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Michael Hayes on Yoga

Michael Hayes is the owner of Buddha Body Yoga in Manhattan, New York. The fifty-two year old has a background in massage therapy, martial arts, and dance so to say he knows how the body works is an understatement. He has been fortunate to travel to Thailand to study with master teachers and holds certificates in Sivananda, Allison West’s Yoga Union and Yoga Therapy by Dan Olansky. Other teachings include Iyengar Yoga, Ashtanga Yoga, Thai Yoga, Om Vinyasa Yoga and Yoga Anatomy with Leslie Kaminoff. He divides his time between Buddha Body Yoga and his private massage therapy practice. On the personal side he is “partnered with a beautiful woman” and has a 16 month child.
Michael Hayes yoga posture
Moe: You are not the typical vision of what most people think of for a yoga instructor. Has that helped or hindered you with your practice and teaching?
Michael Hayes: It is true that I am not the norm for a yoga teacher, and I am looking for the people who are not the norm for yoga students, so in that way I am well met.
I am not a typical teacher. “a man is looking for a perfect teacher, and after years of looking for this perfect teacher, the teacher says ‘I cannot work with you, for I am looking for the perfect student.'” So I am building something and building it for the students to come and play.
The part that hinders me is the lack of space for big people. What hinders my students is their belief of what other people have told them they cannot do, and their belief that they cannot do it. My aim is to prove that they can.
Moe: What kind of yoga do you teach?
Michael Hayes: I teach a hybrid of Venyasa and Iyengar, and a smidgen on “Hayes”.
Moe: Do you only teach plus size people or are these mixed classes?
Michael Hayes: Only plus sized students.
Moe: When did you realize there was an area of people who were missing out on what yoga has to offer?
Michael Hayes: I realized as I continued to go to classes, and finding that I was the biggest person in the class, that there was a need in this particular type of work that is engaging and supportive to large bodies.
Michael Hayes yoga posture
Moe: If you had to name three things that you love about yoga what would they be?
Michael Hayes:
1. The ability to explore the movements of my body and acquiring new information and experiences.
2. Finding emotional release in the experience.
3. Coming to a quiet space at the end of my practice.
Moe: If you had to name three things that you love about teaching what would they be?
Michael Hayes:
1. The “A-HA” moments that I see in my students. When they find information that they didn’t know before.
2. The camaraderie with each student supporting each other.
3. Through the experience of teaching I learn about my limitations and my students teach me how to teach them through my open-mindedness of trying to see through their eyes the work that they are doing.
Moe: What is your biggest teaching challenge when working with larger people?
Michael Hayes: My biggest challenge when I work with big people is getting past their belief system of what they can and can’t do. Coaxing them into trying and helping them see how they are limiting themselves in their physical reality.
Moe: Buddha Body Yoga is big on modifying and adapting, why is this important?
Michael Hayes: A lot of big people have a hard time touching their toes. In regular yoga classes the teacher might stress the fact that their hamstrings are tight. But the reality generally is that their belly is stopping them. Their lower back to mid-back is tight. So I have them bend their knees to allow their bellies to rest on their thighs, so that they can rest their lower back, elongating it. That is a good example of how different bodies need different things. If you don’t find a way to get to the place your trying to get to, then you are stuck. If you do not know why you are stuck, your limitation becomes greater. Our modifications are to help the student find out why they cannot get into the right position, from the inside out.
Moe: If someone could only buy one piece of supportive equipment to use at home what would you suggest?
Michael Hayes: I would get the two biggest Yoga blocks I could get. Yoga blocks could be used for so many different things. They could be used for sitting, forward bends, triangle poses, placing it under your lower back and placing your legs upward on a wall. They could even be made into an artificial bolster. They are the best supportive props for beginners.
Moe: Why do you think yoga has been dominated by a certain body type of instructors/students for so long?
Michael Hayes: I don’t believe that yoga has been dominated by certain body types, I believe that we are limited by the Americanization of yoga.
Moe: What do you mean by the Americanization of yoga?
Michael Hayes: A way of thinking that puts you at the center fulcrum of the experience. This is how it should be. Differences I’m not excepted, but tolerated. Conform and be beautiful, be different and be less than. That’s the closest I can verbalize it in less words.
Moe: What is the most common personal hang-up people have when they begin practising yoga?
Michael Hayes: That they can’t ask questions, they have to do it right, perfection is the goal, and the teacher knows everything, those are the misconceptions that you go with into a yoga studio. Give up your mind and stop listening to your body, that is a misconception of yoga.
Michael Hayes yoga posture
Moe: What is your favorite yoga posture?
Michael Hayes: I look at yoga postures as a way to work on certain parts of my body that need work. I would rather do forearm stands, which would make my ego feel great, but that wouldn’t help me if my hip was hurting. So I need to work on things that challenge me. Like “The Road Less Travelled”, if I can move my hip, and other parts that are giving me problems, a lot easier, my life will be better.
Moe: I have to ask, because when people visit your site they are going to wonder too. Why are the classes so expensive? What are people getting from your class that they are not getting from a $60 class?
Michael Hayes: That is an excellent question. These are the reasons why classes are so expensive.
1. There are only 4 people per class. That is generally the rule.
2. We have something called the great yoga wall. There are only two places in NYC that this exists. This yoga wall is a great tool for helping the body get traction.
3. The rent is very very expensive. When we move into a bigger space that can house more students, I can see the prices going down. Until that time, this is the best I can do. We have lots of good equipment. These classes could be considered a semi- private session.
Moe: Thanks Michael!
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