NASA rocket scientist/yoga teacher Scott Lewicki balances his highly technical and scientific day job by finding inventive ways to offer the teachings of yoga. But that’s not to say his classes are all free-form and flowy, the creativity for him comes in finding new ways to approach poses based on his advanced understanding of mechanics and anatomy.
Yoga Journal: When did you start practicing yoga?
Scott Lewicki: I started practicing yoga regularly in 1997 and soon after completed a teacher training program at the Center for Yoga in Los Angeles. I later studied with several senior teachers, took many workshops and trainings, and then became a Certified Anusara Teacher in 2004.
YJ: You studied with so many teachers and so many styles, is there any one that you identify with the most?
SL: I still draw upon the physical alignment principles of Anusara, but I supplement those with the many other trainings I’ve taken and years of personal experience.
YJ: How does yoga fit into your other life as a rocket scientist?
SL: I was always interested in math and astronomy and chose that as a career path. But a big part of me is always searching for creative outlets. I was never good at musical instruments and traditional arts like painting. I enjoy writing but it doesn’t come easy to me. Acting, no way. Over time, I found that yoga, and especially teaching yoga, work well for me as a mode of creative expression.
YJ: How do you create asana sequences?
SL: When I started teaching, I used to pretty religiously write down sequences, and recommend that newer teachers start this way, while being willing to throw the plan out the window based on the students that are in the room. There is a discipline to sitting down to put together a class, an energy in doing that, which will help you in doing that in a more impromptu fashion later on when need be.
Now I look at poses wondering, is there something I can do to make them different, more accessible, or help students get to them from a new place?
I conceptualize sequences based on my understanding of the body, that so many different parts, even distal parts are connected through layers of fascia. For example, if someone twists their left ankle they might feel a twinge on the right side of the neck because of rebalancing.
YJ: How would you describe your teaching style?
SL: Social and informal. I demand the attention of my students; but really, I demand that my students pay attention to themselves. I also want the class experience to be enjoyable and fun. In a way, I continue to long and search for the community I had in Anusara. So I try to engender and create that in my classes.
YJ: How do you do that?
SL: Primarily through getting to know my students. I talk to my students before class and I create an informal setting – whether it’s in the studio or in the park. I allow people to talk during class and ask questions and give them opportunities to create their own practice within the class. My classes are called the “Practice” or “Practice in the Park.” Often, we bring potlucks and have get-togethers after class. I also have created Facebook groups for the Practice classes to create dialogue, take requests, and post pictures.
YJ: What is your advice for newer yoga teachers on finding their own teaching style?
SL: Try to learn from all styles and many teachers, keeping what works as is, and evolving other parts into what works with how you teach.
YJ: What does your yoga practice look like?
SL: I have both a meditation and asana practice. My practices ebb and flow. Sometimes I focus on fixing a tweak in my body, sometimes I work on getting to a specific goal, and sometimes I play with partner yoga. Right now, my yoga practice also involves feeling OK not doing poses I can’t do anymore that I used to do when I was younger.
YJ: What keeps you coming back to teaching even with a demanding full-time career?
SL: I look at the eyes of my students before and after class to see whether there has been any change. Sometimes students come to class and you can see the stress of the day and the hardness in their eyes. Often after class their eyes will look calmer and softer. Maybe I had something to do with that. That is why I keep coming back.
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