The Modern Yogi


Born in Edina, Minnesota, Ryan has worked in the commercial real estate and banking world of Chicago. He quit his job to pursue a travelling yoga lifestyle and has been living on the road mostly in Asia since early 2013. Ryan has been practising yoga since 2009, and exclusively Ashtanga yoga since 2013. 

What does your tattoo say?
Intuition in Japanese.

Has yoga inspired you to follow your intuiton more?
Oh, yes! It has changed me in so many ways, you know… It cleared things up for me in terms of what my dharma is; what it is that I’m meant to do on Earth in this life time. It’s really giving me clarity. In my past life, the external pressure of society and family were so imminent that I wasn’t living my own truth. I was living life for other people. Yoga changed my perspective, my relationships to others, to the world and to nature.

Which moment was your initiation into yoga?
My first experience of yoga was probably around five years ago at my gym back in Chicago. I can’t really pinpoint it – it was really, you know, basically an intro class, with teachers giving instructions.

What did you like about yoga ?
It took me a while to discern what it was…. For at least a year or two, it was just “OK, let’s go to the gym and do some stretching”, because in my other sports and exercise routine I really didn’t do much stretching. To me it was just balancing that fact out – I really needed to stretch my body, otherwise I was going to end up really tight and firm. Outside of that, it wasn’t too significant concerning the actual yoga practice. It was pretty basic for me at that point.

Can you now imagine a life without yoga?
No (laughs). It really became a part of me, like breathing or eating breakfast or drinking water. I notice that on days I don’t get a chance to do my practice, I just don’t feel as good, and I’m not as clear headed. It’s a natural reaction: your body asks you to get on the mat. If you don’t, you feel a little off, less energetic and less blissed out. It just happens over time. I couldn’t say what the trigger was that brought me to this point, but I would find it difficult to go more than a few days without getting on the mat.

Did you quit your job back home to do more yoga?
I couldn’t do both… I was starting to live two lives as I was doing more yoga and travelling. Travelling was a big thing for me, seeing other parts of the world. Lots of Americans don’t really travel a whole lot. We are very isolated. So, between practising more yoga and getting out to Asia a few times, I came to the realisation that if I continued this path, there was no way I could do both: working in a corporate environment and keeping this spiritual traveler within me alive. The choice was made. I have to do what I have to do.

Your pursuit of yoga has led you to a few countries already……
Yeah… Indonesia as well as Goa and Mysore in India, Chiang Mai in Thailand and some of the smaller cities around and a lot of the islands – Phuket, Koh Samui, Koh Phangan. I’ve been around. It’s mainly about finding the right teachers and even the right climate, as I’m finding that I don’t do so well in the cooler climates. I tweak my travels along those lines. So far, it’s been an amazing journey and I keep meeting so many amazing people. It’s really incredible.

How do your friends and family see your passion for yoga?
At first there was a bit of a struggle. I wouldn’t say confrontation, but uncertainty about what I was doing. My parents are a little bit more old school so they don’t really understand the spiritual aspect of where the World is going, and I also lost a few friends along this journey. But I have accepted that and maybe we will reconnect, you never know. It all comes back to having the confidence in what I am doing and not letting some of the dramas and external things take me off my centre.

Does yoga connect you to your highest potential?
It’s a huge process but the journey is well worth it! There are a lot of layers I have to get through personally, but just through some of the practitioners I’ve met, I can get glimpses of their truth and none of this can really be explained in words. It’s quite a sight to behold when you witness the focus and breath work of great teachers and advanced practitioners. You can almost see their breath emanating throughout their bodies and the energy they give off fills the room completely.

How do you see the development of yoga in the US?
There are some very experienced yoga practitioners with awareness, but it also has this bipolar thing going on, with very superficial forms of yoga brought to the people via marketing and clothing, etc. I think the people who want to find the more authentic form of yoga – which ultimately translates to finding the more authentic form of themselves – they can find it in the US, if they look hard enough.

Rhubarbaby & Ryan preparing a raw food feast together in Chiang Mai for their friends.

Ryan & Rhubarbaby preparing a raw food feast together for their friends in Chiang Mai.

Which are your passions apart from yoga?
A big passion that has been materialising lately is healthy eating and nutrition as preventive care. I try using food as medicine and for keeping me out of the hospital. For the last six months I have been vegan, trying to eat more of a whole-food and plant based diet and it has worked really well and I feel better all the time, more energised and it goes beyond that – and there’s a relationship with yoga there – where you connect to the non harming principle, Ahimsa. That relationship with the world and nature gives me a spiritual uplift.

How do you bring yoga off the mat into the world?
It all goes back to that Gandhi quote: “Be the change you want to see in the world” and yoga helps me to realise this potential and it helps me to get rid of all the noise, misinformation and propaganda. Yoga helps me to understand my own truth again by cutting through all the nonsense. I mean not just the practice, but the people you meet, that community you surround yourselves with just makes it that much easier and to get to the truth and I think for that reason, it’s been a fairly easy transition to go from the mat to everyday life. There’s still lots of work to do but it’s a quantum leap from where I was in the corporate world where there was no thought to what I was putting on my plate and how that affected the world, and how I interacted with other people and so all that comes to a head through the yoga practice.

What’s your purpose in life right now, Ryan?
I think my purpose in life is to share my knowledge with the world and that knowledge is more and more about how to lead a healthy and happy way of living. I’ve lived in the West and worked in a corporate environment so I have an understanding of what a lot of people are going through in terms of society’s pressure on all of us. The question so many people are struggling with is: “Why am I not happy?” I think I have some glimpses and intuition into why they are unhappy and all I can really do is to share that knowledge. When I’m sharing my knowledge with someone, I feel like I’m in flow and I’m not thinking of other things and what I should really be doing instead.

  1. Yamas, and its complement, Niyamas, represent ethical discipline or practice of correct conduct, that are the moral backbones of yoga.  The Yamas (how we treat others) consist of attributes such as non-violence, not stealing, not telling lies; whilst the Niyamas (how we treat ourselves) represent practices such as purifying our mind & body, contentment and acceptance. They are guidelines on how to live and embody yoga in life. 


(April 2014, Koh Phanghan)

Since our interview, Ryan has immersed himself not only in yoga, but also trainings in permaculture, organic gardening (especially his own square foot garden), raw vegan food chef, earth home building. You can check out Ryan’s latest project where he will be offering a retreat in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

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