This weekend’s Yoga Journal Conference in NYC brought some of today’s greatest yoga teachers together in the Big Apple…
This article was written by Amanda Taylor, a former Associate Producer at ABC News turned Yoga Teacher and enthusiast – enjoy!
I have to confess that when I read “He Rocks, They Flock,” an article about Vinnie Marino that ran in the New York Times Sunday Styles section two years ago this month, I was as intrigued as I was skeptical. As a New Yorker, the concept of the “Yoga King of Los Angeles” sounded like another vapid marketing ploy to hock the practice to the Paris Hiltons and wannabes of the world. The article worked hard to mold Marino into that image, portraying him as a tough talking New Yorker and recovering addict who hangs with the a super exclusive “club” dominated by the Hollywood AA crowd. The article dwelt on the music (Led Zepplin and Grace Slick–loud) and the “community” of students who were made to sound more like people who just wanted to tell their friends and their agent, “I go to Vinnie Marino.” The article even went so far as to say that Marino leaves his students either in pain (a “producer not to named” described his lower back as “pinched and cramped and blindingly painful”), or so sweaty they stumble out of his class “an intimidating sight for the next class waiting for the room to be mopped dry.” However there were a few good quotes from Marino himself that indicated there just might be more to the man and his teaching that the name-droppy scene he rolls with implied. I’m here to tell you that there is.
First of all there wasn’t loud music today; in fact there wasn’t any music for the first half hour because the Yoga Journal tech guys couldn’t figure out the sound system. Marino was non-plussed. “Oh well, he shrugged,” they will figure it out I guess.” When the system did start, with deafening shrieks and static that made the room vibrate, Vinnie said wryly, “That was unpleasant,” making everyone laugh. He ditched the mike and just taught. No drama, no ceremony, no attitude. Just a straightforward, beautifully sequenced class that was physically challenging but very easy to follow.
Early on it seemed there were some students eager for Marino’s attention who were trying to impress him. Marino tamed their egos and reduced the pressure for all of us by saying to no one in particular, “you’re going to be practicing yoga all day today. Don’t blow it out the first half hour.” It was like we all heaved a sigh of relief. Marino wasn’t impressed by gymnastics and wild variations and didn’t want to be impressed. He just wanted to teach a good class and provide a rich experience.
We were guided through sun salutations slowly and deliberately, with Marino providing such precise, clear and direct verbal cues that I found myself doing a revolved Ardha Chandrasana, (revolved half moon) Astavakrasana and Eka Pada Koundinyasana (“one legged sage” or flying pigeon) with greater lightness and ease than ever before. His attention to and clear explanation of the details and mechanics of each pose was spectacular. His demonstrations were inspiring and motivating without in any way being show-offy. There was no great applause when one woman at the front was able to make transitions that left the rest of us with jaws dropped in amazement. Her ability was politely acknowledged with a warm smile and a “nice work” and we all moved on.
During a particularly challenging balancing sequence a student took a fall and laughed. “Ah! Marino smiled,” if you laugh during the practice, its perfect!” The same wry commentary was provided when we approached inversions. “Handstand, headstand, forearm stand, your choice. Don’t think you will be any more spiritual or any happier if you stay in any of these for a very long time,” he said. “I mean, your chiropractor might be happier, but you? Probably not.” Clearly humor and a light touch, combined with incredible attention to alignment, focus, transitions and breath, are the more substantive aspects of his teaching that have brought him such a wide following.
A conversation with Marino following the following three tips for new teachers:
1. “Maintain a solid practice of your own;”
2.”Keep your authentic voice. Don’t let you will get into it. Share what you’ve learned from your own practice.”
3. “Exercise self-care in your own life. Whether its massage, acupuncture, meetings…fuel yourself up so you have more to give.”