Interview: Shayn Almeida
Yoga teacher and DJ Shayn Almeida met with Seek Retreat’s Tess DiNapoli to chat about yoga, music, his teacher Seane Corn, global stewardship, Venice Beach street art, and the thriving yoga community in Los Angeles.
Featuring photography by Eric Balaire
Tell us about your journey with yoga and your journey with Seane Corn.
I came out to LA because I was accepted to Music School. I went to Guitar School & Recording and Sound Engineering School. I also began DJ’ing around this time. After I finished school, I worked with a company called Native Instruments, teaching people how to use their software to produce music. After about three years, I was promoted from Product Specialist to West Coast Sales Manager. Within a year, I got burnt out on sales and hitting quotas every month. I eventually bailed completely out of the corporate music manufacturing industry.
Although I had done some yoga in my college theatre class, I really started practicing here in LA at Power Yoga with Bryan Kest around 1998- 2000. As time went on, the more burnt out of the corporate music industry I got, the more yoga I would end up doing. By 2004 it became more of a lifestyle than a hobby.
My first teacher training was with Annie Carpenter at Yoga Works. I then went on to do additional teacher trainings with Saul David Raye, Shiva Rae and Seane Corn. I first practiced with Seane Corn in 2002 but didn’t begin practicing with her consistently until about 2004. I went through her yoga teacher training with during winter of 2006 into 2007. I also started assisting Seane in her workshops, teacher trainings, and nationally at the Yoga Journal Conferences. In 2010, I completed my 300 Hour Professional Program at YogaWorks with my other primary mentor, Mia Togo.
Seane Corn was the first one to be able to vocalize the mind/body/spirit connection in a way that resonated with me. She has a really strong practice, which is what originally attracted me to her. Because of my athletic background, I needed a powerful practice. With Seane Corn, the practice will definitely bust your ass, but there will always be a focus on Spirit, so it’s more than just a physical practice; it’s something you can take off the mat and into the world around you, long after your practice has finished.
The integration of Spirit, and the focus on mind-body connection is what kept me with Seane and made me look up to her. There are very few teachers I would follow… Seane’s one of the few people who walks the walk and is so authentic in the way she acts and lives that I feel fine calling her my guru – I would have never considered that with anyone before meeting her. Not only is she teaching an alignment focused, breath based class with a subtle connection to deeper levels of Spirit, but through this practice she is also creating positive change. So that’s what I’m following.
What made you want to become a teacher?
My teacher, Seane Corn, and the impact that she has on peoples’ lives – more specifically the long term affects that yoga is having on our world and the planet. I saw how much yoga helped people, and I’ve always felt that I wanted to assist in healing the world and saving the planet – if not through music, then teaching yoga would be a great way to do it.
What else inspires you or your practice?
Music inspires my practice. The eccentricity and eclectic nature of Venice Beach and Topanga Canyon. Art and graffiti influence my lifestyle, excite me and get my creative juices flowing. People inspire me, good people, creative people, conscious people, and people who are trying to create positive change on the planet for the betterment of the world.
The environment is a big passion of mine. Politics dealing with the environment – the lack of policies that are pro-environment. Trying to wake people up… gently.
If you had to pick a favorite place in the world, where would it be?
Hawaii. El Salvador for surfing… El Salvador was really cool. Costa Rica is next up on my wish list – I’m going there this winter. I’m going to say Pavones, although I have not been there yet; Pavones is pretty rural, way down in southern Costa Rica, but it has the second longest rideable wave in the world, and it looks like just the kind of place where I can set up a nice yoga and surfing retreat with a holistic smart bar/dance club.
Aside from yoga, what activities do you enjoy?
I’m also a DJ; I produce both Alternative Rock and Electronic Dance music. I love making music and DJing many different styles of music: from House, Tech-House, Electro, Breaks, to Down-Tempo, Dub, Reggae and Dubstep.
Energy in the audience and reading the body language of a dance floor is similar to holding the space and sequencing in a yoga class… reading the energy of the people. The rhythm, key, and frequencies of the music strongly influence the mind, body and spirit.
I also enjoy surfing, hiking, reading and writing. Eagle Rock in Topanga Canyon is my favorite hike in LA, short and sweet. Dancing – I LOVE dancing, particularly under a full moon in the Mojave and anywhere that has good music and a nice sound system. LA is such a beautiful crowd. I’ve met so many people here that are here to find themselves and/or are lost and trying to find themselves. There are many good people here. LA gets flack for having so many superficial people… but I don’t think it’s here more than anywhere else. I think you attract what you put out there.
We talked a bit about how your work as a DJ informs your yoga teaching and vice versa, but you’re also a writer. Tell us a little more about the book you’re working on – The Vinyasa of Sound?
