Six hot yogis

We asked how regular practice changed six New Yorkers' bodies---and their lives.

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  • Photograph: Zenith Richards

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  • Photograph: Zenith Richards

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  • Photograph: Zenith Richards

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  • Photograph: Zenith Richards

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Photograph: Zenith Richards

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Mike Patton


28, former finance guy and founder of Yoga Vida NYC, East Village

How did you become a yogi?
I tried yoga about four years ago as a way to [exercise], but my experience with yoga has been so much more than that. When I was laid off from Bear Stearns, I started going a few times a week, which turned into every day. It was a constructive way to fill the long days while I looked for another finance gig, and it helped me stay positive during 18 months of unemployment. It had such a profound effect on me that I actually ended up opening a yoga studio almost a year ago.

What's your current practice like?
I'm still a student in every sense of the word. I do 13 or 14 classes a week. I've gotten into the habit of doing yoga in the morning and then again in the evening to unwind.

How has yoga affected your diet?
I still like to eat a nice steak with a bunch of friends, drink wine and let loose, but I'm now more aware of how I feel as the result of what I put into my body. I've started to eat less meat because of the way I feel afterwards, and I prefer eating grains, rice and vegetables. I used to drink just because it was fun and social, and I still do it, but yoga has helped me develop a bit more of a balance.

What's the biggest payoff?
I played ice hockey in college, so I always ran and lifted weights with the goal of being a jacked athlete. But yoga changed my whole perception of what fitness is, and I'm now in the best shape of my life. I have more body control and awareness after four years of yoga than I did after 20 years of regular athletic training. The only reason I didn't try it before was because of some preconceived notions—I think it sometimes gets a bad rap—like all you do is try to touch your toes for an hour, chant and get a little weird.

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