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Yoga Tribe Blog

26Dec

Teacher of the Month January 2018: Jason Wilkerson



Hometown: Lake Forest, California

Childhood aspiration: Starting point guard for the Los Angeles Lakers

When and where was your first yoga class:  March, 1996 at Bikram's Yoga College of India in San Francisco. Yoga is the foundation to my life. Why I practice today is different than when I first started. When I was new, I was in awe of the level of difficulty and my complete inability to practice at the level I saw in the class. Bikram's studio had been open over 20 years and I was the baby of the class at age 26. I will never forget the feeling I experienced walking home from class to my apartment near the top of Coit Tower. Yoga had a very huge impact on me mentally, emotionally and spiritually. Nothing, and I mean nothing, affected me in the manner that yoga did. I fell in love with it. It's all I thought about, talked about and wanted to do. I would practice for weeks straight and take a break for one day after 2 or 3 weeks. I am so grateful because I was really seeking to find something and what I found was myself. I still feel the same way today about it, that's why I teach it. I believe in it like some believe in religion. It has completely revolutionized my world inside and out. I believe that as a teacher, your practice is the root to your existence. You can't give away what you don't have so you have to first plug and then you have something to offer others.

Who is your most influential teacher and why: I have had many including my entrepreneur teacher, Mack Davis from USC, my yoga teacher, Bikram who trained me and finallymy mother, Cindy.  My mother is my most influential teacher because she believed in me when I never believed in myself. She taught me through her own failures, that you can pick yourself up with the help of others and God and begin your life again. My mother nearly killed herself with alcohol abuse and she agreed one day and I took her to a treatment program and she spent 22 years sober. I had never seen such a miracle in my life. She then spent 22 years in service work helping others recover. My mother had a beam of light in her and was the rock of my family. She passed away 5 years ago after fighting terminal cancer for 5 years. Again, she taught me that you can pass away with dignity even with a life ending illness. She was my hero and still is today.

When was the defining moment when you realized you wanted to teach yoga: At the end of the first week of teacher training, Bikram gave a lecture that described the process of teaching and it hit hard that this was me. I am a yoga teacher and I did not have any plan to teach yoga when I went to teacher training.

What is your teaching philosophy: Keep and open mind and stay teachable. My mind and mental state is far more important than my body. Instead of approaching the postures as a measuring stick with my body, I now approach them with the therapeutic view of how can each pose correct the imbalances of my mind, body and soul. I learned a lot from different obstacles along my yoga path. 20 years ago I started to experience severe lower back pain called spondylolisthesis which is where L5 vertebra moves out from under L4 vertebra and lost 90% of the disc. L5 vertebra was touching the spinal canal causing severe sciatic nerve pain. It was unbearable and I could hardly walk. After 3 epidurals that did not work, I decided to have back surgery in 2010. Dr Jeffrey Deckey said that although the yoga did not correct the un-correctable conditions of my vertebra, it kept me out of pain for many, many years. He felt I should have been experiencing pain years ago. I now have hardware including 2 screws in the front and 4 screws with a carriage in the back. L4 and L5 vertebra are fused. Yoga became the greatest physical therapy after surgery. I started from scratch once again. I learned how to practice and be kind to myself. It was no longer about performance and more about recovery and self acceptance.

How long have you been teaching yoga: 22 years

Favorite Pose and Why: Savasana - Dead Body Pose - It encapsules the whole essence of yoga into a moment to moment conscious connection between the mind, body and soul. It's a posture of self-observation which promotes stillness and recovery. It's a posture that begins with the mind. In the Dayton Method, Savasana is the most important posture in class. What I am doing in-between the postures during Savasana becomes as important as the posture itself.

Most Challenging Part of Your Yoga Practice: That has changed over time. It was once my mind, then it was my body. Now, it's the heat! I don't like the room as hot as I once did.

Person who has inspired you most: My mom and now my son

Book you are currently reading: Sermon on the Mount, Emmet Fox

Secret Comfort Foods: Ice Cream

Movie that has changed the way you think: Recently it was a movie called Fools Rush In with Salma Hayek and Matthew Perry.

Cause you feel most passionate about: Cancer - I lost my mother and 23 year old nephew to it

Your local retreat: Cabana Club - Swimming Pool. I love to swim and do so 4 times per week. Swimming coupled with yoga has improved the health of my spine and body more than any other exercise.

An Unfinished Dream: Take my son to a Lakers NBA Finals Championship Game.

What is your favorite expression: My son and I share the phrase "OH MY!" and can use it with just to react to anything.

Why is yoga important to you? Because it has improved the quality of my life in all areas and continues to allow me the opportunity to pass on what I feel so passionate about. I don't do anything if I don't believe to my core that it's important and yoga I know to my soul is something that is healthy for others. The relationships we have created at Yoga Tribe since 2003 continue to grow and I learned after my mom passed away that relationships and time with the people you care, connect and love is far more important than anything else.

Most passionate subject: 1. God 2. My Son 3. Yoga

Favorite hobbies: Spending as much time as possible with my son Hudson. He lights up my heart and makes me laugh and smile.

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