The Yogi Next to You


The Yogi Next to You - Jair LaiterWhat’s your yoga story? How’d you find Mala?

My parents used to bring me to the Sidha Yoga Ashram in Mexico City as a child. Yoga books on my house bookshelves showing super skinny ascetics made a strong impression on me. I remember being fascinated by these yogis, but a bit scared too.

I studied Tai Chi Chuan through my teens. I think this is still the foundation for my yoga practice. In college I was having stress related health issues and because psychiatrists and pills only accentuated anxiety, I looked into more holistic approaches to taking care of myself. I discovered acupuncture and Chinese medicine, but felt somewhat passive and wanted to be a more participant part on the nurturing process. I started with Kundalini Yoga and was introduced to Pranayama, meditation, and a little bit of asana. Eventually I was in good health and slowly moved to more physically vigorous posture styles. In New York, Jivamukti was the fashionable style and got hooked on the Vinyasa asana high. I admire this school and feel lucky to have found it when I did.

In 2002 my wife, Ana, brought me to Dharma Mitra’s studio and we found a home in what used to be a small family like community (like Mala is now). Dharma’s teachings are based on devotion to the Guru and aimed at realizing supreme consciousness. I studied under him for about a decade.

Last year we had the fortune of meeting Mark Withwell and being introduced to the “Heart of Yoga” teachings of Krishnamacharya and his son T. K. V. Desikachar. Mark taught me to adapt yoga to my present life as opposed to adapting myself to a pre-conceived system of (often unrealistic) goal oriented practices that had led to physical injury. I’m now in the teacher training program with Jay Brown, Mark’s student at the Abhyasa Yoga Center, which is based on the “Heart of Yoga” approach.

Initially, I came to Mala Yoga as a tool to improve alignment and get an in-depth understanding of asanas. It has become more than that; a place to grow. Mala is central to my practice today and I feel privileged to study and practice with Lindsay, Angela, Stephanie, and Christina.

What pose do you want to do all day?

Shoulder stand/plow sequence is the peak of my day.

What pose could you never do again?

I killed myself for years trying to bind hands behind my back in Gomukasana. Just not made that way.

What are your biggest yoga obstacles and how do you overcome them?

A few practical ones – For a long time I was self-conscious about excessive sweating. I read that Patabi Jois considered it a weakness. I simply sweat a lot but also I have learned that I was used to pushing too hard, losing my breath, and boosting my heart rate way up.

A big challenge for me (and I think this is common) is to keep a truly yogic full breath when practicing demanding postures or vigorous Vinyasas. Learning to focus in Ujai Pranayama is the most important shift in my practice so far. However, the greater obstacle for me are old habits specially mental ones like arriving at conclusions and making judgements on and especially off the mat.

What was the last Dharma talk that resonated with you?

Along the lines of mental habits. Angela often comes back to a poem about praise and judgement being second-hand opinions about our experience. All mental habits are chit-chat or as the sutras put it vriti chita (fluctuations of the mind). I picture it as mental noise. That can even apply to asana if performed in, or because of,  praise or judgement. I’ve found that Hatha requires humbleness – that makes it all the more beautiful. I think it was from Mark Withwell that I first heard the concept of people practicing “Ego Yoga”.  What a comical contradiction and yet very common. I know I have.

Where is your favorite place to get a drink post-yoga?


If you could practice yoga anywhere in the world, where would it be?

India – never been.

How has practicing yoga shifted other aspects of your life?

It’s when I don’t practice for a few days that my life starts to shift. I’ve let even years go by noticing huge shifts. I’m a happier person in steady practice. Some of the best decisions of my life came to me in Savasana. I think practicing this posture gives me more perspective on life (how poetic that it’s called corpse pose). To be honest there are other asanas from which I haven’t found benefits at all. I guess with practice I’ll understand more. Thank you.

We’re thrilled to bring you the stories of Mala yogis in their own words.  Maybe you know them, maybe you’ve never seen them before, maybe they look familiar, maybe you once knew their name, but forgot.  Whatever the case may be, here is the chance to learn a little more about the person practicing on the mat next to you.  Click here to read about other yogis.


About The Mala Yoga Blog

We are a Brooklyn-based studio that focuses on alignment, balance and community. Have a read, try one of our Practice Podcasts, or come in and say "hi" in person!
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