Introducing Peter Steinberg, a long time member of the Monday Night Back Care crew and Friday morning Healthy Spine. Peter has tapas! Always up for a challenge and open to trying new things, he works hard but keeps it fun. He is know for his great facial expressions. In the heat of the moment, he always manages to keep a big smile on his face and inspire his fellow students to keep on going. Enjoy getting to know Peter.

Tell us a bit about yourself – After growing up in Connecticut and spending the first 23 years of my adult life in NYC, I moved to the Valley in 2004. After nearly 17 years, I still feel like a newcomer here! I live at the base of Mt. Tom in Easthampton with my wife Susana, our dog Jasper, and our cat Ashley (AKA “Meowcat,” who makes the occasional cameo during Healthy Spine and Back Care classes). My three boys, Matthew (23), Ari (21), and Isaac (almost 17), live nearby. I make my living as a freelance medical writer, a profession that, depending on the day, can be enthralling, boring, and everything in between.

What is a little known or surprising fact about you or your work? In a previous life (for 5 years post-college), I worked in the record business (for Warner Bros., Island, and finally, Elektra Records). That helped me amass a huge record collection (which I still listen to) and a whole bunch of funny, outrageous stories about some outlandish characters. Ask me about them some time.

What led you to Iyengar yoga? How did you find IYCWM? I started experiencing lower  back pain about 13 years ago. I sought care from a chiropractor, who suggested I try yoga, but I filed that suggestion away. A few years later I met Susana, who made the same suggestion. It wasn’t long before Susana introduced me to her close friend, Susan Elena. When Susan Elena opened her previous studio, Susana dragged me to the grand opening. I found myself signing up for a Healthy Spine class, and I’ve been taking classes regularly ever since – and my back feels much better now!

How long have you been practicing yoga? For about 8 years, since the opening of Susan Elena’s previous studio.

What keeps you on the mat? The knowledge that regular practice is the best thing for my back (and probably for my mind, too).

What keeps you off the mat? The perceived pressures and rigors of work, which try to tell me, “You don’t have time for that.”

What poses do you love? Lately I’ve really been enjoying Chatush Padasana. I also like most varieties of twists.

What poses do you find challenging? Vadrasana is really challenging because I have arthritis in my right big toe mound (my left foot isn’t crazy about it, either). But it’s much more tolerable now than it used to be!

What do you like to do when you are not doing yoga? Hiking on Mt. Tom with Susana and Jasper. Cooking (and eating!). Travel (foreign and domestic). Reading good fiction and fascinating non-fiction. Completing the New York Times crossword puzzle (in ink) every day. Listening to music and playing guitar. Playing softball (assuming we’ll ever get the team back together post-pandemic). Watching quality TV and cinema. Following my New York teams on TV and in the sports pages.

How has practicing yoga impacted your life? I like to think yoga has made me more mindful, not just of my body in physical space, but also of my presence in the wider world. Of course, it helps to live with someone who practices more frequently than I do – and reminds me there’s always more I can do to integrate yoga into my own life!

How does yoga show up in your everyday life? With our own mini-studio set up in a corner of our bedroom, I’m reminded of yoga all the time. I also think I’m more attuned to the spiritual side of yoga, and more conscientious about standing up straight (until Susana tells me to stop slouching!).

How has the pandemic changed your daily life? How are you dealing with the COVID-19 crisis? Does your yoga practice help you in any way? The pandemic has not had a huge impact on my work life, as I’m self-employed and I operate my freelance business from home. However, it’s greatly affected my personal life, as I see much less of my kids, and I have friends I haven’t seen at all for the past year. But it helps to be able to walk down the hall from my home office to our bedroom yoga studio whenever it’s time for class. It’s my respite from all the worries.

What has it been like to become part of a virtual yoga community where you do not know some of the other students? It’s nice to know that our virtual yoga community is not limited to people who happen to reside in the Valley. It’s been enlightening to practice (virtually) with people of different ages and backgrounds. Plus, it’s fun to see what my classmates’ pets and home “studios” look like!

How does this yoga community contribute to your practice? I can empathize with classmates when they describe how they’ve been struggling with certain poses, or with life in general. They remind me that I’m not alone, even if I’m practicing by myself in a corner of my bedroom.

How has the switch to online classes during the pandemic affected your sense of community? How does it help stay connected? How does it fall short? I really miss coming to the IYCWM studio, not only because I miss the ropes and the partner assists, but also because some of my classmates simply haven’t been coming to the virtual classes. But it’s always reassuring to see familiar faces in the Zoom “gallery.”

Any advice for those seeking to connect to a virtual yoga community? Don’t be afraid of being vulnerable, and don’t let the limitations of virtual yoga prevent you from practicing. If you feel insecure about not having all the props, or a suitable home practice space, just say something. Chances are Susan Elena – or one or more of your classmates – will help you find a work-around!