Schuyler Grant is one of NYC’s most sought-after yoga teachers – she recently sat down with our friend Jason Wachob of MindBodyGreen for this fantastic interview:
By Jason Wachob
Schuyler Grant is the co-creator of theWanderlust Festival, director of NYC’s Kula Yoga Project, and the mom to three young girls. Besides balancing all of the above, what’s great about Schuyler is that she’s a type-A New Yorker who can go seamlessly from topic to topic about yoga and culture (she’d be a good Charlie Rose guest!). But she also gets the importance of having your own practice that’s dependent on you and not one individual teacher or studio — it’s about you, your breath, and your mat.
I talked to Schuyler about the challenges in her early yoga days, kids and men and yoga, dealing with lower back issues, and yoga and its ’sneaky’ ways.
MBG: You’re a mom — do your kids practice yoga?
SG: I’m a mom to three girls: ages six, three, and one. I’ve managed to create classes for just their age group at Kula in Williamsburg. Classes are 65 minutes. It’s part yoga, part play class. Arm balances are good for kids, as they’re a bit challenging.
Kids are so adept at yoga — they jump around, squat and bend, and they don’t sit in chairs all day long. Their bodies are totally primed for doing yoga. For them, yoga equals games. I suppose this one of the reasons why yoga is becoming more popular with adults. We’re playing with our bodies, we’re playing with our minds, and although we think about yoga in more cerebral, challenging ways, so many of us started our practice as adults – and as beginners you’re doing something that is playful in many ways.
There’s often a discussion around why more women do yoga than men. In addition to the obvious reasons that since women have participated in dance or gymnastic-oriented activities that they’re more naturally inclined, I think it’s easier for women to be beginners at things as adults. For men this is really hard, especially at something that’s physical where they’re used to not being a beginner.
Are you seeing more men in class?
It ebbs and flows, but we’ve always had a good percentage of men because we have a very rigorous physical practice. It’s probably because we do a lot of inversion work. Sometimes I look around and class is about 1/3 men and other times there are just a few. We’re actually going to start a ‘Yoga for Dudes’ class in January, taught by an Iyengar teacher, Nikki Costello.
Our practice has definitely developed out of my type-A personality. I can’t come in to a practice and sit down and listen to someone talk. I need a physical practice where I can sweat it out, and then bring it on down. I think it tends to work more for guys and then sooner or later after they’ve been practicing they hit a good groove and cultivate a breath practice. This is kind of the ‘sneaky’ way that yoga works when it starts out with the physical and leads to something else.
I read that you began your practice to deal with lower back pain – can you tell us more?
When I was a kid I had a pretty intense lower back injury which caused a lot of pain in my teens and in my early 20s which would come and go. When I first started practicing in my 20s, yoga was purely a physical practice. My parents were old hippies who were always meditating and doing yoga around the house, which I thought was goofy. So when I started my practice, I was focused on purely the physical, with the goal of making my body strong through an Ashtanga practice. Then slowly I started to get addicted to the other stuff, which is, again the ‘sneaky’ way that yoga works. I started practicing it other ways and exploring meditation and pranayama. It all started with using yoga to heal my spine. And yoga works — the stuff works! On so many levels, yoga works and acts like medicine.
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