Stephen McManus

Stephen McManus
Stephen McManus
Three Jewels, Teacher
New York City, NY 

 

Tell us about yourself, where you are from, your training, etc etc. 

I was born in Staten Island, but my family moved to Florida when I was 6 years old. My childhood was pretty normal except one small thing; we used to spend our summers in an ashram in upstate New York.  My mom found her Guru when she was in her 20’s and then raised both my sister and I with this spiritual lifestyle, so I was exposed to yoga, meditation, and eastern philosophy as a baby. I always thought it was strange because it was so much different to everything else I knew, but in my heart, I knew it was really special. I stopped going to the Ashram when I was 16 for a number of reasons and then I spent many years after that resisting all religion and spirituality. It wasn’t until college that I picked up meditation again as a way to cope with anxiety. In 2012, I finished college, came out as a gay man and moved back to New York, where I met the love of my life. His name is Hector Marcel, and it is because of him that I discovered Tibetan Buddhism. The first couple of months in New York was like a whole big gay spiritual awakening for me. I stopped partying and I fell in love with meditation and yoga. During the first year of this new lifestyle, I became the Director of Three Jewels, the studio where I was studying. Three Jewels is an "Enlightenment Studio", offering yoga, meditation, and philosophy classes rooted in Tibetan Buddhism. For the next 6 years, I started studying Buddhist philosophy extensively with my partner and completed a meditation teacher training and a yoga teacher training taught by Three Jewels teachers. If it wasn’t for Three Jewels and the teachers there, I would be completely lost in life. 

How and why did you start yoga? 

I actually did not like yoga at first. I would rather go for a run or workout at a gym. Yoga was not my thing. However, I did enjoy meditating. Eventually, my close friend and now the Co-Director of Three Jewels, Rachel Webb, made me go to yoga class with her because she said it would help with my meditation practice. I was sold. And it worked! I started to enjoy going to yoga because I could feel the effects of it after class and they would linger into my meditation practice later. 

Who was your great mentor/teacher? 

My partner, hands down. If it wasn’t for him, I would have never discovered the Dharma. And he is still my greatest practice. He teaches me patience everyday ;)

Tell us your practice style and how did you choose your yoga method?

Weirdly enough, there is a yoga practice in Tibetan Buddhism, but monks aren’t taught how to do Yoga until much later when they learn Tantra, or the secret teachings (nothing to do with sex). But Yoga in the west is a very open teaching, so my teachers shared a lot of knowledge about Yoga as taught in Tibetan Buddhism. It works at all layers… karma, thoughts, subtle body, breath, and the physical movements. So the practice is very holistic. Its so meditative, in the sense that you use your thoughts as you move with your breath. But also, I was a club kid, so I like to play dance music and have a lot of fun in my classes. 

What obstacles has yoga helped you overcome? 

I suffered from anxiety and depression for so long and yoga and meditation has REALLY helped me. I still experience anxiety and depression sometimes, but my relationship with it has completely shifted. Also, Yoga constantly helps me crack open my heart. I feel like I get angry so easily if I haven’t done my yoga practice.

What is your mind set when you step onto the mat?

First, I bring to mind my teachers. Nothing would be possible without the grace of my teachers. Then I bring to mind one person I know that is going through a hard time and I dedicate my practice to them. I try to recall them as much as I can throughout the practice and imagine taking away their pain and sending them the benefits of my practice.

When did you understand you wanted to be a yoga teacher? 

Like anything that you love, you just want to share it with the world. I only did my yoga teacher training to learn more about Yoga. It wasn’t until the end of the training that I decided that I should teach it.

What is the most rewarding part of being a yoga teacher?

Making the playlist of course! LOL JK JK.  It has to be seeing your students have some insight during or after class. My teachers say the best gift you can give your teacher is your practice. To show your teacher that you are practicing what they teach you is better than any material gift you could offer. 

Why is yoga so important for the times we’re living in?

Because Yoga is the answer to every problem that we see. Yoga is so much more than just the physical poses. There are 8 limbs of Yoga, and Asana is just one. The philosophy behind Yoga teaches us that we can literally change the world if we understand how it works. Its so much about ourselves and how everything is a reflection of us. And if that’s true, then why wouldn’t we love our reflections. The Beatles had it right when they said “All you need is Love”. 

Your favorite quote?

"Karma is only a bitch if you are” - I thought of this one day when I was learning about Karma, but now I see it all over the internet. 

Anything else you want to share?

If you ever get a chance, please read “How Yoga Works” by Geshe Michael Roach! Its amazing. 

Where we can we find you? Instagram, website, etc

You can always find me at Three Jewels, I basically live there. Check us out at www.threejewels.org  Also, follow us @threejewelsnyc

And you can find me on instagram! @superspiritual  I make memes about my trials and tribulations of my spiritual journey.