Santiago is a Certified Iyengar Teacher at the Introductory I & II and Intermediate Junior I Levels. He has been teaching since 2011 in the Virginia, Washington D.C. and New York yoga communities and is an active faculty member at the Iyengar Institute of New York. Santiago is a close student of senior teacher John Schumacher with whom he trained extensively to become certified and continues to deepen his studies, in addition to other senior teachers including Lois Steinberg and James Murphy. Santiago’s teaching is an extension of his committed daily practice and passion for the subject of yoga. He is also a certified massage therapist from the Potomac Massage Training Institute in Maryland where he worked in the clinic. In addition, he has held administrative roles at Common Ground Healing Arts Center in Charlottesville, Virginia and the Iyengar Yoga Association of Greater New York.
MY EXPERIENCE WITH YOGA
I tried yoga for the first time during my college years in Argentina at a small Institute located in the center of Mendoza city. I didn’t know what to expect, but the atmosphere attracted me: incense burning, meditation music, and people breathing deeply while moving in and out of poses. Most memorable was the fact that I was the only guy in his mid-twenties in a group of middle aged women. Most of them were regulars and spoke highly of yoga and its health benefits. Discipline wasn’t my strong suit back then so I’d attend classes on and off (like one does with a light hobby), completely unaware of the impact yoga would have in my life in the years to come.
I decided to leave my university studies and moved to California where I worked in the restaurant industry and started taking Vinyasa Flow classes. The long hours spent standing, cleaning and cooking demanded copious amounts of energy and yoga would somehow, as if by magic, restore it back! Along with the energy came a feeling of indescribable quietness and expansiveness, like being submerged under water with suspended breath.
In 2010, I enrolled in a teacher training program in Charlottesville. Jennifer Elliot, a long-time student of the Ashtanga master Pattabhi Jois, hosted the program and taught me how to practice the primary series: a fierce, quick paced sequence with lots of jumping around. It was all new to me and, like most new adventures, it provoked excitement and intimidation. Without a clear understanding of the individual asanas (poses) and the philosophy I continued to experiment with different traditions. My primary teacher from the training, Kate Zuckerman, was the first to introduce me to Iyengar yoga. Her classes were slower paced, precise and filled with philosophical content. She took me to a workshop to meet her teacher, Kofi Busia, whose profound experience on the subject left me in awe. We spent what felt like an eternity (though only just minutes) doing the simplest of poses, our minds absorbed in Kofi’s lecture and our bodies waking up fibers we didn’t know we had. It was a completely transformational experience that took weeks to digest.
My home practice grew steadily as I dedicated two to three hours a day to asana. I would attend all the workshops my pockets could afford. When my training was complete, I started teaching (premature as that was) as a volunteer at churches, community centers and eventually was hired by a few local yoga centers. I remember feeling so green yet determined to become a good teacher for the generous souls who showed up to my classes!
At the end of 2013, I moved to Washington D.C. and took my first formal Iyengar course at Unity Woods with John Schumacher. Only minutes into the class I realized I had found my Teacher. John’s natural wit and calm demeanor drew me in like a magnet. He taught with exquisite clarity and knew how to keep our attention focused. It was like he had eyes in the back of his skull! One time, I was in the back row doing Utthita Parsvakonasana - extended side angle pose - and he corrected me from across the room with 4 or 5 words that pierced me like arrows. My body adjusted so quickly that my mind barely got a chance to catch up. “How did he see that?” I thought. His intense yet compassionate teaching made me feel at home and happy to be his student.
I became a regular at Unity Woods and asked John to be my mentor. He offered me a spot in his apprentice program a year later. It was much more of a commitment than I had foreseen. We had to sit and observe Level I classes for months to train our eyes and ears to stay open. Then he’d teach us how to correct and adjust the mistakes we saw in the students.
Thanks to John’s tireless mentoring and guidance, I went up for assessment and became a Certified Iyengar Yoga Teacher (CIYT). One of the most valuable lessons that he taught me is that to become a good teacher one must first become a good student. This is why it's so important to find the right Teacher. We are students for the rest of our lives no matter how much experience we think we’ve gained.
Today, I’m a faculty member at the Iyengar Institute of New York and I travel to offer workshops in other countries like Argentina and Spain.
Yoga is the light of my life. It is my sincere hope to inspire people to practice yoga, and find the light within themselves.