“Breathing. That is the joy of life.
After that is everything else…”
Steven Prestianni, who also is known as Paz, Anadabhairava, or Pastrami, is a New York City yogi, musician, teacher, theologian, cyclist, and much more. Over a cup of hot lemon ginger tea, he explains these truths of his, simply and genuinely. “Breath is what bridges the yoga of the body to the yoga of the mind.”
At Steven’s Thursday evening Hatha Yoga Class at Awakening NY, students are gently guided through a more traditional style of yoga. Contrary to the popular and more modern Vinyasa Flow or Power Yoga, Steven teaches (and practices) the “yoga of the ancients.” His style derives directly from his teacher and mentor Sadguru Sri Mahayogi Paramahamsa, founder of the Mahayogi Yoga Mission.
“Yoga is restraining the mind-stuff from taking various forms.”
This quote from The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali best embodies Steven’s classes. Poses are held at length, in quiet and stillness, focusing on breath, with intermissions of savasana (corpse pose). Steven’s soft voice methodically instructs how to get into and out of these poses. He glides from student to student, expertly adjusting hips, arms, necks, legs, slipping their bodies deeper into the asana. The class concludes with alternate nostril breathing (or another form of pranayama) followed by silent meditation.
Please, do not be dissuaded from this more traditional class, as the two hours seemingly float by. Just like when in an extended pose, the moment you may start wavering and thinking you can do this no longer handle it, is the moment it comes to an end. After class you, you will feel as if you are wrapped up in a cloud. You’ll feel fuzzy, warm, and your heart will be filled with this genuinely kind energy that Steven so graciously pours out.
Now, Steven was never seeking to become a yoga teacher. He was raised in a Catholic Italian family in New York, to which he attributes his intrinsic interest in religion and meditation. As a young adult, squatting in the Lower East Side with many like-minded, creative people, he made his living as a skilled carpenter and a mover. During this chapter of his life, Steven immersed himself in learning about the different religions and spiritual transitions of the world. Around this time, he came across Srimad Bhagavatam, which provided him with his first understading of “yoga.” This, in part, lead him to Sri Swami Satchidananda, founder of the Integral Yoga Institute, to whom he was introduced to by a friend.
As Steven deepened his practice, teaching opportunities began to manifest. Some remarkable yoga teaching experiences include: teaching female inmates at the Kearny Correctional Facility; physically challenged and wheelchair-bound members of the Multiple Sclerosis Society; and mentally-handicapped individuals at AHRP. Steven explains that is was while working theses communities, that he was able to develop as a teacher, learning how to work, guide, and nurture different types of human beings.
Over the next decade or so, as New York evolved, Steven’s life gradually shifted. His building became legalized. He started getting work teaching yoga closer to home. And, he no longer needed to work as a carpenter or mover anymore.
Though Steven is dedicated to the yogi tradition of renunciation – the elimination of all mundane desire – his life is more the full. Monday through Friday he teaches yoga at studios in Brooklyn and Manhattan, as well as to private clients. On weekends he leads workshops and teaches at Yoga Teacher Training Programs. And, on top of all this, he fits in his own yoga, meditation, and music practices.
….But, he would never claim to be busy, “for being busy, connotes being out of breath, frantic, and unbalanced.”
Steven Prestianni teaches Hatha Yoga on Thursdays at 7:15pm at Awakening NY in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. Sign up for his class here.
Past Articles on Steven: