MUSIC MAN . COFFEE ADDICT . INTROVERT . YOGI
What's your story? I spent my school years in a conservatory studying classical guitar. After 7 years of intense study, I blasted off to New York City and started my journey as a musician and, eventually, a yogi. My days were spent working odd jobs and practicing yoga. My nights were spent writing, recording and performing my music. After several years of growth in New York, I settled into Charlotte, NC, where I made the transition to teaching and studying yoga full time. I studied Anusara, Ashtanga, Vinyasa and Para Yoga with several amazing teachers. In 2014 I was contacted by Duncan Peak of Power Living and in 2015 I made the move to Sydney, Australia to teach in the PLAY studios.
What did you want to be growing up? It was always a musician. One of my oldest memories is using a duffel bag strap and an old wooden tennis racket as a guitar. I would strap the racket on and listen to my mother's records whilst in my mind I was on stage pouring my heart out.
How would you describe yourself? It has taken a long time for me to be able to embrace my tendency towards introversion. As a performer and a yoga teacher, I expend so much energy and do my best to give something true, honest and from the deepest part of me. So when I'm not teaching, I lean towards the quieter side. I believe I stepped into my power when I embraced that and stopped trying to fight to be something else.
How would others describe me? Loyal. Dedicated. A bit of a goofball with a really foul mouth.
How would your mother describe you? I just shot her a message, and here is what she said: “wicked smart, compassionate, caring, and a wise ass. Oh, and courageous”.
What do you value most in others? Why? I value integrity. I value people who wake up every morning and strive to be good people. Who strive to live simply and honestly. And I value people who expect the very same from me.
When did you last cry? I inherited my tear ducts from my mother. We both have the tendency to well up and shed tears over almost anything; a song, a movie, a good story or a memory. The last time I cried was a couple of months ago. The woman I was seeing at the time was unfaithful while I was back in the States teaching and visiting family. That had me on my knees for a long time, but the process of standing back up has taught me so many amazing lessons. It has created a strong and unshakeable rededication to this practice. For that, and in that, I have found peace and strength.
Is there anything you preach, but don't practice? I make a point to ground my teachings in my own practice. If I teach from a place of inauthenticity, from a place where I can't speak from my truth, my students would know immediately. And even if they didn't, I would feel like a fraud. An amazing teacher in Hong Kong, Patrick Creelman, told me that in order to be a believable teacher you must practice what you teach in your home practice where there is nobody telling you what to do. I have taken that deep to heart and try to stay true to that.
We've all done a few things we aren't too proud of, care to share one? What is coming to mind now is how I used to treat my body. I spent my high school and college years in an arts conservatory where there was ample experimentation with a variety of chemicals. Add to that years as a musician with late nights, cigarettes and whiskey.
I don't regret any of it, but as my awareness shifted when I began this yoga journey, the habits began to break and I became more aware of what it takes to make this beautiful machine thrive.
Favorite Meal: One of my favorite meals is take away from the Thai restaurant across the street from one of the studios that I teach at. I love grabbing some curry and walking home along the beach after a long day of teaching.
Favorite Drink: Coconut milk strong flat white. I have given up many vices in my life; coffee is not one of them.
Favorite Book: ‘Four Desires’ by Rod Stryker. A book full of accessible and attainable yogic wisdom on how to move more towards a fulfilled and happy life. I think it is time for me to revisit it.
Ok, let's talk about yoga, how'd you get into it? When I was living in New York, I was struggling with PTSD, which included battles with panic attacks and depression. I searched for ways to alleviate the symptoms, including medication, and only found a true path to healing when I started practicing asana. I had to get on my mat and actively burn through the top layers of the anxiety and panic before I could sit in stillness and find a deeper healing through meditation.
What was the biggest challenge when you first started practicing? I was very aware, as many new to asana are, that my body wasn't yet capable of the fluid graceful movements that I was seeing around me. I have always been self-conscious about my body, and being a novice in a packed yoga studio only exacerbated that. Eventually I was able set my drishti (gaze), turn inward and set my intention on inner growth.
Why do you keep coming back? Because the work is never done. Because this practice is endless. Because there are always and will always be teachers to learn from and deeper insights to unveil.
What would make you skip practice? There are so many aspects to the practice, that rarely a day goes by when I don't spend time with at least one of them. My goal right now is to make my meditation practice as prominent in my life as my asana. My asana practice ebbs and flows, but when I'm not working on my more active and demanding poses, I'll dedicate time to yin and restorative.
Do you teach? Why? What's it like? I do teach. As soon as I felt first hand the miraculous effects this practice can have on a person, I knew this was something that I had to share with others. On its best days, I feel like I'm doing some real good for those around me. On its worst days, it can be a grind and feel like a job. But on those days I still remember what it is like on the best days.
Other than yoga, what keeps you busy? I love being out in nature. Sydney's coastline is overflowing with beautiful clifftop hikes and hidden spots that continue to take my breath away. I also have two amazing dogs that I brought with me from America. Long walks and quiet cuddles with them keep me busy enough.
What advice would you give to someone stepping onto the mat for the first time? Give it time. Be okay with being a beginner and be patient. The fruits of the practice will ripen for you soon enough.
Tell us about a time your yoga practice came into play off the mat? Every day of my life. Every single day. Cameron Shayne says it best: “Wake up every morning with the intention of not being a dick. Let that be your yoga.”
What challenges or issues have you experienced being a guy who teaches/practices yoga? There are a lot of stereotypes about men who teach yoga. Unfortunately, those stereotypes ring true in some cases. I have seen more than my share of men who use the yoga studio as a means to pursue more personal ventures. The relationships that are created in the yoga studio can take many shapes, but they must be approached and treated with integrity and honesty.
What does BOYS OF YOGA project mean to you? An amazing way of connecting to inspiring and innovative men who are creating amazing change in this world.
If you could spend some time hanging out with some of the other BOYS OF YOGA who would it be, and why? Octavio, for sure - we’ve spent some time teaching together in Bali and I hope to get back up there soon and reconnect. Yancy and Jambo are two that look like I could get into some trouble with, too.
What's your favorite pose? I have always gravitated towards handstands. Inversions and arm balances have always been captivating for me. On the other side, deep backbends have eluded me. My body is quite restricted in my backbending, so it has been a journey learning how to approach them with love and grace instead of force and aggression.
Yoga is… Connection to the awareness that consciousness is in everything.
Your quote or mantra: The world makes way for the man who knows which way he is going. - Emerson
Interviewed: April 17th, 2016
Photos by @michaeljameswong and property of BOYS OF YOGA LLC