Peter Walters is a Bhakti Flow Yoga teacher in San Francisco. Since being introduced to yoga by the unlikeliest (or… likeliest?) of sources, he’s never looked back.
Let’s jump right in.
First things first – what was the first thing you ate this morning?
Eggs with spinach and a green smoothie. I try to eat low on the food chain – mostly vegetables, fruits and green plants.
So healthy! Tell us about yourself – what do you teach?
I teach Bhakti Flow Yoga – it takes Bhakti Yoga, which is the yoga of love and devotion, mantra and chanting, and infuses it with Hatha Vinyasa Yoga. Beginning class with this sense of loving kindness and compassion for other beings is really the heart of the practice for me.
Tell us about your MoveWith Original.
For my first Original, I did a series at a funky bohemian warehouse I was living at in the Mission – it was a candlelight, fireside flow. It was beautiful – we set up candles, had a roaring fire,dimmed the lights, and we once brought in my dear friend Nat Kendall to play Kirtan.
Why do you love to teach?
I teach because I love giving people a break from their mind, even if it’s just for a minute or two. To let go of the chatter for a little while can be such a relief. In vinyasa yoga we shake up the body enough that you have no choice but to let go of some of the “stuff” you’re clinging too. Over time, you break through blocks that prevent you from moving forward and becoming the best version of yourself.
What was your path to teaching?
A girlfriend! She insisted that I come to this “amazing” class. It was Rusty’s class, of course. At the end of class I was crying, covered in sweat, and I was like, “What just happened to me?!”
I told myself that I should go back – that I must be doing some important healing work if I’m crying and don’t know why. I went back almost every day for about two years and then took my first teacher training. It was hard to balance work and my rapidly changing mental, emotional, and spiritual state – I never felt spiritually inclined before finding yoga. It awakened a fire in me. I started teaching free classes to my coworkers at the office and that just activated something powerful in me.
Did you and yoga get more serious from there?
There came a point where I needed to dive in more deeply. I sold everything and bought a one way ticket to India with my girlfriend. We spent the year exploring Southeast Asia. Soon I found myself teaching, practicing and studying yoga with so many teachers and fellow nomads. When I came back, I decided I was going to try sharing the practice full time. I’ve never looked back since.
Best place you’ve ever traveled?
India and Nepal – very different but with similar qualities. The people are the sweetest I’ve ever met in my life. I liked that both countries were in many ways the complete opposite of San Francisco. A complete shake-up of everything I thought I knew about the world, people, business, society, and so rich and vibrant.
What’s your spirit animal?
I have two – a sea turtle and a wolf. Sea turtles are so slow and wise and wolves are deep and intense. I’ve always felt a little bit of both.
Who is your inspiration?
My parents and my brother. I’m a very clear blend of both of my parents. My mom is incredibly artistic, intuitive, abstract and creative – really charismatic. My dad is more pragmatic and logical; he sees ‘the way’ and says, “Follow that.” But at the same time, he’s a brilliant entrepreneur and has always said, “Pretend that you’re God – what would you do?” I’ve always taken that advice and followed my dreams. They are the sweetest most loving folks I could have asked for.
My mom always told me to put an idea in my head and dwell on it – let it simmer and watch what it can become. Between those two philosophies I’ve always felt limitless, and as long as I set my mind to something, I believe most things are achievable. My brother is sort of like an academic Superman – he went to Oxford and now he’s at Harvard Business School – but he also looks striking like Clark Kent. His presence, his being, and his desire to read voraciously and learn everything has pushed me forward to become the best man that I can be. I learn so much from my whole family.
How do you like to move?
I recently joined a gym, but I never go. I have an abundance of energy and I need other ways to get it out of my system. I actually move by sitting still. I meditate every morning…it’s this stillness that allows me to move with clarity and fortitude each day. But honestly it’s mostly just yoga these days. I also move really fast on my motorcycle! I need to find a crew to cruise around with.
What is your MoveWith word?
Presence. The first time I read The Power of Now it really struck a chord with me. That idea became really important to me – being fully and completely in your situation whether you initially label it good, bad, painful, amazing – rather to choose to fully embrace the ever present moment for what it is. I harp on the breath in my yoga classes because it is such a helpful tool to arrive and be in the moment. You can’t be far from right here if you take a big, deliberate deep breath. I love that. I love to be as wide-eyed and lucid as possible to whatever is in front of me. To come back to that childlike curiosity and essence or even bliss.
What is the one thing you want movers to get out of your classes?
I hope they walk out of my class with a smile, and then spread smiles all day long. Just give everyone you pass a big, stupid smile – they won’t know what to do! I hope they do that, and make others grin a little bit, too. I want people to leave happier than when they came in. If I can inspire a little bit of happiness for someone once a week, and that creates a ripple effect, I think we have a chance to make real change in the world, starting with our community.
Do you have a favorite teaching moment?
The best class I ever taught – I had had a really bad day and wasn’t in a good space. I tried calling to ask for a sub and couldn’t get one. So I walked into the class and I told them what had happened. All of a sudden, people really softened – I saw it. They were really feeling empathy, which is so powerful. It instantly connected all of us. Something about being vulnerable and honest put us all in the same boat together for that ninety minute class. They didn’t know exactly how I felt, but they knew I was feeling something. From that I came back to the yoga practice, chanted to Shiva and taught fully from my heart.
The mat allowed me to work through this very challenging day and say, “This is my offering – I surrender it all.” And the class was ready to receive fully because of my vulnerability. And this room full of bright, curious, open eyes and hearts ready to work on themselves? There’s nothing that makes me happier. At the end of that class, I realized that maybe this was all supposed to happen – that this this whole day and challenge was here for a reason – to teach me a lesson; that is, to be grateful for each and every moment and experience, and always be willing to begin again.
What’s coming up next?
Lots of yoga trainings – I’m finishing up a training with Janet Stone, then another training with my dear teacher, Rusty Wells, and then one of Jason Crandell’s 100-hour modules. I think it is important to constantly be a student. I still walk into every yoga class feeling a bit nervous, and I want that feeling to continue. I want to feel a little on edge. I catch myself when I feel overly confident and my ego rears its childish head. Other than that, I’m just teaching lots of classes every day. I love it so much.
Whose class do you love to take?
Recently I’ve been practicing quite a bit with Jason Crandell, Janet Stone and Sean Haleen as well. They’re all amazing teachers. But I also love to try out brand new teachers – both new that I’ve never been to, but also freshly certified teachers. I always try to learn something new in every yoga class.
What advice would you give a new teacher?
Always be a student.
What song do you have on repeat?
“Hello” by Adele. I try to put it into every yoga class.
What are the most recent songs on your Spotify?
“Hello” by Adele, “Family and Genius” by Shakey Graves and “Follow the Sun” by Xavier Rudd.
Pizza! Washed down with a green juice because then I feel like it negates the pizza. Right?
I’m on it.
Catch Peter’s classes all over San Francisco, and on his motorcycle… if you can keep up.