Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Teacher of the Month: Frank Mauro

Join Frank for class!
Tuesdays 4:35 – 5:50pm All Levels Vinyasa at York

Frank Mauro was one of New York Yoga’s original teachers when it first opened its doors over a decade ago.  After becoming a prominent teaching figure at Om Yoga Center he is back!  Frank’s demeanor is genuine and easy, creating a free and comfortable atmosphere in his classes.  When you attend his class you can expect personalized attention, clear instruction, and a friendly tone.  Take his class and you will have no trouble understanding why he has taught internationally and been praised by many of yoga’s biggest names.

When did you first discover yoga?
I actually did yoga as a kid, I used to practice with my father.  So in the late 60s/early 70s I used to do headstands and plow and meditate.  Then I got to that point where every kid completely doesn’t want to do what their parents are doing, so I stopped.  In my 20s I worked for an art gallery, I’m an artist, and the woman who owned it used to send everybody on trips.  This one trip, about 25 years ago, was me and four other artists.  We went down south to North Carolina and the other artists would wake up and practice yoga every morning and I thought, “That looks really relaxing.”  I guess I had adult pressure and stress at that time that I had acquired.  It was more useful because I was learning this de-stressing thing as a little kid, which is kind of like having a glass of water in a swimming pool.  I started to practice once or twice a week on my own when we got back to New York, got my own membership, and it was from that point that my practice was pretty steady.

How long have you been teaching? 
15 years this summer. I’ve taught mostly in the city but I’ve taught retreats and workshops around the world.  I worked for Om for almost 12 years so a lot of it was through them.  I was teaching the West Coast, the South, the Midwest, mostly teacher trainings.  Up until last April I was traveling twice a month for the last 9 years.

What makes your class unique?
Well I would say that if it is unique, it hasn’t been unique for a long time until recently.  I think it’s because I no longer take anything that’s told to me as gospel and I no longer teach anything as “This is the way.”  If anything, I’m more pessimistic in my teaching.  My point of view is: before you even ask yourself, “Does this work?” ask yourself “Why.”  It’s ok if you don’t want to do this; it’s ok if you can’t find its purpose.  But ask, because I think once there’s purpose, then there’s drive for some sort of clarity, accuracy, technique, method.  That all sort of sits on “Why.”  If my class is unique, I would say it’s because I haven’t seen too many people press the “why” button too much.

What is your favorite pose to teach?
Probably the ones that I have the hardest time with my body taking the shape. Over the years I’ve probably been a more backbendy, handstandy, jump in and out of arm balances type of practitioner.  So I enjoy teaching seated forward folded postures, energetically cooling stuff like baddha konasana and pascimottanasana and those kinds of poses that are really rooted and quiet.  I’m more energetic and at times frenetic, so I like teaching the seated, grounded things.  I teach the stuff I need to hear.  I want to do things that girl dancers do.
What is you favorite pose to practice?
I just like practicing sun salutations.  I’m never at a loss for being a creative, but there are times that being creative comes at a higher energetic expense than others.  If I’m traveling and teaching, I don’t want to be thinking about anything else but what I’m going to be teaching that weekend.  So sometimes just 10 A’s and 10 B’s is fine by me. I’ll throw some twists in but in terms of favorite poses to do, it’s just a movement of my body.  Something that’s opening but grounding, something like fish pose that has a rhythmic quality to it.

Best advice for beginners?
Don’t run before you can walk, and don’t be ashamed of walking.

Best advice for more advanced yogis?
Be willing to look back and question what you’ve done until this point, and it’s ok if you no longer think that direction is correct.  This is what this thing is all about…stay away from people who have all the answers.

What is your biggest yoga pet peeve?
When people, especially advanced students, judge their self worth or their availability of  movement by extreme asana.  You’ll see them and their bummed out and like “Aw man, I hurt my neck and I can’t even do kapotasana.” So? Can you turn your head? Can you go to the store? Can you meditate? Can you breathe? Do you feel good in your body?Can you just be happy that you have a neck today? People have this idea that they are “injured” or that they’re “out of commission” because the doctor told them to stay off their wrist and they’re bummed.  So that’s a big pet peeve of mine. This practice investigates everything from the ground up and tears apart artificial confidence.  That attitude keeps you from rebuilding yourself from a place of being really humble and takes it into a place of ego.
Attached to this is a misunderstanding of ego.  Most yoga teachers and yoga practitioners consider ego to be thinking you’re hot stuff.  I think your ego is anything that makes the story about you, even if it’s a self-deprecating thing.  The story is not about you and your pain.  You’re part of the big picture.  You should have a sense of confidence. There’s a function for ego, so the pet peeve is that teachers want to abolish this so-called enemy “ego.” I’m not exactly sure if Freud and Jung were wrong that there’s a function to it.

How do you incorporate yoga into your daily life?
I kind of watch other people and how they live and function in uncomfortable circumstances. Yoga off the mat for me is about asking, “What are my responses to extreme comfort and extreme discomfort?”  In all my extreme comfort there’s a seed of, “This is going to end soon.” And so I wish it would last forever which means I am now suffering; I’m no longer enjoying the ice cream sunday, because I’m now thinking, “This is going to end” or “This is going to make my middle aged body out of shape.” And then when I don’t want something, I notice how childlike I can get. “Oh when’s this going to stop,” when really it’s going to stop in 4 or 5 minutes.  I kind of look at the extremes and find out where I fit in them.  When things are going really smoothly, there’s not a whole bunch of learning you can do there.  It’s when it’s extreme that there’s a whole lot of self observation going on I can think, “Oh I actually think I can see some progress in myself, I like the direction that I’m moving in regards to this type of response to this type of thing.”

Passions besides yoga?
I am an artist.  I am a painter, but now that I’m switching the way I’m working in yoga and I’m no longer working for one person and one thing, I’d like to start getting more into visuals, maybe filmmaking.  I’ve always found my biggest inspirations as a painter to be musicians and filmmakers.  They’ve always had big influences on me.  I think of the way someone makes a film, and how they would paint just by looking at it cinematically.  Something I’m not good at at all, but I enjoy it more than anything, is playing music.  I play guitar, horribly, but I don’t give up.  I’ve always surrounded myself with better players and I’ve really taken a long time to progress.  I’ve been told by several people that I’m tone deaf.  But the level of enjoyment is enough to categorize it as an outside of yoga passion.

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