The Vinyasa of Sound is a teacher/student guide in how to use music and sound more effectively in yoga classes. There is a lot of debate in the yoga world as to whether or not music should be used in class, and although I understand both sides of the argument, traditional vs. contemporary, I also see the benefits of both sides as well. I know it’s all about the breath and that the breathing should in fact be your music to guide your flow, but I also see the benefits in music’s ability to take you deeper into your breath and your practice, when it’s done properly.
I have been studying the effects of sound on the mind/body since 1998 from a more scientific perspective. Cymatics is the study of visible sound frequencies and vibration; Cymatic Therapy is based on the idea that our cells, tissues and organs – our entire system – has a natural resonant frequency, and when we are sick these frequencies become dissonant. Another way of saying this is that when we get an illness, our cells or our biological system is no longer harmonious. Sound Healing, or music therapy, is the theory that by utilizing certain sounds, rhythms, and frequencies, we can re-calibrate the mind/body system to assist itself in finding harmony and returning to its particular resonant frequency. It’s why a healthy feeling is often called a good vibe.
So, this book basically breaks down many of these theories in order to give students and teachers a background on what exactly terms like sound, frequencies, harmony, dissonance, resonance, rhythm, and many others mean, and then goes into how certain notes, keys, rhythms, and frequencies actually effect the mind/body/spirit. My book also gives some ideas on how and why to use certain types of music, why not to use other styles of music, and how and why to sequence your music in such a way that is more conducive to assisting yourself and your students to come into a place of stillness, a space of connection, a harmonious space.
Would you like to elaborate a little more on your practice being non-negotiable and the importance for yoga teachers to keep a regular practice, to schedule and build their lives around the practice?
Well, first off, if I don’t practice I’ll probably just lose it. I think as an artist and someone who has always been very sensitive – someone who FEELS – I naturally attune to energies of people and the world around me; as a very angsty teenager and a fairly angry-at-the-world young adult, I know that I wouldn’t have the same patience and ability to just observe were not for my yoga practice.
As a teacher, I know I can only teach what I know. For instance, I wouldn’t teach handstands if I couldn’t actually do them, same with any pose – how could I teach Scorpion Pose if I couldn’t actually hold it and show the students what I was talking about?
Similarly, with the Yamas and the Niyamas: if I can’t walk the walk, it would be unauthentic of me to discuss these things. If I was still fighting and arguing or having to always be right, or if I didn’t care about cleanliness or these virtues of non-violence, then I wouldn’t naturally be able to discuss these things; people would naturally see through it. So, my practice being non-negotiable ensures I’m committed in order to keep me on the Yogic Path, ideally to make myself and the world a better place.
It’s essential for teachers to keep a regular practice for the reasons I just stated. Unfortunately, I do see a lot of teachers whose practice seems lacking in these areas… I realize in those instances that it is part of my practice to find acceptance and not be so judgmental.
I do think that if you are going to be a teacher, you should be setting an example for those who you are going to be teaching. I’m lucky in that I have a teacher who walks the walk and sets a good example for me, a nice high standard for me to live up to.
What would you say your favorite travel discovery has been?
My favorite travel discovery has been that people are the same everywhere. Everyone just wants to live and enjoy life. People just want to eat, have shelter, love and be loved.
What are your ‘must haves’ while traveling?
Laptop, Headphones, iPad, Traktor S4 or S2 DJ Kontrol, and my iPhone for its camera.
What natural/supernatural gift(s) would you most like to possess?
Natural Gift: I guess I’d like to have better communication skills. Supernatural: I’d like to fly and/or breathe underwater.
What are you listening to right now? What really gets you moving?
I’m listening to a lot of TechHouse right now, German labels like Get Physical and Poker Flat; Tiefswarsz is also on heavy rotation. There’s always Radiohead.
What are you watching right now?
I don’t watch much. I’m more of a movie person, but I still have the last season of Breaking Bad to catch up on. I love Sons of Anarchy and Game of Thrones.
What’s your idea of earthly happiness?
Earthly happiness to me would mean, simply, Heaven on Earth, which to me shouldn’t be too difficult to attain. We have more than we need. Greed and the politics of greed have blinded people from the abundance that we actually have. There are so many alternative energy sources that we could be utilizing that would not destroy the planet…
Earthly happiness to me would be that everyone gains a holistic perspective of the earth, the one planet we have to live on, realizing and recognizing that we all share a symbiotic connection, that we are All connected – not just Humans, but all sentient beings. Realizing that we are all One, we would conduct our lives in such a way that we would consider the Earth first in everything we do… For me, at the moment, earthly happiness means doing everything I can to help create that type of heaven on earth – whether it be riding a bike, educating people on the benefits of a vegan lifestyle or holistic methods of healing, or teaching yoga in order to assist people in waking up to these realities for themselves – I know that, eventually, it will happen.
Connect with Shayn:
Website Venician Bass
Twitter @Venician Bass