Yoga Illuminates My Spirit – Marco Rojas

I was around 12 years old when I first heard the word ‘Yoga’. Back then, it was my uncle who had discovered this practice in New York City and brought it up in his conversations. It took me almost 27 years to connect with the word again and also have my first encounter with the Yogic world.
I was born in Caracas, Venezuela, and spent most of my growing up years in Venezuela. By the time I turned 39, my marriage had begun to fall apart, I had no mental peace and my body had started to decay. I thought to myself, “This is it! This is the end of my life.”

Then Yoga showed up

A friend invited me to try out a Yoga class and I decided to go with the flow. At the end of the class, I felt like a profound shift had taken place in my mind, body, and soul. My body felt awakened and my mind was calm; a sense of emotional serenity had taken over and my spirit felt illuminated.
I felt that I had found the best holistic experience ever and I wanted to delve deeper into the world of Yoga. I started practicing Ashtanga Yoga with utmost devotion. My time on the mat was my time of realization of how life is happening through us and that we are co-creators of our reality.
My practice became a gateway to move out of my current reality, which is burdened by ego, fear, and
judgments, and move into a new reality, which is nothing but a reflection of who I truly am – an infinite spirit with no boundaries.

“The full Ashtanga system practiced with devotion leads to freedom within one’s heart.” K Pattabhi Jois

The actual practice; however, was brutal. I practiced for a duration of two hours, every day, for 6 days a week. I used to wake up before five AM and practiced the Ashtanga Primary Series for at least two and a half hours daily at Eddie Stern’s studio in downtown Manhattan.
Madonna, Willem Dafoe, Gwenyth Paltrow, and Sting, to name a few, would practice at Eddie’s studio.
Eddie’s students were the most dedicated practitioners of Yoga that I have ever seen to this present day. The only other students whose commitment could equal those of Eddie’s were the Ashtanga students of Chuck Miller and Maty Ezraty at YogaWorks on Montana Avenue in Santa Monica, California.

The quest for self-improvement

The motivation wave to pursue a teacher training course came when I was attending the legendary Ashtanga Yoga classes at the Puck Building taught by the legend himself, late Sri K. Pattabhi Jois. During these classes, I not only had a chance to practice alongside Richard Freeman, Eddie, and an array of luminaries of Ashtanga Yoga, but I had also found my calling and set an intention to deepen my knowledge of Yoga. I seized the opportunity and went to Los Angeles to attend a few classes of Chuck and Maty. They are amazing at what they do and it did not take long for me to realize that this is the best place for me to pursue my TTC. Soon, as I progressed in my practice, an opportunity to enroll for a Teacher Training Course with Chuck and Maty in Los Angeles had come up.

It would be the final 200 hours YogaWorks Teacher Training that would be conducted by Chuck and Maty. (At that time and after 18 years of operations, YogaWorks was being bought by a corporation.) I joined the course without any further ado. It was an eight week long course and required me to travel back and forth from LA to New York several times.

The training was intense and made me feel inadequate at times, but somehow, it always left me inspired to never give up. My time on the mat was both intimidating and empowering at the same time. Though I was pursuing a teacher training course, I did not for one moment think that I could become a full-time Yoga teacher.
I also got to attend classes taught by Seane Corn, a graduate of Chuck and Maty’s Teacher Training course. Her classes were masterfully crafted and often left the body feeling ecstatic and the mind, super calm. At that time, the experience was absolutely overwhelming and I thought to myself, “How could I ever do this? How can I lead a class and offer a similar experience to others?”

“Yoga is not about self improvement. It’s about self acceptance.” Gurmukh Kaur Khalsa

I was yet to overcome my fear of speaking English with an accent (English is my second language). And then I had to familiarise myself with Sanskrit, which was a foreign language for me. Also, I became conscious of the fact that I had started my Yoga practice only recently, when compared to all the senior teachers I practiced with and all my Yogi peers of Woodstock, New York community of Sharon Gannon, Manorama, David Life, Sham Dass, and Robert Thurman.

