Steven has been one of my main teachers for over 7 years and it’s because he really does teach the “toughest class on earth.” I’ve always been drawn to strong classes but his style of teaching goes well beyond the physical practice. Be prepared to sweat when you walk into his class, get schooled on proper alignment and learn how to apply this ancient practice to your everyday life. On one of my recent trips to LA I sat Steven down for a quick interview about his style of teaching, how he’s seen yoga change over the years and why he just won’t go to the big corporate studios. To listen to the full audio interview, click HERE.
One of my favorite things about your class has to do with your ability to take people to the edge so they can break plateaus and go far beyond what they thought they were capable of. Tell me a little about your techniques.
Well, I come from a multi-discipline platform of sports. From long-distance cycling to surfing, mountain biking, mountaineering (hiking and climbing) and other challenging forms of physical exercise. One of the techniques I use is called “time reframing” and this has to do with breaking time down into smaller frames. For example, if you’re hiking and you’re physically exhausted, you tell yourself “I will just take two more steps” and after those two steps, you tell yourself that you’re going to take another two and you keep going until you’ve reached your goal. Yogis do this with mala beads for chanting. They go up to 108 and then start over so it’s kind of like a reset button. I use this technique in class to get people to do more than they think they can do..it’s all about doing a little bit and then a little bit more until suddenly you’ve achieved much more than if you were to try to do it all at once.
When I lived in LA and took your class consistently I was at my strongest and I believe we should always keep trying to improve. What do you think about that?
I do believe in that but I’d like to mention emotional intelligence, which means, I might not do it perfectly and that’s ok. If I reach a level where I cramp up, I’m going to take a break and there’s nothing wrong with that. It important however, to not buy into letting your body be weak, basically. There’s a balance to it all. I see in the yoga community where teachers and students “baby” their bodies. “Oh no it’s ok to just listen to your body, your body always knows what’s right,” and that’s not true. My body does not always know what’s right. My body is addicted, it loves nicotine, loves caffeine, and it wants to sit on its ass most of the time and not do anything. There’s a balance to it all. It doesn’t mean you push your body and rip it to shreds to the point where it falls apart and never has time to rebuild – that’s not healthy. But also don’t let your body be like a puppy. I heard a saying the other day, a pack of bull dogs led by a puppy is less powerful than a pack of puppies led by a bulldog. If you think about it it’s true. Your body is sometimes like a pack of lost puppies and sometimes it needs a little kick in the butt.
You’ve been teaching in Hollywood for over 20 years. What are some of the biggest changes you’ve seen?
It’s hard to say but I guess it’s the proliferation of yoga studios and seeing big corporations get into it. You know, you hear about the whole movement of the 1% and take back wallstreet and all that but I don’t see it as much as I’d like to in the yoga community. I still go take classes but I rarely go to the big corporate places. I try to practice at the smaller studios as a political statement. It’s all about the little things you can do. You vote with your dollar. If you go to the bigger places, you’re supporting the 1% and so I choose not to. Yoga is about consciousness and I’m surprised there isn’t more of a movement towards not supporting the 1%. When I first started teaching, yoga was like an incense in the back corner of a gym. Then it became more and more popular when people like myself, Shiva Rea and the leaders of the more vigorous styles of yoga made the practice fun and more like a workout.
How has your own style of teaching changes over time?
I finally started playing music in class and I have made the sequences more accessible to the regular, non-yoga person. I’ve been really working on that and have also added the “safefication of Earth’s Power Yoga.” It just means that I took out a lot of the really technical poses that had a higher risk of injury. It’s very basic poses but I use a lot of intervals, abdominal work, and cardiovascular drills that work your entire body.
*To hear the rest of this 30-minute interview, click here. Topics include: taking classes from other teachers, online yoga, what to do when you have an injury, the recession, and much more.
Check out this short video where Steven shows us how to target abs, upper body and legs.