let's you transform your inner landscape. That's the first step to affect change. First, change yourself, then other things will follow."
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