In Conversation with Eddie Stern on Yoga, Science and Being Starstruck
The famed Ashtanga yoga guru, Eddie Stern joins us to celebrate the launch of his book, One Simple Thing: A New Look at the Science of Yoga and How it Can Transform Your Life. Eddie opens up to us about his journey into yoga, teaching his idols and how you can bring yoga into your life.
What drew you to yoga?
I remember reading the book, Siddhartha in 9th grade where he says, the three most important questions you can ask yourself are, who am I, what am I doing here and what’s next? That led me on a quest to explore what I really wanted to do. In my 20’s I sold half my business and went to Kerala to learn yoga because its all I wanted to do.
Why Ashtanga Yoga?
Honestly, I think all yoga practices are special. I met my guru Pattabhi Jois in Mysore and he taught Ashtanga Yoga. I knew I wanted to study with this learned Sanskrit scholar who knew everything about the Upanishads and the Vedas. He could’ve been teaching knitting and I would’ve learnt that from him. As Krishna says in the Gita, some ties are karmic and draw you like a magnet. In Indian tradition, the Guru is not really the body but the strain of knowledge that is flowing through that person. Pattabhi taught out of his house, usually it would just be 2 or 3 of us, sometimes 20 or 30 but not more.
What’s a lesson that has always stayed with you?
Without commitment, dedication and faith, yoga doesn’t work. In 1993, I was in the ashram and had a very vivid dream, I was struggling to teach a student because they were having a mental breakdown, I was very frustrated. Pattabhi followed me into the room. He was kind and encouraging with the student. Pattabhi Jois then said to me, don’t judge anyone, everyone has a problem, just teach yoga. That stayed with me very deeply when I woke up.
How can our readers first start exploring Ashtanga yoga?
We would start with meditation followed by the Surya Namaskar. If you are comfortable with the Surya Namaskar, the next day, we would add standing poses and deep breathing. Each day you learn a new pose till you master it, no matter how long it takes to master.
Is it important to have an in-person teacher?
Having an in person teacher is always a good idea as they can correct you. However I have met a lot of people who have learnt yoga very well virtually and then fine tune with a teacher.
What was your experience with teaching Madonna?
That was absolutely fine, we’ve had a lot of celebrities come through to our school in Manhattan like Gwyneth Paltrow, Chris Martin, William Dafoe. I am a huge fan of Lou Reed, I would listen to him when I was young so when he came to me, I was a bit starstruck, but nobody gets special treatment on the yoga mat. The thing with people who are excel in their craft is that they understand the value of time, commitment and practice.
Where can we find you?
I teach in New York City and often travel for workshops. We welcome anyone who wants to learn.
Tell us about your book and that process.
It’s about the invisible neurocognitive mechanisms that make yoga such an effective practice. I sat and spoke with several neurologists including Deepak Chopra to understand how the human nervous system is wired so I could then explore how we can use yoga as a practice to better ourselves.
A blend of Eastern and Western philosophy, knowledge and experience, One Simple Thing sheds light on how we can integrate an ancient practice into our modern lives. Join us at 4:00pm on the 4th of December, to meet the master himself and don’t forget to grab your copy. It might just transform your life.