Chuck says it was the language he heard in the first yoga classes he took at a Baron Baptiste power yoga studio in Virginia that hooked him on yoga. An athletic kid who dabbled in baseball, basketball, and soccer, it wasn’t until Chuck studied yoga that it dawned on him that one could exercise with a purpose. And that purpose could be personal growth and self-exploration. “There is more to what we are doing than sweating,” he says.
When Chuck found yoga it was good timing. In his twenties, he had been let go from a desk job with a government contractor that wasn’t fulfilling, and he felt directionless. His sister begged him to go to a yoga class, and he found himself at the Baptiste studio enjoying the athletic flow and the heat. He began working at the studio and that led to taking teacher training where he connected with his classmates and began to feel supported.
From being in Chuck’s class one would never guess that teaching yoga did not come easily. “It was like pulling teeth,” he says. In the beginning, he hated being in front of people and he had anxiety before every class. It took years of feeling like he was a bad teacher until he started listening to students who were telling him how good he was. “I was telling myself to believe them and then finally I did,” he says.
Chuck, who is also a Crossfit instructor, does not shy away from rigor. It’s not unheard of for Chuck to put students into crow at the beginning of class, followed by multiple transitions through chair pose leading into handstand jumps. Although his class is certainly a workout, it’s not something most yogis can’t handle, he says. He offers modifications and believes in quality movement and good form. He goes into detail to help people pay attention to the poses and become stronger and more stable in their cores, protecting their backs, knees, and shoulders.
“I want them to slow down enough during a movement so that they can really focus and do the work rather than just make a shape and play along.”
Chuck has a B.A. global affairs and spent his childhood bouncing around overseas. His father worked for Save the Children, a subcontractor for USAID. Born in El Salvador, Chuck lived in Bolivia, Boston, Atlanta, and Trinidad and Tobago growing up. Although he sounds like an American, he doesn’t understand U.S. pop culture and often didn’t know what the other kids were talking about growing up, giving him the perspective of a foreigner.
After getting over the initial awkwardness of being on camera, teaching yoga during the pandemic has been a positive experience for Chuck. His philosophy is that people are going through a lot in their lives and he isn’t looking to interject more. Before his online class, he opens up a conversation for his students. There is banter. Then he begins class with his reassuring voice and familiar humor but not much more because,, as he explains, “this is a time for them to go into their lives; a chance to see things for themselves and experience this time for themselves. It is a time to take advantage of being home and being present.”
Meghan Mullan is a Bethesda-based writer and SyteraYoga student.