What brought you to yoga?
Well, I have been around yoga and spiritualism my entire life. My parents were “counterculture” and encouraged seeking, skepticism, and exploration. I was not specifically a yoga practitioner but I was exposed to many different angles of it from a young age. I ended up studying martial arts throughout most of my youth. Towards the end of my highschool years I was mostly concerned with finding work, social interactions, and love interests. I definitely was not focused on my mental, physical, or spiritual well being
By my mid 20s I realized a sedentary lifestyle and poor diet weren’t working for me. Two jobs, 7 days a week, and too many hours sitting at a computer. Something had to change. I dabbled in this and that. I eventually found my way to Escobar Training Grounds. I got the motivation necessary to live more actively training MMA there. After a number of years I was at a point where body stopped improving and started to hurt. MMA is somewhat “high impact”. I’m also not particularly competitive which didn’t help with some aspects of the MMA culture. I started looking for some balance. A bit of Yin for all the Yang. I started attending classes at the Shala. Mostly Flow and some Yin classes. Then getting into the Ashtanga program. After a period of time, around 1 to 2 years, I transitioned to just doing yoga. I love the crew at Escobar’s. I love the art aspect of martial arts. I miss kickboxing. But the change was necessary.
How did you discover the Tahoe Yoga Shala?
I couple of my friends at ETG frequented and recommended the Shala. They also encouraged me to try Ashtanga yoga. I had no idea what that meant at the time but I was very fond of the forms involved with martial arts and they thought I would take well to the format. This ended up being an accurate assumption!
How has yoga enriched your life?
I am grateful to yoga for the mind/body awareness it encourages. The connection between the breath and movement. Being mindful of the inhale and the exhale has had a huge impact on all aspects of my life.
Although flexibility is not my focus, yoga has made me more physically flexible. And possibly more mentally flexible. Although strength is not my focus, yoga has made me physically stronger. And perhaps mentally stronger.
Yoga was also a catalyst. The allure of the Eastern philosophies beckoned. After simply practicing asana for a time I dove into the writings, lectures, and recordings of whoever I could find or was recommended. From current and past teachers, the Sutras, the Vedas, the teachings of the Buddha, those who came before him and after. What began as stretching has led me to realize there is a path.
What advice would you give to a person interested in starting a yoga practice?
Just do it. Cliche right? Don’t worry about what shape, size, or age you are. My father just started practicing yoga regularly and he’s in his 70’s!
Don’t be afraid to go just for the physical. It’s why I started. I didn’t start to meditate, to chant, to pray, to zen, for the rich history. I didn’t even come for the savasana. I started for the stretches. I had no idea where it was going to lead me.
Conversely, don’t be afraid to go for the “spiritual” side either. It’s one of the things I love about yoga and one of the reasons I continue. It’s yours. There is no set linear progression. No prerequisites. No formula. Unless, of course, you want one.
On a more practical note, take it slow. I know that is what I would tell my past self if I could. Breathe. Listen. Strive less. It’s easy to get caught up in what others can do. It’s even easier to get caught up in what you can do! Stay calm. Sthira-sukham asanam. Try not to look for a quick fix either. It’s ok to enjoy a single class now and then but the real benefit is in the long game. Change can take time. The body needs movement and the mind needs focus. Everyday for as long as it is able.
What do you most appreciate about the Tahoe Yoga Shala?
The Shala is home, familiar, comfortable, warm. Literally warm. It’s so wonderful at 6am on a cold winter morning! When the sun comes up and naturally lights the space. Even if I’m there alone early in the morning, there’s an energy to my practice I don’t get anywhere else. It is just what it needs to be.
I appreciate all the teachers. They each bring their own unique personalities and style.
I appreciate the sangha. Everyone is accepting and dedicated.
How do you practice your yoga off the mat?
There is movement, and yoga, in every single moment of existence. On or off the mat.
If you were a yoga pose, which one would you be?
In the morning I am tadasana. In the evening I am sukhasana.
Tell us something unusual about yourself - the wackier the better!
I think this was the question I spent the most time searching for a response to. I’m afraid I am not particularly “wacky”. I may even be somewhat humdrum. I’m ok with this. So, maybe I’ll simply end on a personal note. Whenever I finish practicing asana or sitting quietly, I say this prayer;
May all beings be peaceful
May all beings be happy
May all beings be safe
May all beings awaken to the light of their true nature
May all beings be free