Teacher Feature: Luca Richards
Before you were a Baptiste teacher, what other lines of work did you pursue in life? How (if at all) have they informed your teaching today? I have been a yoga and fitness instructor/teacher for the past 13 years. Outside of this arena I have experienced a wide variety of jobs and work environments. I started working at 14 as a bus boy at a Japanese Steak house in my hometown. In high school, I worked on an ambulance as an EMT. In college, I worked as a professional actor travelling with a Shakespeare Company and in residence at a summer theatre in Vermont. In my early 20's, I worked as a waiter at late night restaurants in New York and Los Angeles, most infamously at a spot called "Dudes" on Santa Monica Boulevard. Yes, if you're wondering, my work attire would have made Bikram Choudhury blush. I started my career in fitness as a Pilates Instructor in Los Angeles and then went on to own a yoga and fitness studio in Maine for 6 years. What I love most about teaching yoga is being in connection with people. All of my experiences both in work and life have given me a broad and unique perspective from which I can relate to others. They have been pieces of the puzzle, bringing me to where I am now. Your route to Miami went through several cities and countries - from Maine to NYC to Kenya - what prompted the travel and what did you learn in each place that made you ready for the next? I've been a bit of a nomad in my life so far. I've moved around a lot. A few years ago, I left Maine and the studio I had created there and went to New York for a few months. I hoped to capture something of my younger self but quickly realized that I had changed. As much as I love New York, at that time it was not the right fit and I found myself in an unhappy place. I made a call to Paige Elenson, co-founder of Africa Yoga Project and requested to spend some time in Kenya. Paige and AYP were so gracious in providing me with an awesome space to land. I was finally able to reconnect to my joy and passion for teaching. My experience in Nairobi was magical and I had to consider what was next. I missed my dog Woody and felt ready to move forward so I contacted Kiersten Mooney, owner and inspiration behind Bala Vinyasa Yoga, as she was in the process of opening her second location in Miami. I jumped at the chance to head to Florida. Sight unseen, I made my way to my new home. How long were you in Kenya (the first time) and did it impact your view of what a yoga practice can create? I lived in Africa for just over 3 months. My biggest breakthrough in Kenya was vulnerability. The AYP and Kenyan community seem to share and give from a space of complete wonder and authenticity. I saw and experienced in my Kenyan friends a remarkable ability to connect. I learned in Kenya that my vulnerability is what makes me strong. You've now founded an organization called Standout Yoga. What is it and why is it needed now? How can someone get connected to it? After seeing firsthand the amazing results of Africa Yoga Project, I considered the possibility of bringing Baptiste Yoga to another community close to my heart. Growing up as a gay man, I often felt isolated and disconnected even from those I was closest to. I started practicing yoga in my late teens. When I left the safety of home and headed to NYC, I felt the push and pull of vice, chaos and drama. I continued to practice yoga into my mid-20's but was in and out of practice. I saw friends succumb to addiction, illness and death. I credit yoga and a supportive, loving family for saving my life. When I discovered Baptiste Yoga in 2004, I was finally able to have a continual and lasting yoga practice. It allowed me to navigate clearly to a space of confidence and stillness within myself. I created StandOUT Yoga to offer other LGBT and the community of disenfranchised youth that exists globally an opportunity to connect to their purpose and develop a strong inner compass from which they can navigate the waters ahead. StandOUT Yoga is in the process of establishing our non-for-profit status and developing our True North infrastructure. We are exploring the world of opportunities available to us. I am excited to expand our reach and create new leaders and teachers in the Baptiste Methodology. I invite everyone interested in offering StandOUT Yoga classes or programs to connect with me and to jump in. You are ready now! StandOUT Yoga recently hosted AYP teachers. What was that like for the students, for AYP and for you to watch these two organizations come together? Having Walter and Catherine teach a class for StandOUT Yoga was in one word, AMAZING. For me, it truly was a dream come true. Finish this sentence: A Baptiste teacher continually...opens new doors. Describe your role at Bala Vinyasa in Miami and what you bring to it. I am the Manager of Teachers in Miami. I teach around 12 classes a week and facilitate programs and workshops for both our team and students. In January, I will be co-facilitating Bala Vinyasa Yoga's 200hr teacher training with Kiersten Mooney. As team leader, I am a collaborator and co-conspirator. I am filled with gratitude that I get to work with this team of innovators.
What was the last great book you read? What did you take away from it? I always have a collection of Bill Watterson's Calvin and Hobbes by my bed. I often read a few comic strips or pages. It reminds me to smile, to take myself lightly and to dream the impossible! What are you most grateful for right now? My family, community, health, life and love. And of course, I can't forget to mention my dog, Woody. He's my life partner and everyday he teaches me about patience and kindness.