Then last Saturday I took a Sherman Morris “Power Yoga” class. A few years ago I wrote a piece for Yoga & Health about men and yoga, and I interviewed Sherman as part of my researching. I’ll quote extensively here, because few people here saw the article, as it’s only published in Europe.
“This need for competition may be partly why these days the largest proportion of men are found in Power Yoga classes. No matter what you think of this particular trend, there’s usually less stuff in these classes that men might consider too girly, like chanting and spiritual advice. Baron Baptiste, one of the original Power Yoga gurus, says, ‘Yoga, when simplified, taking the religion out – keep it practical – it’s such an amazing workout.’
“On the other hand, there are some teachers who make use of this trend in ways that both appeal, and heal. Sherman Morris is one of the most popular exponents of this energetic style in New York. I took a class with him and it was some killer workout. But at the same time, it’s more than just that. Sherman says he wants to move people out of their comfort zone. ‘Men are athletes by nature, they want to sweat… not that there aren’t plenty of strong women.’ This is verified during and after his classes as students exude the aura of good hard work. As Sherman walks through the crowd vigilantly, looking to provide his skillful adjustments, it’s clear that he cares about his students as individuals. ‘I don’t consider myself to be a Power Yoga teacher per se, but I am a guide to help people achieve a state of calm and steadiness in the mind. I purposefully try to teach without ego, work very hard to develop an environment in class that does not support competition in any form, but one that does foster light, joy and love through compassionate, vigorous asana.’”
So on Saturday Sherman certainly managed to move me out of my comfort zone a few times. Nothing has changed regarding the killer workout aspect of his class. Looking around the class I had to think these are some of the most fit people in the world, and some of the premier yogis, because quite a few were Level 2, and in Sherman’s class, that’s pretty damned advanced. Yet I loved the challenge, even when my bottom arm began to crumble after what seemed an eon in Vasisthasana. As a teacher I’ve always had a hard time being hard enough on my students – I guess it’s some feeling of wanting to be kind, a sometimes perhaps misguided no yogi left behind approach. But there are great benefits to challenging students, especially if you give them clear options (Level 1, Level 2). B.K.S. Iyengar writes in Light on Life, “The challenge of yoga is to go beyond our limits – within reason… Many yoga teachers ask you to do the asanas with ease and comfort and without any stress or true exertion. This ultimately leaves the practitioner living within the limits of his or her mind, with the inevitable fear, attachment, and pettiness” (p. 50).
A few more things about Sherman. One, his sense of self seems so grounded, he just radiates confidence and command. Pema Chodron talks about the admiration we can feel when we see true fearlessness in another, and this certainty in Sherman is quite comforting, especially when one is experiencing the pain of the challenge (what Iyengar calls the “good pain”). Secondly, I have to admire how he has integrated a very straightforward spirituality effortlessly into an environment which might be antithetical in other hands. He speaks of the love and compassion and you just know it comes from a real place. As I left the room we nodded at each other, and he said, “Good to see you again,” and I felt he really meant it.
I may someday return to YogaWorks, it’s just too far away and too expensive at the moment. I will miss the access to many of the best teachers in the world (the list is too long, but I want to mention some of them in case any readers might be interested in signing up, so off the top of my head, besides Tzahi and Sherman, it would include: Jillian Pransky, Jodie Rufty, Danielle LeRoy, Sarah Anne Bell, Sara Beaudry, Bethany Strauss, Liza Laird, Julie Marx, Megan Walsh, Chrissy Carter, Paula Lynch Liberis, Charles and Lisa Matkin, Rachelle DeVore, Heather Seagraves, Patricia Cohen, Kavi Patel, Anya Porter; also I wanted to take a class with Lisa Zaloga, of whom I’ve heard great stuff, but it didn’t happen)… but I know they’re around for later on. This is a time for me to get taught elsewhere, and to go further with integrating what I know and can explore into my practice and teaching, and that’s pretty exciting.
Peace in, peace out…