Omri Kleinberger: Master Teacher
Students of Omri Kleinberger praise his rare ability to communicate anatomical and technical information in an accessible way while guiding his classes with inspiration and humor. Kleinberger began practicing yoga 10 years ago to reduce stress while working in research and sales in Los Angeles and New York. He then began studying the effects of yoga and mindfulness as ways to improve one's quality of life, especially those working in corporate environments and living a mostly sedentary lifestyle. A motivational speaker on the practice of yoga, meditation and mindfulness, Kleinberger practices and teaches yoga at Equinox and Bikram NYC.
Student Danielle Largent said, "Despite taking classes at Bikram studios all over the country, I have yet to meet an instructor as knowledgeable, relatable, and motivating as Omri. His knowledge of the 26 postures goes beyond the standard Bikram dialogue that most instructors stick to. While explaining what’s necessary, Omri is always assessing each yogi in the room so he can provide important pointers and personalized corrections. In doing this, he takes the energy and strength of the class to a whole new level. Furthermore, Omri incorporates motivational stories mixed with perfectly-timed humor to help the class stay focused and happy to be practicing in the hellish heat! If it weren't for Omri, my practice wouldn't be nearly as strong as it is today."
Kathleen Kraft: What does your yoga practice look like day to day?
Omri Kleinberger: My personal practice varies. I try to challenge my body constantly, integrating different elements from different physical disciplines into movement so that “postures” become an exercise in awareness. I see and feel a lot of elegance and grace in movement, and I breathe deeply and rhythmically to augment my meditation. I love practicing in a heated environment. I’ve been able to increase my lung capacity, lower my resting heart rate, and have my determination tested in a hot room like nowhere else. It has become a transformational experience from which I understood meditation better, making it more applicable in both my practice and my life.
I’m also a long time student of Alexander Technique. With the help of my mentor and friend Carlos Osorio, I’ve learned how to integrate this knowledge into my teaching and practice of yoga. I work out regularly— I love how it gives me power, energy, and a motivational boost. It’s a great mood elevator. Overall, yoga helps me understand the way my body reacts to stress and tension, and the slow controlled movement helps me build resilience and cultivate introspection.
KK: What are the most important qualities of the student/teacher relationship?
OK: I believe the important qualities are empathy, listening without judgment or prejudice, and trust and respect. I practice my beginner’s mind when I take class. I’m a student when I practice, and I feel there’s an unspoken implicit conversation between the teacher and the student. If this conversation is finely tuned, there’s always something to learn and explore. I strive to find common ground with any teacher or student, and I believe everyone has something to teach, something to contribute, even if I can’t see it initially. Practiced this way, it becomes an extremely gratifying intellectual and emotional exercise.
KK: Which spiritual text is guiding you now and why?
OK: A lot of reading I do has to do with understanding the psychology of motivation and the mechanics of behavioral change. Two books I read last year have helped me redefine my ability to confront challenges in life. Flow by a Hungarian-American psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, is based on Positive Psychology and teaches how to examine and refine a mental state in which you feel joy, focus, and involvement in what you’re doing so that you become completely absorbed in it. The second book is Start with Why by Simon Sinek. It breaks down the thought process behind motivation, teaching you how to define your actions so they are congruent with your motivation.
KK: Who has been a major influence on your life, your work?
OK: There are many people who have added tremendous value to my pursuits by being very generous with their time and knowledge. Two come to mind right away. My first yoga teacher, John Golterman, was a wonderful mentor who inspired me to pursue teaching. I began teaching yoga classes in his studio, and the way I instruct is heavily influenced by his style and benevolence. The other is Carlos Osorio, my Alexander Technique teacher. His endless patience and generosity has helped me understand yoga and movement in ways I never expected, adding emotional and technical depth that in turn have enhanced my teaching style and my practice.