YOGI योगी INSIGHT (part 10 in a series)

If you are coming here for the first time, you have entered part 10 in a series about aspiring and experienced yogis’ journeys. I hope that you enjoy it and follow along. Namaste!

I met Daniel a few years ago when one of his businesses, Jammin’ Java, hosted Jammin’ Yoga — a music-infused pop-up yoga series with proceeds to benefit Music Makes Life Better. I admire how Daniel pays it forward through his community organization, encouraging people to “serve their neighbors in need.” His pursuits align with all of my life passions — music, community, and yoga, so I was stoked when he carved out time to sit down with me and share his yoga path!

Daniel Brindley

Yogi: Daniel Brindley
Studio: Down Dog Yoga

Q: How long have you been practicing yoga?
A: Nine years. I started at a local gym setting, and then I went to Bikram Yoga in Tysons Corner and Reston for a while. After about year or so of that people kept saying you should try Down Dog, it’s hot yoga, but different from Bikram. I started coming to Down Dog about eight years ago.

Q: Who or what influenced you to take up yoga?
A: You know what, I was probably latching on to the trend. In around 2009/2010 I was on a personal journey to get healthy and looking for things to get myself healthy in every way. Yoga just really resonated with me. It kept working for me.

Q: What aspect of practicing yoga do you like the most and why?
A: It’s different from when I started. Now it’s very much body maintenance, staying healthy. With the busyness of life, especially with hot yoga, it’s very much a rinse. From looking at screens all day, email, phone, business, kids, and running around it’s a good way to show up, take a pause and get it all out. Rinse out and reset! That’s the way I think about it now. When I started, I was on a mission five days a week. It was very much a path to transforming my life and then becoming a teacher.

Q: What is your favorite style of yoga class to take and why?
A: The yoga that we do at Down Dog is called Baptiste Yoga™, power yoga. It’s hot yoga. It resonates with me — the sweat and heat. They are critical for me — I love it! It feels like more of a workout. There’s a vigorous side to it that I appreciate. Other yoga styles I have tried are fine, in my view, they are softer, calmer, slower, but I don’t get much of a workout. I don’t do it often, but I like Bikram yoga, it’s pretty special. The heat is amazing — it’s a very good counterbalance to Baptiste.

Q: What is your favorite posture and why?
A: I know what poses I don’t like, balance poses. Those poses can be tricky for me. I have a bad left ankle. In general, I find balancing poses challenging. I don’t know if I have a favorite — the way that the sequence is set up in Baptise, Wheel Pose is very much an apex/peak pose. Thinking back to my full history of yoga, I remember in my early days when they would call Wheel it was very challenging and very exhilarating every time. It was like whoa! I don’t have a favorite, but Wheel is definitely something that resonates with me.

Q: How long have you been teaching yoga?
A: Roughly four years, but I took a break. I taught a lot at the top and then I kind of burned out, took a break and then returned.

Q: Who or what influenced you to become a yoga teacher?
A: It felt inevitable to me. As I said, when I started yoga I wasn’t healthy. I wasn’t me really; I was a different person. It changed my whole outlook on everything. I got into immersions, training weekends away — it started feeding on itself. I did a teacher training with Baron Baptiste who started Baptiste Yoga™. I also trained with Patty Ivey, owner of Down Dog. I’ve always been that guy — a teacher, good communicator — I like sharing and being in front of people. I’ve always found it exhilarating. Then falling in love with yoga and seeing how transformational it is, it became a thing that was obviously going to happen. I remember questioning if I should go to trainings and spend the money, but I kept doing it and was inspired to teach. As soon as I finished the second training I was teaching a couple of weeks later. 

