I grew up in New York and started doing yoga as a teenager with Lilas Folan on TV, channel 9. I was drawn to a lot of the spiritual literature of the 60s and started reading books about yoga and meditation—Alan Watts, Ram Dass. I convinced my old Italian parents that I needed to be in progressive alternative education for high school. My gym class wound up being yoga and biking. It was the early 70s and the drug culture was still very prominent. For me, drugs became a quick and easy way to feel happy and free. As I pursued that, the yoga and biking became less appealing. The drugs and the music of that era—Jefferson Airplane, The Doors—made me feel that anything was possible. I experienced freedom and an openness, which eventually dead ended.
Enlightenment doesn't come that easily. Experimenting with chemicals to find different levels of consciousness ultimately left me trapped. The freedom I had found from drugs became a prison. In my late twenties, I got clean and sober. I started living a healthier lifestyle. To stay fit, I reluctantly worked out at gyms, took dance classes and jogged around Washington Square Park. In the early 90's I moved to LA and found my way back to yoga. This yoga was different from the gentle 70s yoga; it was hot, sweaty, hard and intense. I loved it. I felt energized and alive.
So I was taking yoga every day, loving it and I just thought, why not take a teacher training? I went to Santa Barbara at White Lotus and realized how little I knew. So when I came back to LA I continued to practice incorporating taking Iyengar classes into my flow schedule. I knew my next step would be to take the Yoga Works advanced teacher training program. Here I was excited by incorporating precise alignment into a flow class.
Then a yoga teacher asked me to sub his class at a gym in Hollywood. I was very reluctant, but he assured me there would only be a few students there and I knew more than they did. I was still scared, but I showed up anyway. I then started teaching at gyms regularly, and practiced daily at YogaWorks, eventually subbing classes there for Seane Corn, Saul David Raye and Shiva Rea. YogaWorks co-founder Maty Ezraty heard about my classes and after attending one hired me and gave me some prime time classes on the YogaWorks schedule.
At that time, we were not encouraged to use music at YogaWorks. But music and its message seemed to be a perfect complement for a flow class. How can you not love doing sun salutations to the Rolling Stones?
So on the surface, things have changed, but on another level maybe not so much. The hedonism and chemicals of the 70's have been replaced by Yoga, meditation, and sobriety. Yoga has now become the vehicle for freedom, joy and ease.
"Lokah Samasta Sukhino Bhavantu"
"May All Beings Everywhere Be Happy and Free"
Each day we have this practice to keep our bodies cleansed, strong, flexible and our minds focused and connected to the present moment.
Who knows about the past or the future. Ram Dass said it all with "Be Here Now."