MEDITATION MAN . WANNABE MAGICIAN . CULTURE ARCHITECT . YOGI.
Name: SCOTT SCHWENK
Hometown: ROCHESTER, NY, USA
Current town: WEST HOLLYWOOD, CA, USA
Yoga practice style: MEDITATION & MANTRA, KASHMIRI TANTRA, IYENGAR, ANUSARA.
What’s your story? I grew up an artist, a musician, and a seeker - fiercely independent. I went to an acting conservatory for University, picking up a minor in philosophy and religion, spent a few years living and training in a hindu-tantrik ashram in the mountains of Upstate NY, and along the way did time as a personal banker and deep in the throes of the entertainment world, training to be a talent agent to A-list actors. I’ve been empathic and able to hear into people’s inner life since I was a kid, so initially trying to get my head and heart around all of that was the rocket fuel in my journey. It didn’t take long to get wind of concepts like enlightenment and self-realization. By then I was studying with anyone who seemed worth his or her salt to get at the levers and dials for maxing out human potential and this huge sense of something “more” beyond even all of that.
I’ve always had one foot deeply grounded in this world, savoring all that it’s got, while hungering for a deeper consciousness of where life comes from. I’ve never wanted to choose between enjoying the life that’s here, and this business of waking up to the bigger picture. I’ve deeply sensed that it doesn’t have to be a choice like that.
What did you want to be growing up? A magician.
How would you describe yourself? Spontaneous “hooray” shouter, artist, lover, catalyst, meditation whisperer.
How would others describe you? Seeker, instigator, meditator, coach, optimist, rabble-rouser.
How would your mother describe you? Curious, sensitive, passionate, leader, healer, artist, foodie.
What do you most value in others? Self-love. When people have an abiding sense of self-love, we show up. We can be counted on. We are free to nurture and be nurtured. We laugh deeply. We play fully. We have integrity.
When did you last cry? Watching the trailers for 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens' I cried like a baby. I had electric goose-bumps shooting from head-to-toe. People awakening to the Force of life - of love without condition – this is what my life is for.
We’ve all done a few things we aren’t too proud of. Care to share one? Getting out of my car at a stop light to walk up to this woman’s car to read her the riot act for racing too close to the gap in a line of stopped traffic and not letting me turn into the line. Apparently, I can get really righteous when I feel like integrity is massively out! I have to practice a lot of patience in city traffic!
Favourite Meal? The old-fashioned cheeseburger at The Hip Vegan in Ojai. Oh man, it's the best vegan cheeseburger anywhere, ever (so far). The thing just melts in your mouth.
Favourite Drink? Mezcal Mule or Dirty Chai. I’m all about genius flavor profiles.
Favourite Book? Great Swan by Lex Hixon. It’s this heart-wrenchingly intimate experience of the saint Ramakrishna, like you’re right there in the room smelling the incense, catching a contact high on this incredible man’s embodied radical freedom. I get drunk on consciousness with nearly every page.
Okay, let’s talk about yoga. How’d you get into it? I took my first Iyengar class during Freshman year of University. I was shocked by how much I loved it, how much it relaxed me. But to be honest, my favorite part were the meditations. Something in my heart would leap and come alive, like getting water in a desert. The next time was in a meditation intensive in the Catskill Mountains of New York. On the second day, something woke up inside of me. It was like I’d been stumbling around in the dark most of my life, and someone came over and turned a light on. While I knew there was much further to walk, I now had a light to see by.
What was the biggest challenge when you first started practicing? My hips and hamstrings were so tight, I needed a lot of props to feel like I could really enter a pose. But the bigger challenge by far was my competitive ego. Every time I hit the mat, I notice how it wants me to evolve from where I am. It’s a constant exercise in softening and humility.
Why do you keep coming back? It works. The true power of awakening behind all of Yoga is real. If a little is good, a lot must be great!
Do you teach? Yes. I teach meditation and Ecstatic Breathwork. Meditation has revolutionized my sense of freedom, self-love, and ability to navigate life. I would share it even it weren’t part of my job. It’s a calling. For me, teaching has become one of my most profound teachers. I learn so much about the practice, about humanity and compassion, every time I step in front of a room.
Other than yoga, what keeps you busy? I do evolutionary coaching work with people all over the world and right here in Los Angeles, so I’m constantly reading up on culture architecture, leadership development, neuroscience, nearly every page of Fast Company magazine, meeting with innovators, and deepening my own practices. I make a point of getting to the gym every day to get into my body with some lifting and running. Other than that, discovering LA still keeps me occupied. I’m in my seventeenth year here, and still find so many spots to experience for the first time. This place is a creativity cauldron.
What advice would you give to someone stepping onto the mat for the first time? Leave your ego outside with your shoes. Be open to discovering something new about your body, yourself, and people. Look for the good. Have a sense of humor about it all.
What challenges or issues have you experienced being a guy who teaches/practices yoga? I have to give myself a lot of permission to pause when I need it. To slow down in class to really meet the pose in my actual body, where it really is on any given day, rather than just keep up with the pace the rest of the class seem to be at.
What does the BOYS OF YOGA project mean to you? It means a groundswell of men discovering and embodying inner freedom; balancing the real beauty and strength of the masculine with a soft and open heart, compassion, and the ability to flow with what life is bringing. My life, in no small part, is about furthering a meditation revolution. I absolutely feel Boys of Yoga can be a massive catalyst in that direction.
If you could spend more time with one of the other BOYS, who would it be? MJ Wong!
What’s your favorite pose? Pigeon. Such a relief in my hips every time!
What pose do you fucking hate? Why? Warrior one sucks for me. I’d almost rather have hot knitting needles stuck in my eyes. I just never seem to find the rotation and feel like I’m alternating between almost falling over and just aching.
Yoga is… The freedom to live and love without conditions.
Your quote or mantra: “Just when the caterpillar thought the world was about to end, it became a butterfly.”
Interviewed: November 14th 2015
Photos by @michaeljameswong and property of BOYS OF YOGA Ltd.