What was your intial experience with yoga?
I’ll be honest— I was really turned off by my first experience with yoga. After having many friends tell me how I should try yoga for its peaceful benefits, I signed up for an Intro to Yoga course. As I lay down on my mat preparing for class to begin, the teacher walked over, stomped his foot onto the floor next to my mat, leaned over, and yelled at me to move my mat so that it was in precise alignment with the wall. When I moved it, he yelled again saying it was still a millimeter off. Shortly afterwards, he started walking on his hands around the room, admonishing other students for various inadequacies in the way they were practicing. After the class, I walked out and thought to myself, “what an @#$%&!, if this is yoga, it’s not for me.” I had paid in advance for the course, but didn’t return, and based upon that experience, planned on staying clear of yoga in this lifetime…
Thankfully, awhile later, I was invited into a very different approach to yoga that would transform my life in profound ways. While I was in school at The Evergreen State College, I met a professor named Doranne Crable who would become a friend, mentor, and my first yoga teacher. I was in a heartbroken place after the ending of a partnership and thirsty for inspiration and healing. Doranne was an amazing woman who traveled all over the world studying dance, meditation, yoga, and literature. She was deeply spiritual, creative, eccentric, kind, a fellow imperfect human. Her classes were like a spiritual/art laboratory where we studied and practiced yoga, meditation, poetry, singing, dance, literature, and more. I read Rumi and Mary Oliver for the first time, went on a 10 day silent meditation retreat, chanted mantras and knew immediately it would be a life-long practice, dared to challenge the self-conscious awkwardness I felt in my body through yoga, dance, and other movement practices, and so much more. She guided many reflective processes to help us garden the fertile soil of our inner lives. The experiences Doranne curated gradually helped to turn my heartbreak into spiritual fuel, and I began learning how to honor and transform grief through spiritual practice and art. Eventually, Doranne encouraged me to teach yoga which opened up a whole life path. She helped plant the seeds for so much of what has given my life meaning, and I’m incredibly grateful for her.
Photo courtesy of Seán Johnson
What do you find most rewarding about teaching yoga?
I love creating a sacred, playful, deep space for people to listen and strengthen their faith in their own intuition. I love transforming asanas and flows into heart-opening meaning-making rituals. I love the phenomenon and paradox of a yoga class as a community space where we can be together as a group while experiencing the intimate solitude of our own personal practice. I love how nourishing and inspiring it is to be surrounded by people who are being attentive to their inner lives through the vehicle of yoga practice. I love creating a healing space where everyone can dare to practice being themselves, rather than conforming to a rigid, dogmatic agenda.
Do you have a favorite yoga pose?
The practice that most inspires me, and is also one of the most ancient and powerful of yoga’s practices is singing. Singing puts me immediately in my heart, and makes me feel most alive, and has been a phenomenal source of healing in my life.
Opportunities to Practice with Seán
Bhaktify! Bhakti For Asana Teachers – Bringing More Heart, Creativity & Musicality To Teaching Yoga – January 26th-28th Info & Registration Here
Seán is curating and will be a lead teacher in our upcoming “Teaching From The Heart” 200 Hour Teacher Training – Spring 8 Weekend Course Begins April 12th & Summer 4 Week Immersion begins June 24th Info & Registration Here
Celtic Spirituality Retreat in Ireland with Seán & Ireland native Mary Meighan – May 13th-17th. Info & Registration Here
Seán is a respected yoga teacher, teacher trainer, studio owner, and bhakti musician who teaches internationally.
In addition to being the director of AYC, he’s the founder of Wild Lotus Yoga in his beloved hometown dubbed “New Orleans’ Home for Heart-Centered Yoga & Down-To-Earth Spirituality,” which has been voted “Best Place To Take A Yoga Class” in New Orleans 21 years in a row by Gambit Weekly readers. Seán is also the founder of Soul School, an interdisciplinary yoga teacher training program that focuses on teaching yoga with skill, heart, and imagination, co-led with Mitchel Bleier.
He has a Master’s degree from The Naropa Institute-Oakland with a focus on devotional singing and teaching chant as spiritual practice, apprenticing there with south Indian musician and teacher Russill Paul, author of “The Yoga Of Sound.” He is the co-curator and coordinator of Putumayo World Music’s yoga music series, and a co-founder of The Auricle Collective – a global cooperative of chant and spiritual musicians exploring creative ways to uplift each others’ music. Seán is also passionate about his Irish roots and ancestry, a pillar of his spirituality. He co-leads online Celtic Spirituality gatherings and retreats in Ireland each year with his friend, Ireland native Mary Meighan, founder of Celtic Journeys.
Since 2005 Seán & The Wild Lotus Band have merged conscious lyrics, sacred chants from the spiritual traditions of yoga and beyond, and roots, rock, gospel, and global grooves to create a universal style of cross-cultural spiritual music. The band includes Seán (vocals and harmonium); Alvin Young (6-string fretless bass & guitar); Gwendolyn Colman (percussion & vocals); Narada Wise (drums) and multi-instrumentalist Chris Rosser. They are known for creating interactive, soul-stirring songs to dance and sing along with as well as to grieve and heal. Their music has appeared on Putumayo World Music, they are the first mantra music band to play The New Orleans Jazz Festival. Their latest album Mystery was named one of the best albums in Louisiana music by Offbeat Magazine.
In all these roles, Seán relishes creating a playful, tender, brave space for people to open their hearts and voices, and embrace their innate creativity.