Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Teacher of the Month: Jimmy Burgio

By Rebecca Merritt
If you visit Jimmy Burgio’s website you will notice a theme right away. Is that the Bat-signal with an Om sign inside!? It sure is! “I love superheroes. Batman was an ordinary guy that does extraordinary things,” Jimmy tells me during our interview. “I feel like that’s who we are as yoga teachers. You discover that you are your own hero. You’re the one you’ve been waiting for.” Jimmy helps mold yoga superheroes of the future as part of New York Yoga’s Teacher Training staff. When you take his class, you will quickly learn that you are in the hands of an extraordinary teacher and yogi. You will also discover that he encourages you to trust yourself, be adventurous, laugh and try a crazy pose or two. Follow his lead and you may just fly.

Jimmy’s classes are made up of heart and devotion – and of course the dynamite sequencing doesn’t hurt. He will teach you to fuel your practice with love and inspire you to take your yoga off the mat and into your everyday life. Come join Jimmy for class at New York Yoga Hot: Mondays at 6:35pm, Wednesdays at 5:15pm, Saturdays at 9:15am or 2:45pm and Sundays at 5:00pm. Do not miss Jimmy’s Midnight Summer Solstice Hot Vinyasa class on Tuesday, June 21st – it is sure to be out of this world!

When did you first discover yoga?
Eight or nine years ago, through dance. I danced with a modern company in Virginia and one of my teachers used yoga as part of the warm ups. I just really loved it. I was also reading a lot about world religions and reincarnation and was just really interested. I started taking classes at My Yoga Spirit, with Rachel Page and Lisa Asha Rapp, and then joined the teacher training program there because I just had a moment of knowing this is it.

How long have you been teaching?Five years. First in Virginia, and now it’s been four years in NYC. When I first started teaching, I was just doing community, donation-based yoga classes. And then when I was in the city for school I decided I had this great skill so I needed to teach. New York Yoga was the first to hire me full time.
What makes your class unique?
I think that having a dancer’s sensibility – I feel like I am really in tune with how the body wants to move and what feels good. That coupled with full on devotion. I want my classes to be like moving prayer meditations. I want them to be life affirming. I want a student to leave and think, “Yes, I just did something crazy – this is my life!”
What is your favorite pose to teach?Visvamitrasana! I love that it’s a pose that has everything in it. It has hamstrings, it’s an arm balance and it is just so poetic because it balances earth and sky. You have one foot on the ground and the other is reaching up to heaven.

What is your favorite pose to practice?
Yoga Dandasana. I love the sacred geometry of the pose. It looks like it’s about strength but really if you place your elbow over your wrist and your foot over your elbow you will stay balanced. It’s like cooking – it’s methodical.

Best advice for beginners?Don’t be afraid to laugh at yourself. It is okay to be in there and feel like the teacher is speaking a foreign language – they probably are! Yoga is like being a foreign traveler; you strive to learn the language, the culture, and the traditions but it’s best to keep an adventurous spirit. Eventually you will become a native but don’t be afraid to fall, laugh or cry first.

Best advice for more advanced yogis?
Never take your oar out of the water. Even when you are taking break or wiping sweat you should stay connected to the source – your whole life should be yoga. Figure out what you can do to bring your yoga everywhere. I think devotion is the easiest way to do that.

What is your biggest yoga pet peeve?
Cell phones, cell phones, cell phones – nothing disrupts the scared space of a yoga studio like the ringtone of a text message.

Reader questions…

How do you incorporate yoga into your life off the mat?
I try to make my life a loving thing. I believe you should do everything not because you have to, but because you love to.

On your website you are Jimmy Nataraj Burgio, why?
Nataraj was given to me by my teacher. It is Shiva’s incarnation as the cosmic dancer. When Shiva dances the world is destroyed so it can begin anew. I don’t think they knew what a loaded thing they had given to me. Dancing has been a recurring motif in my life. Also after I was hit by a car I couldn’t dance anymore but that’s why I teach yoga. You are always in the dance and beginning again.

What is the most unusual thing you have done in the name of yoga?
Skinny dipping. When I was in teacher training I would leave feeling exhausted and frazzled – so I would drive my van onto the beach with a friend. She and I would run, peel off our clothes, and jump into the Chesapeake Bay! After we would listen to music and dance under the bridge. It reminded me why I was doing what I was doing. It was a moment I felt really connected. When you’re feeling overwhelmed you have to find a light in the dark.

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