Eddie Stern: Why It's Important to Find Your Inner Peace & How to Do It [Interview]
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In the world of yoga, referring to Eddie Stern as a ‘superstar’ would hardly be an overstatement. So when we heard that he was going to be one of the teachers at the upcoming Inner Peace Conference, a highly anticipated annual event which we are one of the proud sponsors of, we jumped at the opportunity to catch up with him and ‘pick his brains’ a bit.
Here, we’ll be sharing the insightful outcome of our thought-provoking discussion. During our chat, we were able to cover various interesting topics ranging from the importance of finding our inner peace and how we can finally achieve it, to his thoughts on the various ‘new’ yoga styles that have gained much popularity as of late.
But first, who exactly is Eddie Stern?
Image credit: Five Pillars Yoga
For some of you, this is probably the first question that popped into your mind as you began reading this post. Well, if you aren’t too familiar with this accomplished yogi, not to worry. We’ll be more than happy to shed a light as to who he is and some of his abundant accomplishments in the realms of yoga & beyond.
Having started his yoga journey in the late 1980’s, fast forward to today, aside from being one of the world’s most respected and sought-after yoga teacher (specializing in Ashtanga yoga & yoga therapy), Eddie and his wife, Jocelyne Stern, are the founders of Ashtanga Yoga New York, the Brooklyn Yoga Club, and the Brooklyn Ganesh Temple.
Dubbed as ‘the downtown New York guru’, he has established a dedicated following of yoga practitioners, which includes celebrities such as Gwyneth Paltrow, Madonna, Chris Martin, and Russell Brand. He is also a writer who has published several books on Ashtanga Yoga. One example is a translation of Astanga Yoga Master Sri K. Pattabhi Jois’ (who he and Jocelyne studied under) treatise,Yoga Mala.
Eddie is also passionate about raising awareness on the depletion of elephant populations in the wild (due to poaching). He has been and will continue traveling around the world doing Ganesh Pujas to help fundraise for Knot On My Planet campaign which supports the work of The Elephant Crisis Fund.
Last but not least, as a leading proponent in the fields of health and wellness, he co-created the Urban Yogis program along with Deepak Chopra and Erica Ford. He travels worldwide to share his insights in various events and workshops, including The Inner Peace Conference.
"Eddie contributes to this world not only on conferences or at his own yoga studio in Brooklyn, he also brought yoga to the public-school children of New York City and to prisoners. His generosity, openness and joyfulness is highly felt when you're in his presence."
– Sri. K. Pattabhi Jois
With Max Strom & Katiza Satya at The Inner Peace Conference 2017
The Chat: On Inner Peace & Beyond
Thanks for taking the time to chat with us today. Let’s begin by delving into inner peace. Why do you think it is so important for us to find inner peace – especially in modern society?
When we don’t know who we are, we experience things like stress. But when we do know who we are, or what our purpose is, then we are in a state of peace. So looking for inner peace might really mean that we are looking to know who we truly are. And along with knowing who you are comes a deep and abiding peace.
Inner peace seems like it has almost always been a desired state for people to have. Socrates, Plato, the ancient yogis and mystics who preceded them thousands of years ago all came up with amazing technologies for peace because they got stressed out, too!
In modern society, it’s important simply because it’s been important in every ‘age’ or phase of life that we’ve had so far. It must be as important as eating and sleeping, as it’s been part of our narrative for as long as we’ve been human beings.
This is likely because as humans, we have for a very long time been asking the question “Who am I” and “What is the meaning of existence?”.
I see. Once we have attained that inner peace, how can we stay balanced and maintain our peace of mind? How do you do it? It must be challenging to do so amongst the constant hustle and bustle of a metropolitan city like New York.
To stay balanced and maintain my inner peace I do some yoga, meditation, and worship pretty much every day.
These daily practices help to change my background operating system to some degree. So when I need to find balance, I can do so quite effortlessly because I already spend some time each day practicing things that help me find it.
Image credit: URBAN YOGI YouTube Account
When people come up to me and ask, “How can I deal with stress, what are some techniques I can use to counter stress when it comes?” the answer is, practice something every day when you are not under stress. This will prepare you for the things that are certain to come at some point that are going to be stressful.
Sometimes you hear that we practice being in the moment, and perhaps that means that we practice being able to notice a moment when it has come. For example – A moment when you feel as if you are about to lose your temper but you don’t end up doing so, simply because you’ve trained yourself to be self-aware.
What about those who don’t resonate with yoga or meditation? What can they do to help gain inner peace?
With a few friends, including Deepak Chopra and Moby, I created an app called “The Breathing App” that guides you in a paced-breathing exercise that brings you into a meditative state without trying to meditate. It seems to work pretty well so far from the feedback we’ve been getting and seems to work well for sleep and anxiety too.
However, there are also plenty of tech-free ways to help achieve inner peace, such as spending some time in nature, spending time feeling yourself breathe, or to read inspirational books. What we always need to keep in mind is that whatever way you choose, it’s crucial to do it daily.
We’ve lost the habit of ritual in our culture, and ritual is one of the main ways that people for thousands of years have connected to something deeper or beyond their own problems and lives.
Image Credit: The House of Yoga
It’s important to move out from ourselves a little on a regular basis, otherwise, we take things too seriously, too personally, and become easily upset or outraged.
Ritual gives perspective. They can be practicing yoga or even little things like lighting a candle, watching the sunrise, or pausing during the day to breathe. You can make your own rituals up, but remember, they only become rituals when you do them regularly.
Could you elaborate on what you learned from Sri K. Pattabhi Jois? And what does it mean for you to be able to learn from him?
From Pattabhi Jois, I learned a well-rounded yoga practice that includes postures, breathing, meditation, and chanting.
I studied under him for eighteen years until he passed away back in 2009. In that time, one of the main things I learned from that was about dedication.
I learned what it means to dedicate yourself to a practice, to a teaching, to a person...as well as how to manage the ups and downs. That is a lot of what my spiritual practice has been about. Postures or asanas were always secondary, but a good way in.
Moving on to the “new yoga styles" that combine the practice with goats, horses, karaoke - or even beer... what do you think about them?
To be honest, I haven’t heard about the karaoke one yet, but if it includes “Sweet Child O’Mine” I’m all in! *laughs*
Great! Well, we’ll definitely need to do a karaoke yoga next time then. Thank you for allowing us to pick your brain a bit. Just to wrap things up, in your opinion, what is the most important aspect of yoga that you believe should never change over time?
That yoga is a practice of stilling the mind. And that it’s important to be kind.
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