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A San Francisco–based teacher offers asana as a doorway to creativity.
Jason Bowman, a Colorado native, started practicing yoga when he was 18 years old while studying audio engineering at the University of Colorado Denver. He was drawn to engineering as a way to blend art and technology, but within a few years, yoga took over as his chief passion and priority: The practice offered a more complete course of study—an all-in-one package for growth and evolution, as he explains it. Then, in 2010, he met two of his formative teachers: Mary Taylor and Richard Freeman, renowned for their ability to incorporate a variety of traditions into their classical Ashtanga Yoga framework. They inspired Bowman to go deeper into the internal aspects of yoga, and he learned to use his practice as a way to cultivate a curiosity about his everyday experiences—both on the mat and in the world.
Over the years, this inner inquiry has informed Bowman’s photography and writing as well. Now 30, Bowman teaches classes that blend Iyengar precision with Ashtanga flow at Yoga Tree in San Francisco, and leads workshops internationally.
YJ: What does your personal practice look like?
Jason Bowman: I sit in meditation from 7 to 8 every morning. In the afternoon, I practice at home for an hour to 90 minutes, five times a week, with vigor and variety. Once or twice a month, I take a class with Annie Carpenter, who manages to combine simplicity with depth and also teaches at Yoga Tree.
YJ: How are yoga and your poetry connected?
JB: As a poet, words are part of my inquiry. Yoga teaching is delivering a monologue—it forces me to become more articulate. Poetry and yoga also have similar paradoxes. Just as poetry uses words to go beyond language, yoga uses the body to go beyond form. With every creative venture, including yoga and poetry, there are rules and structure, but hidden beneath these is a palpable sense of wonder. The rules become the jumping-off point into unlimited possibility. Meditation and asana give me the mental spaciousness to discover my creativity.
YJ: What do students take away from your teaching?
JB: I focus on teaching balance, inward and outward, mental and physical. I like to show how each asana offers the opportunity to stay awake and pay attention. And I encourage my students to pour themselves into whatever they are doing, without holding anything back.
YJ: What’s your biggest challenge as a yoga teacher?
JB: My biggest challenge as a teacher is congruent to my biggest challenge as a student—that is, to stay awake, keep pushing, and not compare myself to others. I strive to do my best, to admit when I haven’t done my best, and to start over again and again with dedication, compassion, and creativity.
In the Details
Bowman shares a few of his favorite things.
Musicians: Kendrick Lamar, Radiohead, and Mountain Man. So many more, but these can always bring me to my sweet spot.
Indulgence: Unscheduled, agenda-less days with sweatpants and a book.
Writers : Rainer Maria Rilke, Gabriel García Márquez, and Rebecca Solnit. These masters of poetry, prose, and nonfiction are heroes to me.
Food: I think some people might worry about me if they knew how much almond butter I eat.
Local hangout: Sunsets at Fort Funston in San Francisco: They’re beautiful and different every day.