Website:  salamatyoga.com                                                                                                                                                                                                              
Instagram:  @salamatyoga

What’s your story?  First & foremost, I represent my culture as a b-boy (break dancer aka break-boy) Born & raised in Los Angeles, California, dance was brought into my life early on - through the golden era of 90s hip hop and R&B, and the varied influences of my family and friends. As a dancer, I dedicated 15 years of my life to competing internationally and performing for high-profile sponsors and celebrity artists. My love of it also led me to explore several other movement arts, including mixed martial arts. 

Art has also played a major part in my life. Creativity keeps me feeling alive and I’ve always lived like I’m creating my own world on canvas. After graduating from The Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising (FIDM), I got into design, working for several big corporations and creating unique brand experiences for people all over the world. I later came back to FIDM as a design instructor and career advisor. Through those roles, I had the opportunity to inspire students to reach their potential in the field of design - these were some of the most gratifying years in my professional career.

What did you want to be growing up?  Michael Jackson. Mike Tyson. Bruce Lee. Ultimate Warrior. These are the four horsemen to the elements of my character: movement, courage, philosophy, visionary. 

How would you describe yourself?  Playful, humble, creative, disciplined, restless, caring, eternal student. 

How would others describe you?  Genuine, comical, animated, determined. I'm always willing to put others before myself and I have a way of bringing people and opportunities together. I'm so all over the place with my passions that I'm a bit of a ‘Jack of all trades, master of none”… and I sound like Aziz Ansari. 

How would your mother describe you?  "Good looking because he got his looks from me!"

What do you most value in others? Why?  Perspective. Everyone is aligned with the universe yet we all have our own unique stories. Watching others’ unfold is fascinating.  

When did you last cry? What was it over?  Recently, due to a relationship and a big life transition. It's always difficult to surrender the past you once loved and move on to the future. 

Is there anything you preach but don’t practice?  Telling people to chill out. Haha! I'm always on the hustle keeping myself stimulated so I’m rarely sitting still and chilling out myself! 

We’ve all done a few things we aren’t too proud of, care to share one?  A few years back, I decided to quit dancing and move on from the b-boy scene. At the time, I was very bitter and negative about the culture within that scene. Looking back, I realize I was actually incredibly fortunate; I had friends all over the world who welcomed me in and shared that culture with me. Whether their way of doing things was identical to mine or not shouldn't have mattered. I truly regret not pursuing my passion for dance and sharing my own interpretation of that culture with the world. 

Favourite meal? Explain...  Guilty, guilty pleasure that I will not front on: McDonald’s Double Cheeseburger w/ Big Mac Sauce + fries. It's my jam and I love it. 

Favourite drink? Explain…  Boba teas! You have to live here in Southern California to know the real-deal Boba Teas bubble tea. I’m a sweet tooth - aka big kid at heart!

Favourite book? Explain…  ‘Key To Living The Law of Attraction’ by Jack Canfield. It's my life bible and such a simple read. It's my go-to anytime I need it to attract positivity back into my life. 

Ok, let’s talk about yoga, how’d you get into it?  At the time, I was heavily into mixed martial arts and 10th Planet Jiu Jitsu, studying under Eddie Bravo. 10th Planet Jiu Jitsu is basically an unorthodox style of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, in which flexibility can be a great advantage. Being a smaller fighter, I wanted to bring flexibility and b-boying into my fighting style, to gain that advantage point. Yoga was a great way to improve that flexibility. 

My first class was in Bikram yoga and it kicked my ass on all levels. But I kept practicing and watched my fighting style improve immensely through all the deep stretching, heat endurance, and honing my focus on the breath. Years later, I expanded my practice from Bikram to Hatha Yoga under Tony Giulano (Yoga At The Raven.) The vibe & ambiance of the studio is what consistently inspired me to keep coming back. 

After a severe knee injury, I was forced me to change my yoga practice, working with modifications and taking it easy to help the healing process. I was amazed by how well my yoga practice helped me heal; I reflected on the true power of the practice and the mental influence it had on my life. Five years of practice later, during which my lifestyle changed a lot, I decided to take the leap to get deeper into the practice and complete a teacher training. 

