San Francisco, California
"You are one of the greatest people I know and the absolute most incredible Yoga teacher."
How did he react?
"Thank you so much. That totally enters my heart. Hearing this is amazing."
How did I feel?
The deeper a compliment goes the harder it is to find the right words for this section. What did I feel? Everything I feel for Austin, which is immense gratitude and respect, nearness and appreciation, admiration and care- and countless other positive things. Let's start at the beginning though:
I first met him last February. He was giving community Yoga classes at the center SF, a beautiful artist collective in the Lower Haight. After my first session with him I didn't miss a single class throughout my entire stay. I canceled dates, trips and jams, I came in early. Why?
Because he is the most real Yoga teacher I know. Both of his feet on the ground, a wink in his eye and hands acting from his heart he does take you on a vinyasa journey that is playful but does not flow over all the deep sensations. He makes you breathe through it all, the tears, the crap, the pain. It's in the paste he chooses and in his voice, that firm yet sensitive tone. Resisting it's calling for presence is hard. Yoga with Austin is work. Physically, emotionally, energetically. And fun, always: Reducing the amount of words spoken to a minimum he never cuts back on jokes. They are part of his staying in touch with his students throughout the whole class. That starts with an inquiry. He asks everyone: "How are you? What are you bringing on the mat today?" Rarely do I see that in Yoga yet it makes the biggest difference. During the class he encourages communication. Yoga is not entertainment: We're all in this together, teacher and students, and as a student you are allowed to speak, too. Right? Just watch out you are not using the jokes as a way sidestepping yourself is what he would say. Take it seriously in a light way.
He trusts his gut: "That feels right." is his signpost, for giving a class and for his life, no matter what size he is looking at: He came to San Francisco for an office job. Now he is full time Yoga teacher. When he was offered making a name for himself in the Yoga business world he first said yes, then figured the particular setting just wasn't him and stepped back. Austin is my role model in terms of consequence. If I end up making the life decisions he has gone for because I value personal integrity higher than money, power or recognition I will think of him and be thankful for his lead.
When he hugs you it's one of those real hugs. Warm, long yet grounded. He makes sure every student gets their personal hello, a catch up or proper introduction and a heartfelt goodbye. In between classes he hurries home to walk his dog.
Four qualities take shifts in occupying his eyes: Love, spontaneity, teasing and clarity. No matter what schedule these four are on Austin is always present. In his own amazing way. He never hides his being human, a person on his own path, teaching only what he himself has experienced so far. His clear and reasonable physical alignment mirrors that. And his naked wisdom. No magic, no higher path. He keeps it simple: "You are whole.". Can't feel that right now? There may be different reasons for that. One of them could be a breakdown waiting for you to give in. If that is true for you Austin's presence, care and his skills will provide a safe space. He won't leave you alone on your mat. Instead he will look you in the eye and stay with you for as long as you need him to go through with your experience. He will hold the space, his gaze filled with love and clarity. After an intense round of work, that you can be sure of, humor and spontaneity are going to take over. The four qualities' shifts are evenly distributed. He's Austin, after all. He will give you one of his hugs, joke a little, then go and walk the dog before he is en route to his next class, living the life he chose for himself- and enriching countless people's lives.
Austin- thank you so, so much for that.
Yeah! He just started teaching at Yoga Tree, a wonderful Yoga studio in San Francisco. If you happen to be in the Bay come over to Yoga Tree Castro on Thursday. I will be supporting Austin by playing the violin and singing! It'll be a blast. Looking forward to seeing you on the mat!