I first met J Miles when one of my male roommates suddenly got super into yoga. He (my roommate, that is) went from kind of a depressed loner to an avid yogi (complete with the seemingly limitless, bountiful positive energy) practically overnight.
The class he was raving about was "Yoga for the People", a mixed-level vinyasa/hatha style class with a whole lot of moxie. The class was the most popular of all classes taught at our local, non-profit studio Project Yoga Richmond-- typically filled to the gills with side-by-side yoga mats. Not much personal space, but he felt it was totally worth it.
Why was the class so popular? Easy; the instructor. J. Miles isn't your normal teacher. He's subdued and calm, with a seemingly limitless amount of patience. No, J will call you out — in an extremely funny way — if you are acting a little naughty. And in a class so large, naughtiness is hard for everyone to avoid. He adds spunk to the classes with his excellent playlists, and on the last Thursday of every month, he has a guest DJ come in and provide the soundtrack to a jammin' and flowing routine.
I managed to track J down to ask him for a few minutes of his time for a Yoga Accessories interview. Ladies and Gentlemen, this was not a small feat. J Miles is arguably the most popular yoga instructor in the city of Richmond, and if you are a member of our yoga community, you will undoubtedly have heard of him, at least. So here is our Q & A; inside the mind of a resoundingly successful yoga master.
1. Your first name is Jonathan. Why do you call yourself "J Miles"? What's the story behind that?
Something that just stuck over time. I grew up "JJ", most of my family calls me that. As I got older whenever I would introduce myself I would simply say "J" But then people would say "Jake?" or want to write out "jay". At some point during my yoga life I just became easier to say J Miles, just to give a complete name. Yogi J Miles is just easy to write on a flyer, ya know?
2. You teach in a few different studios, but to my knowledge, you don't teach at any gyms. Have you ever taught at a gym? Are there any reasons you don't like taking classes or teaching at gyms?
I actually have been teaching at American Family Fitness for nearly 10 years! At one point, I was teaching at as many as five locations. From Short Pump to Colonial Heights and everywhere in between. With all the different bodies, beliefs, and attitudes towards yoga, this gym is the ultimate training ground for learning how to teach whomever shows up, and to be willing to alter your approach if necessary. It's also an opportunity to give those who may not venture into a studio a true taste of what yoga is all about. I have always been myself, and taught my style. I may not Om at the gym, but the vibration is still there.
3. Where did you take your teacher training? Why did you choose that particular school?
I first studied with Integral Yoga in 2002, receiving my first teaching certification in 2003. I honestly didn't know that there was such a thing as "yoga teacher training" before I met the Integral Yoga peeps at a health fair. You could say the training chose me. Since then I've completed additional trainings, including studying Vinyasa Yoga and returning to my Integral Yoga roots.
4. What is the most important thing you think everyone should know about yoga?
Yoga poses can be done by anyone. Yoga practice is just that, a practice. You have to practice to receive the benefits. Practice yoga doesn't have to involve any physical posture.
5. How would you define "yoga"?
Living your life on purpose, being completely joyful and happy.
6. You are the co-founder of the non-profit Project Yoga Richmond, offering donations-based and specialty classes and workshops. Why did you and Dana decide to open PYR?
We wanted to impact our community and yoga is our magic wand. There is such raw potential for doing good in the yoga community and we have so much to share, why not figure out ways for yogis to join forces for great causes? We offer donation based classes because we want as many people possible doing yoga and in turn, we use the donations to fund special yoga-based programs around town and in studio. It's a win win. Everybody receives a blessing.
7. What is your favorite yoga pose and why?
Triangle, because when it is balanced you can completely stretch the body in every direction.
8. What are the 5 most important things in your life?
- This moment
- My peace
9. You are into Acro yoga— why do you like this style so much?
I've been lucky with Acro. Great teachers, experience in yoga, body awareness, a little bit of daredevil and the martial arts. Acro is just fun, challenging and fun!
