Around 1989-90, after 3 years of spiritual searching and practice, I had a lot of time and a great library to read from, and I read, among many other things, The Complete Illustrated Book of Yoga by Swami Vishnudevananda. I had enjoyed stretching for exercise and thought, “Great! Organized stretching.” and so I started practicing 2 hours every day from that book. I had other spiritual practices at the time that were separate, apparently. After a short amount of that practice, to my surprise, what I had considered chronic back pain had stopped.
Two years of practice later, I met and started studying with my first yoga teacher who later encouraged me to do yoga teacher training at the Kripalu Center where she had trained. About a year later, in November of 1992, I took the month-long training there and loved it and started teaching shortly after that. I have been teaching, and practicing of course, since then. Now my spiritual practices are all integrated, and devotional practices are the biggest components of my practice time. I do hatha yoga and chanting and meditation daily and it all complements the whole picture.
My main influences in my hatha yoga are Kripalu Yoga, in which I was originally trained and which still very much informs my teaching, Iyengar, Anusara, Integral Yoga, Erich Schiffmann and Yogi Hari. My main yoga teachers since 1997, though, are Angela Farmer and Victor Von Kooten, though my style of yoga looks very much unlike theirs. I consider them my main teachers because they were the first people who I saw as healers who use hatha yoga as their mode of healing, and they use and teach the practice as a way of finding, healing and integrating all the lost, scared, alone, hurt parts of ourselves. Their main focus in the practice is energy, smoothing its flow and having the movement guided by that, and they are very much about making your yoga your own and finding how to make it come from inside. They were also the first teachers who I felt safe enough with and who were strong and grounded enough in themselves that I could confront them in class with challenging and personally difficult questions for them and they could not only take it, but thank and reward me for it. I hope to be the same kind of teacher as them in all that.
In 1995, I completed my Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy training and practiced that for about 10 years. When I started offering a yoga teacher training, I dropped my PRYT practice since yoga teaching was, and is, taking all my time. For about two years I was involved as a mentor in the PRYT training program.
In 1997, after 7+ years of intensive yoga and meditation practice without one specific teacher, I met my Guru, Amma, who in the West is often referred to as “The Hugging Saint” since she gives a hug to everyone who comes to see her. It’s amazing and humbling to see this small, loving woman hugging thousands of people for hours on end without tiring. (At her 50th birthday celebration in India, she hugged about 45,000 people from about 1:30 in the afternoon until 8:30 the next morning. It’s a mind-bending experience to witness that. In the US, big crowds so far are only up to 7000 people in a night.) Having spent at least a week with her each year since 1997 and seeing her give and love and hug people endlessly, I continue to be inspired and humbled by her example. I give her credit for taking me deeper on the path of yoga than I had ever dreamed I would be able to go. And I know I still have a lot further to go!
In 1999, with Nikki my wife, I started leading weekly kirtan, the first in Carrboro/Chapel Hill, and have been having that every Friday since then.
In 2002, Nikki and I had Bodhi, our first boy, and in 2005, Forest came along. These beautiful beings have offered countless opportunities for continued learning and testing of the spiritual growth and insights that I have received on my mat and meditation cushion. My family continues to help me to be a better, more grounded and real person.
In 2004 year, due to the repeated requests from long-time students, I began teaching Carrboro/Chapel Hill’s first and longest-running yoga teacher training. It is amazing and wonderful to see all the great students over the years becoming great teachers in their own right. The training is a 9 month course, and new trainings begin in September.
In my spare time (yes, I do have a LITTLE), I love to take walks in the woods with our dogs while repeating my mantra with my footsteps, to assistant coach our older son’s CHHS Ultimate Frisbee team (Go CHUF!), and to play disc golf with our younger son.
My daily personal practice on the mat aims at uncovering the love and bliss that resides in the Heart, so works a lot with the mind and its hindrances. In practice and teaching this comes out as, hopefully, encouragement to focus deeply, accept deeply, and tune-in to the subtle messages of our own inner guidance. I like to work “hard” and deeply and be rigorously attentive, peaceful, honest, energized, loving and thankful. I am also a Lover of the Power of Mantra and am devoted to the use of mantra in my daily practice which includes chanting Sri Lalita Sahasranama, the 1000 Names of the Divine Mother and japa (mantra) meditation. I encourage everyone to use a mantra for inner and outer peace. Pick a mantra that you like and repeat it mentally (or out loud) 3000 or more times per day. (that’s not as many as you think). Watch the effects!!
My intention and prayer in life and in my teaching is usually very simple: that the One who Dwells in the Hearts of All Beings express Itself through this body and life and guide “me.” In this light, I generally have no plan when I walk into a room to teach and go as the Spirit guides which usually comes from who is there and the mood in the room, including my mood. I like to keep a sense of humor and to connect with my students. I tend to give a lot of hands-on assists and am open to students letting me know that they don’t want it.
In 2010 I opened Open Heart Yoga School with fellow yoga teacher and one of my yoga students, Allison Dennis. We were “business partners” for 2 wonderful years, and in April 2012, I left Open Heart to open Loving Kindness Yoga School to continue and deepen the work I’d begun at Open Heart. I feel honored to still be the caretaker of Chapel Hill/Carrboro’s only donation-only yoga space.