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When people ask me why I teach yoga, I shrug and say, “I don’t know. What else should I be doing?”

Who am I?

I am a Certified 300-hour Jivamukti Yoga Teacher and freelance writer. In one world, I have been honored and blessed to have studied yoga with Jivamukti co-founders Sharon Gannon and David Life, and in another I’ve had the privilege of working with and for masters of journalism like The Nation’s Katrina vanden Heuvel and Harper’s and Lapham’s Quarterly’s Lewis Lapham. I was a founding editor of Lapham’s Quarterly and served, from 2006-2009, as the first editor of laphamsquarterly.org. I have written for NPR, and my work has appeared in Sports Illustrated, Virginia Quarterly Review, and The Nation. I discovered Jivamukti Yoga in 2008, and I graduated from Jivamukti Teacher Training in 2011.

I also have, alas, a “day job” as Online Communications Manager for the Writers Guild of America, East.

What is “literary yoga”?

Literary yoga is an amalgam of Eastern and Western teachings, with equal respect paid to both. It is Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras informed by T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land, B.K.S. Iyengar’s Light on Yoga examined in light of the music of the Rolling Stones. Literary yoga disdains nothing as too plebeian, nothing as too esoteric. It welcomes all forms of expression and inquiry and seeks to combine the best that all the planet’s 7 billion souls have to offer. It is an Indian saint’s lokah samistah sukhino bhavantu reconciled with John Lennon’s “I don’t believe in mantra,/ I don’t believe in Gita,/ I don’t believe in yoga/… / I just believe in me”; Shri Dharma Mittra’s 908 yoga asanas combined with Derek Jeter’s turning of a 4-6-3 double play. But most importantly, it’s your yoga practice combined with your life, your music, your life, your joy. It’s Patanjali plus Prokofiev–or Public Enemy, or Pericles, or presidential politics. For whichever “literature” you employ to enrich your life, your yoga should enhance it.

What is a “literary attitude”?

A “literary attitude” is, in short, arrogant cynicism. It is a knee-jerk distaste for anything hoi polloi and an automatic disdain for anything spiritual. It is a cold and steely intellectualism that mocks emotion and sensitivity, that spurns that which can be felt and loved, but not explained or analyzed. A literary attitude thrives on an imagined superiority and on mockery, on loving soccer because everyone else loves football, on the Fagles translation of The Aeneid because Fitzgerald’s is so twentieth-century.

What is Monsta Yoga?

Monsta Yoga is my yoga. It is “literary yoga without the literary attitude.” Monsta represents my ongoing journey to sanity and my search for inner peace. For the first six years of my professional life, I worked in journalism, first as a researcher and fact-checker; then as an editor; and finally as a freelance writer. Every night, I’d go to bed angry. It was a brutal business, marred by competition, rudeness, and insecure colleagues (myself included) who were anything but collegial. Worst of all, though, it was a cynical industry. Cleverness trumped honesty, and criticism inevitably overshadowed interest. The incisive were favored over the perceptive, the judgmental over the observant.

I taught my first yoga class in 2009—to myself—with nary a forward bend or inversion to be found. I’d just sat through a brainstorming meeting at my magazine job, which ended with one colleague stealing an idea from another; insulting her; then marching out of the room in a huff. Mortified as I was, I calmed myself down with techniques I’d learned from yoga. I turned inward and breathed, long inhales and long exhales; I internally recited a mantra, over and over and over. I detached myself from my colleague’s insensitivity; I asked myself why I’d been so affected by it, why I had gotten so bent out of shape. I turned my disgust into a lesson, a spiritual teaching that would inform me the next time a colleague (or a stranger, for that matter) exhibited such behavior in front of me.

And Monsta Yoga is your yoga, too!


1. Emily Smith - June 27, 2011

Oh, Simon, how i miss you. What a treat to read your website and soak up your literary yoga. Please keep it coming and know that you already have one faithful reader who will anxiously await new posts.
Please give my love to Rima and all of our groupmates at the center (including hugs, please).

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