Seattle Yoga News is on a mission to find and highlight all of the hidden, and maybe not so hidden, gems in our yoga community and beyond. We want you to learn about their experiences and perspectives, but also a bit more about their personalities, so we have a few fun questions for them. This week’s spotlight is turned towards Michael Suzerris.

HOW DID YOU GET STARTED WITH YOGA?

Michael-Suzerris

Michael Suzerris:

As a younger man I was very active with gymnastics, martial arts and springboard diving.  At age 23 I had a severe diving accident landing on my head from a high distance, badly damaging my spine. I knew I had to take responsibility for my own healing or suffer the consequences for the rest of my life. In 1989, ten years into my rehabilitation I took a yoga class with Bob Smith at Hatha Yoga Center in the U District. By this time I had already developed a self-care routine that included deep stretches, so my first impression was that what I had figured out intuitively, was something very similar to a hatha yoga practice. It quickly became obvious that I had only begun to unwind the first of many layers of samskara locked within my body and so, yoga became a pathway for much deeper exploration. In 1998, I did my yoga teacher training with Bob and his partner Ki McGraw.

WHAT KIND OF TRAININGS HAVE YOU PURSUED?

Michael-Suzerris

Michael Suzerris:

I’ve been a lifelong practitioner of physical arts and have many teachers who were influential in forming my personal style of practice. As for yoga, other than the occasional workshop with visiting teachers, I mainly practiced with my teacher Bob Smith of Hatha Yoga Center and other local teachers like Anna Forrest, Kathleen Hunt, and even Marie Svoboda, who was the first person to bring yoga to Seattle in the 50s. Keep in mind that when I started my practice there were only a few small studios in Seattle. I’ve also done a comprehensive training in yoga therapy through the Integrative Yoga Therapy program with Joseph LePage.

WHAT’S THE BEST PIECE OF ADVICE YOU HAVE EVER RECEIVED?

Michael-Suzerris

Michael Suzerris:

My teacher was a master of breath. In every practice the focus rested on the principle of being present with the breath through every movement and posture. ‘Breathe deeply’ is the mantra that guides everything I do.

WHAT HAS BEEN THE MOST INSPIRATIONAL MOMENT YOU’VE EXPERIENCED AS A YOGA TEACHER?

Michael-Suzerris

Michael Suzerris:

The most inspirational moments usually show up in very unexpected ways. It’s at those times when I ask myself what have I been doing with my life, when an old student will come up randomly and tell me that something I once shared with them in a class changed their life forever. No matter how we feel or what we think, yoga teachers have a profound impact on the lives of their students.

WHAT IS YOUR ADVICE FOR YOGA TEACHERS AND YOGA STUDIO OWNERS FOR CREATING A MORE INCLUSIVE YOGA COMMUNITY?

Michael-Suzerris

Michael Suzerris:

In so many ways, we don’t actually get to choose who comes to a studio. The students choose by showing up, seeing if it is the right studio and staying or leaving. In order to be inclusive, I think, one simply needs to not be exclusive. Treat every student, new and old, as a friend who has come to you for advice on how to have a better life, then share what you know on the subject.

WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO OPEN STUDIOS OFFERING BOTH YOGA AND DANCE CLASSES & WHAT MAKES OMCULTURE DIFFERENT FROM OTHER STUDIOS IN SEATTLE?

Michael-Suzerris

Michael Suzerris:

When I opened the Wallingford studio under the name OmCulture, it was a departure from the two studios I was running at Green Lake and Queen Anne under the name Yogalife. Though the intent was to have a large yoga studio, the space was much better suited to activities like dance and children’s programs. We have expanded by growing a beautiful community of ecstatic, fusion and tango dancers and are known for our indoor toddler play groups, after school programs and circus arts themed camps for kids. So for the past ten years we have really been running two different businesses. Only in the last couple of years have we come full circle by offering large-scale yoga workshops, hosting the likes of Kino MacGregor and Dharma Mittra as well as regularly recurring events such as Breath Medicine Ceremony led by Ivo Grossi & Cosetta Romani. Our Wallingford location has now become a go-to for yoga events requiring space for up to 100 mats and offers a wide variety of transformational experiences. .

WE HEARD THAT YOU’RE PLANNING TO TRANSFER THE OWNERSHIP OF OMCULTURE GREEN LAKE. CAN YOU TELL US MORE ABOUT IT? WHAT WILL THIS TRANSITION MEAN FOR THE OMCULTURE GREEN LAKE’S CURRENT STUDENTS?

