[My teacher’s] name was Shandor Remete and the style of yoga is Hatha Yoga. He studied with Iyengar in India who’s one of three teachers that studied with Krishnamacharya….a master teacher in India around the turn of the century. He was the first yoga male teacher I ever had. And not only was he a male teacher but he was a man, like a man’s man..He had fought in Vietnam, he was an Australian special forces, he was a black belt in Karate in martial arts. There was a masculine presence in him that was unusual for a male yoga teacher. I related to that aspect of him more initially. It drew me to him initially because I still had that connection to that masculine kind of adrenaline or testosterone way of being as a man. And he seemed to integrate it. He seemed to be able to have his feminine and masculine right up at the table at the same time.
Growing up in the 70’s as a man, testosterone was not appreciated. Growing up, I look at my role models in elementary school, junior high school, high school: all women! I didn’t have a male teacher until I was in 11th grade. So [in] this era of the 70’s it was a pretty clear message to me as a man that having a penis was not an asset in culture. The feminine was more attractive to women. As a teenager in my early 20’s, now my hormones were starting to kick in, where I wanted a relationship, and my role model was to be strong in femininity, because women find that more attractive. And [because of that] I actually struggled through relationships in that ten-year period of my 20’s. Because although that nurturing aspect is attractive initially, if it’s too much, it gets boring.
I found in so many of my relationships just crumbling and I’m like ‘Why? C’mon I’m a nice guy, I’m a peacemaker…I’m gonna make this all right.’ I didn’t understand; I lacked any masculine principle in my life. And so here’s this yoga teacher who’s got it integrated. And I was like ‘Wow! This is – I’m attracted to this. I don’t have to throw out the bathwater!’ And he taught me a lot.
And you know he’s misunderstood; he’s a misunderstood guy. A lot of people who haven’t studied with him for as long as I studied with him misunderstand what he’s trying to teach and they only see that macho testosterone-driven side of him. And yet I don’t see that. I see it in balance. And so that education helped me. And Hatha yoga- the word Hatha is really the integration of masculine and feminine. ‘Ha Tha’. It’s solar and lunar principles integrated.
Heidi and I met Peter Sterios “by accident.” On our first vacation together as a couple, we went to an eco-resort in Nicauragua. On our boat ride from the airport to the resort we were told by another guest that a well-known yoga teacher was holding a workshop at the resort that same week. We quickly befriended the workshop organizer, several of the students, and, eventually, Peter, his wife Tawny, and their daughter Athena. Heidi and I ended up joining the retreat and quickly became inspired by Peter. We have visited with Tawny and Peter in their home in San Luis Obispo, California and have stayed in touch these many years. And, no doubt, Peter was a very important influence on Heidi as she was beginning her journey with yoga.
My attraction to Peter’s style of yoga and to Peter as a teacher only made sense to me after I interviewed him in Nicauragua for Portraits In Faith. There he explained to me his own yoga and life journey from an over-emphasis on the feminine as a male growing up in the 70’s to a more fully integrated masculine and feminine way of being in the world. This search drew Peter to his teacher, Shandor Remete, who has been considered a renegade in the yoga world—a man who many would describe as harsh.
It is very powerful for me to reflect on Peter’s journey and this integration of the masculine and feminine. I grew up in a family where my mother was dominant and my father’s love was present but he was not emotionally present or dominant. I joke that what other kids got in sports I got in opera! (and I am quite grateful that I could share a love of opera for many years with my father). But I was not taught about the critical male energies that a boy needs to be taught. When I think of many of the male role models I have had in my life, I see that they were strong but loving combinations of the masculine and the feminine. Even heroes of mine such as Thomas Merton, Anthony DeMello, Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Christ, himself, had a profound and perfect mix of the masculine and the feminine. My best friend, David Charpentier, is a former Army Ranger and has a heart of gold—a wonderful integration of the male and female. So as I reflect on Peter Sterios’ interview, I am grateful for the reminder that the Divine Spirit wants me to bring the best of the masculine and the feminine in how I am in the world and how I am with others.
You can learn more about Peter Sterios’s yoga practice here.