After my first memorable yoga class, I knew that I wanted to teach. I wanted to share. I felt right. Like all the pieces slid perfectly into place. It was very profound.
Describe your personality in three words.
Punk Rock Shaman.
Where are you from and/or where do you live?
I grew up in Vermont. I currently live between Vermont and Kuala Lumpur.
How long have you been practicing yoga and why did you start practicing yoga?
I’ve been practicing pranayama and meditation since childhood (1984). I really don’t know why I took up those specific practices. I started a mixed (yoga, meditation and massage course) practice in 1994 during college. In 2002 was the most formal of practices and when I did my first initiation.
What is yoga to you?
This is like asking what is the meaning of life. Yoga is a state that is meaningful in different ways to each of us because our integration into the self (consciousness) is different although it appears the same.
How did you feel after your first yoga class and how do you want students to feel after they practice with you?
After my first memorable yoga class, I knew that I wanted to teach. I wanted to share. I felt right. Like all the pieces slid perfectly into place. It was very profound. I always want to bring students into their own personal self-realization.
What impact has yoga had on your life? Who were you before you started practicing and how have you changed, evolved and transformed?
I think it’s impossible not to transform (involution in some yoga philosophical components is our own self evolution). The practice is very much based on the self/you. That initial exploration, we begin to see layers of our own being. In the beginning we are in love and eventually work into deeper parts, sometimes harder parts. Life has all the components to create change. Yoga is what highlights that perfect and complete spirit within. In short, it’s unclear if yoga impacted my life or has been a tool to draw out what is already within.
Why did you decide to start teaching yoga and what makes a good yoga teacher?
Tough question. I just knew. First class, I begged the studio owners to do a teacher training so I could take. I ended up building the program with them as I also was their first studio manager. A lot of people at that time were just offering training programs. I also mentored with the owners and would have so many questions that they suggested I study with someone traditionally. That teacher became my first guru. I think all of those components above are great qualities of a teacher. Study hard, practice regularly, have a mentor and know when you are not of service to the student so have a referral system in play. It’s always good to know an expert with the field — these people are usually specialist in one or two things (e.g. pranayama). I often tell my students who are new teachers that at some point you have to break up with your private client. You want to develop self-reliance not dependency.
Will Duprey on Omstars, Defining Yoga
What style of yoga do you practice and what makes that style most effective? I don’t practice or teach a style of yoga. I have mostly been initiated into Hatha, Raja, Siddha lineages. I have studied thoroughly Vinyasa Krama, Iyengar and various mantra and meditation approaches as well as Buddhism. I know that’s a laundry list. I draw upon my practice and experiences heavily. Without experiential knowledge, I do not think we can listen to the student well because the technique gets in the way. By listen I do not mean sitting and talking but using asana, pranayama or whatever yoga technique as a diagnostic tool to work with the practitioner. From there you have a better idea of what can be done or brought into the students life. If I was hard pressed to name a style, I’d choose the path/lineage of Hatha yoga which is mixed with Raja and Siddha.
Do you have a teacher in your style of yoga?
I have lots of favorite teachers! Dharma Mittra, Kofi Busia, Srivatsa Ramaswami, Dr. M. A. Jayashree and Professor Narasimhan to name a few.
What has been your biggest struggle and your biggest milestone in the practice?
Asana. I was already in love with pranayama (energy and breathing) and meditation from youth … naturally all the visual kriya and mantra came to me. Asana came very fast too however the difficulty was in knowing that you can practice yoga without having done any asana. So asana wasn’t a big physical difficulty but more mental. When the idea that asana, pranayama, bandha, mudra, mantra, etc., could all lead to the same result – a state of yoga – that was really liberating.
What is yoga favorite yoga pose and why? And what’s your least favorite yoga pose and why?
I really cannot answer that. I don’t think like that and at different moments one can be favorite or least favorite.
What has been the most inspirational moment you’ve experienced as a yoga student?
When I was first studying with Dharma Mittra there used to be a small group (5-8 people) of us in his master class. During this time, there is no other way to say it except that there was a lot of psychic energy. I remember him telling us to put our legs in padmasana during all these different types of inversions and in my head ‘No way! I can’t do that’ but then my body would just do it. There were lots of experiences like that. A direct line of communication without words. I feel like we were all connected that way. And the things that were happening (energetically and physically) were unbelievable.
And how about as a teacher?
To have a student feel the same way I felt inspired. That raw, unconditional and nonjudgmental space is really big. All the layers of our self-perception go away… I am really honored that I have students who take this life journey with me.
Why do you practice? Why do you teach?
What is the single most defining issue facing the global yoga community today?
What’s the most embarrassing thing that has ever happened to you as a student and as a teacher?
Not really embarrassing but funny. When I was first teaching, I subbed for a fellow teacher. I was so tired, it was an emergency sub and the studio used English words so I went to say “happy baby or dead bug pose” and said “dead baby or happy bug.” I do a lot of silly things in class. I appreciate knowledge but levity goes a long way.
Do you have any recommended yoga reading?
I am actually finishing up a book. It’s a poetic translation from a classical hatha yoga text… so you can contemplate the passages, study alongside the text (with commentary on certain passages) or practice the poses (asana illustrations inside). I tend to read scriptural texts. Upanishads are always great!
What is your dharma, your life mission?
To teach and help others!
What advice would you give to someone who is just starting out on their yoga journey?
Find a teacher that you resonate with. One that understands your inquiry.
Are there any current projects you’re working on that you can tell us about?
The book I mentioned above is one of them. I put a lot of effort continually in the 300 hour program that I run (hathavidya.com). I started this program many years ago as a course to work with practitioners who were looking to integrate yoga into their lives. It’s important to experience yoga rather than just regurgitate information… I am very passionate about knowledge versus information. I am here to help and do the deep work so I provide a space for others who want to do that.
By Will Duprey
Will Duprey is an international yoga educator and is known for effortlessly combining classical theory and storytelling with contemporary yoga methods. With over 17 years of teaching and consulting on yoga teacher trainings globally, his unique mentorship program provides deep knowledge and balance among different styles of yoga. Hathavidya is his personal approach to teaching — starting with the individual practice (sadhana), energy (pranayama) and intuitive framework — classical hatha yoga. Will is a contributing writer to publications such as: Elena Brower’s teach.yoga, Kino MacGregor’s OmStars and is a guest columnist for YogaLife Magazine Malaysia. He lives between Vermont and Malaysia.