The following is the full version of how yoga found me, and how Donate Yoga came into existence. If you would like the short version, ask me and I’ll send you the cliff notes version. Overall, my childhood was great and it also had its share of ups, downs, lefts, rights, and u-turns. When I was finally ready for yoga it helped me to unite my mind, body, and soul, rid myself of chronic pains, and heal emotional scarring. Yoga has brought me inner peace, and it is my sincere desire to share this light with as many people as I can.
I grew up as the youngest of three boys in a suburb of Chicago, eating deep dish pizza, playing sports, loving ninja turtles, and spending Christmas with my cousin, Breanna. Following a trip to South Carolina, my dad abruptly decided that he was tired of the cold mid-west and our family moved to Hilton Head Island the next year. My parents’ relationship crumbled soon thereafter and they divorced when I was 15 years old. I moved in with my dad, played lacrosse, partied, and learned how to ignore any emotions that didn’t feel good. Over the next few years I made lasting friendships with both Adams, and John Terry. At 17, I injured both of my hamstrings playing lacrosse, as well as my lower back while helping an elderly couple move. These emotional and physical injuries would nag me for the next 13 years.
I went to college, became a cheerleader with Adam and John, met David Buckman, and we all went to the gym, a lot. I was also in pain, a lot. I knew that there was something missing in my heart, even though externally, everything looked fine. One day, I decided I should finally become fluent in Spanish, so I signed up to study abroad in Costa Rica the following semester. This was the first time I had ever travelled outside of the United States, and witnessed financial poverty; it would forever change my life. As my time in Costa Rica neared an end, I met a guy who had just finished his Peace Corps service. He began chatting about his amazing experience, and a fire started to build deep within my soul. I knew that I wanted to help people and felt that the Peace Corps would be the adventure of a life-time.
When I returned home I began the long application for the Peace Corps, and finally got accepted to serve in Peru a month before graduating! My service began June, 2008 and almost instantly I created a life-long friendship with fellow recruit, Dave Marty. My three-year experience with the Peace Corps filled me with purpose and I learned true humility and the power of simple living and minimalism. During our initial training, I first heard the word “yoga” as some of the trainees decided to practice one day in our classroom. I was skeptical of this weird new thing, and asked if I could watch before I decided to try. The response was a definitive “no” and the door was shut. Now I understand how that might have been just a little weird for the people practicing. Yoga didn’t re-surface for me again until 3 years later while I was in grad school. I was sick and tired of being in pain and went to a few classes with friends at USC and also while studying in China. I had been heavy into lifting for over 10 years at this point, so I was very inflexible and found yoga (especially down dog) to be really difficult. I did, however, begin to notice that when I would practice yoga, my physical pain would subside, and my mind would become more relaxed.
Upon graduation, I accepted a job in the Bay Area, and found a fellow Peace Corps Volunteer to live with. She introduced me to REAL yoga at “Yoga To The People” in Berkeley. I remember being so uncomfortable with how many people were crammed into such a tiny space, and how weird I thought the people were that exhaled like lions on a regular basis. Although I had judgements, I was hooked and soon bought my first yoga mat; midnight blue extra long, from Jade Yoga.
Although yoga was relieving my back pain, my night-shift job and long-distance relationship was crushing my soul, so I eventually left the Bay Area and moved to Dallas to be with my girlfriend. I got a job at a local yoga studio and started practicing yoga 5-10 times/week. My physical pain was gone, and I became more flexible than I ever remembered! The studio assured me that we would only practice physical yoga, and none of the “weird” spiritual stuff. I wanted to become a yoga teacher, but chose to wait, and continued to put off any inner reflection. As a result, the void I had felt in my heart since finishing my Peace Corps service continued to grow.
My girlfriend and I eventually separated and around the same time, a High School friend told me about an organic farm work trade opportunity on Maui, HI. I trusted her and something in my heart told me that this was going to change my life forever. It did. On January 2nd, 2016 I landed on Maui and for 6 months lived in a conscious community while learning how to grow my own food. I also attended regular yoga classes with the Italian yogi/property manager, Shiva, who became my first real yoga mentor. As my internship was nearing its end, a farm friend introduced me to a yogi who was leading a yoga teacher training on Kauai who graciously accepted me on as a work trader for the following month! First, with Shiva, and now on Kauai, I was learning about the 8-limbs of yoga and began practicing meditation. The 3-weeks I spent at this yoga training were some of the happiest and most peaceful moments I had experienced in a VERY long time. I knew that yoga was going to be the foundation of my life’s journey from here on out, and that I wanted to share this liberated feeling of inner peace with as many people as possible.
4 months later I was invited to cook at a Yoga Teacher Training in Florida and met Bea Acs, Noemi Negron, and Erika Sarver. My dream to make a living as a yogi was coming true! A unique bond was formed between the four of us and after the training ended I returned to Maui and we parted ways. 2 years later, my yoga teacher asked me to return to Naples to manage his yoga studio and help him organize his upcoming Yoga Teacher Trainings on Maui. I accepted and Bea and I became even closer friends and we soon met fellow yoga teacher, John Sanner, and the three of us shared many fond memories. We started motivating each other to live our lives at the highest possible vibration that we could.
In February, 2019, Bea introduced me to “Life Book” and for the first time I wrote down what I wanted my life to look like, as well as the how, and why. Yoga and wellness was at the forefront of every aspect of this Life Book, but something wasn’t quite igniting that fire within. Soon after, I received the download during meditation that what was lacking was the joy I had while serving others in the Peace Corps. Eureka! It became immediately clear that my life’s mission (Dharma) was to create a non-profit and name it Donate Yoga! I was blown away that the website name was available and so I jumped on it and began the initial planning process with Bea, John, and Noemi. The beginning stages were relatively slow as I was committed to the Maui teacher trainings, but we did establish a regular donation-based yoga class in Naples, and I am now fully dedicating myself to bringing the shining light of yoga to everyone, everywhere!
During the summer of 2019, I returned to Maui to co-teach at the Yoga Teacher Trainings where I met and shared yoga with John Taylor, Ivona, Rachel, Danielle, Claire, Bonnee, Sierra, and Tony. They too became great friends and, along with the other founding members of Donate Yoga, responded to the call to action. Now it’s time for the tribe to grow exponentially as we share yoga and spread peace around the world!