1. When did you start your yoga practice? How did it change your life and your drug addiction?
Jared McCann: I started yoga in 2004. I had moved to NYC to pursue my music career and got involved with a guy who worked on wall street. We went out every night of the week and eventually nightly drinks turned into nightly drinks with hard drugs. After a year and a half I was fabulous and miserable and so bored that no drug could cure my boredom. I lived across the street from Bikram Yoga Lower East side and one morning after being up all night I took a hot yoga class. During the first class I felt like I was remembering the yoga poses. And after class I felt better than I had ever felt in my entire life. I went everyday and eventually my yoga practice replaced my drug habit. My relationship, however, did not survive.
The first year was very difficult. When I wasn’t doing yoga I was praying or meditating otherwise I knew I would call my old friends and undo all of the hard work I had done. There were many slip ups along the way but making new friends that were into yoga helped keep me moving in a positive direction. I am forever grateful for this experience. As in a yoga posture, you must go down to go up. The same is true in life. True saints have all been demons and monsters before they became saints. Otherwise they lack compassion and become a holy phony. I believe that the real teachers have all been through hell and made it through to the other side.
2. With the background of Japanese and business study, why did you choose to become a yoga teacher instead?
I never chose to become a yoga teacher. I went college because my parents wanted me to and I didn’t know what else to do. I moved to new york to pursue my music career right after college. I have been writing music and playing classical piano since I was 10 years old. However my music career never made any money and I began to make money teaching yoga soon after I started practicing. I had to follow the money to be able to support myself and so I continued to teach yoga. But I fought it for a long time. I never wanted to be a yoga teacher. I thought it was the most boring job in the world. I thought yoga teachers needed to get a life and not be so into yoga. And now I am that boring person. And I’m in deep with a studio and trainings and workshops and retreats and all that stuff. But I still think deep down that I’m going to be a pop star! Ha!
3. How would you describe your learning with Sri Dharma Mittra?
I spent 7 years with Dharma. He brought me into my heart. A place that I was very scared of and that was full of pain and confusion for me for most of my life. Dharma doesn’t say much so you can’t tell what’s going on when you start studying with him. Yet his life is the life of a yogi. And that energy soaked into me and will forever be there in the core of who I am.
I am the teacher that I am because of him. I talk like him. I say things like him. I still teach what he taught me. And I understand him more and more as I get older. Especially now that I don’t care about asana so much anymore. I can do all of the poses pretty easily at this point without stress or struggle or even being warmed up. My body is open. In fact I can’t feel my body anymore. Its almost like it doesn’t exist. It’s a very strange feeling. However it does what I want it to do. So my practice now is psychic development, kriya, and meditation. I still do asana everyday but it is not my focus.
4. How did you first get involved in yoga competitions? Did the Championship transform your practice?
The yoga competition definitely transformed my practice. It gave me goals in my physical practice which helped me to accomplish the pose. I see most yoga students and they have no reason to work on anything. But if you want to master the poses you need a reason. A deadline. And a yoga demonstration is just that! I got involved because the owner of Bikram LES, Tricia Donegan, told me that I was doing the competition. I didn’t know what she meant but I was scared of her and did as she said! And I am so happy I did because it also gave me something else to focus on during a difficult time in my life. The yoga competition was just the goal I needed to master my asana practice. It is not for everyone, but it worked for me.
5. You had also practiced with Mary Jarvis and Ana Forrest. Would you share with us the experience and inspiration?
Mary Jarvis made me unlimited. After spending a week with her at her old studio in San Francisco I was able to do anything, any time, as many as you wanted. 60 bows no problem. 100 handstand scorpions easy! 60 drop backs….why not make it 300! Mary made me do nonstop yoga for 8 hours a day.
For the first 4 days I thought, ‘this woman is totally insane and I need to escape!’ Every day I cried the entire time. No sounds, just tears running down my face. Then on day 5 I started to feel like I could peek through the fabric of existence. Like I could step behind the curtain and see the inner workings of things. That’s when I thought, ok….this crazy bitch knows something! I kept doing Mary’s homework and became unlimited. Anything, anytime, anywhere, as much as you want! No problem. I am so grateful for this gift from Mary. I could not do all of the things that I do without her torturing me.
Ana Forrest brought me into my hips. She taught me how to breathe into my pelvis, my sacrum. She grounded me and made me strong, tough, a bad ass. Ana has such strong energy with a very perceptive eye. And she’s 60…and when you see a 60 year old woman do things that me, a 33 year old yoga champion can’t do, you just start to change your mind and do them. Ana taught me how to open my body from the inside out using my breath. This is a tool that I use very often and also teach to my students.
