Sacred Inversions with Yancy Schwartz
It's Good Vibes only with Spiritual Gangster OMbassador and all around awesome human, Yancy Schwartz. Originally from NYC, he made his transition to sunny Santa Monica as a yoga teacher and infuses his love for skating and mindful practices in yoga studios all over LA. Skater, motivator, and inversion master, Yancy has brought his amazing teaching style and good vibes to California.
We met up at the Santa Monica pier for some acro-yoga, beach vibes, and all things Spiritual Gangster.
What does being a Spiritual Gangster mean to you?
To me, being a SPIRITUAL GANGSTER means to try and operate on a higher frequency. It is about being able to pick up on the most subtle vibrations internally and externally. After you break down those vibrations it all becomes just light! Then, you can just spread the light to everyone meet. Everyone that I have met from Spiritual Gangster truly radiates and that helps the threads feel special and look cool!
How are the principals of skating and yoga similar, and how are they different?
The principles of yoga and skating are super similar because you have to be present for both. In yoga you are trying to do the postures and keep your cool even though they are difficult. You are learning to relax in the pose despite its difficulty. In order to do that you have to be present and very aware of what's going on....and it's the same with skating. You practice tricks simular to learning a new posture. Once you figure out a trick it comes so easily and you just have to work hard! In both skating and yoga you attune to your natural rhythms and you are nowhere else except in the present moment. A skate trick is a split second but in that split second you are so present it almost feels like slow motion. Time stops and everything falls into place perfectly. You are in tune with everything. Similar to yoga, taking a yoga class can feel like a moment even though it's an hour long class, simply because you are so present. You are going beyond time.
What is your favorite mantra of the moment and why?
My favorite mantra at the moment is Om Namah Shivaya. Shiva represents the Supreme Self and with this mantra you are calling on your higher self. Shiva is the king of the yogis, the destroyer deity who is both death and rebirth. He symbolizes the death of your ego and rebirth of the Supreme Self which can be attained through meditation. Shiva would meditate in the Himalaya mountains for years undisturbed. I use Shiva as an inspiration when I meditate and practice asana.
We talked about the idea that there is no solving, only the process. What does that mean for you?
TRUST THE PROCESS .... What does that mean? Well we all get stumped in life and difficult situations present themselves to us. Sometimes things aren't meant to be figured out or solved, you just have to go through it. Like breaking up is pretty tough but sometimes you don't solve it. Instead, you just get through it and then later learn from it. The Rolling Stones nailed it, "You don't always get what you want but you'll find sometimes you get what you need". So when things get tough for me I try and keep my composure and trust that all the meditaion and practice prepared me for these trying moments. With all the yogic work my higher self knows everything will be ok. The process and those situations are there to help you grow and become a stronger, better being of light!
You have a rad tattoo of a trident. Can you share its meaning and your connection with Shiva?
My trident tattoo on my right forearm, the trishul, represents many yogic philosophies. It's most important meaning to me is of the three gunas: tamas, sattva & rajas. Tamas is the state of lethargy. Tamas creates the veil of illusion (ignorance) that separates us from our true self. On the other end of the spectrum is rajas, super active energy. In rajas our over active senses drive us to try and feel good always. An example of these two gunas in yoga is the person who handstands every flow (rajas) or the person who does half pigeon for most of the class (tamas). What happens to these students if they don't get their handstands or half-pidgeons? They get sad. But really they are like a rat on a wheel always chasing something. In this kind of practice there is no Pratyahara (senses control). Pratyahara is a limb of yoga that is not often referred to in western yoga. The third guna, sattva is best way to be. In a sattvic state you are not attached to action but you are not lazy. You are even toned and balanced. This is the best way to be energetically open for self realization and to find your SUPREME SELF. The trident on my arm reminds me of my true nature and helps me use my discrimination to see the gunas and maneuver accordingly in this world.
You're amazing at inversions. What is your process when getting into a pose?
I love inversions! They are so meditative and nerve cleansing. The process of inverting is simple. First, you need knowledge of the alignment. Second you need to concentrate and focus. If your mind is anywhere else but the present moment you will fall. In inversions your eyes stay focused on one spot, also called your drishti. This helps your mind become single pointed, and a steady concentration is needed to transcend into a state of meditation. Lastly, you need to imagine yourself in the pose. If you can imagine it, it will happen for you. I used to practice tratka a lot and it helped me with my concentration and imagination. Trataka is a practice of candle gazing where you spend 10 min everyday looking at a candle flame, and then close your eyes and imagine the flame at your third eye (this is the space between your eyebrows). This practice will also develop your sixth sense and intuition. Just come to class and set yourself up close to a strong practitioner or the teacher and you will also learn that way.
Who are your greatest teachers?
I've had so many, but by far I've learned the most from Sri Dharma Mittra. He is a living master. I learned a lot just being around him and being close to him.
What does a typical day in the life of Yancy look like?
A typical day for me is to wake up and have some coffee. Then I like to check out some cool content on instagram and do my meditation practices. For my meditation I chant specific mantras, and do pranayama. I usually chant japa OM NAMAH SHIVAYA 108x. I teach yoga and then skate at The Green in Santa Monica. I teach again in the evening and take a class after. I try to find time at some point to do a long headstand lotus, shoulder stand lotus, embryo pose, fish, and a spine twist. These are postures my teacher Dharma recommended yogis do everyday but most public classes don't offer them. To conclude my day I go home and meet up with my awesome wife. We make a nice vegan dinner and maybe watch Netflix in bed. Pretty simple day to day.