Do you adhere to any of the spiritual teachings of yoga?
The spiritual teaching of yoga comes hand-in-hand with my recovery, especially the sutras. The sutras are most known for the 8-way path. It's a way in. It's a physical movement that gets you back in touch with the breathing. All of yoga is spiritual. If you are interested with how you behave in the world and your relation to people, you are aware of that. Yoga teaches about non-violence and truthfulness and discipline. If you're living any sort of a spiritual life--be it religious or otherwise--you know the basics of being kind to your neighbor and to always do the best you can--ideals you learn as a child. This is the spiritual path of yoga for me. It is very practical. People have different experiences with yoga but I use my practice to keep my breath flowing and to keep me grounded. When I do that I can function better on other emotional levels. My awareness is heightened by the physical practice. The physical practice embodies everything. That level of mindfulness comes from Buddhist teachings. You have to be aware how you step forward and how you step back. The whole routine reveals so much. I don't talk a lot about the spiritual in class. I play rock n' roll, and music, to me, is spiritual. Music is energy. Music gets you in touch with a higher source and energy.
By using contemporary music you make yoga more accessible because you refrain from the New Age--
I am not New Age at all! I'm a junkie from New York. New Age is a title. I don't buy into that. I am into the spiritual and I draw from Buddhist practice and different values, but all teachers I go to are straightforward. You put focus on your breath and stay grounded.
What do you think of the yoga superstars who sell out arenas?
Yoga is popular so I think it is great! I don't travel or go on the road. I like being at a home base more. Yoga is a business too. People make money and people hire you to go places and teach. That's not how I got into it or why. But it is popular and if you can travel from it, great! The only trap is when the student is lost. People who are lost will cling onto the celebrities of yoga teachings. Like we do in our culture with celebrity, people fill a void with the teacher. Especially with yoga, which is a spiritual condition, people are more inclined to think every yoga teacher will have everything going on.
Can you talk more about your yoga playlists?
I have a real connection to music and the psychedelic nature of music. In the seventies, music was a complete representation of what people were feeling. People like Jefferson Airplane would look around and reflect what was happening--what the government was doing, what the people were doing. In the beginning we used drugs, which didn't work in the long run, but it opened some doors. Then we used yoga meditation as a healthy way to work through the issues. Music has just had a huge impact on me. The message from music goes hand-in-hand with yoga. It's about freedom and liberation.
Do you have a go to song?
I have a whole lot. Mostly Patti Smith and Jefferson Airplane. I also include trance music for rhythmic flow.
How do you see your teachings evolve either personally or for your students?
People always tell me to release DVDs and travel more. I am not business-oriented. I don't see my teachings going further than what I am doing now. I just want to teach yoga, whether it's to a group of people or on a retreat or on the beach in Santa Monica. That is all I know.
For classes and retreats visit: vinniemarinoyoga.com
-- COURTNEY NICHOLS