Despite the impressive multitude of namesakes, this Steve Ross – the one we were lucky enough to meet – is truly one of a kind: an enigmatic Californian native with a Cheshire cat grin, the best iTunes music library you could imagine and an elastic body that has practically lived on a yoga mat for the best part of 50+ years.
His close friend, collaborator and Yoga 213 founder, Sammy Veall, describes Steve as nothing short of an ‘experience’. “He creeps up behind you and without even knowing it you are suddenly filled to the brim with joy and happiness and you feel like a kid again – fearless, loving, open and ready for anything!”
This feeling lies at the heart of Steve’s highly successful business, Maha Yoga – one of Los Angeles’ most in-demand studios in the salubrious neighbourhood of Brentwood. The secrets to its almost cult-like appeal? A celebratory approach to yoga – a little less Enya and a little more Tupac Shukur.
Steve and his in-house teachers inject a unique kind of energy into their yoga classes with the help of hip hop, R&B and a bit of rock ‘n’ roll. This fusion comes as less of a surprise when you take a look into Steve’s life before Maha as a touring guitarist for Fleetwood Mac, The Beach Boys and Men at Work.
“My classes are fairly unique in that I emphasise fun and music and light-heartedness,” Steve tells Collective Hub. “My yin classes are slow and meditative, but my flow classes can have a party atmosphere to them.”
This disregard for status quo has inevitably attracted reproach from ‘purists’ over the years. Steve’s response (as quoted in LA Yoga Magazine) to the doubters? “Loud music is just as much God as no music. Fun is just as much God as seriousness. There is nothing that is not spiritual.”
Having been a certified teacher since 1980 means he has been a close observer of yoga’s western evolution. “Yoga has gone from a very fringe activity to outrageously popular over the course of a couple of decades. For better and for worse,” he tells Collective Hub.
For Steve, some interpretations of yoga lack the humour, joy and light-heartedness he was drawn to in the east. He believes many people have become overly obsessed with ‘correct’ alignments and calorie counting, which are so removed from its real roots. Authentic practice is not focused on flawless movements and mantras but is more a spirit or state of being that is weaved into every aspect of life – breathing, eating, talking and loving.
“If you talk in low tones, wear beads and say Namaste a lot, it doesn’t make you spiritual. It just means you act spiritual,” Steve told LA Yoga Magazine.
It was actually while on tour in Australia that he experienced his own most life-altering awakening. “I met a very powerful Indian guru in Melbourne. I had an experience in his presence that shifted my reality so profoundly that I felt I had no choice but to follow him around, which I did. And the next thing I knew, I was in India living a life I could never have imagined. The reverberation of that experience is still with me today.”
That unimaginable life as a Vedic monk (shaved head, celibacy, strict diets, 3am chanting, et al) was certainly a far cry from hanging backstage at Saturday Night Live with Lindsay Buckingham. But that sums up Steve Ross… a human spectrum.
A man of scarce, sometimes silly, but always select words, we managed to prise a few more out:
What is the greatest thing you learnt over those four years as a Vedic Monk?
I learned that love is the glue that holds all creation together.
The subtitle to your book Happy Yoga is ‘7 reasons why there’s nothing to worry about’. Have you really let go of worry altogether? HOW?!
Worry can only manifest when you allow the mind to run into the future. When you are fully present, no fear, anxiety, or worry can manifest. There is no how, other than the relinquishment of non-attention, i.e. staying in a state of relaxed alertness and meditation.
Do you have any fears or attachments at all?
(Laughs). What kind of real yogi has such things? I remain in a state of affectionate detachment, and allow life to be as it is.
What do you think is humans’ greatest obstacle to happiness?
All suffering and all unhappiness rests on wanting things to be other than they are.
Favourite quote or mantra from your own book?
“There is no way to happiness, happiness is the way.”
Easiest place in the world to meditate?
Wherever you are.
Who’s on your playlist this week?
Shaggy, 50 Cent, Kent Jones, and Glass Animals.
If you took take just three things to a desert island, what would they be?
An umbrella, my iPod, and headphones.
Where can we find you and Happy Yoga in 2017?
I have no idea. If you search me, you’ll find me.
One place you will find Steve is in Tulum between May 6-13 where he will be teaching at Yoga 213’s Mexican Retreat.