Michael-Suzerris

Michael Suzerris:

I’m at a stage in my own life where I have a strong desire to simplify. At age 63, after nearly twenty years of running the Greenlake studio, it feels like the right time to let it change hands and focus my energy and attention on our Wallingford location. My hope is to carve out enough time to pursue other personal endeavors, including my newest passion, tango! I also look forward to traveling more and spending more quality time with my family.
Our expectation is that the new owner will see the potential of this location and will not only continue to run the existing yoga business but will also augment it by adding a host of new classes, retail and therapy options. We expect the new owner to allow our current students to continue to use their existing passes and to honor and utilize our existing base of skilled and dedicated teachers.

WHAT MAKES OMCULTURE GREEN LAKE THE PERFECT START FOR INVESTORS WANTING TO OWN AND RUN AN EXCEPTIONAL LOCAL YOGA STUDIO AND WELLNESS CENTER?

Michael-Suzerris

Michael Suzerris:

As they say in real estate: ‘location, location, location!’ The Green Lake studio sits right in the middle of what might be described as Seattle’s mecca for health and wellness. There is a high concentration of fitness related businesses and studios including physical therapy, gyms, Cross-Fit, and more. Our studio is perfectly situated to be a boutique yoga, health and wellness center. We also have a nearly 20 year history and maintain a database of thousands of students and high quality teachers, many of whom have been with us from the first days of operation.
We are offering the studio to an enterprising individual or group who sees it’s true potential. Green Lake is a thriving and growing neighborhood and our studio is ideally suited to be run as a wellness center with classes in the main studio, retail in the spacious lobby and two private treatment rooms. The space already includes unique features such as overhead and side bars, aerial silks and a full mirrored wall, making it perfect for not only yoga, but also for barre classes, pilates, and aerial silks classes. The two therapy rooms can be used for massage, acupuncture, Ayurvedic treatments, counseling or any other healing modalities. The large lobby is well suited for a thriving retail business and there is a full unfinished basement with ample storage and a laundry room.
You can see a video tour of our beautiful studio and more information.

WHAT YOGA RELATED BOOKS HAVE MOST INFLUENCED YOU?

Michael-Suzerris

Michael Suzerris:

The book that most influenced me was the first of a series of books published in 1904, by Yogi Ramacharaka called Hatha Yoga. I came across a very attractive set of little blue cloth-bound books that caught my eye. When I first picked them up at age 18, the content inside didn’t click with me. Some years later, I re-opened the Hatha Yoga book which started with the words: ‘If you’re reading these words, it means you’re ready to hear what I have to say to you.’ In that moment, it was as though I was actually hearing the voice of someone speaking to me from the past. And thus, began my inquiry into the world of yoga.

Hatha Yoga by Yogi Ramacharaka

WHO IS THE YOGI WE SHOULD FEATURE NEXT?

Michael-Suzerris

Michael Suzerris:

If Fran Gallo hasn’t been featured yet, she should be. Fran is a dear friend and a colleague (we both studied with and practiced with Bob Smith) but I also consider her as one of my most influential teachers. We’ve worked together for the past 18 years and to this day, every time I go to Fran’s class, I learn something new. She has a very deep well of knowledge about yoga and a passion for sharing it with her students. If you’d like to practice with her, she currently teaches the 4pm and 5:45pm classes on Mondays at our Green Lake Studio.

Michael Suzerris’ Bio: Michael started OmCulture Greenlake (formerly Yogalife) with the intention of creating a place for healing and transformation through yoga. He recognized the amazing potential of yoga as a path for healing after experiencing a life-altering spinal injury in 1978. He spent many years recovering and rehabilitating on his own. In those years Michael cultivated a therapeutic physical and mental practice through an intuitive process that was, in its essence, yoga. He began practicing yoga as a discipline in 1990 under the tutelage of Bob Smith at the Hatha Yoga Center. Michael began teaching in 1998 and opened the Yogalife Greenlake studio in November of 2000. His style can best be described as meditative, reflective and intuitive. There is a strong focus on slow, deep movements, as well as breath, body, and balance-awareness. He gives a lot of latitude for students to “find their own practice” within each class. In addition to teaching, Michael practices yoga therapy and ‘on the road’ yoga, in the form of workshops and retreats.