Block out the traffic signals, smothering city smog, and that ever growing agenda from the boss who doesn’t understand that everybody needs a little R&R. We were happy to escape to New York City’s Exhale Spa where we participated in a condensed PranaVayu session, led by David Magone, yogi and founder of PranaVayu Yoga. It’s an American version of Vinyasa Yoga where a smooth transition from one movement to the next is essential to the meditative practice. With our limbs a bit more limber and our thoughts surprisingly eased with an “om,” we chatted with the Boston native about his own intro to yoga, tips to achieve “shanti” (peace), and what it was like navigating the female-centric world of namaste.
Tell us a little bit about how you got involved with practicing yoga, and then, eventually teaching it.
So I started out doing yoga practices as part of a boat crew in Portland, Oregon, and one of the boat crew members wanted to show us how to practice yoga — she was in her 80s at that time. She basically taught nine or 10 of us how to do some very simple yoga postures. And I was a weightlifter at the time, but I really liked it because I saw that you could get strong and that you could really increase flexibility. So I dropped my weightlifting practice and started yoga practice the very next day.
Yoga, mostly in the western world, has sort of a stigma of being a very feminine practice. What words of encouragement do you have for guys to get them involved and help them reap the benefits of this fitness routine.
I think that it’s a great cross-training practice. I used to play football and baseball and all sorts of things like that. Those sports, invariably, really tense up certain areas of your body, which sort of impedes your performance when engaging in sporting activity. For guys, I usually encourage them to take a look at it as sort of a cross-training activity, so that they can become better at whatever sports they’re playing. And then, from a second perspective, I think that a lot of guys are surprised to find that it’s really challenging. When you’re doing some of those standing poses or sometimes front arm balance on handstands and stuff like that, I find that a lot of guys find that it’s really challenging, really a strength-building sort of practice, and they have a blast with it.
Meditation’s a big component. I do meditation practice everyday, which is composed of breathing exercises and concentration exercises. And I also do cross-training with kettle bells. I find that with yoga, often times, if you don’t do some cross-training practices to stabilize the shoulders, and other places like that, that they can become a little bit weak. So, twice per week, I basically get out the kettle bells, and I do kettle bell swings, and Turkish get-ups, and things like that to stabilize.
What’s the best advice you can give to people who are just starting yoga for the first time?
Always get a yoga video up front. Maybe try it a couple of times at home, just so they can familiarize themselves with the poses. Afterward, I usually recommend that they go take a class with a reputable teacher around the area. And, if having taken that class, they find that they still have some questions about things, they can usually speak to the teacher after the class, and the teacher will oftentimes give private lessons. So, it’s really cool because the video sort of gives you a little bit of practice so you know what to expect, the class gives you the experience, and then the private lesson helps you to refine afterward.