Meet John Schumacher, a yoga teacher for the last 42 years.
Whether you have been studying yoga with John for decades or just getting your feet wet in your exploration of yoga, read on to learn something new that may help you connect more deeply with yoga and yourself. Discover what inspires him to teach and what he has learned through four decades of daily practice. Find out how all of this can assist you on your journey in yoga and in life.
When and how did yoga come into you life?
It was 1970 and I was contemplating what was important in life when I experienced a minor epiphany, which turned into a major epiphany. “You can have a Ferrari in the parking lot,” I thought, “and a beautiful mansion to live in, but if you don’t feel good and you are not healthy, it doesn’t mean much.” So I decided to focus on my health to which I had paid no attention whatsoever until then.
Exercise seemed like a good place to begin, so I started calisthenics, which, aside from sports, was the only kind of exercise I knew. Somebody in the group home I lived in said to me, “I see you are doing exercises, maybe you would be interested in this.” She gave me a yoga book. I looked through the book which had interesting philosophical concepts, discussions about diet, meditation and all sorts of stuff. There was a practice schedule in the back of the book, and I decided to devote an hour a day to practicing the yoga postures. .
Why did you become a yoga teacher?
Circumstance led me to teach yoga. At that time, I was a musician, a drummer. Being a musician is a little like being an artist of any kind or yoga teacher, for that matter. There are people who just scratch by and barely stay alive, and then there are people who do very well. I was in the scratch by, barely alive category, so I supplemented my musician’s income with art modeling. I made $4/hour modeling at American University, the University of MD, and various private studios. The singer of the band I was in said, “I know someone in my apartment building who is looking for yoga teachers. He runs a yoga business. He will pay $8/hour.” This was twice what I was making modeling. I had been practicing on my own for 3 years at that point, but had never had a yoga class in my life.
“He said he would look at your poses and show you what to do,” she told me. During that Summer he came out to the house, and we visited 2-3 times. In those three years, I had practiced hard and could do snazzy stuff like put my foot behind my head. He was impressed and gave me an outline of the yoga method his group taught. I began teaching that Fall; my first class had 34 people.
This is horrifying to me now, to begin teaching with absolutely no training at all. A couple of sessions to describe a program is nothing. But I survived, and most important, the students survived. I was on my way.
What has been the most rewarding part about teaching?
On one level, just sharing something that is so valuable to me and I am so passionate about is extremely rewarding. But more important than that is the feeling that I am doing something valuable in making the world a better place. I think that the more people do yoga, the better place the world will be.
When did you know you had found your teacher?
Well, that’s kind of a tricky question. It certainly wasn’t the first time I studied with Mr. Iyengar at a three week intensive in Pune. I was overwhelmed in so many ways, and when the intensive was over, I was so glad to leave India, that I couldn’t get away fast enough. I had no intention of going back. I had been to India and studied with B.K.S. Iyengar. I could put that on my resume. I was done with that.
Six months later, I found myself writing a letter to go back to study with him again. My teaching and practice had transformed in such powerful ways that I wanted to return to understand the teaching better and deepen my practice further. That was probably the first clue that I had found my teacher. The next indication that cemented that realization for me came when I went back to India the second time. My interaction with Mr. Iyengar was very different. He related to me in a way that was much more supportive, still giving me the occasional swat and strong words to move me on. After that second visit I knew BKS Iyengar was my teacher.
What are your guiding principles for practicing yoga, teaching yoga and life? And what is the difference between all of them?
Well there aren’t many difference between them actually. The guiding principles of practice, teaching, and life are to wake up. To be present. To be in this moment fully alive, fully conscious. I don’t do all that well with that frankly, but I try and I work at it. I have my moments. It’s true for my practice, true for my teaching, and it’s true for the rest of my life as well.
What is your vision for schumacheryoga.com?
My vision for schumacheryoga.com is for it to be a vehicle to communicate with students, potential students, and anybody who is at all interested in yoga. As I said earlier, one of the real rewards and pleasures for me is sharing the joy of yoga and all the aspects of its practice. People can come get in touch with me, and I am happy to communicate with them.
Tune In next month for more tips, tools and thoughts to support your practice.