Get to know more about our June teacher of the month, Anthony Purdy.
Anthony teaches every Saturday at 9am at the studio, and is leading our Free Meditation classes in Inwood Hill Park for the month of June every Friday at 8am!
How did you get into yoga?
Actually, Groupon. It was a Groupon for Bread and Yoga [from my wife]. I’d done a little bit on my own with DVDs and so forth, but this is where I started, at the old studio.
Did you become a regular at Bread and Yoga?
I did. I’d had a lot of back issues and I even before I started to feel stronger or more flexible, I just started feeling really good physically. I thought, “Wow, I’m going to keep with this.’
It was also the feeling of the studio that kept me coming. Early on, I took one of Shawna’s classes and at the end of class she spontaneously gave me a hug. It was just this very welcoming gesture that was wonderful. I never looked back.
Did the yoga ultimately help with your back pain?
Yes. One of the jobs I was doing for a number of years was a driving job so I was sitting a lot and I think that’s what did it really. Since I’ve been practicing regularly I’ve suffered no back pain at all. I feel better now than I did 20 years ago and I put it all down to yoga.
It’d be nice if I had started in my twenties but that didn’t happen. That’s ok. It’s proof that it doesn’t really matter when you start. It’ll benefit you at any age.
Why did you decide to become a teacher?
I never imagined becoming a teacher. I was actually kind of in awe of yoga teachers.
They seemed to have this incredible body of knowledge. They were able to guide groups of people into doing things that felt good for themselves and were beneficial. I didn’t think that I had the capacity to do that.
It’s funny how many people I interview who say, ‘I never imagined myself becoming a yoga teacher.’ Now you’re here, so how did that happen?
Shawna used to teach at a place called Birchwood in Nyack. I went up there one time and took her class there. A few months after that they were offering teacher training and my wife actually encouraged me to do it. I thought that it would be nice to become a teacher, to be able to do something to help people feel better and just spread goodness.
I seemed to have a knack for teaching and I really enjoyed it. They offered me a teaching spot at Birchwood and I ended up being there for a couple of years. It was an incredible experience.
What could someone expect in one of your classes?
My focus is very much on breath. When I started teaching gentle classes, I saw that people would leave happy and smiling. I don’t know if it was necessarily because of the class I taught, but I think it was because I got them to breathe deeply.
For me, actually learning to move through poses with the breath took a while. I think a lot of people find it challenging to maintain an even rhythm of breath as they’re doing a flow of some sort.
So, I call the breath a lot. I tend to like more flow-y kinds of [movements], but even if we’re in mountain pose or child’s pose or any pose that’s still, I encourage people to continue to focus on the breath, not to forget about it because it’s so important.
It sounds like you really enjoy the teaching aspect of yoga.
I do. I’ve taught guitar for a long time too. I’ve always loved starting somebody from scratch and helping them grow. Some students I’ve started off at six or seven years old and then sent them off to college playing guitar, which is amazing. It’s such a gift.
[With yoga] it’s something similar. Part of it is just helping people feel good and improve. I also really enjoy communicating with people. I’ve met all sorts of people I never would have met in my life through teaching yoga, incredibly interesting people.
What is your background in music?
I was like a lot of kids. When I was about nine I said I wanted a guitar. Then I realized that it was much harder than I thought it was going to be. My parents, especially my father, insisted I continue. Ultimately, I’m glad I did. Once you have some skill it’s a lot of fun.
I was trained in classical guitar, but I also love playing finger-style blues. By now the guitar is a part of me, which is why I had to bring it into my yoga classes in some form. It’s like an extension of my body.
How do you use it?
About a minute or two before the end of Savasana I start playing something that is almost always improvised. I like to finish the class with a shared “Om,” like a lot of teachers do, so for me the guitar creates a note to sing. It works pretty well most of the time especially here in Inwood because there are a lot of singers who come to class and you get this fantastic sound.
I love that you bring music into your class. Bread and Yoga seems to encourage teachers to bring aspects of themselves and their personalities into class. It’s not a standardized, style.
Yes, I have to say, I was teaching at several different studios for a while but then I wanted to narrow it down. The one place that I knew I wanted to stay with was Bread and Yoga. It’s where I started and I always feel very nurtured there, more so then anywhere else.
I always really respected and looked up to the yoga teachers that I had here, so to be teaching here is amazing to me. It is really an honor for people to put their faith in you as a teacher.
How do you approach planning for your classes?
What I often do is get on my mat and start moving to see what feels right. I go with what my body needs that day and then hope it translates to others. I also have a group of women who come to class on Fridays who want to learn more than they know now, such as arm balances and inversions. I might do a class where you warm up towards that or build towards that.
However, I think some of the classes I’ve enjoyed the most have actually been improvised. Sometimes I just want to see where the flow takes me. I always get nervous before hand and think, ‘Is this really the way that it’s done?’ But I’m discovering there are all sorts of different ways to do it and those classes always seem to work out.
That makes sense to me. It’s like being a classically trained guitarist but using that knowledge to play the Blues, which is more improvisational.
Yes, it’s probably similar I think.
You’re teaching the summer mediation class. Is it more about mindfulness or trying to clear the mind?
I think it’s more to do with awareness of what’s going on in your mind. It’s not about emptying the mind because I don’t even think that exists. It’s about finding stillness and peace within the mind and body. That is my goal, to help people discover that aspect of it.
When you find that stillness I really think that you start to learn things about your mind. If you let things happen, thoughts come and go, observations come and go and you learn more about yourself and your patterns of thinking.
I do bring in some movement because it’s very hard for most people to sit for any long period of time. It’s a 45-minute class so there’s a bit of movement, there are moments of meditation and also I do a guided meditation where you can sort of create an image to focus on. I want to find different ways for people to enter into mediation.
You don’t live in Inwood, but you live nearby. I’m wondering what your impressions are of the neighborhood and how the studio relates to the neighborhood?
I’ve been connected to Inwood in one way or another for a long time. When my daughter was little she did musical theater at Pied Piper’s Children’s Theater. Through that we made a lot of friends who live in Inwood. I’ve always admired the sense of the neighborhood here. It’s very different to Riverdale. There is that sense of community here, which does not necessarily exist in the same way over there, at least not in the general public.
When I discovered Bread and Yoga, I realized how much it reflected everything around it, which is another thing that drew me there. It wasn’t just about yoga, but so many other things too: children, who are a key component to everything, cooking. They were covering so many areas. [The studio] is like a magnet really.
I’m so grateful that Marcela was able to keep everything going after the fire and now it’s better than ever.