He could be living the rock 'n' roll life: Growing up in England and in Malibu, California, in the shadow of his musician father, Saul David Raye spent an insomniac youth working in recording studios and touring with bands. But in his 20s, he took to yoga and meditation and eventually cofounded the Sacred Movement studio in Los Angeles. Today, the music in his life comes from a harmonium, and if he's on tour, it's to teach his unique form of Thai yoga therapy.
How big a part did music play in your upbringing? I grew up in the music business. My dad was a jazz musician in London in the 1950s. He built an amazing recording studio on the beach in Malibu, and I worked there for almost 10 years. It was a studio for hire, and we recorded everything from Olivia Newton John to Kiss to jazz and voiceovers. I loved it.
Did your father also play a part in setting you on your life's spiritual path?My dad went in and out of yoga a lot, but he definitely had a big influence on me, mostly through his connection with the Buddhist monk [Bhante] Yogavacara Rahula. He invited Rahula to be my first dharma teacher.
And you followed Rahula to his monastery in West Virginia when you were 23. Were you thinking of being a monk? I considered becoming a monk and lived like one for a year—and again later in Asia. But I had a really strong desire to have children and felt that by staying in seclusion I was hiding from something. I left because I felt my calling was to be in the world.
How did you discover Thai massage? I was on my way to India to study yoga therapy and I ended up visiting a friend in Thailand. I saw a woman performing it on the beach one day, and it was amazing. It looked like a yogic dance.
You say that Thai massage is connected to yoga. How so? The root teachings of Thai massage are in yoga, Ayurveda, and Buddhist practices, so it's really a sister art of yoga. You physically manipulate energy channels, the same meridians you work on in a yoga class or acupuncture session, according to a person's constitution and unique needs. You clear the channels to stimulate someone's prana flow to increase vitality. It's like having a yoga class done on you.
Where are you when you're not teaching? The center of my life is my family. I have three little boys: eight, five, and 22 months. It's a lot of boy energy. We live in a two-story house on a big piece of land in Topanga [California]. It's like a sanctuary—with toys and diapers everywhere.
So, did your life change when you became a father? It's like my heart blasted open. For me, having children was by far the deepest experience of my own heart that I've ever had. And it's an adventure that just keeps unfolding. Every phase is more interesting than the one before.