Support Your Local Yoga Teacher – An Interview with Greg Owen

I first met Greg Owen at a Tias Little workshop in Seattle. I had been taking notes all day on my iPhone, making Greg curious enough to ask if I was really taking notes or just texting the whole time. After showing him how I took notes, my super duper tapping skillz impressed Greg so much that he let me take a yoga class of his for gratis.

Fast forward a couple years later, after becoming a yoga teacher in my own rights, I still remember Greg for his support of me as a young and uninitiated yoga teacher trainee wobbling into the world of teaching yoga. I met up with Greg one fine Seattle day to interview him.

What made you want to be a yoga teacher?
I grew up in Seattle and my mom did it when I was a kid, I’ve always been interested in philosophy. I studied Philosophy at New York University and Ponoma College and moved back to Oakland and got a degree in Glassblowing and did yoga as physical therapy for my glassblowing. I went to the Pilchuck glass school in Stanwood, which is an international school that Dale Chihuly started.

There were free yoga classes in the morning. A teacher came from 8 Limbs Yoga and taught and I was blown away by her demeanors and knew that I needed some of that in my life, since I’m a two left foot kinda guy. It was so helpful to me that I wanted to share it with people.

For my 36th bday I went to India and stayed at the Sivananda Ashram in Kerala. I figured that’s half my life so I would start over. When I came back Anne Phyfe Palmer suggested I take the teacher training. I started teaching 2 months into my training, afterwards I started teaching at 8 Limbs and have been teaching there since.

How have you gotten to be here in terms of style?
As the philosophy starts to steep in it becomes more than just the physical, the Yoga sutras and Buddhist text are all coming together. In my teaching the philosophy plays a central part. I describe it as using the body to discover the nature of the mind.

What has changed the most in your teaching?
Ideally my classes work the best when I’m not there, meaning I try not to let my personality get in the way of the teaching. I want to become transparent for the teaching to be seen.

How do you mean? What’s a class with you like?
I teach awareness, which means awareness of the breath and the body, and where the mind is, lik, “What are you thinking about, and what is the nature or quality of your thought?” I try not to suggest how people should feel or what they should think but I always ask them to ask themselves how they should think or how they’re feeling.

Do you teach with music?
No

And why not?
I’m a musician, a musicaholic, and a collector. It’s a pleasure and a distraction, it’s a big part of my life. I try to give yoga some space so I’d rather listen to my music at home. Also, people focus on it too much.

How do you introduce chanting?
Sanskrit is the language of yoga, I teach in it as much as I can, the chanting is a way to tap in the bhakti or the bhahavana. It’s an easy way to get people out of their head, it can bring up a lot of fear. It’s not a test.

What would you tell someone who wants to be a yoga teacher now?
I would ask what they want to do, and if they want to make a living, I’d tell them to become a barista instead. I think everybody can benefit from a teacher training, whether they teach or not. It’s like a calling and less a career choice. It’s not like being a massage therapist or a acupuncturist. Everybody can benefit for sure. It’s a human practice, so a practice from book or DVD is limited.

What’s the most challenging thing about teaching yoga?
All that human interaction can be very challenging. I’m a private person, so all that psychic energy in the room can be overwhelming, more so than a hard day of snowboarding. One thing I’m dealing with right now is figuring out if I should or should not tell the students that I’m having a hard time. I’m just trying to figure out what’s right for me.

What else gets you fired up?
I love music. I love being outside, hiking, swimming, snowboarding.

Where can we see your artwork?
At gregowen.com, at the William Traver Gallery on 1st and Union above the Vetri Glass International.

Seattle Yoga Teacher Greg Owen

Seattle Yoga Teacher Greg Owen

You can also find out more about Greg at Studio G. He teaches at 8 Limbs Yoga and Westside Yoga in West Seattle, and Be Luminous Yoga in downtown Seattle. Here’s Greg on his teaching style and “Everything Yoga”: