Stephen personally embraced Yoga as therapy in 1997. His teaching began in 2000 when his teacher left to study in India for four months and honored and amazed Stephen by asking him to teach in her absence. He has been privileged to learn Yoga at the feet of some of the world’s truly great teachers.
Stephen is EYS's most beloved trainer! We are excited to share his interview with our community.
1. You were a Massage Therapist for many years before becoming a yoga teacher. What first got you interested in massage?
Working with a group of healers at The CenreWorks in Tulsa. I was impressed by how each practitioner eased the suffering of those they worked with, and realized that was what I wanted to do with my life.
2. And what led you to begin teaching yoga?
After a few years my yoga practice become more important to me and I realized that many of my clients could resolve their own long-standing issues by using yoga as therapy, instead of relying on me to ‘fix them’.
3. You are also a Certified Yoga Therapist. What kind of additional training is involved to achieve this, and why is this a good fit for you?
Due to my personal history of injury I naturally oriented toward yoga as therapy. So, over the last 20 years, I looked for teachers that focused on therapeutic applications. Back then there was no certification process, so I just began helping those that needed it, and kept learning, reading, studying, and practicing – thereby become a ‘yoga therapist’ by default. When national certification recently became available, I gathered up the required information and applied. One of the requirements was a minimum of 1,000 hours of one-on-one experience. When I went over all my past records I realized that I had over 16,000 hours.
4. Why should one consider taking the extra step to become a Certified Yoga Therapist?
Well, it’s a lot of extra study and requires a significant financial investment, and a deeper knowledge of anatomy, kinesiology, and body reading. The outcome of all that is one gains the ability to really help individuals overcome current obstacles regardless of their age, circumstances, or conditions.
5. There is growing concern over the misuse of the term “Yoga Therapist” and the possibility of misleading students. Why is it important to make the distinction and keep the certification separate?
I believe that a yoga practice should be therapeutic, but unfortunately many classes have become more about sweating and trying to keep up. At best, this is advanced calisthenics.
As a Yoga Therapist everything must slow down, and current habit patterns need to be addressed. Understanding the importance of alignment is important, and then being able to adapt all of that to fit the individual rather than trying to fit the individual into the pose.
6. Many readers of this blog are yogis who are considering becoming teachers. What’s one thing you would say to someone who is thinking about becoming a Registered Yoga Teacher?
Do it for the love of learning. Be a steady student for a few years before turning to teaching.
There are so many yoga teachers now that it is very difficult to make a livelihood from teaching yoga.
7. Why is it so important for yoga teachers to get training in how to work with people with injuries, or other physical limitations?
Because we don’t want to hurt them and make it worse. And, some people may not be able to do many ‘poses’ but everyone can use Yoga as Therapy to feel better.
8. What are some of the more common issues or injuries that you see in your classes?
Shoulders up to the ears. Forward Head syndrome. Collapsed arches in the feet. Holding the breath. Poor posture. Too much thinking, not enough feeling. As for injuries the most common is rotator cuff strains, carpal tunnel, various knee injuries, and SI joint issues.
9. Where do you see yoga headed in the next ten years – both in Tulsa, but also overall?
Its going to continue growing for sure, but I’m concerned that the depth and quality may not be maintained.
10. Who are some of the teachers or mentors who have inspired and influenced your teaching?
Beth Field, Mukanda Stiles, Gary Kraftsow, Judith Lasater, Aadil Palkhivala, and Doug Keller.
11. Tell us about yourself – other than teaching yoga, what are some of your hobbies, interests, and passions?
Designing / building contemporary Stained-Glass windows. Traveling to the mountains or the beach.
12. Is there anything else that you’d like to add?
Yes, practice gratitude for all you have rather than obsessing about what you feel is missing.
about our Authors
The Everyone Yoga School blog is written by guest authors who are former students, instructors, and passionate yogis with the sole purpose of sharing the yoga experience in the live and hearts of everyone.