Rusty Wells On 'Yoga My Love' - A New Video Series From Alabama!
When SF Yoga Magazine asked me to interview my teacher Rusty Wells to talk about his new video series, Yoga My Love, I was thrilled. Rusty has been a staple in the San Francisco yoga community teaching Bhakti Flow (Rusty’s style of yoga rooted in love and devotion) for over 15 years and I’ve been his student almost that long. Now he splits his time between his childhood home in Alabama, San Francisco, and he travels around the world teaching yoga. Most recently, he has developed a video series to stay connected to his community.
Yoga My Love is a daily video series that Rusty films around his property in the deep southern tip of rural Alabama. It really is a unique series. Each weekday morning a video posts which is 25-30 minutes in length. That video is available for 24 hours and then a new one takes it’s place the next weekday morning. It’s much more than a home practice. It is the opportunity to practice along with a leading voice in modern day yoga. This practice is very special to Rusty and he includes many aspects of his home life in the deep south. Each video is raw and unedited and viewers get to experience the practice just like in a live class. However, this is much more personal and has the feel of a one to one experience. The sequences are simple and very easy for even beginners to follow. Sessions begin with a moment of dedication and conclude with two minutes of relaxation.
How is Butters? (Butters is his dog who can't resist joining in on the Yoga My Love video practices)
RW: Thanks for asking! He and I are competing for the “happiest boy in the galaxy” title.
Do you expect the Yoga My Love videos to take the place of a teacher in a classroom or are they an accompaniment to an in-class yoga practice?
RW: Ha! I have zero expectations. I’m hoping this labor of love will offer each viewer something sweet and unique. This series isn’t here to replace anything. It’s just icing on the icing on a (vegan) yoga cake. I love the opportunity to explore new ways to share concepts – new and not so new. This is for folks who may not have time to get to a studio and folks who would like a home practice (perhaps in addition to their studio classes) and folks who don’t mind hanging out with me in a very natural low-key setting.
Have there been any surprises in doing this project? How does it feel to do something new – i.e. a video series? (beyond Chair Video)
RW: There have been tons of surprises every day. Learning about how to level a camera and keep a mic attached to my shorts have been just part of the fun. I am consistently learning a lot about myself. Each day I come into the experience, I have to confront my most vulnerable places. Being in front of folks sharing the messages I hold dear is something very important to me. And doing so in this format is just a bit more intimidating. But I am learning to love it. (My not watching the videos sure does help.)
Videos give us insight into your life in Alabama. Is this new project a way to reconnect with your tribe?
RW: Heck yeah. This is the land where my roots are earth deep. All around me there are family members and generations of the kindest people on the planet. Their impact on me is profound. I am reminded daily to slow down, to take time to share and to listen, and to be all the more kind and considerate. So sharing this with others across the globe is very exciting for me.
Is this your answer to Aunt Pearl’s question? (What is yoga?)
RW: Aunt Pearl knows that being good to your family, neighbors and community is the ultimate message of most philosophies (and faith-based systems). When we fail, as I do countless times a day, yoga offers me the chance to simply begin again (and again and again…) This life is not my own. God has entrusted me with this life and it has been loaned to me for some sweet and mysterious reason. The fewer breaths and days I have left, the more I yearn to honor that to the fullest.
Yoga My Love has yoga asana and cooking classes - are you going to add spirituality (yoga philosophy), chanting or any other teachable aspects of the overall yoga practice?
RW: Yes, indeed. A whole new world has opened up for me to share a more complete expression of the practice. How we practice on and off the mat can bring so much joy and well-being to all of us. Spirituality is intrinsically part of everything we do, whether we see this or not. Bringing awareness and consideration to the way we move through our lives is all part of the practice. Bhakti Flow is rooted in devotion and is a practice for both on and off the mat.
Since you’ve left the SF Bay area, what changes have you seen in the yoga world and what are your thoughts on where yoga is headed?
RW: I’ve not left San Francisco. San Francisco is still my home and is forever in my heart.
