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#ODDlight Feature: Jeff Van Ness

Name: Jeff Van Ness

Nick Name: Jeff Van Ness

Hometown: Miami

Favorite Place: I can acclimate to most places so I have too many favorites ~ really, any place where I can sit and think without boundaries. I can be near an ocean, someplace exotic, near my family, anywhere ~ if there is space for my thoughts to move around I’m a happy guy.

Favorite color: Lets say gray. and if thats not good, how about blue? And why not a third? Green!

What’s your sign? Sagittarius

Most embarrassing moment? GEEZ! I’ll try to be brief, this took place when instant messaging was a thing. There was a girl from high school that I’d been after for a while and one night after some outing I took her home where we sat in my car listening to music ~ it was the kind of scene where If i’d had more courageous I would’ve tried to kiss her. I didn’t though, but I did notice that one of the buttons on her blouse was undone and I, foolishly, took it to be some strategy on her part to alert me that she was into me! It’s really stupid logic, but it seemed spot on at the time. Seeking encouragement from my friends when I got home, I wrote a long message retelling what happened in the car with the blouse, the whole thing. When I finished I quickly hit enter and it quickly appeared in the IM box. The conversation with my pals was pretty active so when I didn’t get a response I knew something was wrong and a second later I realized what had happened and proceeded to deal with that sinking feeling you feel when you’re embarrassed and stuck. I had sent HER the message with our story. Everything worked out alright, no real harm done ~ and the real plus is that THIS is my most embarrassing moment.

Most empowering moment? First thing that comes to mind: I used to give tours of the Universal backlot in spanish. It was a performers sort of job. Though I can do it fine, the performers hat isn’t a comfortable one for me ~ my first week giving tours was rough and on one tour I messed up a lot, but I realized that people got a kick out of it, and not in a “laughing at me” sort of way. People were supportive and they wanted me to do well they wanted me to be myself. A lot of the people on that tram were experiencing the attraction for the 100th time so when I’d lose the scripted stuff I’d get their attention. When I was up there just being me, thats what they wanted to see. That and Jaws and King Kong and the other stuff.

Fun Fact most wouldn’t know about you? I used to be a fat kid. For real, a pretty heavy kid, 220 lbs. And I had a diet that supported that sort of weight. Cheeses, pizzas, mayonnaise, ranch, french fries, fast food ~ I wasn’t shy about enjoying all that stuff ~

Jeff, this is what happens when you dont send us photos… we turn to facebook.

Fun Fact most wouldn’t know about you? I know a lot about cars. But not cool cars. I can’t tell you too much about an awesome BMW or a Tesla, but if you want to know the horsepower, or how many lbs of torque you’d get out of a sensible Honda Accord I’m your guy

Fun Fact most wouldn’t know about you? I think about music a lot, I’m constantly humming in my head or whistling or I’ll sing to my son (and he’ll sing back)

Share a story or anecdote with us – something magical, changing, funny, or adventurous. Something that you love to tell.

This anecdote is a fresh one that no one, but me, really cares about. My family is Cuban, I am of Cuban descent, first generation American. Growing up, I distinctly remember a black and white image of the home that my grandparents left behind in 1962, it was a two story kind of L shaped home that stood by itself on what appeared to be a hill. I could describe it perfectly. For the past couple of years. Since relations with Cuba have improved several of my friends and family have gone to Cuba, I am jealous every time I learn of someones trip. Not because I am into seeing the sights, I don’t care about that, I want to find this house. My cousin recently went, he tried to find the house but couldn’t. 

A few weeks ago a buddy of mine came back, I had known of his trip and encouraged him to look up a few AirBnB properties that I knew were well kept. Sometime between then and now I thought, why wouldn’t my families house be an AirBnB? I started my search, but couldn’t find anything ~ I searched google images of the town (an unincorporated area of east Havana), as many as I could find, but nothing. I scanned 3,000 hash tagged images, but couldn’t find anything that resembled the house. No two homes look alike. I was on Youtube watching videos from the town but couldn’t find it. A few days later I asked my Mom to send me a scanned image of the house; and I don’t know what it was about that image but my first search led me to the house immediately, which is in fact an AirBnB. 

So expect me to request a few sub dates as I will be staying there soon. 

When you aren’t at the studio where can you be found (favorite past time)?

Oh, Im really into my family, I love love love my wife, my kid, my brother who lives nearby ~ so day trips with one or all of those mentioned; we’ve got memberships at every museum in town, maybe there. I’ve lately been doing hikes from a book called Secret Stairs. Its cool enough, a USC professor mapped out hikes connecting stairs all over the city. Finding new stuff to eat. New stuff to cook. Lots of stuff with the baby. There’s NOTHING more inspiring/enlightening than experiencing the world with an infant. It brings out the best in people, in strangers, and in me. 

How do you define yoga? referring to a physical practice, its a tool that should help you develop awareness, encouragement, and compassion (in that order).

Why do you teach? Because its hard and because I can. I get anxious before I teach so its an obstacle that I enjoy overcoming. It doesn’t really get easier so I enjoy the spontaneity that comes from each group of students. Its also a great thing to share with people; I don’t actively give to charity and I don’t want to compare the two, they’re different. But I do hope that sharing things that I think are interesting or unique or hard will be valuable to people.

What brought you to become an instructor?

An ashtanga teacher who’s class I took a few times approached me and told me that I’d be a teacher. So a few years later I became a teacher. 

What is your favorite song to play in class?

At the moment theres a live version of Sam Cooke’s “Bring it on home to me” thats got the best intro, the best a lot of stuff that I can think of right now. I love playing that. 

What is your favorite pose or flow? Why?

1/2 moon. Its the sort of pose that feels stretchy and long even when all of your muscles are turned on. 

Memorable yoga moment?

Too many. I always get a kick out of being able to do stuff that I didn’t think possible ~ with the right instruction so much is possible. 

How did you first hear about One Down Dog?

I got a message on FB just before the SL location opened asking to connect. I wasn’t able to at the time but was excited to now 4 years later!

What is your favorite yogi prop or piece to wear or use? (favorite mala etc)

Nah, I haven’t got stuff like that. I do love a good foam roller and would love to lead a class wherein we use foam rollers before and or after strenuous sequences. hint hint. 

What special causes or non-profits do you hold dear to your heart?

Nothing specific. There are occasionally causes I send some money to, Standing Sioux for instance during the standing rock stand off ~ besides being vehemently opposed to inequality ~ I really want people to be informed. I spend a lot of time watching, what I think is, great reporting ~ there is a really great information out there, and not far either. The more you know the more informed your choices will be and the better those choices will be.