Get to know Tom Weston our Teacher of the Month for March
Tom teaches five Vinyasa classes per week at Bread and Yoga, including our Early Morning classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
Q. What initially drew you to yoga?
I was drawn in by a Kundalini Yoga sequence I was given for my back. I was doing repetitive asymmetrical movements for long hours as a bartender and my body was getting really out of whack. That sequence helped and I was encouraged to get into yoga for other, spiritual reasons.
I really got into it and did the Kundalini teacher training. I was completely transformed to the point that I almost wasn’t familiar to myself. I almost wasn’t ready for it.
I burnt out. I said “no more” and I went right into triathalon and marathon training. It was meditative, the swimming and running, but I didn’t have much of a yoga practice, except for some short Kundalini mediations.
Q: What brought you back to yoga?
Flash forward to 2004 or so, I was coming off of an ACL reconstruction and I have no ACL in my other knee. I figured I could get a job as a personal trainer and also educate and help heal myself and others. I sort of started stealth training my clients with yoga.
Meanwhile, I got certified in Hatha Yoga.
Q: How would you describe your classes?
There’s very much an emphasis on breath. There’s an individual intention
or offering in the beginning. I’ll guide student through gratitude or softness, something they’d like to cultivate or something they’d like to be rid of. Then they can sync that with the inhale and the exhale.
I give people the opportunity to sort of wear themselves out safely and then we’ll come to child’s pose several times in the class. That’s the stealth mindfulness training because I’m asking them to watch their natural breath and think for example, “Let” on the inhale
“Go” on the exhale as a form of mantra meditation.
Q. What brought you to Inwood?
I lived on 181st Street from around 2000 until I moved here, so 15 years. It was one of those landlord kick-out, buy-out things.
I just love it up here. It feels good: the open space and the uplifting negative ions of the trees and the forest.
It’s very neighborhood-y. I will sit on a bench near the farmers market with a friend and run into several people that one of us knows from the studio or the market or elsewhere.
Q. Do you see that neighborhood reflected at the studio?
Bread and Yoga compared to other studios, I’ve spoken about it as having an authentic community feel. And people want to help out and contribute and Marcela is a great catalyst and facilitator of that community.
People at [Bread and Yoga] are friends and have become friends through the studio. That’s pretty easy to see.
Q: What are you working on now in your own yoga practice?
I came down with a rare condition a couple of years ago that involves collagen and constricting fascia. It has actually kept me from taking yoga classes…I can’t put weight on my right hand or lift my left arm above my head.
What I do now is my own practice. I call it “Tom Tuning” and it’s based on the idea of fluidity. I allow energy to move within me, which may or may not move my body as well.
So, imagine you’re on all fours or in down dog and you find a line of tension between your right elbow and knee where you’re like “Ahh.” If you sit with that for maybe 20 seconds, the body will release.
I’ll incorporate that when I’m moving until I find a sticky spot, and I’ll stop and let it release. It could be a big physical release where I actually hear it or it could be a breath sound, or I’ll lose the impulse to breathe for quite a while. It feels like such a big release of energy where something [lets go] and at this point, it’s even more meditative for me.
I allow for that in my class in things like down dog or bridge. I call it “squirmy bridge.” Say I’m having the class do bridge anyway and someone requested outer hips. I’ll say, “Imagine your body as fluid and maybe focus on your outer hips and find those lines of tension.”
Q: What role has yoga played in your life?
We do yoga primarily…to change ourselves. It’s to re-wire our nervous systems so that we can learn to respond instead of just react. One of my favorite teachers ever, that was her whole thing. We’re learning to be the kind of people who can respond rather than react.
For me yoga is also about balancing out: from side to side, body to mind and mind to spirit, and allowing me to experience and relate with the world in a more grounded, authentic way.
Here’s a short hip opening and strengthening sequence from Tom
You may want to warm up your body with a few Cat-Cow stretches or Sun Salutations first, as this opening pose is strong. Remember to breath steadily and move at your own pace. If you need more support, try lowering your back knee to the ground while in the lunge and twist positions.
After you have completed the sequence on one side, make sure to repeat it on the other side to keep your body balanced. Give yourself a few minutes to rest in Savasana or corpse pose at the end.
Tom teaches a full two hour Hip Opening and Strengthening workshop that expands upon these principles and short mini-sequence.