Meet Jason Schramm

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Meet Jason Schramm

Author: Melanie Klein

Welcome to the third interview in the Gaiam/Yoga and Body Image Coalition “Yoga for Men/Men in Yoga” series. We’re excited to introduce readers to the founder of Detroit Yoga, Jason Schramm. Detroit Yoga offers Ashtanga and Vinyasa classes daily without loud music or entertainment – just practice. In the last 15 years of teaching, Jason has accumulated over 15,000 hours of classroom teaching experience and credits his practice for, far above and beyond anything else in his life, continuously having a positive impact on his head and heart. Unlike so many today that become acquainted with yoga through the incessant buzz that has made yoga imagery commonplace in the media, Jason was turned on to yoga at time when it was still obscure and viewed as something “strange.” Unlike the countless people that discover yoga in the context of their local gym or are introduced to the physical practice in a studio environment, Jason began his practice alone at home with a VHS tape that a friend had recommended. “An ex-girlfriend of mine got me one of Bryan Kest’s old VHS tapes so I started practicing at home. I didn't actually go to a yoga studio. In fact, prior to that, I was living and working in Ann Arbor, which is a kind of a liberal, hippie town and I thought yoga was just kind of hippie bullshit. But when I got the VHS tape, I really dug it because I found it to be physically and mentally challenging.” Yoga has a tendency to surprise us the first time we practice, challenging us in ways we’ve never experienced before. And as a result of the challenges we may face on the mat, we’re opened to the gift of new insights and perspectives. “I was in decent shape the first time I tried Bryan’s yoga tape. I was doing a lot of mountain biking and a fair amount of weight lifting at the time. But, physically speaking, I experienced brand new things with yoga. For example, my posture improved pretty quickly - I was standing up taller and carrying myself better. I also remember becoming more aware of things around me. It may sound cliché, but I’d pay more attention to the sounds of leaves, wind, and birds when I was outside. They may have been little things, but it was a start. I hadn’t transferred that awareness to people yet, but this was the start of things falling into place and, eventually, I was able to get outside of myself and become more in tune with others and their feelings.”

It’s not uncommon for people to have misconceptions about the practice, only to be pleasantly surprised and deeply moved by what the practice offers. And that first experience, with the ways in which yoga leaves us feeling, often leads the newbie practitioner on a wonderful and unique journey of self-discovery full of the unexpected but absolutely perfect opportunities to create life anew.
“I ended up getting another one of Bryan’s tapes so I had two of them that I practiced with for a year at home. Eventually, I got to the point where I didn’t feel like I had to look at the TV all the time. His original tapes featured eight men and women of different shapes and sizes in a room of so there was a lot of good examples to help me get the hang of the physical practice. And then I just started practicing those things on my own, exploring and beginning to create my own sequences. A couple years after practicing to Bryan’s tapes, I started practicing Ashtanga and then a friend suggested I start teaching, something I never expected to do or felt remotely qualified to do. In fact, I still had never been to a group class before or met Jonny Kest, whose 3-month summer teacher training I had just been encouraged to sign up for. It all sounds ridiculous now in hindsight. At that point, I increased my practice from a few days each week to a daily practice, left my 60-hour/week restaurant job and started working for Jonny at his studio as the greeter that signed people in.” Teaching yoga is something Jason took seriously from the get go and he made sure he was doing his homework and offering his students a practice fortified in the rich and varied soil of his own experiences rather than teaching in an “insincere” way that is all talk and no walk. In fact, while yoga teacher training can provide the fundamentals, it’s the experience of trying out new teachers and various styles of yoga as well as our own consistent practice that usually teaches us the most, allows us to hone our own unique voice as well as provide the greatest boost of confidence in sharing the practice with others. “I learned a lot in the teacher training, but I felt the need to go above and beyond. So I took classes from all 10 – 12 teachers on Jonny’s staff and took what I liked and what I didn't like from each of them to formulate my own thing. Around the same time, I started coming out to Santa Monica, California and would do the same with the countless teachers teaching at Bryan Kest’s Power Yoga and YogaWorks." Despite establishing a consistent practice, it’s not uncommon or unusual to have points in our life where we get off track and fall out of the practice. And those moments are opportunities to come back to the practice, not berate ourselves or beat ourselves up over the lapse. Yoga reminds us the path is not always perfect and we shouldn’t let lapses, or interruptions, keep us from coming back day after day, month after month and, eventually year after year. “I know what it's like to get knocked out of my practice. I don't think that anybody that gets into years and years and years of practice doesn't have a period of time where they didn't practice. But when you come back, you're like, "Oh yeah, that's why." It might be a little clunky getting back in the routine but the practice will remind you why it’s worth it. Those moments of, "Oh, right, this feels fantastic." I knowing this to be true because it's happened to me more than once. At this point, I can talk myself back into it, "You need to do this because you know how awesome you feel once you get back in the routine." But even more so than that, it's my students. I feel like if I do not practice, that I'm a fake and a phony and a liar, and I can't live with that. I need my practice to teach.” And what inspires Jason to continue to teach?
“Occasionally, people share their “success” stories with me, the good stuff that you rarely hear about. Sometimes, they'll send me a card or something like that, like when I got a handwritten card from a University of Michigan student who’d been practicing with me. When they share how the practice has helped them through difficult times, well, those are good reminders that even though I don't know it or many times feel like it, I am making a difference and the yoga is working. And those people are going on to touch creating a butterfly effect. Sometimes, it’s easy to forget those reminders, though. When I've talked to one of my own teachers about some of the challenges running my yoga school, he's reminds me, ‘Keep the little inspiring and gratifying things that you’ve collected over the years in your face, so that you can see them and don't forget them.’ By doing that, I can keep going and sharing.”
 
Bend with us! Share your photo with us using the hashtags #everybodybends and #whatayogilookslike and tag @gaiam and @ybicoalition for a chance to be featured on our social media channels! By sharing stories with one another, we can inspire even more yogis to get started with their yoga practice, and empower one another to keep coming back to the mat. Regardless of who you are, how old you are, what size you are, what color your skin is, and how much experience you have, you are a yogi if you want to be!  
  AUTHOR BIO: Melanie Klein, M.A., is a writer, speaker, and professor of sociology and women’s studies at Santa Monica College. She is the co-editor of Yoga and Body Image: 25 Personal Stories About Beauty, Bravery + Loving Your Body (Llewellyn, 2014) with Anna Guest-Jelley, a contributor in 21st Century Yoga: Culture, Politics and Practice (Horton & Harvey, 2012), is featured in Conversations with Modern Yogis (Shroff, 2014), a featured writer in Llewellyn’s Complete Book of Mindful Living (Llewellyn, 2016) and co-editor of the new anthology, Yoga, the Body and Embodied Social Change: An Intersectional Feminist Analysis with Dr. Beth Berila and Dr. Chelsea Jackson Roberts (Rowman and Littlefield, 2016). She co-founded the Yoga and Body Image Coalition in 2014.



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