Urban Asanas, the oasis that Jyll Hubbard-Salk created with her big heart in Crown Heights, Brooklyn has added a very interesting new teacher. GuRubee: the inner city shaman.
One hears his name mentioned by people who know the serious healers around town - those who never advertise and are often hard to find unless you know just where to look. YogaCity NYC's Gina de la Chesnaye knew and she recently sat down with GuRubee to find out where his special mojo comes from.
Gina de la Chesnaye: When did you start practicing?
GR: I started the journey when I was a child. I had a beautiful Indian babysitter. I mean, you know when little boys have crushes...she had that flowy thing going on. Her house always with smelled of incense and there were cushions everywhere. I was always amazed by that – sitting on the floor on those cushions. And she did yoga.
That got me going. I knew there was more in the spirit realm. I knew there was something interesting going on. I felt that was my thing. Being a child from the inner city of Chicago and raised a little bit in the suburbs of Evanston. My mother was very hard.
GDLC: What did she do?
GR: Beat the hell out of me! She was a tough, southern mom. But those beatings...I was able to take myself out. Transcendentally, from trauma.
GDLC: You learned to remove yourself.
GR: I think there a lot of people who have that ability to learn to take themselves out of a physical place and I practiced that quite a bit when I was young. When I work at Rikers for the Prison Yoga Project, the people there have a lot of spiritual depth in them.
Those that suffer the most have higher levels of spiritual aptitude and most people find their spirituality when they hit bottom. I often find that what works for me as a healer is to go into those spheres and work with those types, those “quote-on-quote” types, where people wouldn’t go. I go in. I have to physically know how to handle myself. And this isn’t for everyone but you have to learn how to do that, mentally as well and the yoga provides because yoga is a self-defense and not many know the history of yoga.
Bodhidharma introduced yoga to China, which went into Shaolin and Kung-Fu. And so that connection gave me even more excitement about yoga... it’s not just this passive movement and I was also doing a lot of martial arts and training. When I was a teenager and doing a lot of partying and I went off the path - I got kicked out the house and was and got arrested for trying to sell drugs I decided I needed to find something to hone into and I came back to the yoga.
GDLC: How did you get involved in working as a body guard?
GR: I went to work at a place called China Club. I became the owner’s assistant. There was a ruckus at the front door one night and it turns out it was Cuba Gooding Jr. making it. He couldn’t get into the club and so I went to take care of him and we became friends. And then I became his assistant. And then this kind of set up my bodyguarding thing.
GDLC:And at that point had you been studying martial arts?
GR: Oh, yeah. And Cuba, too, which is why we connected so well.
GDLC: Which styles did you study?
GR: Back then it was Combat Fighting which is like a Krav Maga style. So I was assisting Cuba and he would intro me to different entertainers and I would take care of them when they were in town. And then a friend told me about a gig in NY and I was hired to work with Tupac when he did “Above the Rim” and that’s when the security threat really took place because Tupac was crazy and it was real.
GDLC: When did yoga really kick in?
GR: I caught malaria while I was in Ghana on a job. I was cured with herbs and treatments from the bush. I didn’t understand how powerful nature was....here I was trained in the martial arts and with guns but a little mosquito could take you out. (laughs) It was so powerful and I couldn’t deny it.
I was near death and these tribal people had the cure. While I was there I found a bunch of Indians practicing yoga –in Africa. It was amazing. And so at that point I went to India to find my guru. And I learned Reiki and healing work and meditation training. And my guru told me to go back to Africa. And then I went to Egypt and I learned kinetic systems. And then I came to the Upanishads where I learned the ancient texts about yoga because it is such a deep and limitless exploration into the self.
GDLC: Tell me about teaching yoga.
GR: I like to keep the student /apprentice construct alive. I think it’s important that students find a guru. A guru is the one that can lead someone from darkness into light. And we need guides. It’s important to have somebody that can embody that. Yoga is a life practice for me and I think it’s important that teachers aren’t just teaching asana...it’s like teaching African American history and starting from slavery. And that’s what we are doing in the west. We are taking a very deep history and just calling it exercise. That’s why we need to have gurus that have a lineage and a history and a depth in the practice. People jump from studio to studio here. But, if a boat leaves the harbor and doesn’t know where it’s going, it’s going to be lost at sea.
There is a destination. It is peace of mind. It is samadhi.