Q: What aspect of teaching yoga do you like the most and why?
A: I have never been into the fancy poses and dissecting them. It’s never been what I have been drawn to. It may be a guy thing; I’m not sure. For whatever reason, I’ve always just been more drawn to the simple straight ahead Baptiste style if it ain’t broke don’t fix it. I make subtle changes/tweaks to the sequence in my classes. Within that for me, what I’m most drawn to is the inspirational, transformational lesson — that’s what I mean by the non-pose part of yoga. That’s what keeps me going — sharing things I’ve learned with others. Also, I have a keen sense I realized. With yoga, if you give yourself to it — it can be a powerful transformational experience. I reference Christian faith in it in terms of being born-again. I feel like yoga, granted not a religion, I do see different people in the room having been saved or not saved by yoga. There’s something to that, again, not in a religious sense, but personal growth and transformational human story.  When I walk into my class, frankly I’m not focused on the seasoned people in the room. I’m not that guy who’s going to take them into crazy poses. When I see brand new people who don’t even know how to touch their toes — literally, there’s no reaction or response.  I notice that they’re a beginner and think, wow, I have the opportunity to show them how freakin’ amazing power yoga is and how their life can be impacted positively by the whole experience.   

Q: Do you feel your teaching style is different than others? Especially as a male instructor?
A: I do air on the preachy side, but I’m conscious of it. I’m very excitable. I like to go off and share. I can only teach once a week. I kind of wish I had the time to teach more because I want to share all this stuff. That’s my sort of style. I also think I’m good at getting people motivated. The momentum in my class is this train is moving, and there’s no lagging. It’s powerful and challenging. That’s what I want to do because that’s what I reacted to with yoga. It’s designed to be a highly physical practice. It’s supposed to be hot. It’s supposed to be vigorous. There’s a speed to the flow. I think I’m good at keeping people moving, sweating and being challenged.

Q: Do you feel the student’s perception of you is different as a male instructor? Your class is always jam-packed.
A: I think my class resonates with people. They’re getting the poses they need. I don’t complicate it. I think I have the wisdom to share that people are seeking. It’s the same thing that makes them buy self-help books, go to religious services, counselors, it’s all the same stuff — people are looking for guidance and growth. It’s a physical practice first definitely, and it’s a spiritual experience. Before I started yoga, it would go to the gym and workout and go to wherever else for spiritual stuff. It was all segmented, but in yoga, it’s all integrated. I think people keep coming back to my class because I’m very tuned into all of that. I’m not just mechanical pose-to-pose. I also bring in the spiritual elements. I think it’s kind of a holy sh** moment for some people. Wait, I thought I was just coming to workout. I think there’s something to that.

Q: Do you think your role as a father, businessman, etc. influence you as a teacher?
A: It’s the other way around. Doing yoga and teaching help me in different areas of my life. There’s an interplay, but yoga has definitely transformed how I look at problems, business, people, etc.
SIDE NOTE: Before the interview, I took Daniel’s class, and he talked about staying in the flow of life and the perception of letdowns and setbacks. There was a time in his life when he would have felt “the sky is falling” if crappy stuff happened, or things didn’t go as expected. But he has a different outlook now. He shifted from seeing those things as dead ends or problems to each one of the seaming roadblocks as the opposite — a sign of possibility. For instance, he said he went to go swimming for some self-care time and forgot his goggles. At first, he felt frustrated that he didn’t have them and could have said forget it and went home. Instead, he changed his mindset, grabbed a kickboard and did a different workout than he originally planned. Swimming laps with the kickboard and running in the water turned out to be equally if not more fun for him once he adapted to the situation.

Q: What advice would you give to a new yoga teacher?
A: There’s not a lot of money to be made in teaching yoga, at least at the local level. It’s very common for new teachers to burn out. They’re very excited and keep saying yes to teaching lots of classes, but they still have to work a full-time job. You can easily burn out and lose the excitement because of all the busyness. Also, you don’t think of this, but people who teach a lot have that much less time to spend in the studio and practice. There’s a sacrifice. You should be strategic with setting up your initial schedule to make sure it’s sustainable because burn out is real.

Q: What advice would you give to other males?
A: There is a perception out there that yoga is a woman’s thing, but it’s kind of funny because a lot of luminaries of yoga were male. Find a role model you can relate to. For instance, Baron Baptiste is a role model to me. I don’t know him, I’ve talked to him, but I don’t know him. I read his books, took his training and other things. I encourage other guys to practice yoga and consider teaching. If you’re a type A male, you probably think that you should be in the weight room and do CrossFit, but you really should be doing the opposite. You’re probably good at all that stuff, but the counterbalance to it is where you should be spending your time and energy. Yoga is where you’ll get the balance — the counterbalance to what you can naturally do.