As a journalist, musician, and yogi -- from Rolling Stone to National Geographic to Yoga Journal -- Derek Beres does it all. Next to Michael Franti, Derek is one of the most multidimensional, creative people we've interviewed. Derek came to yoga by studying yoga philosophy back in college, and through its practice he's healed his body in ways that his chiropractor could not. Whether you're new to yoga, a seasoned practitioner, or just someone who likes to read about interesting people, then you're in for a treat.
MBG: In addition to being a yogi, you're also a prolific writer, photojournalist, and musician -- were you always so creative? How has yoga helped you creatively?
DB: I've always had an intense desire to create. I definitely traded the ability to focus on one particular craft in exchange for dabbling in a lot of them. Studying comparative religions at Rutgers set me on that path: learn a little about a lot. When I found yoga, that was when I decided to pursue the second half of that maxim, to learn a lot about a little. I had been studying yoga philosophy since my very first month at college, and even though I didn't begin asana practice for another six years, I was plenty active in sports and other physical activities. What really attracted me to yoga was that the philosophy is to literally be embodied, or else it doesn't work.
While studying religion, I quickly realized that I had very few career options. Being that I have no belief in god, and have very little patience with how most "Western" religions are practiced, I knew that anything to do with either a theological or academic role was out for me in this country. I took up journalism as I'd been a lifelong reader and writer, and worked professionally as a journalist for a number of years after school. That creative spark I mentioned still felt confined being in an office all week, even though I generally enjoyed most of my writing and editing jobs. That's when I pursued teaching yoga as an occupation.
I had no intention of teaching full-time when I did my yoga teacher training, however. As I transitioned from full-time work to freelance in 2004, most of my money was made DJing. Like any creative person, wells are rich until they dry up, and making a living in music is tough for most everyone. So I went after teaching jobs and for a while taught 20 classes a week all around New York. It took me a solid year of hustling to get settled into Equinox with enough classes to survive financially. This is just as important as any other aspect of yoga to someone trying to build a successful career: it supports you in every way. I hear too many horror stories from fellow teachers about studio owners who spout spiritual chatter yet pay teachers next to nothing. It's like they skip right past the ethics and morals (yamas and niyamas) of yoga to honor some god they invent that suits their lifestyles only.
How would you describe your style of yoga?