John started to practice yoga in 1970 and began teaching in 1973. Before and during that time as well, he worked as a professional musician, writing music, and playing drums, flute, and piano with a number of bands in a variety of settings. A child of the 60’s, John explored the nature of consciousness and freedom, and through music, he experienced a deep sense of the interconnectedness and synergy that allowed a collection of individual musicians to become a band.
The discipline he developed in his music practice served him well when yoga came into his life. After noticing John doing calisthenics in the group home they shared, a friend suggested he try some “exercises” from a yoga book. A spark was lit when he saw how vast yoga is, incorporating not just physical health, but a lifestyle based on awakening consciousness through meditation and spiritual awareness. Initially, having a regular practice made him feel good and was something that sustained him. When he started to teach, however, he felt he needed to better serve his students by being more studious and intense in his own practice, which deepened as it fueled how and what he taught.
John first became aware of B.K.S. Iyengar in 1975 when a friend shared a copy of the book “Light on Yoga”. As is so often the case with such things, he had no idea at the time that this seemingly inconsequential moment would change his life and lead to his traveling to India to study with B.K.S. Iyengar in 1981. John often shares how his practice was transformed once he began studying with Mr. Iyengar. He knows first hand that studying with a deeply committed and experienced teacher not only transforms our practice; it can transform the way we connect to the world around us and, equally important, how we tune in to our inner world and ourselves. This transformation begins with practice and evolves through practice, and John is convinced that by persistent and devoted practice, we can transform our physical and mental health and nourish our spirit in such a way as to be able to touch the world around us with awareness, peace, and love.
In his Spring 2015 newsletter for Unity Woods, John recalls in his tribute to his teacher following Guruji’s death at age 95, “B.K.S. Iyengar gave me much of what, aside from my family, is most precious to me, sustains me, and guides me in my life. My practice and my teaching, the focus of my existence, grew out of my relationship with him.” As a teacher John relishes sharing what he has learned from his teacher. Through his practice, his understanding of those teachings unfolds, andas he observes his students learn and grow, that understanding is magnified.
To this day, John sees maintaining his own intense and regular practice as a responsibility to his students. He insists that it is important to explore and learn the actions and effects of the teachings through our own diligent, consistent practice. In 1979, he established Unity Woods as the umbrella for his teaching, and in 1985, he opened the doors to the first Unity Woods Yoga studio in Bethesda, Maryland, just outside of Washington, DC. He became known for his clear, precise style and his engaging sense of humor, and as invitations to teach came from across the country and then from around the world, Yoga Journal described John as “one of 25 originals shaping yoga in America.” John was named as 1 of 12 Lifetime Contributors to help authenticate yoga in America by Yoga Journal in 2015.
John has written for a variety of publications and has appeared in numerous local and national media, including U.S. News and World Report, The Washington Post, PBS, Yoga Journal, Atlantic Magazine, BBC, and many others. He has spoken about the practice and benefits of yoga on radio and television and at conferences and events around the world. In 2007, he was a keynote speaker at the first NIH conference on alternative health. In 2009, he gave the keynote address at the First Regional Iyengar Yoga Conference in Providence, RI. John curated and helped develop the acclaimed Smithsonian exhibit “Yoga:The Art of Transformation in 2014”. He is also supervising the Iyengar Yoga program at Casey Health Institute (CHI) and also directs the patient care therapeutic applications of Iyengar Yoga at CHI.
In over 40 years as a teacher, John has taught thousands of students, including many prominent yoga teachers. He continues to travel across the U.S. and throughout the world, including Europe, Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and the Caribbean, where he conducts workshops for students and teachers of all levels. John is a certified Advanced Iyengar Yoga Teacher, one of only 14 teachers in the U.S. to hold that level of certification. He spent 36 years studying with B.K.S. Iyengar and also many years studying with internationally acclaimed teacher Dona Holleman.
Looking back at John’s roots, at first glance music and yoga may not appear to have a common thread. However, both are powerful vehicles for self exploration and self expression. They have a transcendental quality that allows the devoted practitioner to tune in and reach out to touch the divine nature of the universe. The interconnectedness that John experienced through music was amplified in yoga. In each, form led to formlessness; discipline to freedom. Can a child of the 60’s ask for anything more?
And while John may not produce music for public consumption any longer, he does continue to offer CD’s and podcasts of his yoga classes and workshops as a way to share the gifts that yoga has given to him. For those not able to study directly with him in his studio or workshops, these yoga downloads may help feed and fuel their practice.