Interview with Henry Winslow

I practice to understand myself, and to realize the best possible version of myself in this lifetime.

Where are you from and/or where do you live?

I was raised in Richmond, VA, but I discovered yoga in New York City. I currently live in Los Angeles, CA.

How has yoga changed and what do you feel it creates in your daily life?

On a day-to-day level, I’d say the greatest practical gift I’ve received from yoga is the perspective to decide what will activate me and what I will let slide. In a perfect world, we should be choosy about these things, but most people don’t have the wherewithal to direct their energy.

What is yoga to you?

Yoga is a never-ending path to deeper clarity and aligned living. The physical practices temper your nervous system, so that you can think, speak, and act from intention rather than reaction. And the contemplative practices ensure that those intentions are in fact aligned to your personal values.

How did you feel after your first yoga class and how do you feel this influences or impacts the space you create for your students?

I left my first yoga class energized and excited about new possibilities. I remember being motivated by the asanas that were beyond my reach, so now as I teacher, I always try to keep students invigorated with a challenge.

Who were you before you started practicing and how have you changed, evolved and transformed?

I found yoga at a critical pivot point in my life. I was finishing college and entering adulthood, and for the first time in my life, there wasn’t an obvious next step or paved path ahead of me. Establishing a yoga practice gave me a structure to fall back on as I navigated unsettling changes in my career, friendships, living arrangements, etc. At first, yoga was a tool I used to stay grounded through a period of shifting sense of self, and later yoga eventually became part of my identity.

Why did you decide to start teaching yoga and what qualities do you feel are important to build and work on as a yoga teacher?

I resisted teaching for a long time because I had been telling myself a story that my practice, or the sanctity of it, would suffer if I mixed yoga with work. As it turned out, teaching actually deepened my practice by pushing me to connect more intimately with other people, develop my empathic senses, and in turn, recognize intricacies of my personality that I had taken for granted or not consciously considered. I think all yoga teachers share a few responsibilities. First and foremost, we have to keep up our own practice. Also, we have to be vigilant about staying humble and cultivating a beginner’s mind. Finally, I believe it’s important to honor the traditional roots of yoga. That doesn’t mean you can’t add your own unique spin. It’s possible (and beneficial, in my opinion) to modernize and personalize your practice and teaching without appropriating culture.

What has been your biggest struggle and your biggest milestone in the practice, in teaching and within the yoga community?

In 2018, I won the World Yoga Asana Championships in Beijing, China. Plenty of people scoff at the idea of competitive yoga, and I think that’s totally fair. But I still point to my experience competing as both a major struggle and a major milestone because of the lessons I learned on stage. I competed for several years at the regional and even national level, and every time I would be well prepared and polished, only to stumble once it was my turn under the spotlight. The year that I progressed all the way to internationals and won first place was the year that I finally allowed myself to relax. I stopped trying to be the absolute best, and simply made my goal to do what was average for me. I’d always heard and understood intellectually that putting undue pressure on oneself wasn’t helpful, but the yoga championships ingrained this knowing in my physical body.

What has been the most inspirational moment you’ve experienced as a yoga teacher?

This year, when studios shut down worldwide in response to COVID-19, I was surprised, impressed, and inspired by the yoga community’s adaptability. Studios, teachers, and students rallied, stumbled their way through standing up online classes, and continued to support each other when everyone needed it most.

Why do you practice?
I practice to understand myself, and to realize the best possible version of myself in this lifetime.

Why do you teach?

To help others do the same.

What is the single most defining issue facing the global yoga community today?

Wow, this is a tough question… because there are SO many defining issues facing the global yoga community today. The events of 2020 have escalated a whole host of problems in our society that have been percolating just underneath the surface — abuse of power, systemic racism, exploitation of nature, and individualism (not inherently a bad thing) to the point of total self-absorption and lack of compassion for others, to name a few.

If I have to pick one issue to plant my flag in, I’ll choose the alarming tendency of folks in the yoga or ‘spiritual’ communities to disengage from reality. There are two parts to this issue. First, as yogis, we want to rise above the suffering in the world — that’s why many of us sought out yoga in the first place. But we can’t do it by disengaging from the dirty work in front of us. It’s not ‘divisive’ to confront real-world problems, or engage in political discourse and social justice. Spiritually bypassing these challenges is not a viable option.

The second part is the growing overlap between spiritual seekers and conspiracy theorists. I can sympathize with people whose trust in authority has been tested, but that skepticism is misguided when we reject science and academic consensus outright. There’s a lot to unpack with this topic, and I can’t give it full and proper attention in this post. I highly recommend the Conspirituality podcast for those interested in learning more about this social phenomenon.

Do you have any recommended yoga reading?

I loved Eddie Stern’s book, One Simple Thing. He does a wonderful job demystifying the core teachings of the Yoga Sutras in plain language, and the second half weaves in modern neuroscience to support the benefits of the practice.

Through your own personal journey, what do you feel is your path and offering to the community- local and global?

My understanding of my role within the community is always evolving and taking new shape. For a time, I think my place of service was in teaching classes, and to an extent, that’s still what I want to do. But if look ahead into the future, I believe my biggest impact is yet to come, through entrepreneurship, conscious capitalism, and leading a new generation of business leaders by example to shape the world in a positive way.

What advice would you give to someone who is just starting out on their yoga journey?

Never compare yourself to others — only to yourself, yesterday.

Are there any current projects you’re working on that you can tell us about?

I’m thrilled that Henry Yoga, the app-based program I co-created, is merging onto Omstars. I honestly can’t think of a better home for the program or our users, and I’m honored and grateful to build upon my existing partnership with Omstars. With Henry Yoga off my plate from a business standpoint, I’m freed up to ideate, create, and launch new projects. And yes, I do have something new in the works already, but it’s not quite ready to share!

What’s your favorite meal at a restaurant?

Vegan pizza!

What’s your favorite meal to make at home?

Chana masala

Who is your greatest inspiration?

My cat, Phil. He never worries about the future nor ruminates about the past. He is always present and content. Phil is an enlightened master.

Do you have a favorite podcast?

I recommended Conspirituality above because it covers a really important topic for our community, but my favorite show is probably the Rich Roll Podcast. Rich is a vegan activist, alcoholic in recovery, ultra-marathoner, and of course a stellar interviewer. He invites on the most inspiring guests and hosts rich and insightful conversations across topics that matter.

When you were a child what did you want to be when you grew up?

A doctor

What’s your favorite TV series?

Lately the best series I’ve seen, which I binged about 15 years after its release, was Avatar: The Last Airbender. It’s light, playful, and packed with profound spiritual wisdom.

What’s your favorite quote/affirmation/mantra?

I have everything I need and more.

What is your life’s biggest question?

How can I help?

By Henry Winslow

Henry Winslow is a dedicated yoga practitioner of 9 years, whose teaching is rooted in the Ghosh, Ashtanga, and Dharma Yoga traditions. In 2018, Henry took first place in the International Yoga Sport Federation’s world championships. Although strength and flexibility initially attracted him to the mat and remain a focal point of his teaching, his appreciation for the practice has since expanded beyond the physical. To Henry, yoga is above all else a tool for cultivating clarity. Through workshops, private and group classes, and his podcast Dharma Talk, Henry empowers students worldwide to connect to their innermost selves, where our natural resilience, unlimited power, and universal compassion reside.

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