Teacher Feature #WLBC: Reno Muenz
We are excited to welcome Reno Muenz to Wanderlust Whistler 2012! Reno and Sara Jade Gooding created One Love Yoga in Vancouver, B.C to have a community for people to live a better life through yoga, music as well as inspiring a vegan diet through Rastafarian tradition of Ital. (Ital is a Rastafarian way of eating in which the foods we eat should be pure and from the earth to increase our energy and “Livity”) One Love runs incredible yoga classes, events and retreats- including the hugely popular “Yoga Jam Fridays.” Yoga Jam Fridays always have live music from a DJ (some times Prince Ras Reno himself) and a healthy dose of both yoga and boogie.
Here's an interview conducted by Genevieve Burley with both Reno and Sara Jade on their practive, their journey, and their goals with One Love Yoga.
GB: What brought you to the mat and more importantly what kept you on the mat?
RM: I started practicing yoga when I was 18 years old, but it was more traditional raja yoga practice. There were hardly any asanas and a lot of mental exercises for focus. Later on in my life I became interested in vinyasa krama styles of practice and was really inspired by the teachings of David Life and Sharon Gannon because I loved that they combined activism, asana, devotional practice and music. Being a DJ and an artist, their practice and teachings really resonate with me. Ryan Leier has also had a big influence on my life and encouraged me to keep on growing as a student and a teacher. He is also a Rastaman. These days I practice the original vinyasa forms of T.Krishnamacharya, and continue to seek out teachers who studied with the master and are still alive and teaching today. What keeps me coming back is the devotional aspect of the practice. Keeping the temple pure so I can continue to do Jah works.
SJ: I came to the mat after finding a book by Indra Devi while I was travelling alone in Asia around 11 years ago. I have a background of gymnastics, dance and a number of team sports
where we always stretched etc.. so I always had my own personal little stretch routine in the mornings wherever I was. It it was upon reading this book, that I learned about breath and applied it to the postures I saw in the book, as well as all my stretching and dancing that I did. In doing so I found a sense of calm and connectedness I hadn’t experienced prior. I found my breath moving me in all that I did; walking slowly, washing the dishes – I was experiencing yoga anywhere and everywhere not just on the mat. I knew this was something I would always have in my life from then on.
GB: What challenges did you encountered earlier in your practice-emotionally and physically?
RM: I had a nasty knee injury as a young man which turned my life
upside down. I couldn’t play basketball like I used to and this took
me down the road of depression and all of the hardships that come with
that. Yoga showed me that this experience was not a problem but rather
an opportunity to grow. It is because of that physical and emotional
suffering that I am who I am today, that combined with the grace of
The Most High Jah. Sometimes my ego may pipe up and say “if it wasn’t
for that knee injury your vinyasa practice would be so amazing”…then
my True Self chimes in “if it wasn’t for that knee injury you wouldn’t
be practicing yoga to begin with. Like Iyengar says pain can be our
greatest teacher. Wake up and live!
SJ: I struggled with being hard on myself – looking at Asana as
place to get somewhere or progress and “do more” — Ego stuff… but
as a practice encourages that inward journey, it was in the spaces of
silence and sensation I would come back to the remembrance there was
something greater going on.. it wasn’t just about me. I took some
falls, cried some tears, learned some life lessons – and I’m so
grateful I had a practice that supported my emotions and
transformation. I am still grateful to have a practice will always
challenge me to look at my shit, and also remind me to be kind. I
guess that kind of answers the next question as well .
GB: What challenges do you encounter today?
RM: Nowadays I am really focusing on keeping the practice about the
Oneness. The connection to The Almighty Jah. I practice yoga to be a
better lover, a better son, a better father, a better citizen of the
Mother Earth. To create deeper intimate connections.
I’m not concerned about what I can and can’t do on the mat. I mean who
really cares. I want people to see my actions as loving, kind actions
and recognize this as the practice of yoga, not my flexibility and
crazy inversions. This sounds easy in theory but it can be
challenging. We want people to notice us and the ego pops into the
practice. During these times I try my best to stay connected to Jah
and be humble. (Like the classic Reggae song Vampire says “A true
rastaman is always humble.”)
Do my Sirsasana A, Salamba Sarvangasana, Pascimottanasana, then focus
on Pranayama and most of all sharing love. Being Love.
GB: How does your Rastafarian devotion align with yogic principles?
RM: I have always been intrigued by Rasta culture and Yoga culture.
In school I wrote a comparative essay about the Sadhus and the
Rastafarians. There are definitely parallels between the two, beyond
ganja and dreadlocks. Besides Truth is Truth, no matter how you dress
it up. If it makes you wiser and more loving, it’s working.
The concept of livity in Rasta culture is one of keeping it wide open,
not so much following rules, but doing all that I can to bring Life.
To spread Love. Truth and Rights. In the food that I eat, in my
actions, in the words that I speak, even in my thoughts.
The message is to BE THE ONE. To treat others as an extension of the
One. For we are One.
