Talking Donation Based Yoga with Mike Richardson

Those who know and practice with Mike Richardson in San Francisco may know him as The Twisted Yogi.

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But he’s far from twisted. In fact, he’s a very straight shooter.

Mike moved to San Francisco in 2008 after spending twenty-two years in Lake Tahoe. While in Tahoe he was the ultimate skier and backcountry enthusiast at Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows. The man has even heli-skied.

Over the years, the toll of extreme sports started to weigh on Mike, and he started to feel a shift after experiencing a lot of loss in his life as a result of going full throttle at all times.

Mike started doing yoga and exploring more of a spiritual life and backed off the intensive activities so “I could stick around and experience life to the fullest – and get back in alignment spiritually, physically and emotionally.”

After he moved to San Francisco, Mike studied yoga with Rusty Wells – and has been studying with him ever since. Amongst his mentors, teachers and inspirations?

Rusty, Janet Stone and Stephanie Snyder – “a huge mentor and friend who always shows up.”

Mike holds donation based classes on MoveWith and believes that “we can inspire people with the way we move through the world by just doing our thing.”

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We sat down to find out more.

In a city that seems to charge a premium for everything, why donation based yoga?

When I first started coming to the city, Rusty was teaching yoga at Abada CapoeiraRusty and I have a similar thought process when it comes to service and the value of things. There’s an element to yoga or any type of athletic class that it is out of reach to a lot of people. I have this belief that yoga should be shared with everyone, regardless of their financial situation. The beauty of yoga is that when you first come to it it’s an athletic thought process. Then you start to get to the deeper elements of it. 

How did you move forward to start teaching yoga your way?

I saw how it worked and didn’t work and I’d been looking for a long time for a space to do it. Through MoveWith and my own work, we found the space and we moved forward with it. 

Why is donation based yoga important to you?

When people feel like they can’t afford something, there’s a fear around attempting, or trying something. When you are able to remove those parameters and allow them to come in and simply give what they can and to not feel guilty about it, it’s empowering for that individual. There’s a sense of pride of being a part of the community and not feeling guilty that they’re not contributing “more.”

I got that from Urban Flow. There were times I’d see people bow their heads in shame as they gave only what they were able to. I’d have to tell people to perk up and not be ashamed. You’re giving what you can and that’s always enough – that’s the beauty of it.

That is beautiful. What are you most excited about regarding your classes?

Building community. I feel like that’s always been the basis of it all. People constantly ask how they can grow their classes and I always tell them, “Just be a part of it. Shine authentically within that community and people will be apt to be a part of it. There’s a vibrancy within it.”

You hold your classes in the Mission District. Why are you so connected to that neighborhood?

The Mission is shifting as much as the city is – and there’s such a fight within San Francisco around the gentrification of the city . It’ll always be ever-changing, so let’s just all come together and relish in the moment and be a part of something beautiful – which the Mission really embodies. It’s a very central point of San Francisco. I’m excited to be in the heart of it and offer what we’re offering. 

You’ve also got a retreat coming up in Tulum – what can we expect?

Tulum is beautiful. The ability to go to beautiful places, teach yoga and really take time is beautiful. When you’re spending a week with teachers and a group, there’s no way there won’t be powerful shifts within individuals and the collective as a whole. We get to step out of the normal grind and really tune in deeper to the practice and self-inquiry. With meditation, morning practice, and healthy eating we give people ways to improve their lives and change their lives – something that’s not always easy to do on a daily basis.

Follow Mike on MoveWith to stay inspired and check out his Donation Based Bhakti Flow on Sunday mornings in the Mission.

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