1) How did you start practicing Yoga? Tell us about your early yoga experiences.
I started practicing yoga so long ago that it’s honestly hard to remember the exact circumstances of its beginning. I have a memory of watching a show on TV that mentioned it and then buying a book by Richard Hittleman – something like 18 days to a yoga practice. Sometimes around 1972, when I was 16 or 17 years old, I went to hear a talk that Swami Satchidananda gave at a church in Manhattan and felt the power of his gaze and at about the same time I learned Transcendental Meditation and became a regular daily meditator.
2) When was the moment you knew that Yoga was different or special – more than just another “exercise” or ways to be physical?
I found that I could go inside and find tranquility in the midst of turbulence. I often practiced meditation in seemingly unlikely places, and found that it had a profound effect. I meditated on subways and at parties where people were loud and getting stoned. At one point I drove a taxi for six months and during that time I chanted a mantra the entire time I would drive. This powerful practice enabled me to develop powers of intuition which intrigued me. My physical practice was quite mild for the first 20 years of practice as it was mostly a meditation practice with some asanas to prepare for meditation. It became a much more physical practice for me around 1994 when I needed to heal from significant hip pain. The yoga practice has enabled me to thrive in my life and I cannot imagine life without it.
3) What is your favorite and least favorite pose, and why?
I can’t say that I have one favorite pose but I like poses where I am able to coordinate a complete interrelation of all facets of my being in the pose. If i had to narrow it down I’d say Triangle, Downward Facing Dog, Shoulder Stand and Head Stand. My least favorite is Gomukhasana because my hips just don’t work that way.
5) What Yamas or Niyamas do your find most helpful in your daily life, and why?
My favorite Yama and Niyama is Ahimsa and Brahmacharya. The benefits of practicing non-violence towards all things and beings is that it in turn makes you more aware and peaceful in your everyday interactions with objects and beings. Brahmacharya I believe is misinterpreted and for me it’s the correct and mindful usage of my energies.
6) Our theme for the month of May is the Muladhara (or Root) Chakra – are there certain poses (or other practices) that help you feel more grounded and stable?
As to what makes me more grounded and stable obviously the standing poses are super helpful in that regard but ultimately it all comes back to sitting in meditation if you want life to have more stability and less turbulence.
7) Tell us something about your experience teaching at Harlem Yoga Studio
It has been a great joy to have the freedom to teach what i know at HYS and to continue to practice with Erica Barth one of my long time students. I still feel like I am only a very new teacher to HYS but I have been made supremely comfortable. I look forward to sharing a lifetime of practice with all of the people who happen into my room on Tuesday night. It is the greatest joy to have an unexpected student who may or may not have been practicing for a long time come and have their conception of the practice changed in a single class. While I teach an advanced level class i like to think that anyone could do it and that what makes it advanced is the willingness to expand ones awareness of what it means to practice.