Who is Peter?
Peter is a thirty-something guy who grew up in a little town called Concord on the east coast, and now calls Sausalito home. Peter teaches yoga, leads retreats around the world, loves the ocean and sailing ships, mountain biking, exploring trails with his trusty sidekick Huckleberry, and really loves life! In other chapters, he’s been a fisherman, an EMT, a line chef, an entrepreneur, a marketing director and an oyster shucker. That’s the short of Peter.
How did you get into yoga and teaching?
I first went to a yoga class in high school in this janky trailer outside the cafeteria. There were lots of pretty girls in the yoga club, so at the time that was enough for my sophomoric brain. But it didn’t take hold until much later. When I moved to the Bay, I was a regular at the gym. My partner at the time dragged me to a yoga class. I had no idea what to expect. When we walked up the stairs to this studio, incense wafted through the air, loud Bollywood music was playing, and about 150 sweaty, half-naked humans were packed in the room, seemingly high on something that I wanted! They were gleeful and kind of ecstatic. It was weird, but exciting. I knew I was in for something special. Fast forward 90 minutes, and I’m emerging from savasana in a puddle of my own sweat and tears and I just knew something had shifted within me. I had been initiated into a physical-psycho-emotional-spiritual community. I found my teacher and practice. Just like that. Fast forward 2 years of near daily practice and I took my first training. The rest is history. It’s been about 10 years now of up dogs, down dogs and I still feel excited, curious and held by this practice.
We really dig your joyful, positive and live in the now outlook! Got any advice for us mere mortals still struggling to stay perpetually stoked and present?
Ha! You know, the truth is rarely so sexy, and the stoke is usually not perpetual. That said, 87.65% of the time, I’m a joyful, contented person. Part of it is honestly genetics. My mother and grandmother are both psyched just to be alive and dance through their days. I’m like that, too. I try my best to appreciate the simple things: waking up in the morning and feeling pretty decent. Life is too short to mess around with what isn’t, or should have been, or could have been. I’m most concerned with WHAT IS! And if I can truly, wholeheartedly accept the moment as it is (messy, sad, hard, infuriating, unfair, painful, amazing, happy, tedious, etc, etc), I am free. And that’s ultimately what we’re all after though, right? We may call it by different names, but I think peace, freedom, home, love is the goal.
So, my tips: watch your breath, often. Sing while you still can. Move your body in interesting and dynamic ways. Get a great dog. Remember that you’re going to die, often. Seek council from old, wise people. Look people in the eyes. Eat psychedelics (if your mom, dad, and doctor say it’s okay…this isn’t medical advice…am I digging myself a hole, here?!). Eat healthy, clean and colorful food. Be nature IN nature. That’s it.
What words of encouragement do you have for someone who is looking to take their yoga practice to the next level?
Just stick with it. Find a teacher and practice that speaks to your heart, and keep going back. Two important keys to the yoga practice are seemingly contradictory, but equally important: patience and persistence. We’ve got to give ourselves time to settle into this new rhythm of investigation – to let our body take its time as it opens and strengthens in new ways. At the same time, we need to be diligent, steadfast, and focused on sticking with it. It’s easy to leave a practice, experience, relationship or a moment that’s tough or uncomfortable. It’s HARD (though deeply rewarding) to keep going deeper into the fire of inquiry.
In your experience, what can yoga do to make the world a better place?
Simple: it offers the tools to shine light on darkness…which is to say, it offers the gift of present moment awareness. Sadly, most of us are on autopilot much of our lives. We follow our sense pleasures, we push away what we dislike and are chained to our thoughts and sensations. It’s hard to break that cycle of gripping and grasping and also pushing. The yoga practice essentially says, “Stop. Watch your breath. Watch your thoughts. CHOOSE what to do with this moment of anger, sadness, resentment, fear, shame, or anything else. Don’t react. Respond to the moment, wide awake.” So yoga creates the conditions where people are more aware – where we can finally see and feel the deeply know the interconnectedness of all things.
What is PRISON YOGA PROJECT, how did you get involved, and how are they giving back to the community?
Prison Yoga Project is an awesome nonprofit organization that provides trauma-informed yoga and mindfulness practices to incarcerated people around the world. The effects of this are enormous – rehabilitation, reduction of recidivism, improved public safety, and the mental health of people who may have been locked up for decades! I found this organization in a time when yoga was feeling like an indulgence – a privilege only for people of means. I wanted to share what I love with marginalized populations and people who could help in a different, yet hugely meaningful way. Since I began working with them, I’ve had the honor of sharing the practice with incarcerated men at San Quentin State Prison. It’s amazing to be in that type of ‘hard’ environment see first hand how much the practice helps. One guy who used to practice with me inside was released during the pandemic and actually came on a local retreat with me and we’re now friends. It’s pretty remarkable.
What does Live Life Outside mean to you?
It means quit horsing around and GET OUTSIDE! It’s easy, tempting and cozy inside. But I try to remember that, ultimately, I AM nature, and when I’m outside, I feel that deep, visceral connection to ALL of life. It’s a reminder that our days are limited, and how we spend our days is ultimately how we spend our lives. Sadly, our modern predicament puts many of us in front of our screens for HOURS every day. My little act of rebellion is spending as much time outside as possible.
Yoga has taken you all over the world. What did you learn from the experience?
I learned that here in the west, many of us live in a protected bubble. Even with all that’s going on socially and politically in the US, compared to many other places in the world, we have it really good. I say this not to diminish the very real suffering and hardship of folks here in the US, but when you visit places like India, Nepal, and sub-saharan Africa, you see a different leave of poverty, challenge and indeed suffering.
I remember my first moments in India, landing in Delhi at 2am. Just…wow. I had traveled a lot previously, but my world was totally turned upside down. It felt like I was seeing the real lives of real humans for the first time ever. It felt like my cozy western life was out of a movie, and just now the curtain was being peeled back.
Leading retreats, teaching at festivals, and just studying with different teachers in other places is truly humbling. It helped me see a picture of yoga, hinduism, and devotion in ways that I hadn’t even considered through my training here in the US.
Speaking of retreats, I have a retreat in Northern California in October if you want to come hangout, eat well, sing, flow, breath and sit quietly with me for a weekend!
And finally.. favorite pair of Sunskis and why?
Easy! Baia! Hands down! They are so sleek and sexy I just feel all sorts of cool when I wear them…because without them, I’m just a yogi-schmuck!