Handstands. Inversions. Arm Balances. Acroyoga. At 32, Matt Giordano has established a career teaching the hard stuff after a bumpy start in rock 'n’ roll. His next tours were with the Wanderlust festivals, and now, after several years of living and working in NYC, he has left the city and his classes at Pure Yoga for the Connecticut countryside, where he is focusing on his passions—living in nature and developing and teaching workshops across the U.S. and abroad. He has a strong fan base and they will surely follow him. YogaCity NYC's Kathleen Kraft recently caught up with Giordano.
Kathleen Kraft: How was the transition from living in the city and your life now?
Matt Giordano: It was about three years ago, when I came home from one of the Wanderlust tours, that I realized that coming home to New York City was not exciting to me anymore. Experiencing nature and teaching in the woods was eye-opening to me. That combined with the fact that I’ve always known I’m not much of a “classroom” teacher—that the “work out and leave” one-hour format was not really my strength. Workshops felt more comfortable for my pacing since I like to get into alignment and kinesiology when I teach.
I started getting asked to teach handstand workshops outside of the city, which turned into arm balance workshops and shoulder workshops. I developed a list of offerings that studios could bring me into to teach, and that became my focus. I wanted my students to really discover something new about their bodies. In the midst of all of this, I was looking for a lake house to rent so I could get away from the city sometimes, and I wound up buying a farmhouse in Connecticut and relocating. It was time to let go.
KK:Tell us about your beginnings in martial arts and the connection, if any, to your yoga practice.
MG:I studied martial arts when I was a kid until the age of ten or eleven. The major thing that resonated with me as a kid was the idea of focus and discipline. We had to hold poses for extended periods of time, which taught me how to go into the "discomfort zone" and become more powerful in my being. When I discovered yoga and first got into warrior two, it was a kickback to martial arts, where you’re trying to find the calm within the challenge.
guitar and music business.) We were eight guys living together in a van, and we were all pursuing our passions—the emotions were high and communication was not great. There was the rush of being in front of thousands of people, and then being completely alone afterwards. I began to lose myself in the persona of who I was in the band versus who I was inside. To be honest, I became not such a nice guy, and my band mates called me out on my argumentative nature. I would argue with you even if you agreed with me. I realized I could argue with myself endlessly, but that that was a violent way of studying the mind. I became more in touch with the spiritual realm and started reading books, like “Wisdom of the Peaceful Warrior”, which talked about yoga being easier because it’s a moving meditation. I was struggling with seated meditation. The next day I was in a yoga class. That was eight years ago.
KK: Eventually Acroyoga?
MG: About six months after I started doing yoga, I saw people doing Acroyoga in Riverside Park. I went over and they said I should try it. Someone flew me, and the next day I was in a class. Literally a week after that class, I started teaching yoga in my basement to friends. I wasn’t certified, I was just teaching what I had learned from my stepmom who was my teacher, and I’d teach a little Acroyoga at the end. The word spread, and before I knew it there were 26 people in my basement three nights a week!
KK: Is there a difference between yoga and acrobatics?
MG: To me, yoga is a state of mind, a mental discipline, and if you apply your presence and awareness to anything, it’s yoga. Everything in the asana practice is essentially taken from something else. Warriors are taken from war, handstands and headstands from gymnastics, dancer pose, and so on. The poses are used with the intention to become more powerful in mind, body, and spirit. Acrobatics is a bunch of poses that are used for entertainment and performance, but if a yoga practitioner is practicing it then it is yoga. And I think that’s what Acroyoga is—it puts intention into your acrobatics.
KK: What is the connection with your partner in Acroyoga?
MG:It opens you up to an experience with someone that is exciting, vulnerable, and playful. Most people are lit up with joy when they start. There can be a lot of fear trusting yourself and another person, but, if you decide to break through that, it’s a beautiful experience because you have to work through your fears with other people.
KK: Do people get hurt?
MG:Yes, but I haven’t seen many injuries. I teach with Acoryoga, which is probably the safest you can experience, because we teach spotting. You’re always being supported, not just by each other, but by someone else whose job it is to keep you safe.
KK: Who in your personal life has been an influence in your yoga career?
MG:My stepmom, Patti Mataska, was my first yoga teacher. She was my biggest inspiration. I would spend many days training with her. I‘d ask her every question I ever had. She was always there for me and she gave me whatever she could.
Giordano has upcoming workshops in the city and New Jersey.