Chris Briney

Chris Briney smiling with a blue shirt

Who or What inspired you to be a Yoga Instructor ? I’d say the first push came from developing a regular home practice. Taking to yoga led me to all kinds of joyful experiences. I replaced a number of unhealthy habits with practicing and sharing meals and rich conversation with others. I took workshops where I was so thrilled to be practicing and learning yoga with other dedicated and inspiring practitioners. Due to anxiety, depression and addiction that had dogged me throughout my early life I experienced some pretty dark times prior to coming to yoga. When I started practicing yoga regularly, I had such deep and rewarding experiences within myself that really contrasted with the dark times. As a result, I think, I was really motivated to immerse myself in the study and practice. It was the best and most positive thing I had discovered in my life up to that point. So, being so drawn to the subject and the practice, and being so motivated to go deeper into it, I was just naturally around it a lot. I brought it to the center of my life. I never really had the thought, “Oh, maybe I can be a teacher.” I just wanted to learn more and experience more of the benefits I was enjoying. In fact, I resisted the initial invitation to teach that Veronica Zador basically put right in my lap. Eventually, trusted friends and family convinced me to give teaching a try. At that time (circa 2001) yoga was expanding quite a bit in our community, so I found ample teaching opportunities and developed a full-time teaching schedule. I have been teaching ever since. 

Also, I still seek inspiration as a yoga instructor. Perhaps I need it more now than I did then. I certainly appreciate it now. So, I would say that, today, Prashant Iyengar, Lois Steinberg, Laurie Blakeney, and Abhijata Iyengar inspire me to be a Yoga Instructor. I am grateful to each of them for their continued inspiration.

Describe your style of yoga: Well, I have multiple certifications as an Iyengar Yoga instructor, but B.K.S. Iyengar himself said, “There is no such thing as Iyengar Yoga. That is a name you all [his students] have given it. This is Patanjali’s Yoga.” So, I guess my style of yoga would be that style that seeks to understand and imbibe “Patanjali’s Yoga,” experientially. 

I would also say my style of yoga is an inquiry into how the practice of asanas speeds spiritual growth and realization.

What’s your favorite yoga pose ? On the best days of practice, I would say: whatever posture I am practicing at that moment. On the worst days, only supported Supta Buddha Konasana will do! In all honesty it is really hard to say because some postures I find very gratifying but they don’t seem to help me grow or improve the conduct of my life in any significant way; other postures challenge me greatly (even cause great discomfort) but really seem to refine my character in ways that are important to me. So, depending upon which “part” of me answers, I will come up with different poses. Oh, and I would put Sirsasana and Sarvangasana pretty near the top of my list.

What brings you to the mat ? Really, this encompasses so many things . . . I want to be healthy. I want to resist disease and decay in my life. I want to use my mind effectively as a tool to create and attain in life. More than this, though, I believe that practicing yoga can lead me to a much better place within myself. I believe that yoga practice—really sadhana—can help me lay the groundwork for a much more joyful and fulfilling experience of life. I guess a deep part of me holds the conviction that devoted practice can yield a kind of magic in one’s life. Though I find devoted practice also brings up some very challenging experiences, this conviction—that devoted yoga practice will ultimately yield bliss—drives me on. I feel I have suffered profoundly in my life. It is said that the classical aim of yoga is liberation from suffering in one’s own lifetime. I want that liberation. So I continue to practice.

One other thing brings me to the mat: As a teacher, I strongly encourage my students to develop a personal practice of yoga. That is I encourage them to self-guide their practice frequently, and not just take classes. I emphasize that self-practice provides an invaluable compliment to in-class learning. I feel that it is my duty to lead by example in this area and maintain my own robust personal practice. That motivates me as well.

If you teach, where ? I teach several group and individual classes per week. The majority of my classes are taught at the Center for Iyengar Yoga, located at 1204 E 11 Mile Road in Royal Oak. I also teach weekly classes to young men incarcerated in a maximum security juvenile detention facility (Lincoln and Calumet Centers) in Highland Park.

How has being a member of YAGD helped you in your yoga career ? I have taken much inspiration to continue my practice, studies and teaching, even when the going has gotten tough, from the longevity and continuity of the YAGD. I have taken encouragement from knowing that this organization has sustained itself for nearly as long as I have been alive. I also appreciate the trailblazing spirit of an organization that chose to incorporate out of a devotion to yoga in 1975, in Detroit, where it likely would have been looked upon with suspicion at best, and condemnation at worst. Knowing there is a group of people, an organization, whose devotion to and love of yoga I share reassures me to continue my work. 

Do you have a favorite yoga story from your teaching experience ? Here’s one that comes to mind: I was in my early 30s, about four or five years into my teaching experience. A student of mine asked me to teach a class to a group of “Bluebirds” (the younger version of the Girl Scouts). If I remember correctly, these girls were aged 5 or 6 to 8 or so. You can imagine how supple and energetic such a group would be. I taught the class, doing all of the postures with the Bluebirds. It was very dynamic and “bendy”—we did a lot of postures and many postures requiring great flexibility and agility. By the end of the class, the girls were pooped but I still felt pretty strong and energized. For some reason this was exciting to me because it didn’t add up—a 30ish year old man being able to match 5 – 8 year old girls in asana practice. The funniest part, perhaps, was the look on my Dad’s face when I shared with him something like, “Dad! I outlasted the Bluebirds!” He said something like, “So, you overpowered six and seven year-old girls? That’s not exactly something you want to brag about.” Anyway, it wasn’t about winning but what I saw about yoga’s power—and not just how it had strengthened me, but how it was able to tap all that vitality of the Bluebirds!

Is there anything else you would like to add.. like family… hobbies… Karma Yoga… or other professions ? I have an 11 year-old son named Lucas. I can’t say anything profound enough to communicate what he means to me and how fortunate I feel to be his father. I have much more and much richer play in my life thanks to him. I was divorced in 2020. (If you take out the “r” and the “e,” DIVORCE is COVID spelled backwards.) Hobbies will return after healing the grief from that. I do enjoy playing and listening to music.) My life depends, at least in part, on attending therapy and 12-step meetings. As Karma Yoga, I give service in several ways to the 12 Step organizations I am a member of. I also donate some of the classes I teach at the youth correctional facility. I frequently listen to/watch discourses by Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev, but also can’t resist watching sports highlight videos (especially of Michael Jordan) from time-to-time. Yoga teaching is my main profession but I have been known to wait tables, paint houses, hang and mud drywall, and do landscaping or light construction projects to supplement my yoga teaching income, when necessary.

Thank you so much for this opportunity to reflect upon, and share my experience of practicing and teaching yoga. I hope it proves helpful and valuable for readers.