What was the biggest challenge when you first started practicing?  Learning to relax and focus on my breath. At the time, I was only versed in cardio-based regimens so it was a new challenge to take it slow and be composed with my movements. 

Why do you keep coming back?  Whenever I'm in constant motion, I'm in my true element, so training in all forms of art is my life. 

What would make you skip practice?  I skip classes all the time, no problem. I was taught that I have a whole lifetime to improve my practice & to let it come naturally. It's not just about the practice we design on the mat but how we translate into our everyday lives. So I'm always practicing!  

Do you teach?  Yes. I feel I have an intuitive way of identifying with people, and can generate innovation through connection with their emotions. Teaching is the broadest sense of my character as it helps me channel and share my opinions & convictions in a way that serves others. I like my classes to be like a creative & inspirational conversation, which sets up a gateway for the student to explore mindful movements to unlock internal potential. I make it a point to present a sense of aesthetics, by integrating a variety of medias as inspiration.

Other than yoga, what keeps you busy?  I'm a designer by day and work with companies like Disney & NBC Universal. Aside from my day job, I'm just a movement artist, so I'm always training, climbing, dancing, & exploring. And if I'm not moving, you’ll find me studying new visual arts elements & philosophies to link into my ever-expanding interpretation of life!

What advice would you give to someone stepping onto the mat for the first time?  Sand bag - all day! By that I mean take it easy on yourself, and save your strength to last you through ’til the end of class. Also don't judge your first class as everything yoga has to offer - explore other classes and find teachers that you can vibe with. 

Tell us about a time your yoga practice came into play off the mat?  The moment I realized that my mind doesn't control me.

What challenges or issues have you experienced being a guy who teaches/practices yoga?  Media has publicized a generalized image of how I should act or look as a guy - it’s sometimes a challenge to let that go and know that I don’t have to adhere to that image. At the end of the day, no matter what I do, I’m still the same guy. I still have my internal issues and still make many mistakes. I‘m not always "Zen" & never will be. It’s all good.

What does the BOYS OF YOGA project mean to you?  An inspirational platform to be understood throughout the universe. It's awesome to have an international crew of artists to mentor me and show me the ways to express gratitude one class at time. 

If you could spend some time hanging out with some of the other BOYS, who would it be, and why?
Michael - since taking his workshop in LA, I became extremely inspired by his demonstration of positive vibes and technical asana knowledge. With our first meeting he was truly genuine in providing insight and being a positive influence in my journey as a new teacher. He is a great mentor who I can relate to on so many levels and feel I can learn a great deal from. 

Yancy - He's legit on all levels of the word! I attend his classes, which are challenging but progressive for my practice. I have the upmost respect for his disciplined yet laid back approach to the interpretations. Culturally our worlds cross over with him being an OG skater from NYC & myself being an OG b-boy from LA. 

Ude -  I can see a lot of similarities in our backgrounds with the b-boyin’, so I know we are on the same frequency & journey. I look forward to vibing out with him & wrecking the floor together eventually! 

What’s your favourite pose?  I love playing with a modified version of Grasshopper pose and Crow Pose. It's an abstract pose I discovered through my years of B-boyn' but improved through Yoga. 

What pose do you fucking hate? Why?  Wheel. I have a tight lower back from years of dancing & designing at a desk. It's always a struggle so I often sandbag this pose -  let it go! 

Yoga is…   The art of mindful movement. Through movement you tap into the frequency of mindfulness & through mindfulness you’re able to paint canvases with your movement.  

Your quote or mantra:
"So tonight y’gotta leave that 9 to 5 upon the shelf
And just enjoy yourself.
Groove, let the madness in the music get to you.
Life ain't so bad at all
If you live it off the wall. " - Michael Jackson 

Interviewed: April 6th, 2016

Photos by @michaeljameswong and property of BOYS OF YOGA LLC