by Catherine Madsen
Bliss Crafter, Austin Yoga Tree
For this week's Mindful Monday we are interviewing one of our fearless leaders, Jonathan Troen! Jonathan and his wife Edith started Austin Yoga Tree in November of 2014 after moving from LA to Austin. One month later, they welcomed a beautiful baby boy named Mateo. Since opening the studio, they have both worked tirelessly to create a yoga community, not just a yoga studio. Let's get to know a little bit more about Jonathan...
Tell us about your yoga journey!
I started yoga after a surgery. They resected my first rib, and then there were complications which affected movement in my shoulder and arm. I went through a year of physical therapy, working to gain full movement and strength in my right arm. After a year of physical therapy, the insurance company said I was done, so the doctor basically said, go try yoga, maybe that will help you.
My first two yoga classes were horrible. I was told it was the best teacher in town, and that’s what I wanted, but I had no idea what was going on in class, and didn’t feel any better afterwards. I thought to myself, I’ll try this one more time, and tried another studio with another teacher. After class I felt amazing. There was this energy flowing around my whole body. I wanted more of that, so I kept coming back.
Soon after, I realized that this yoga stuff was affecting my mind, not just my body. I had no intention of changing my brain. I thought it was fine the way it was. But all of sudden I started becoming calmer, less agitated and less stressed. I was happier. I was smiling more. I thought those were pretty cool side effects, and, of course, my arm was getting better.
If you would have asked me back then if I would have ever been a yoga teacher, or considered owning a yoga studio, I would have thought you were crazy. I was fine spending my days interviewing bands and my evenings seeing concerts (that was my career at the time). But sometimes Yoga knows better than you, and sets you on the right path. That’s what it did for me.
Why do you practice yoga?
Simple: Less stress, more peace. That's one of the many gifts of yoga. And, I'm in a lot less physical pain when I practice.
You just got out of a soulful, sweaty yoga class, what do you do next?
What is one thing on your bucket list?
I'd like to go to India and study with Geeta Iyengar. Also dive in the Great Barrier Reef. Take a painting class. Learn Spanish. Oh wait, said "one thing". Never mind....
What is one goal that you are currently working towards?
I have 3 goals:
1. To bring up our baby boy Mateo in a mindful manner, in a way that he learns to love himself first so that he can love others fully. I know I can't prevent him from experiencing pain, yet I'm hoping we can instill in him the understanding that he is a force in the world, and if he pays attention to that, and not all the outside forces, he can live a life filled with bliss.
2. To continue to grow and connect with my beautiful wife, Edith. This studio was her idea, not mine. I have so much to learn from her.
3. To grow this community we're calling Austin Yoga Tree into a fully sustainable, thriving community that will exist beyond us. While we started Austin Yoga Tree, it is certainly more than us. And while we expect to be here for a long time, we want to ensure that this community has a center, that it can sustain itself. No one should have a difficult time finding yoga or attending a yoga class. We want to make it as easy as possible for people to say YES to themselves. The foundation is here. And we are so grateful for the loving people we have met and have welcomed us here. We want to make sure we are giving back and building something people will be using for generations to come, long after we're gone.
What is your spirit animal?
I don't know if it's my spirit, but if I could be an animal I would be a Blue Footed Booby.
You can see their mating dance here. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z922by9_6Fw (I'm not a great dancer, but I think I can do this!
What does the word “mindful” mean to you?
The definition I use is this: Observing the present moment, with a sense of acceptance and a childlike curiosity.
If you can do that, you can remove suffering, one moment at a time.