I have to giggle at the thought of “the yoga world”. Is that like Dolly World or Disney World? I think I know what you are saying, but I run away from anything insular or club-like. When we talk about the “community,” we should consider everyone. Some of the best yogis in the world don’t have a yoga mat or do yoga poses. They are kind and patient and honest and genuinely happy. As well, some of the most Christian people I know have no religion or church or even any “ism”. But they follow the very simple teachings of Christ Jesus in a way that inspires me beyond words. Oftentimes, these yogis and Christians don’t even know that’s what they are. They are my heroes and inspiration.
As far as changes or where yoga is headed, gosh I’m not sure. I’m blessed to travel all over the planet and I meet folks who are enthusiastic and brave. Most everyone wants to try yoga. Our big goal as teachers should be not to mess it up because of our own baggage. Yoga has been so good to us, so the least we can do is to set our own stuff to the side and pay homage to the practice in a way that includes every one every where. Our mission should be to serve the underserved and look for the overlooked. Please let’s do this right.
When you think of your legacy and what you’ve left behind - how do you want to be remembered and how do you prevent being labeled by outside views?
RW: One’s legacy might be considered before one is almost gone, and last I checked, I’m still here, baby! I’m proud of being among the early pioneers in the turn-of-the-century San Francisco yoga movement. Being able to help serve the tidal wave of modern day yogisin this beautiful city (and beyond) has been one of the biggest joys of my life.
As far as a legacy, I can’t control what people say or think about me. Sometimes comments are very kind and sometimes they aren’t very kind. I’m a sensitive man, maybe overly so. Fortunately, my practice teaches me to do my work and honor the vision and then simply step to the side. Nowadays, I really do chop wood and carry water before and after I practice. Hopefully, my “legacy” will be a message of oneness and kindness to all living beings – and that includes the two-legged, four-legged and no-legged. I also pray that I have helped people find meaning in their lives and helped them in their personal journey to find the happiness and love they truly deserve. I stand by this statement I make all the time: If your yoga doesn’t make you kinder and more reasonable and even happier in life, then you aren’t really doing yoga at all.
For those SF teachers following in your footsteps, do you have any advice?
RW: First of all, get out of anyone’s footsteps! Be yourself and please don’t fall for being a “celebrity” teacher. This is an embarrassing trend and it belittles the valuable messages we are blessed to pass along. Sorry to be a bummer here! I highly recommend, as have my teachers before me, that yoga teachers be careful not to socialize or be too close to students or other yoga teachers, for that matter. (There are, of course, exceptions that do come along.) I think it is much healthier to put ourselves in other unique and diverse situations and speak the languages of those we are blessed to serve. Otherwise, the clever and esoteric “yoga” language can become way too cryptic and the practice then becomes too exclusive. Let your words be authentic and have real substance (and sense). We are blessed by the grace of God with the ability to bring all of this down to earth so that we can be of pure service. This way we really can help yoga endure. Let’s make the practice fully accessible and teach how to integrate it into daily life.
You are regarded as someone who has achieved great popularity while remaining humble- do you think your upbringing in Alabama attributed to that?
RW: Humility sometimes comes from taking chances yet being a bit insecure at the same time. My roots have taught me a lot about being considerate and choosing to foster relationships that are positive and supportive. One can tell simply by conversation if the relationship is healthy and kind. "Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people." Eleanor Roosevelt
Is there anything you’d like to add? Anything I haven’t asked that you want to say?
RW: Yes. I’d like to say this about coming back home: A long time ago, I left a dark cave and ventured out into a sun-drenched pasture of sweet freedom.The ignorant child inside me always fears returning to the darkness of the cave. And the thrill-seeking, and only somewhat wiser teenager inside me tells me that herein lies a bold new adventure to bring light back into the cave. But the wisest me (that there is in this very moment) has realized that the cave was probably never really that dark in the first place. Perhaps it wasn’t really a cave at all! And maybe, just maybe, I’ve always been in a sun-drenched pasture that I just didn’t happen to see until I was ready.
As always, I am honored and inspired by Rusty’s teachings.
Click here to learn more about Rusty’s new video series Yoga My Love!
Click here to follow Autumn's blog!