I was rollerblading over the Brooklyn Bridge in the spring of 1995 when a long thin blonde fellow passed me on his bike. It took me a minute to realize that this was a friend of mine and another minute or two of skating and shouting to catch up to him.
“You look great!” I said.
“I’m doing yoga.” He said.
“I’ll be there tomorrow.”
Clearly, I wasn’t a physical mess as rollerblading over the bridge and skating around New York City was my main mode of transportation. But on another level I was an aimless 32 year old waiter/carpenter with lots of drive to do, but little ambition to accomplish. Maybe yoga could provide some insight.
Long before that, at the tender age of six my mother would drop me off at the Canarsie Y in Brooklyn, for a weekly yoga/tumbling class. My main memories were being able to do splits to the amazement of the teachers and doing back flips while tied into a harness; oh, and I didn’t want to be there. I would have preferred to be playing in the park with my boyfriends (pre-puberty) rather than be stuck in a room with a bunch of girls in leotards.
Walking into the Jivamukti Yoga Center on Second Avenue in Manhattan that weekend after seeing my friend on the bridge, it was a different story—I was home. It wasn’t the incense or the chanting, though I did feel an odd affinity for the monkey who was on display in many pictures around the center, but a sense memory of an innocent childhood that was left behind but clearly not forgotten.
Not to delve too deeply into my neuroses and the source of what turned my world upside down but the long and short of it is I quit school and left home around my 16th birthday, setting off in search of action and adventure fueled by the literature of Hunter Thompson, Jack Kerouac and William Burroughs. I travelled the country selling T-shirts at rock concerts and did my best to live the way my hero’s did. It made for a very fun adolescence followed by a mellowing that included writing the two worst novels ever committed to paper, running a theater company without any prior experience (it didn’t go so well), a successful stint as a horticulturist and the aforementioned food service and carpentering.
In the end it took more suffering for me to find my calling for there is no better teacher than suffering. I was moving through second series ashtanga when my knee pain began. I was a crazy hyper-extender of the knees since birth (hyperextension is a straightening movement that takes the knee joint beyond its normal range) and no one told me not to do that in yoga. Arguably, it let me go deeper in many things at the expense of integrity and alignment.
It would have been nice if I learned my lesson from one surgery but I have never been a fast study. After three surgeries and a year and a half of physical therapy I stepped back and took a longer look at what I was doing to my body. My wife and I were lucky enough to hook up with John Friend, the creator of Anusara yoga and I credit two therapy trainings that we did with him as being the springboard for a great deal of my learning and subsequent understanding of the deep subtleties of the human body.
Leaving school early was no accident for me as my Mother told me I even hated kindergarten but I never hated learning—it just had to be at my own pace on my own terms. I got off the Anusara train fairly quickly and bought a library of anatomy books. I looked at them with students as often as I could and began to develop my own ideas of what I wanted to teach. This in turn led me to start watching the way people moved outside of class as well as inside.
Walking became an obsession of mine as I tried to take my yoga off the mat into my daily life making every step an asana. From this my CoreWalking Program was born as I try to help people learn new movement patterns, recover from injuries and age gracefully.