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This man’s man of yoga in Flagstaff, Arizona, helps military vets find their inner warrior
A former personal trainer and outdoor-adventure leader turned yoga teacher, Nick Manci is all about the pragmatic and highly physical part of the practice. His students tend to be just as tough as their teacher. Over the last 15 years, Manci, who studied Ashtanga in San Francisco with Larry Schultz (teacher to the Grateful Dead in the late ’60s and early ’70s), has taught yoga to prison inmates, active Marines, recovering addicts, and veterans.
Yoga Journal: Is there a reason you work primarily with men?
Nick Manci: I’ve always associated my asana practice with a process of destruction—never looking to acquire anything but rather destroying what’s in the way.
I go directly into the suffering, into the tightest part of the muscle or tissue. This barbaric way of clearing space is not for everyone, but it does appeal to a demographic that would not practice yoga otherwise. These are my people.
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YJ: Do you have female students?
NM: In the past, my public classes were mostly women because, well, more women practice yoga than men. However, I think there are a lot of women out there with aggressive energy, and they get a lot of fun out of my intense, highly physical asana practices.
YJ: What do you try to inspire in your students?
NM: My whole objective is transformation—physical and spiritual. For those looking to transform, being taken to their aerobic threshold is where the change happens. Walls of ego and illusion are pushed back and dissolved; the warrior within who was strong enough to begin this whole process in the first place becomes more prevalent.
YJ: What’s the top thing you’ve learned through teaching?
NM: It’s that I never know what or who I’m going to get in each class. When someone comes to practice, I have no idea what that person has been through that particular day or within this particular lifetime. To consider that while I’m teaching requires an enormous amount of empathy and responsibility. It forces me to honor everyone, everywhere, across the board.
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YJ: Why yoga?
NM: Life can be chaotic—especially when the walls start closing in. Yoga discharges trauma and promotes healing. It cleanses the body and wakes us up to nonviolent communication. I realized right away, the first time I practiced, that yoga could save the world!
To learn more about Manci, visit southwestbikepackers.com.
Yoga Teacher Nick Manci’s 5 Favorite Things
Mountain Pose helps me reside in my heart and brain with deliberation.
I will read anything by Navy SEAL Michael Jaco and Chuck Palahniuk—the author of Fight Club.
3. Local Hangout
Pay-N-Take—a small bar in Flagstaff where you can serve yourself a beer and hear adventure stories.
Spaghetti and meatballs is in my DNA. My love of this dish speaks to my Italian heritage.
Havasupai Indian Reservation in the Grand Canyon is the most beautiful place I’ve been.