What is your background and the biographical prologue to your Yoga experience?
I was born in Texas and grew up in South Carolina. When I was younger, I was drawn to inquiry and the idea of truth and liked to talk about philosophy. During my last year of university, it started to dawn on me that Truth might be bigger than my mind, that all my intellectualizing might be like watching the shadows in Plato’s cave. So I branched out and started reading about spirituality, and the basic claim there, that ‘This isn’t just an idea. It’s an experience.’, got me excited. Soon after I gave Yoga a try, and the effect was so strong and immediate that it pretty quickly became a major focus in my life.
How did Joey and Yoga come together?
While I was getting into spiritual literature in 2006, I ordered a Yoga book online that a friend had told me about. I taught myself three asanas a day from it until I could do the sequence it recommended, which took about an hour overall, and then I did that everyday. At the time, I was poor, I didn’t have steady employment, and I was trying to teach myself self-discipline, so asana was kinda the fixed point in my day. After about 9 months, it dawned on me that learning from someone else might be a good idea, so I volunteered at Kripalu Yoga Center for two months where they taught a pretty straightforward mix of hatha and flow. After that I returned to home practice for about a year before winding up in New York where my uncle took me to a shalah that offered Anusara Yoga. As a style, Anusara is really grounded in bio-mechanical alignment, and this knowledge of how to put the body together blew my mind. For the next two or three years, I got more into alignment, took some workshops and read the Bhagavad Gita and Yoga Sutras. I also explored other styles and western ‘Yogas’ like Feldenkreis and Alexander Technique. During this time, I began teaching, very informally first, giving classes on my roof to my friends and family. In 2012 I came to Vienna and became a full-time teacher.
What effects did Yoga have on you primarily?
It made me feel better – clearer, more relaxed, more open – but it also seemed to be energizing my life somehow. It was like I’d been sitting on an island and suddenly realized that I had a boat and could go out on the water and ride the currents. In some way, this journey was an experience of how my body, thoughts, emotions – even my life – were all connected, and practicing asana was a space to explore this. As I invested more time in this, I became more aware of my body, its sensations and what was happening in asana on a more subtle level. Beyond the physical stuff, I was also dealing with my past and getting into touch with who I really was beyond the myth I showed the world. That was humbling and pretty intense at times, but it was also liberating and it empowered me to create a life that I could never have envisioned in my early 20s. Overall, I think these experiences have given me a strong foundation, not only to teach asana, but also to support people on their hero’s journey: accepting vulnerability, facing their truth and stepping into their power.
What kind of mindset should your students show up with?
Anything goes, but obviously the more open they are to the process, the more they stand to gain. But if someone isn’t that open because they’re new or afraid or ‘know it all’ or whatever, that’s fine too. I’ve been all of these things. Overall, I just try to let people have their experience and do my best to support them when they invite me into their process.
What can students expect from your classes, if they are of the expectant kind?
On the surface, a mixture of flow and holds, accompanied by a steady stream of alignment instruction, awareness cues, and some humor. Physically, we’re trying to learn to differentiate the parts of the body and then put them back together in ways that enable us to create more freedom in the body and to move more consciously. Doing this requires both technical knowledge of alignment and a refined awareness of the body, so learning these things is kind of the bigger picture. And if you want to go beyond that to the Big Picture, to embrace what Yoga offers you on a deep level, I will certainly encourage that, but my classes don’t foreground this. We’ve got an hour and a half together, and everyone in the room has a different story. My goal is just to get everyone to smile, to connect to the moment and to leave lighter than they came.