The World is Brand New Again: An Interview with Josh Meier
22 May 2015
Josh has such a nurturing spirit. I witnessed him encouraging and uplifting everyone around him throughout our Teacher Training, always taking time to help others. He is always quick to smile and laugh.
When and how did you first come to yoga?
It’s almost hard to remember, it feels like it’s been so long! My first exposure was likely sometime after I finished undergrad studies in 2003. I moved home for a year after school and my sister had discovered the practice. She invited me to a class, and I went with her because why not? I’d continued dance classes, and yoga seemed like a cool new form of movement I’d never tried. I remember enjoying the class but not really getting hooked immediately – I attended class sporadically until I moved to NYC in October 2005, when my practice began in earnest.
You studied musical theater in college…how does your theatrical training influence your yoga teaching?
In class, we’d never start any sort of practice without a warm-up. In dance, it was always a mix of easy cardio and stretch, in music/voice, it was scales and range extension, and in acting, it was calisthenics and a group mind game. This left us prepared for anything that might come our way during class. I sequence my classes with that mentality – taking time at the beginning to adjust, align, and prepare allows the students to be ready to tackle anything that might come their way. Starting with an idea to reflect on and a strong connection with the breath, in my opinion, always makes for a better practice – it gives the mind and the body something specific to focus on. Specificity is key, in any aspect of life. The better prepared someone is for any given situation, the better (s)he will be able to respond. “To affect the quality of the day – that is the highest of the arts” – Henry David Thoreau
When and why did you decide to do the mang’Oh Teacher Training?
I’ve been at a ‘desk job’ since April 2010, and right about the same time, I began working with an instructor who completely revolutionized my practice. For the next two years, I was doing everything I could to be at her class up to 7 times a week. Around 2012, I felt I was at a place where I’d taken so much in, my only choice was to start putting it back in the world. I started researching programs and attended a number of informationals, but wasn’t really gelling with any of them. In December 2013, I did a Google search and mang’Oh popped up. I looked into the studio and discovered it was Erica Whalen’s, who just happened to be the first instructor I’d worked with when I moved to NYC in 2005 – it was like the universe aligned!
mang’Oh’s program was perfect for my schedule, it’s compact and intensive which works for me, as I exceed in high-pressure situations, and the studio is very close to my ‘desk job’ – it was really a no-brainer, in the end. I applied and was accepted just before the cut-off in January 2014.
Describe your Teacher Training experience at mang’Oh:
I don’t think that there are many other programs that can match mang’Oh’s, especially after researching many different offerings. I loved the experience – it was the perfect blend of providing new information and ways of thinking while reinforcing and strengthening the base I’d already built. It brought full circle one of my favorite yogic concepts, which is the idea of ‘root to rise’ – the stronger a foundation is, the greater ability one has to continually grow and branch out. For me, this completely exemplifies mang’Oh’s program. All of the materials presented were the richest soil to plant seeds and take root. I consistently go back to a couple of the required reading choices for inspiration. I enjoyed the intimate class size – we all were able to bring so much of our own practice and learning to the table, it felt that we trainees were able to learn as much from each other as we learned from our class leaders.
And the retreat. Oh, the retreat. I constantly go back (in my head) to that experience – whenever things get stressful or overwhelming, I take a deep breath, close my eyes, and I look out over the Catskills from the open room of the Lifebridge Center, and everything calms down. It’s a fully comprehensive program that provided me with a great jumping off point to pursue my life’s work.
Tell us about your journey post-mang’Oh TT…
It’s been a very busy year! After ‘graduating’ in May and registering with Yoga Alliance in June (all whilst continuing my ‘desk job’), I immediately began teaching community classes at mang’Oh and was placed on the sub list in July. I was picking up as many classes as possible and started working with a private client, while planning a wedding and trying to have some summer travels and excitement. In October, mang’Oh graciously extended me the opportunity to teach a recurring class on Thursday mornings, and on October 24th I married the love of my life! Then the holidays were upon us, and the new year came and went, and mang’Oh offered me a second recurring class in February. I’ve been in talks with a company developing a new fitness app, I’ve been working with a couple corporations to get on-site classes lines up for their employees, and I’ve got some auditions for other studios and gyms coming up in April. And to even everything out, my husband and I just returned from our 10-day honeymoon cruise to the Eastern Caribbean. It’s been a jam-packed but amazing 10 months since completing my training, and yoga has absolutely been an integral part of it. Outside of teaching 3-4 times a week, I’m still keeping up my own class attendance as well as home practice.
Who has influenced you, both in and out of the yoga world?
My husband influences me every day. Waking up with him is the best part of my day – he smiles at me and I’m ready to take on the world. My biggest driving desire is to ensure that he’s well taken care of and never wants for anything. He makes me want to be my best self – to share the ‘me’ he gets to see with everyone, because I’m at my happiest when I’m with him or he’s on my mind.
