Saul David Raye is one of the leading teachers of Thai Yoga Therapy here in the United States. He is also an experienced recording engineer and producer, who produced Dave Stringer’s CD Japa, and with business partner Max Strom, recently opened the Sacred Movement Center for Yoga and Healing in Venice, California.
Yoga Journal: How were you introduced to yoga?
Saul David Raye: My father. He was born in Burma and went to school in India. He wasn’t a serious yoga practitioner, but he did some, and he was always interested in the mystical life. When I watched him do hatha yoga, I was intrigued. Then my first real yoga teacher came to me-a Buddhist monk named Yoga Vachara Rahula, who was a friend of my father’s. I was struck by Rahula’s presence; he was so different from anyone else I knew. When he was in town, instead of going off with my friends on a Friday night-I was in high school then-I would hang out with him. I asked Rahula questions about life and what it all meant. These were my first dharma talks. Later I went to live with him in a monastery for almost a year.
YJ: How old were you and where was that?
SDR: I was 23, and this was at the Bhavana Society in West Virginia. It’s a Buddhist retreat center and monastery, but they also do yoga there. That was my introduction to a strong spiritual practice. I have had a lot of different teachers from different traditions since then: Swami Gitananda, Ganga White, Tracey Rich. I was very fortunate to be at Yoga Works for a long time, and many teachers passed through there: Aadil Palkhivala, Shandor Remete, and John Friend.
YJ: And where does Thai Yoga Therapy fit in your background?
SDR: I was on my way to India to study yoga therapy. I had never heard of Thai massage, or Thai Yoga Therapy, but when I was in Thailand visiting a friend, I came across a little woman doing bodywork on this big European guy; she was putting him in yoga poses. I saw this as yoga therapy, and later I learned that Thai massage does come from India and has a strong yogic foundation.
YJ: So what does your spiritual practice look like these days?
SDR: I’m raising a son and creating a family. For me, this is the ultimate practice. One of my teachers said that if you want to see how your practice is going, you should look at your relationships. My practice varies a lot at this time because my life is so busy. But every day I do some prayer and meditation. That’s my rock. As for asana, there are times during the week when I can do a longer practice, and I’m thankful when I can. Other days I do at least 15 minutes of physical practice. But prayer and meditation are the essence of yoga for me.
YJ: How have these practices transformed your life?
SDR: They’ve given me a way to feel more connected to my own life and to have faith in the process of life itself. I have a strong and healthy body, a clear mind, and overall I’m stable emotionally. So I feel even. But more than anything else, the birth of my son was the great yogic moment of my life. I felt as though everything I’d done, every practice, was done for that most powerful moment, so that I could be present for it. I think the gift of any yogic practice or technique is not the technique itself, which is a training, but the practice allows us to be more present and more available to life itself. We open to the sacredness of life.
YJ: What do you see for yoga’s future?
SDR: One thing I’d love to see in America is yoga expanding off the mat. Can we be revolutionaries? When you come to a yoga conference, you begin to feel the whole world is like this; you forget. And then you go outside and realize that a lot of people are still stuck. But when each one of us begins to awaken, it creates a reaction. We live in a time when we really do have to make a shift in order for us all to survive. I believe we can create a beautiful world. It’s just going to be a long swim.