Matt Vacca for Pure Yoga

Moving forward one step at a time

I returned to New York City after completing the course. My mind was still struggling with the silent and
incessant self-doubt; however, I continued with my daily practice and soon an opportunity knocked at my door. A friend of mine asked me to accompany her while she interviewed for a Yoga position at Karma Yoga (Martha Stewart’s daughter’s studio). The studio was looking for new teachers.

As I waited, a woman approached me and asked if I was a teacher and if I am looking for any teaching
opportunities. I told her all about my situation, that I have no experience in teaching but I had just completed a TTC with Chuck and Maty. She was convinced about my practice and know-how in Yoga and said that I could start teaching at her studio. And just like that, I landed my first teaching job!

I still remember how nervous I was before my first class and how all the self-doubts and anxiety melted away as soon as I took charge and accepted my responsibility of sharing the knowledge. I soon found myself being totally comfortable in front of the students. The dialogue between Yoga and I had begun and soon I was taking 8 classes a week at the Karma Yoga studio.

“Yoga is a dance between control and surrender.” Joel Kramer

Karma Yoga turned into YogaWorks, and I became one of the first teachers at the YogaWorks on the East
Coast. New Yorkers had started to embrace Yoga as a practice and lifestyle, and I was at the forefront of the rapidly rising Yoga movement happening in NYC. I had understood that the YogaWorks system was efficient and effective. Every class was a unique combination of Sri T. Krishnamacharya’s legacies, that is of Jois’s

Ashtanga, B.K.S. Iyengar’s alignment, and prop based approach and T.K.V. Desikachar’s Viniyoga, all of this together was perfect for New Yorkers. The YogaWorks method gave me a platform to teach all kinds of students. And I did.

Pure Yoga which is now considered as one of Manhattan’s best Yoga studios, had sought me out before their launch to become a Senior Teacher in their new venture on the Upper Eastside of NYC. I taught at Pure Yoga East and Pure Yoga West and continued teaching at prestigious Yoga studios throughout Manhattan for 9 years, including at ISHTA Yoga with Alan Finger for 7 years.

Walking the Royal Path

In 2017, my wife, Sisa, and I decided to be independent and become more in control of our wellness crafts. Sisa has a Master of Science in Traditional Chinese Medicine and is a licensed acupuncturist. Our son, K, and I call her The Good Witch because she is always composing elixirs and studying alchemical cuisine. We started a conscious corporation, AMK Holistic Inc. to manage the business of our Yoga and Wellness offerings.

Raja yoga, the royal path, gives us the tools to bridge the gap between the outer world of day-to-day life and the inner world of the soul.

Sisa and I have found freedom, happiness, and love, and we practice the Eight Limbs of Raja Yoga, also known as the Royal Path of Yoga, on a daily basis. It helps us maintain the level of equanimity in our lives while raising a conscious super kid in New York City. We are the change we want to see in the world. AMK Holistic Inc. is the kind of corporation that we want to do business under. We practice sustainability not profitability in all of our endeavors to generate and build an inclusive economy.

Presently, my family and I are preparing for an exciting summer teaching experience at The Yard (Martha’s Vineyard, MA) and Aspen Shakti (Aspen, CO), and co-hosting life changing Yoga Farm Retreats at Metta Earth Institute in the Green Mountains alongside the New Haven River in Lincoln, Vermont. I am honored to be collaborating with the JURU family and talk about my Yoga journey. I feel really humbled and grateful for all the teaching opportunities that I have had and look forward to practicing, learning, teaching and sharing Yoga with you, on and off the mat.


Marco, www.marcorojasyoga.com
For the last sixteen years, Marco has cultivated a vital and rewarding yoga experience throughout New York
City in studios such as YogaWorks, ISHTA, Pure Yoga, and Equinox.
Instagram: @marcoyoga

Also Read: https://www.juruyoga.com/styles-of-yoga-purpose-source/

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