This month marks my 20th Anniversary in practicing yoga. Like a gentle breeze caressing my ear, yoga slipped its way into my life as a beacon of hope and saving grace for my being.
20 years ago I was having to choose an elective class in undergrad at SUNY Purchase College and my dearest and long time friend Anjanette DeCarlo suggested that I take yoga class "because I had anger issues", go figure being an Italian boy from The Bronx. I enrolled in class, there were 60 of us in the gym and we did these stretches, lead by an elderly woman Joe Schaffe, The space was semi-lit as if we were on a sensual date but with ourselves and the teacher proceeded to guide us through this beautiful sequence that finally ended in savasana (corpse pose.) After the session, she turned up the lights and gathered us all for questioning, such as a satsang with the guru. One question she posed to us was "how old do you think I am?" We generally took a consensus and felt that she was in her 50's. She divulged that she was 87!!!! All of us gasped. My mouth dropped and in my mind I was like "how the hell can an 87 year old do what she was doing when at 20 I couldn't?!" What my eyes pereceived was the truth in her revelation, she exuded such warmth, a loving presence and she had this expansive glow to her. I committed to studying with her for a year and after I graduated I continued the practice and promised myself that I would because that first day I said to myself "Self, whatever she had I wanted it too." As part of our reading material she suggested the book by Swami Rama "Science of Breath."
I continued my journey on my own doing my own practice, back then, twice a day sometimes, but it was all under what I remembered us doing in class. I practiced by myself with my inner guru for 7 years. I picked up meditation through the Himalayan Institute in NYC and incorporated that as part of my practice. (Up until then, I simply relied upon the magic of savasana to take me deeper.) As a side note, the teacher introduced me to Neti. Yay for one of the shadkriyas!
Along the way, I was introduced to the teachings of Ram Das through a profound philanthropist in NYC, Cy O'Neil at Friends Indeed. I was also given a taste of Deepok Chopra but this was when I was 18 and in High School. Anyways....
I landed in Philadelphia 13 years ago to live with a master yogi and my partner and soul mate Luis Lago Jr. We were going to join a teacher training program but he fell ill. I took care of him for sometime and as a thank you he gifted me a ticket to see Ram Das in Philadelphia, where I was not only introduced to such an amazing being but also to my initial family through Yoga On Main with David Newman being my brother, and one of my favorite and first yoga teachers, Anna Krain, who was the first yoga teacher for me in Philly, and Rhoni Groff being my spiritual mom, even until this day. This is where it became serious.
I joined the teacher training program, because Anna strongly encouraged me to do so and that where the ball rolled faster. On the first day of class, held by Shiva Das, he asked us all to set an intention. Mine was "for change in my life." Things were rough because I was still adapting to Philly, my partner was very ill and I was a social worker for child protective services and specialized in child sexual abuse. Anyhow, I enrolled in teacher training and this is where the sister science of yoga enticed me. I met Ed Zadlo and he introduced me to Ayurveda. I was in love and have been with Ayurveda ever since. Yoga and Ayurveda and everything that comes with it, which is the entire universe but the doorway is within my heart and the key is surredering of this ego.
COMING FULL CIRCLE
Coming full circle, I have been teaching yoga fo the past 12 years and practicing Ayurveda. Along with being an Advanced Ayurvedic Yoga Therapist I am becoming an aspiring Pranacharya and Mantra Yoga Practitioner. My class teachings are through workshops more these days, versus group classes, though I sub on occasion, and I currently mainly teach through privates as did the founders of yoga, with the one on one application. I have a thriving small private Ayurvedic/Yoga holistic wellness center, Hidden Health Center. I continue with my own home daily practice and have been over the phase of taking lots of yoga classes in other studios. Now and if/when I take a class, it is usually with Dharma Mitra and Erica Taxin Bleznak. I've always taught my students that I know "I'm doing my job right" when I see them less in my classes because I've encouraged them to go inward and practice from home. My yoga room calls me in by simply walking past it daily. I go within to explore the universe as a scientist but also simple innocent child. I bring the ego and offer it up to the divine.
Yoga has transformed my life over and over again. It has never left me even when I may have and might deviate from my yoga mat. One truth holds true, that regardless of the chaos in the world I will always have my yoga mat, or simple ground, to fall upon and to hold me up. I am a perpetual but humble student who is passionate about these teachings and even if I should never be in a position where I had students I will always have one, myself. I have dedicated my life to these practices and in return they have given me more life.
I reaffirm my promise to my practice, even moreso and after this past year, when I participated in the national yoga project with Amy Goalen"Inside the Warrior". One of the questions she asked was "what yogi/yogini first inspired me?" I vaguely remembered my first teachers name and callrd Purchase to confirm. The admissions office provided me with the name and told me that Joe recently retured a few years ago and died after that. Meaning, she was teaching yoga until 104 years old! Thus has raised the bar for me. I aspire to be as great as she was and in my own version of greatness.
I acknowledge her for touching my life so profoundly.
I acknowledge all the well known teachers but importantly the teachers who have been my students/patients.
I continue on in memory of Luis who never made it to teacher training, in body, but is and will forever be a part of me as I continue forward with this dream, our dream, come true today.
My hope and prayer is to touch one life as my first yoga teacher touched and imprinted upon mine.
HAPPY 20TH ANNIVERSARY!
Thank you! I bow down to all!
Namaste and infinite love to all of you!