After teaching Level 1 vinyasa at Yogamaya, artist Jennifer Grims revealed a secret: Under her pale skin and thoughtful brown eyes, Grims confessed that she was really a red-horned monster. To prove it, she flashed several smartphone pictures of her inner beast, including one of them in savasana, circled by fish.
“Devil Guy is actually my alter ego,” Grims said of the marker and pastel character she developed in 2009 as this publication’s first illustrator. Rather than shy away from awkwardness, Grims celebrated his yogic vulnerability by drawing dumfounded expressions.
Now 43, Grims has returned to yoga school (she is halfway through Yogamaya's 300-hour teacher training program). She released her beginner’s mind and personal demons with YogaCity NYC’s Ann Votaw.
Ann Votaw: You talk about "Devil Guy" in the present tense. He seems very connected to you.
Jennifer Grims:Devil Guy is about thoughts that I’ve had about yoga. I think I was overconfident when I started. I was athletic. I started in gyms and it was too advanced. I had to go through hurting my back and working through that in order to become a beginner.
AV: Do have any ongoing Devil Guy thoughts?
JG: I haven’t meditated in months. I keep meaning to do it, and there have been times when I’ve kept a regular practice and received nothing but good from it, but each morning, when I get up to meditate, I check my email on my phone instead. I don’t know why.
AV: What’s your alter ego’s mission?
JG: Wondering if you’re not good, if inside you’re really a bad person. When all of your peers are doing juice cleanses, it’s like, “Is everyone but me perfect?” I’m not a vegan. I don’t eat cows, pigs, or chickens, but I do feel bad about eating animal products. That’s because I’m an animal lover. I want to do better on that front, but I think it’s okay to admit that we’re not perfect.
AV: Do you admire him?
JG: I like that he’s working through some of the awkwardness. I think, “Good for him for going to yoga for the first time.” It’s like someone trying Internet dating for the first time. It’s weird, but then you think, “Okay, that wasn’t so bad. I think I could go on another one.” I wanted him to be relatable. I like that he’s a guy. I want guys to try yoga. We’ll take care of you.
AV: You’re going back to teacher training after getting your 200-hours in 2003. Why?
JG: It’s great being a teacher trainee again 10 years later. I wish I had gone to grad school for art later in life instead of when I was 25, when I didn’t have as much life experience. You can never know too much about this practice of yoga.
AV: What did you learn this time around that you missed before?
JG: It’s just a different type of thing at the advanced level. There's an assumption that you are already teaching, and you want to deepen your knowledge with things like sequencing, assists, injuries, understanding levels and how to approach them for prenatal yoga, use of props, etc. The other great thing is that everyone is a teacher in an advanced training, so we can use each other as resources and share our knowledge and how we handle certain situations. And remember, I'm only about half way through!
AV: How have you used Devil Guy recently in yoga?
JG: I’ve been using him on Facebook to announce my three-week beginner’s series. Fellow teachers and students have commented, “Oh, I love this!” I think people find him kind of delightful. He’s cute. I wanted him to address the timidity we all feel when we move toward self improvement.
AV: Are you a doodler?
JG: I’m a long time art person. When I was in grad school, I did a lot with sculpture, fabric, and video. I also got into puppetry—pretty much 3D stuff. I didn’t start drawing until I moved to New York, where there isn’t a lot of space for big projects. I got into comics, which takes up less room. I didn’t start painting until I was 40, except for painting classes in college a long, long time ago.
AV: Describe your work space?
JG: I have a craptastic apartment in Williamsburg. I’ve been there forever. It’s cheap for Brooklyn. It’s falling apart. But I can do my work there. It’s sunny. I have an extra room with no windows, so I moved my operations into the main space.
AV: Have you sold any of these drawings?
JG: My drawings are always for sale. I sold one of Devil Guy looking at the Yoga Sutras to the owner of Jaya East. I framed it and made it look nice. The owner has it in the studio.
AV: Where do you see yourself going with your yoga?
JG: I’m interested in learning more about therapeutic yoga, of bringing people to the practice who can’t come to classes. When I first started doing yoga, savasana was the first time I was really able to relax. I didn’t know what relaxation really was before that.