6. Would you please tell us your unique experience of your yoga journey?
Started with Bikram, did Ashtanga for 2 years – mysore everyday, then studied with Dharma for 7 years, then went to see Mary and continued to follow her around, then followed Ana. All the while I kept doing Bikram and Ashtanga and would go to every Iyengar workshop that came to NYC. My experience has always come from spiritual curiosity. I never cared about my body, or health, or doing the poses. And yet I got the poses pretty quickly. Of course there were times where I was into my asana practice…mainly in my 20’s. I wanted to be cool and have beautiful poses. But my practice was always more about meditation. I have been meditating my whole life. All of my poses came from being able to take my mind into a deep state of relaxation. This is where the asanas must come from. Otherwise you get hurt! Or you have a shitty asana practice.
7. You’ve recently opened the Lighthouse Yoga School, why is it that you want to own a yoga school and what’s its concept?
I opened a school because I got tired of running around NYC for 10 years. It’s exhausting! I needed a home base to contain all the good energy I was creating all over town. I needed a place for my students to teach. I also wanted to teach more and it has been hard for me to find jobs. I got hired and fired from Dharma 4 times. I couldn’t get a job at any yoga studio. Yoga to the people was the only studio that would hire me. I am forever grateful to them for that.
The other studios were scared of me I think….they knew I wouldn’t play by their rules. I just can’t play by the rules…there is something in me that wants to break any restriction or rule placed on me. I am the wandering sheep! I also have developed my own system over the past 12 years from all of my amazing teachers and my own self practice. The yoga that I teach is from the future. It is powerful and life changing. It is also difficult, mentally, physically, and emotionally. It doesn’t always feel good. But I have seen so many people transform into superhuman superstars who have studied with me. I needed a place to bring people together to do what I do.
My studio is very different and students notice this right away. There is no BS with me. No fake happiness. No easy yoga classes to make students feel good or “successful”. I despise the word ‘’successful.” I am not here to make you feel good or be a “success.” I am here to help you grow and growth hurts. People are looking for this….in fact I believe it is the only thing anyone actually wants. However they are not always ready to do the work. But when they are, Lighthouse is here.
Also lighthouse is different because we are not just teaching Asana like most studios. We are also teaching Kundalini Tantra. Every class is packed full of Kriya and psychic development exercises to raise your kundalini energy. I like the Kriyas of Babaji and practice them daily. Asana is a good start but its not enough. People need Kriya and psychic development to connect to their inner world. To find a sense of directionality that is inward instead of outward. With this one can find the seat of consciousness and have full dominion over external reality. This is what I’m teaching. If you need to find your thigh muscle go to Bikram.
Relaxation, peace, ease, energy, realization, present moment awareness, inner awareness, detachment, and grace. These are the things I am sharing with my students. This is what you can expect to feel after leaving lighthouse.
9. Which experience in yoga influences you mostly and why?
I am most influenced by my grandmother, Honey. And my students all joke that I am a grandmother!
10. What is your advice to yoga beginners?
Beginners should do yoga. Just do it everyday. It must be done everyday or at least 5 or 6 days a week. Also find a teacher that you get and that gets you. Also, beginners should start with only physical practice. First the physical body must be purified so that you can meditate. Many people try to meditate but if your physical body is full of blockages, and digestion issues and nervous system overstimulous – then your mind will be a mess! The brain is just reacting to whats going on in your body. So first the body must be purified with asana, then you can start to work on the mind.
11. What do you do in your personal time? Do you still play the piano? Have you ever felt the connection between yoga and music?
I play the piano every day. And write music all the time. And every time I teach a yoga class I am writing a song. Yes the languages are different but also so similar.
In my free time I play the piano and meditate and do all of my kriyas. I wake up very early to do all of my kriyas. The rest of the time I teach. I don’t have a lot of free time but when I do I like to go hiking upstate or go to the beach somewhere. I also spend time with my students. Hanging out, going to the park, and reprogramming our minds.
12. Do you have any new plans/ projects for the year of 2016?
Yes, I have an instructional video subscription that I will be launching on the lighthouse yoga school website within the next few months. There is another big project in the works but I’m not ready to share it yet. I also have my 3rd teacher training coming up June 3rd. In the meantime the yoga studio is enough to keep me busy and planning all of my workshops.
To read the full article please download our Asana Journal App or purchase Issue 159 March 2016.