Richard Rosen began his practice of yoga in 1980 and graduated from the Iyengar Yoga Institute of San Francisco in 1985. He is the author of five books on yoga and has written over 300 reviews for Yoga Journal and various other magazines. His 30+ years of experience have equipped him with some unique insights, making him a truly influential contemporary teacher. He returns to triyoga Camden from 07th – 09th June 2019 for a weekend of workshops. We found out a bit more about Richard ahead of his visit…
You’ve been teacher and student of yoga for almost 40 years – quite an accomplishment. Can you remember your first yoga class? What got you to the studio? Did you establish a consistent practice straight away? We would love it if you could share some words of encouragement for triyoga students who are just getting started as well as those who may be struggling to find consistency. And maybe a bit of extra advice for new teachers as well?
I took my first yoga class sometime in May of 1980, so I’m coming up on 39 years as a student, which of course would be most of my life if I were 40. Alas, I’m 71 instead, so actually that’s a bit more than half my life. As far as teaching is concerned, I began that full time in 1987, so that works out to 32 years, a number, considering how terrible I was when I first started, that boggles the imagination.
I can’t remember my first class, though I suspect I was perfectly miserable. I do however remember my first teacher. He was a stocky, bearded fellow, quite jolly and upbeat, who talked a lot about his teacher in India, some guy named, um, I think was something like Iyengar. I got to the studio for the first time past Eve and Adams, from swerve of shore to bend of bay…in other words, ‘twas a circuitous route. The story is rather longish, so to extract the essentials, there was this break-up, that led to feelings of self-pity, that recalled something I’d read a few years before in a graduate humanities course titled, What is Man?, which at the time I had no idea what the author, Jiddu Krishnamurti, was talking about. The book was Think on these Things, and at the time (this was about 1977) I thought and thought and thought, but as someone once said (Curly?), I tried to think but nothing happened. The test didn’t go well, but then fast forward to 1980, when I recalled something I’d read a few years earlier that, at the time made no sense, but now suddenly sort of did. So I got the book down from the top shelf of my bookcase, blew off the dust and, well, I can’t say I understood completely but it sure spoke to me in a new way. This led to Ouspensky to Robert de Ropp, who wrote that yoga was the best exercise ever invented. Soon after I read this I ran across an ad in the local paper for the Yoga Room and so, what the H-E-double toothpicks, let’s give it a shot and see what happens.
I actually did establish a consistent practice fairly soon. I was single, self-employed, which is to say I could do whatever I wanted to do when I wanted to do it.
Encouragement to newcomers? I always tell my beginning students who complain about practice being hard, It wouldn’t be any fun if it was easy. At first the practice is for most people is a chore, but the thing is, meaningful change is a challenge, what you’re experiencing is resistance to becoming someone other than you’re accustomed to be. It’s not only physically painful, it’s psychologically frightening. This latter is what really scares beginners away, they find themselves changing in ways they sometimes can’t control, and that peek into the unknown is too much to bear. It’s odd but the thing many of us are most fearful of is being truly ourselves. Whatever discomfort you may experience early on will pale in comparison to the potential gain in self-knowing. Consistency? As Mr Iyengar said, practice waxes and wanes like the moon. When it’s full, be like Van Morrison and do a marvelous moondance, when it’s dark, you then must hunker down and do what you can until inevitably the moon reappears “like a silver bow new-bent in heaven.”
New teachers? Don’t quit your day job.
During your interview on triyoga talks in August 2018, you mentioned ‘Meditations’ by Marcus Aurelius as a pivotal book on western philosophy. Some might say that strong parallels can be drawn between the uncertainty of the times during which he wrote ‘Meditations’ and today’s chaotic world. Can you share a meditation from the book that you particularly enjoy and speak to its relevance in today’s culture?
“Dig within. There lies the well-spring of the good: ever dig, and it will ever flow.”
I don’t know about the UK, but the US has no culture anymore, it’s just chaos. Look into the Maha Nirvana Tantra, at the description of the Kali yuga, it describes our current state of affairs to a T. Jean Gebser, in the Ever-Present Origin, sees this as the unavoidable end consequence of mental-rational consciousness, the ego at its narrowest, unable to see past its own nose. It’s the dark before the dawn, Gebser assures us, of the emergence of a new integral mutation and the return of the Satya yuga. Yoga teachers have an enormous responsibility not only to dig within themselves, but also to take what they find to encourage their students to do the same for themselves. The universe itself only exists for us to “ever dig,” and despite everything we stubborn humans do to resist, the universe only wants the best for us.
We’d love to know more about your creativity off the mat. How would you describe your artwork? What inspires you to create? Would you say that creating art are has an impact on your yoga practice and vice versa? If yes, please share the hows and whys.
Funny you should ask. My newest collection of doggerel, the Alpha-Beti-Yoo (sequel to the Alpha-Beti-Zoo) is being printed up as we speak. My “art” (it seems a tad self-aggrandizing to call what I do “art”) is meant to make people laugh, essentially. But I think a certain kind of laughter is self-revelatory, good for the soul. It stirs my creativity which does sort of slosh over into my practice, it encourages me to always be willing to try something new and a little wild and crazy.