10. I read that you got into yoga when you turned 30 years old. What were you doing before you took up yoga?
Dancing, fatherhood, practicing martial arts and reading eastern philosophy. In that order.
11. What is your favorite book?
The Bhagavad Gita
12. What is your favorite food?
Anything with yams in it.
13. What is your favorite place in Richmond?
My favorite place in Richmond is wherever friends gather.
14. Where is the coolest place you have ever visited?
Mayan/Aztec ruins in Mexico
15. What is one or some of your pet-peeve(s) when it comes to teaching and students?
I wouldn't say pet peeve, but I think hygiene is extremely important for the benefit of the entire class. I also don't really get super loud conversations right before class begins. You should be getting ready to practice.
16. How many classes do you teach a week? How often do you take classes or practice by yourself?
I teach about 8 regular classes per week. I do the bulk of my teaching now in weekend workshops and teacher trainings. Unfortunately, I hardly ever get to take classes, as a lot of the classed and teachers I would like to practice with are at the same time as my classes. I practice asana by myself maybe twice a week, but I'm constantly studying and contemplating the philosophy and practice of yoga.
17. There are several hundreds of classes in Richmond each week. Why do you think that your class, Yoga for the People, is arguably the most popular yoga class in Richmond?
- Great music
- Great vibe
- Great atmosphere
- It's not a yoga class, it's a bunch of friends getting together to practice
- It's cheap
18. How has your popularity as a teacher affected your ego and/or practice?
I'll tell you right after you bring me my artesian well water from Switzerland and hand wash my Lululemon pants. I'm sorry, I couldn't resist. Am I a popular teacher? I think I just happen to have been around a while and like I said earlier, I've taught all over. I don't have an ego as a yoga teacher, because I know too many amazing yoga teachers to feel like I've arrived at some place requiring me to toot my own horn. And truthfully, I'm pretty lazy. But I have to practice because I have to be the example that in order for this process to work, you have to do the work.
19. What is your least favorite style/school of yoga? Why?
Every style of yoga has benefit. I am a proponent of more traditional schools and schools that incorporate the philosophy of yoga into their teaching because that is my preference. It is only non-beneficial if it is instructed improperly or practiced in any way that would cause harm to the student. And even then it's not the fault of the style of practice, it's most likely rooted in the ego of the teacher or the student. Which is why it is important to know the other seven limbs.
20. In my opinion, the yoga teacher's choice of music is a make it or break it element to any class. It is a deciding factor on will I or won't I return to this teacher's class. You play the best music out of all the teachers I know. Besides Marley, I am unfamiliar with most of it. What kind of music do you play? What are some names of the artists that you play most often?
I play a little bit of everything. I love making playlist and creating the right groove for the class to find their peace in. I play a lot of sort of hip, traditional India Kirtan from artist like the Bhakti House Band, Jai Uttal, Prem Joshua. I play Sly and the Family Stone and house music. I play lots of world music and electronica. Little People, Nitin Sawney, Beats Antique, Fela Kuti. I don't just play Bob Marley, I play Damian and Stephen Marley too. And too much other random music to name.
21. Why did you decide on Richmond, VA as your hometown?
You would have to consult the oracle on that one (laughing). I was born here. My family is actually from New Kent (mother) and Charles City (father) VA. I graduated from New Kent High School. But I've been living in the city for over 15 years, so RVA [Richmond] it is!
22. What is "Joga"? I had to ask after watching THIS YouTube video.
Joga is the result of a very good friend and student who happens to be from Bulgaria. I think at the time (this was a few years ago) she actually spelled it like she pronounced it.
23. What would you tell anybody who has never taken yoga and is thinking about it, but unsure or insecure/intimidated by the thought of practicing in a room full of people?
Everyone at some point had to do it for the first time.
24. What is one area of your life that doesn't exactly align with your practice (a vice, maybe, or diet, for example)?
I'm not a very good vegetarian.
25. What is one or some of your guilty pleasures?
Fried Chicken wings (see #24)
26. What are your some of your favorite sayings/mantras?
Give Thanks, One Love, I love you are my favorite things to say.
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