Paul Spector Founder and Director of Laughing Heart Yoga
(from recently published article on Paul)
From a housing project in Hartford, CT, to a senior teacher internationally known for his Laughing Heart style of yoga, Paul Spector's forty-plus years of experience have left him surprisingly circumspect about the value of his art. "Yoga isn't really about progress." Spector told me in a recent interview, "There are days when I'm a beginner because I'm not really in my body." And that defines his approach to teaching. The aim of yoga should be the continual re-building of the body-mind connection. And this may differ for each student, depending on their health, injury status, or phase of life. Spector says that his own many injuries, including knee problems, which originated when he played basketball in his youth and were exacerbated by 'serious' running later in life, to multiple back surgeries, have sensitized him to mortality and the limitations that constrain many who come to him for help and guidance.
And many do come, and stay. I spoke with several of his students about his style of teaching. Leslie Robinson, who first studied with Spector 35 years ago, and has taken classes with him continuously for the past 18 years, said that his classes reflect his light-hearted approach to yoga. He finds levity in the things going on in class and is known for his remarkable sense of humor. That is not to say that he doesn't take yoga seriously, however. As a young man in the late 1960s, recently graduated from Sarah Lawrence College, where he was one of the first six men to matriculate, he moved to the Caribbean and soon found that he needed some grounding. He began meditating. He read many books including B.S. Iyengar's "Light on Yoga" and a copy of "Be Here Now" that arrived, unsolicited, in his mail. Then he began developing his own yoga practice. The intense personal discipline required to do this was necessary, in part, due to the times. He began his practice
long before the proliferation of yoga studios and at a time when workshops and retreats were few and far between.
But as the years rolled by and he developed a "serious" practice he felt compelled to seek out out teachers in a wide range of body-oriented disciplines. Along the way, he studied T'ai Chi with Master Ho and was
awarded a senior instructor certification. He received a MA in dance therapy, explored Feldenkrais and Alexander techniques and studied with Body Mind centering with Bonnie Cohen.
Yoga stayed at the core of his bodymind journey. Three 'schools' of yoga became the foundation for his practice and his teaching (Iyengar, Anusara and Kripalu) synthesizing principles and practices from all three in developing his own style which he calls Laughing Heart Yoga. Student and assistant instructor Jim Percival says that the name derives, in part, from the humor that Spector uses in his classes. Long-time Spector student Leslie Robinson tried to explain this aspect to me,
"He has great comic timing," she said. Then, "He's very funny. You just have to be there!" But it is his his extensive knowledge and focus on the unique needs of each student which,for thirty-five years, have made him one of the most popular teachers in this part of Connecticut . His retreats promise to provide each individual a basis for deepening their own practice with an emphasis on working around any personal constraints imposed by injuries or phase of life.
Patty Townsend is the director of
Yoga Center Amherst, and the developer of embodyoga™ In-Depth Yoga Study & Teacher Training Programs. Patty was among the first wave of teacher-trainers in the US, training teachers as early as 1985 in Los Angeles. Her classes reflect her many years of study in classical Hatha Yoga including Iyengar, Vinyasa and Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga. Her breath and awareness centered approach, incorporates a deep knowledge of alignment profoundly influenced by the innovative approach to consciousness and full embodiment that is presented by Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen. Patty is an expressive and joyful teacher with a daily practice of bringing a strong understanding of all aspects of practice and philosophy to her classes with clarity, wisdom and humor.
Townsend is an exceptional teacher, manifesting deep integrity, wisdom,
enthusiasm, humor, sensitive awareness and kindness. Her comprehensive
yoga courses are heart centered, precise in the execution of asana, clear in
the transmission of the underlying principles
of pranayama, knowledgeable of
the philosophy of the sages, aware of the importance of personal embodiment,
and caring of the individual differences
within the group of participants.
Patty is a joy and a gift for those of us who
are fortunate to study with her.” Bonnie Brainbridge Cohen, Educational Director and Founder of the School for Body-Mind Centering