Interview by Lindsay Armstrong
Get to know our student of the month for February, David Kaminsky!
Q: How did you get into doing yoga?
When I was in couples therapy my therapist said one of the ways I could try to get rid of some anger in my life was to find something calming. She suggested that I try yoga. This is going back 15, 16 years ago. To me yoga was a bunch of people sitting around making noises. I never really knew what it was.
I joined the Y and I had no clue. I started taking this course. I go there dressed in my jeans. I was so green. They guy who was teaching the class suggested that maybe I get some private lessons. I went to a studio for a couple of months to a very small class, maybe five people, and I didn’t like it. I didn’t really like the teacher. She would get angry at me because I couldn’t remember the names of the poses. I said ok, “This isn’t for me.”
Instead, I joined Crunch gym. At that time, Crunch was really getting into yoga. That was their big promotion. I joined just for the yoga and I was there for about 15 years. I tried to do an hour-long class three times a week and I really got into it.
Q: It’s interesting that you kept trying yoga anyway in spite of that negative first experience. What made you decide to keep pursuing it?
I don’t like to quit, that’s one thing about me, and something about it felt important. I had decided, “I’m going to make a commitment to doing this.” There was also this feeling of that teacher telling me, “You’re not doing this right or you can’t learn this” and it was kind of like, “To heck with that. I am going to learn this.”
I’ve never been a coordinated guy. I couldn’t play sports. I’m a stiff, boney, gawky, geeky guy. At first I felt like “I can’t do this,” but I found myself doing yoga and it was absolutely amazing. I remember when I did my first shoulder stand. That to me was the biggest thrill. I felt like I was able to push myself and conquer some of the boundaries and barriers that I had put up about myself. I might never be the calendar guy for getting the poses exactly right, but I feel good about it.
Q: When did you start coming to Bread and Yoga?
When I moved up here I was still going down to Crunch. Then I was laid off from my job and it was like, “Why am I spending 90 minutes on the subway to go to a 60 minute class and spending all that money?” It wasn’t working financially.
Then I learned about Bread and Yoga. They had a party at Christmas and said “We welcome new people,” so I went. Then I started coming to classes. It was bit by bit and that’s been two years now. It just felt right.
The first teacher I had [at the studio], she’s gone now, but she would say to me in class, “I love your energy. You’ve got such a spirit,” and that felt really nice to hear.
Since then, I’ve had many different teachers. I’ve been taking Anthony’s class on Fridays and he’s different from Amy, who’s different from Meghan. I’ve had just about every teacher and really liked them all. It’s been a nice progression and I don’t even find myself thinking about where else I would go.
Also, since I’ve been not working, I can do the donation classes here, which for me have been a godsend.
Q: You really take advantage of those, right?
Yeah. It helps me. It gives me something to do instead of just sitting at home, waiting for something [freelance] to come through. Now it’s like I have a guide. I have Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays to get up, get out and go do my hour of yoga.
Q: It sounds like yoga gives you a sense of accomplishment?
Yes and when I go three times a week, this will sound all voodoo and hoodoo, but I just feel better about things. It’s something about three times. When I go two times, it’s like, yeah, I feel ok, but when I go three times a week, I just feel more up. I don’t know if it’s just a placebo, but it doesn’t matter because I feel it.
Q: Three is the magic number?
For me it is. Three times a week just gets whatever it is that’s working, working
Q: So the benefits are not just physical for you?
No. It’s also mental. I’m freaking all my friends out now because growing up, I was Mr. Negative, glass half empty, cracked and shattered. I’ve become more positive and I’ve gotta say that yoga has something to do with it. It didn’t save my marriage, but it’s been really good for me. I try to get my kids to do it too. My daughter does some yoga, but my son isn’t really into it.
Q: You’re a lifelong New Yorker right?
Yes. I was born in Queens and when I got married, I moved to Manhattan. When I got divorced my friend, whom I’d known for years and had worked with, she lived up here. She said, “This neighborhood is right for you.”
Q: Where had you been living?
The Upper West Side. A fancy, schmancy co-op. I grew up in a little blue collar apartment. My folks lived in the same place for 50 years, you know, so that was a new world to me. But my friend said, “You gotta come up to Inwood.” She talked to my super and helped me find my place and I just love it.
What I like about Inwood is the community. When I’m feeling blue or down, I walk out of the house and I’ll see five people I know. You know, somebody bangs on the window of the salon because I know her from drinks at Tryon, and she’ll wave to me and it’s just nice. You go out and you feel like, “I’m connected to the community.”
Q: It didn’t feel that way on the Upper West Side as much?
No. It wasn’t right for me. I wasn’t in my zone there and then I moved up here and I felt like I found my zone again, which is nice.
Q: How long have you been up here?
It’ll be 10 or 11 years in December. This place has changed drastically, even in the last three years. You have Starbucks now and a coffee shop and you never even thought about that before. It still feels like home, but I don’t know what I’ll be doing in my future. I’ve been looking at places outside of NY for work. I have to go where the jobs are. I’m looking at San Antonio, Austin.
Q: That would be a big change. Would you want to leave New York, if it was totally up to you?
Yeah, actually. As a kid, I would spend summers in Pennsylvania on a working dairy farm. I was away from the city and I was very happy. I loved being out in nature. So I’m pretty flexible with all my situations. If I have to move, I will and there will be new things to explore if I move out there.
Q: You do sound very positive! What kind of work do you do?
I’m a copywriter. I write ads. I went to school for art and I do that in my spare time. I have an Etsy shop where I sell greeting cards. They’re mostly humorous, Jewish cards. I also do illustrations for children. That keeps me busy as well, but my real job is writing.
I’ve done that for 35 years, worked on a lot of big accounts. I’ve had a great time doing it. It’s hard because this should be a time now when I can look back and feel relaxed, but instead I’m stressed because it’s like, “I hope those aren’t just great ‘fishing tales.’” You want to have new stories to tell as well as the old stories.
Q: It must have been difficult to go through a layoff.
Yes. It was. My last agency closed up. They lost accounts and they got rid of 17 people in one day and that was about three-quarters of the agency. Since then I’ve been freelancing, but I like being settled. I like to have my routine. That’s why I love my Monday, Wednesday, Friday yoga. I like that structure. Then when I go off and do these crazy little things like writing and art projects, it’s like I have a foundation. As long as I have that, I can take that space to play.
Q: Earlier you said you’d never be considered the poster boy for yoga. What advice would you have for people who think “Yoga’s not for me. I can’t do it?”
It’s the old, “If I can do it, you can do it.” I tell all my friends, it doesn’t matter, there’s no right or wrong. You do what your practice is. That’s what they say all the time at Bread and Yoga. “Find your practice.” I’m living proof that anyone can. I would play football and my glasses would break each time. I didn’t learn how to swim until I was 32. So, even if you say, “I can’t,” stretching, breathing, those are things we can do without thinking about it. Even if you just do that, that’s something. So, that’s my advice. Don’t be afraid.
cartoon image of David, by David!