It was one of those foggy, cold mornings in the Bay area when the best idea was to stay in bed and practice a modified savasana. But alas, I had a profile to write, so I dragged myself across the Richmond Bridge to meet yoga teacher Chris Hoskins. Thank Shiva.
From the first moment he entered the room, the space crackled. This is a teacher, I thought to myself. Not only does Chris’s presence radiate yoga, there is core of authenticity and deep wisdom to his teaching. And he is totally accessible-funny, kind and compassionate. Every part of me was basking in the afterglow of class-serenely oblivious to the external conditions of the day. Now that’s yoga.
Chris is featured in Gaiam’s video, Yoga for Athletes and Linda Sparrowe’s gorgeous coffee table book Yoga: A Yoga Journal Book. He is one of the founding members of the Cuba-US Yoga Exchange and a member of the International Association of Black Yoga Teachers (IABYT). He teaches privates, classes and workshops primarily in the East Bay and Cuba. In 1975, Chris was introduced to yoga as part of a dance course in high school. He loved it and began practicing at home by himself.
Soon after, he discovered the transformational power of yoga during a verbal racist attack. He intuitively dropped into his breath to ease the tremendous stress to his nervous system. He says, “I would credit yoga for me still being here”¦The huge thing that yoga has to offer young people is teaching them how to internally reference”¦ there are so many distractions-parents, peer pressure, grades, the media, the street, drugs. That’s how it helped me; it helped me to internally reference.” Chris’s passion for dance continued to lead him toward yoga.
While still in high school, Chris studied on scholarship and performed with The Oakland Ballet-where he met his friend Rodney Yee. After dancing professionally with The Cleveland Ballet and Elliot Feld Ballet (NYC), as well as years of intensive fitness training/coaching and study at the Laban Institute of Movement Studies, Chris retired.
Feeling compelled by his years of parallel study in asana, pranayama, meditation and yoga philosophy, he turned to yoga as a profession. His voice softens, “I had satiated my desire to perform”¦ I wanted to share this rich experience and how yoga has been transformational for me and literally saved my life and kept me buoyant spiritually.”
In 2000, Chris, his partner Asa and their two young children, Cherokee and Jazz, returned to the Bay area so that Chris could study with Rodney in his Advanced Studies Program. Some of Chris’s other influences include Mary Paffard, Richard Rosen, Patricia Sullivan, Thom Birch and Beryl Bender Birch.
And though he has great respect and gratitude for these teachers, he counts his personal practice as the biggest influence of his yoga journey.
He speaks passionately as he shares his philosophy, “Not being caught up in the idea that there has to be a system or there’s a way to do things all the time in the same way”¦ this idea of doing things from the inside out and trying to be authentic is really, really important to me.” He goes on to say, “Transformation is an experience like poetry”¦indescribable and deeply personal”¦”
The reason I teach is to be of service and the reason we’re here is to be of service”¦ the whole point of work is to create and to be of service to each other, to the environment.”