Like Jah said find “an opportunity to bring men closer to freedom and
true equality. and thus, closer to a love of peace.”
This is Livity and this is also what yoga is all about. Oneness.
Eating vegan food, not allowing your belly to be a graveyard for dead animals.
When I do pranayama I often chant from the psalms just as yogis may
chant from the yoga sutras. The cool thing about yoga is that it is a
system that will work for anyone who actively practices. If you
practice a religion it will heighten that experience. If you claim to
not practice a religion, it will heighten that experience.
The first experience I ever had with the concept of Oneness or yoga,
came from listening to Bob Marley records as a youth. Now it comes
from all Jah Music. Conscious music. Rasta Music. It is still is a
primary source of inspiration. I practice to Jah Music the same way
many will practice to Sanskrit chants. These are my prayers. These
songs are what inspires me to get out of bed everyday and try to make
change in the world. If it wasn’t for my faith in Rastafari combined
with my yoga practice, and the teachings of Patanjali,
T.Krishnmacharya, Jesus, and many other prophets I would be lost. I
would be suffering and causing more suffering for others. I give
thanks everyday for this! Jah saved my life and through my practice I
continue to give thanks! To spread love!
GB: What inspired you to share yoga with others?
RM: Yoga changed my life. I know that it is my calling to share this with others. I will always be a student. I will always be a teacher.
I will always be a yogi. I will always be Rasta. It’s who I am. And as
long as people want to learn about these practices, I will be here. It
is my destiny.
SJ: I felt inspired to teach when I witnessed the life affirming
benefits in my own life, as well as the healing and nurturing that
came from practicing. When yoga showed up in my life I felt like I had
been given a gift, literally a breath of fresh air. I needed some
space & time to really go within myself and discover who I was. I
experienced a new found grounded-ness and a connection to the Earth
that maybe I was missing as a young lady. I felt like I began to see a
more harmonious way of living, like life didn’t have to be such a
roller coaster. I stopped eating animals and I felt peace for the
first time within myself. Sthira sukham asanam (Y.S.II:46) is
something I honor in my life on and off the mat & a common theme when
I teach. I wanted to teach people to remind us that we belong to each
other, to the Earth and to be grateful for that.
GB: What are your wishes and vision for OneLoveYoga?
RM: Our vision for One Love Yoga is to share the teachings with
people who may not necessarily come to yoga in the conventional way. I
love when guys come to yoga and share with me that they would never
have come to yoga because they thought we were going to roll around on
the floor and listen to “weird chanting and whale music”, but when
they heard the music and the teachings, they knew they could get into
it. Now they are making an effort to eat more Ital (vegan) food and
are learning to be more loving. I love the way it opens hearts the
same way that Reggae music does. It’s universal. It opens our eyes and
inspires to Get Up Stand Up! And care for others. For truth. For Equal
Rights and Justice. Not excluding any race, gender, religion, species.
SJ: We want to continue to share our passion of the living tradition of yoga and uplift others. Play positive music and inspire
people to get out into the world and live their dharma. To be light in
heart and spirit, to breathe, dance and smile! To encourage community
and family. One Love has a number of epic retreats coming up, it has
always been our intention to travel and live simply and we want to
share that with our students.
GB: What teachers have been your greatest influence?
SJ: I observe the guru principal in all things. Everything in life
is our teacher. Nature. The natural world has some wild wisdom for us,
that has always been there, and all we need to do is get outside and
touch the earth to sense that! I feel every one & everything has a
lesson for us to grow from. Sometimes messy things happen – but I
always try to see the light, to see the teachings in it.
We are expecting our first baby this month! Pregnancy has been a
massive teacher for me! I didn’t know it was possible for me to get
pregnant – so upon learning that we had created a baby I felt
immediately blessed! It opened a whole other level of learning about
myself and really affirmed the power of intention. It was a lesson for
me to keep showing up to practice, for myself and for the people I
love. I have felt really grateful for my practice through my
pregnancy, sharing my breath with the little soul within me has given
me so much joy. I am excited to embark this new journey of parenthood
– I have a great partner and look forward to all this little light has
to teach me once it joins us in the physical realm!
RM: T.Krishnamacharya is my main influence and I do my best to get down to what he taught. But of course there is room for growth. Yoga
is a living tradition. Know your roots and culture. But be open to
what is happening Now. Let love guide you, you know.
I love David Life and Sharon Gannon. Dharma Mitra. As for local
teachers alot of my close friends are teaching yoga in many different
forms. We are blessed with a beautiful community of teachers. Ryan
Leier is an inspiration for sure. Aaron Ash of Gorilla Foods who is
out there every day sharing the benefits of Organic, Raw Vegan foods.
My family at One Yoga and Semperviva Yoga. And most of all the
teachings of Haile Selassie, Jesus, and the prophet Bob Marley.
My newest teacher, our first child should be arriving in Vancouver any
day now. I’m looking forward to that!