My parents are a constant and consistent reminder that when you make a commitment to something, you stick with it. This year will mark their 37th year together, and they’ve been through it all with each other, and continue to love each other and raise each other up through whatever obstacles come their way. They are truly an inspiration on making the best of every situation, and a reflection on how to enjoy a shared life.
My self-appointed guru, Mindy, is such a light. Practicing with her presents so many fascinating levels of self-discovery. She has this method of teaching where she presents you something to think about, and it sticks in such a way that it brings all focus to that thought, so while you’re moving through the physical, the focus is not achieving asana, but staying with the mindset. The results are that you’ve gotten yourself out of your own way and you’re in poses you’d never known you could achieve. My practice has grown in all aspects since I began working with her, and it continues with every class I attend.
My students are so inspiring. I meet people in every class who are facing some sort of challenge, and watching them place that challenge right in front of themselves and finding ways to chip away at it, to own it, to make it theirs – it’s so freaking awesome. Getting to work with people who are so unafraid to try something new, who are so unselfconscious that they’re willing to put their thoughts and selves and bodies on the line – it’s truly the most inspiring thing I’ll ever be a part of.
When you are not teaching yoga, where can we find you and what are you doing?
I’m still working a ‘desk job’, so that fills my Monday–Friday 9-6. Fortunately for me, I work for a gym, so I’ve got access to classes, and I attend M-W-F during my lunch hour (occasionally I’ll double up and catch an additional Wednesday morning class). I also continue to work with my self-appointed guru on Sunday mornings. My husband and I like to try and catch a movie at least once a month, as well as explore new dining options in our neighborhood, Astoria. I try and keep social, so you will occasionally catch me bouncing around the bar scene on Friday and Saturday evenings in Hell’s Kitchen and the LES. I’m also a big fan of brunching on Sunday afternoons and have been catching up with friends in Brooklyn. Now that we’re making a move into the Spring season, I’ll be back out on my bike, so you can catch me commuting all over town, or just enjoying a casual ride around Queens on Saturdays. I got a really nice base tan while cruising, so as soon as it’s warm enough, you can find me catching rays at Rainey Park in Long Island City or at the Passive Lawn on the UWS.
Describe your perfect day in NYC…try to be specific so that we can include links to the places you know and love.
My perfect day* starts with me slowly waking up with the sun, no alarm, doing some easy stretch and light meditation or reading, getting my mind right for whatever may come. I’ll make a light breakfast before hopping on my bike, riding across the Queensboro bridge, and heading to the west side to catch a morning yoga class with some of my favorite instructors at Equinox. I’ll then stop for an iced tea at The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf before submitting to Vitamin D Therapy at The South Lawn in Riverside Park . From there, it’s back on the bike and off to Brooklyn to meet friends for brunch – two spots we’ve recently visited and thoroughly enjoyed are Buttermilk Channel and Belli Osteri. Afterwards, I’ll have a casual ride up the East River with a stop at Gantry Plaza to take in some views of the city skyline, read, or just people watch. Then it’s the rest of the way home, where I’ll drop off my bike, clean up, and gather my husband for dinner. We’ll head out to one of our local eateries – our favorites, because they’re within walking (or stumbling) distance of our apartment, are Rest-au-Rant, Snowdonia, and Locale. Once dinner is done, we’ll likely have a casual stroll and maybe one more libation at Sunswick or The Astor Room before calling it a night and heading home.
*mostly applicable to late spring/summer/early fall
What is something that has surprised you in the last year?
How quickly the time passes! Without getting too heavy into philosophy, obviously time is a human construct that allows us to quantify how we fit into the turning of the earth. And I’m very aware that as we age, because our brains aren’t in a constant state of learning and soaking up new knowledge, our perception of how time passes changes. Routine, schedule, appointments, deadlines – all of these things lead to a narrower scope of the world and how we, individually, affect and are affected by change, as well as our perspective of our time is moving. But even knowing all these things, actually experiencing the passage of time is sometimes a bit of a shock. Looking back at where I was last week, last month, last year – it all seems to have become ‘past’ so much more quickly than when I was younger.
What advice would you give to someone looking to do what they love?
Don’t wait to start – time is short and precious, and if you don’t ever take the first step, you’ll never have the momentum – courage is fleeting, so utilize it when you feel it. Commit to your dream, make it a part of your daily life in whatever way you can, however big or small.. Keeping the idea alive and part of your routine makes it feel tangible and pushes you to take the leap. “Begin doing what you want to do now. We have only this moment, sparkling like a star in our hand and melting like a snowflake.” – Sir Francis Bacon
What are you most grateful for today?
That I’m awake, I’m alive, I’m breathing, and the world is brand new again. Every time I step foot outside my door, there’s a new adventure to be had, new people to meet, new challenges to explore. The freshness of the world and its ever changing nature are what make life worth living.