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LIVING LIFE THROUGH YOGA AND SURFING

I love surfers who smash stereotypes. The two that immediately come to mind are the brain dead, good for nothing stoner and the pseudo, super athlete with some energy drink sticker on his board. In most cases he’s frothing at the mouth from too many of those disgusting beverages. The more years I spent in the water, the more these two types of surf “icons” began to bore me.

Brett Lehr is a surfer who inspires me and is free of the aforementioned trappings. The first moment I spoke with Brett, he displayed a stoke and positive energy I love in fellow human beings. Personally I can’t always muster it up, so when I see it in others, it becomes a reminder of how I want to approach life. Brett is not only a surfer, but he’s also a yoga instructor and practitioner. The combined paths of surfing and yoga may explain his exemplary level of “positive mental attitude”. 

Lehr called Belmar home the past few years – teaching yoga and surfing, in and around the Monmouth County area and currently resides in Nayarit, Mexico to further is life path of yoga and surfing. I caught up with Brett to catch a few rides on his brainwaves.

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ZAPPO: Where did you grow up and when did you first start surfing?

LEHR: I grew up in Cedar Brook which is a small town in the Pine Barrens of South Jersey. Yes, I’m a Piney. I started surfing at around 12 years old. I was part of a small crew of surfers from my area. We would call Surfers Supplies in Ocean City to get the wave report. We’d have a “sick day” from school, stack 6 to 7 boards on my buddy’s Honda Accord with soft racks, then spend the entire day at the beach. No matter what the conditions were like we were always stoked to be in the water.

ZAPPO: What was your first surfboard? Can you describe some of your earliest memories of riding waves?

LEHR: My first surf board was a 6’1” Byrne Thruster with crazy fluorescent graphics that I got for Christmas. I chose that board because it’s what I saw the guys in Surfer Magazine riding. I soon learned that it wasn’t exactly the board to start out with. Growing up in the Pines we were limited in our mentors and older surfers to show us the way. We just taught ourselves how to surf. I soon switched to fun shapes and started flowing down the line from there. WRV and Stuart surfboards were my boards of choice back then. My earliest memories of riding waves were all day sessions on 7th street in Ocean City with my buddies from home. From the beginning I loved the feeling of my fingertips gliding along the face of the wave, then the zen like feeling in my mind and body on the long car ride home. I loved the entire ritual of surfing. Getting ready, packing up the car and listening to music with my friends to get us stoked on the ride. Just being out in the water was freedom to me.

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ZAPPO: How has surfing enriched and changed your life?

LEHR: Surfing has enriched and changed my life by giving me a true passion, something I love and live for. I’ve met some great people in the water, had good conversations and made some close friends out there. Every time I get done with a session I feel in-tune, centered and at peace. It keeps me healthy and in the universal flow. It just makes me a good human.

ZAPPO: Along with being a passionate surfer you are also a Yogi. Please elaborate on your personal yoga practice, your teaching of yoga and what you have going on in Mexico.

LEHR: My personal yoga practice consists of headstands, pranayama, sound breathing, and meditation. I try to practice some form of yoga on a daily basis. My yoga helps me to be a productive member on this planet and to get out of my own way. Yoga has allowed me to become reborn in this life and find a better way of living. It gives me health and puts me on the right energy vibration. It keeps me on the path of my true purpose. Yoga gives me a feeling that I have always been searching for. It truly saved my life and it continues to every day.

My teaching of yoga stems from my guru Dharma Mittra, it is a reflection of all my teachers. From the time I began teaching, I felt that sharing this practice of yoga was one of my life’s purposes. Before I teach I ask to be guided by a higher power, keep everyone safe, and let the students find their own “comfortable edge” in their practice. I find that every time I do this it always works out perfectly and everyone gets what they need. Headstands are key. I love to joke around and have fun in my class. I like to put a lot of thought into my playlist, because the frequencies in the music have a great effect on the class. I feel very blessed and grateful to be allowed to guide others through the practice of yoga. Yoga is for EVERYONE! Don’t stop until you find what realm works for you.

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As far as Mexico goes…Yoga brought me a beautiful angel by the name of Kiersten Rowland, who is now my girlfriend (high five). She’s a super talented yoga teacher and epic wedding photographer. www.premaphotographic.com Book her now! She has been coming to Mexico for 4 years now, spending October through May shooting destination weddings and teaching yoga. I have been lucky enough to join her this year on her Mexico journey. We offer prenatal and a couple different flow styles of yoga on our rooftop. I have a couple of different places I’m teaching class and offering private yoga too. I’m teaching in these foofoo resort type spots (which is great and all) but I feel that I’m more needed at home, where people are working every day and are going through some hard times. I’m stoked to get back to Jersey and teach. Being away from home has showed me what an amazing yoga community, classes, studios and teachers we have. It’s also shown me the importance of having my family close by. The surf breaks are crowded here and I miss the empty winter lineups in NJ. But I’m not complaining at all, with 80 degree water and consistent reef rock breaks down the street. Yewwww!!! I surf whenever there is swell and enjoy the local Mexican cuisine and culture. My highlight of this Mexico journey came when I was surfing a break called La Lancha where I met Gerry Lopez out in the line-up. We had a great conversation about surfing, yoga, and retro boards during an epic Mexico sunset. It was like a dream come true bro. I just happened to be on my Charles Mencel retro single-fin, Charles had shaped it for me before Kiersten and I came out here. Gerry asked about the board and was checking it out saying things like “nice shape, that’s what we used to ride back in the day.” “Don’t they paddle so nice?” I wish it was head high and flowin’ so he could of took her for a ride, but it was waist high with sets every 20 minutes. At that point I didn’t care what the surf was like, it was just amazing to be in his presence. Talking with Gerry Lopez, what a peaceful man. I was buzzing into the next day after that encounter…so cool. Mexico is a beautiful place with beautiful culture, waves, food, and people. It’s a shame how we judge it off of the drug cartels, negative news, and border bullshit. We drove here from Jersey and had no problems at all, so come visit.

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ZAPPO: I see surfing, although not in the traditional sense, a form of yoga. What connection do you see between the two?

LEHR: Yoga and surfing are connected in so many ways. The movements in yoga are fluid, use balance, breath, super concentration, and focus. Just like the paddle out and the art of surfing a wave. I find it to be like a meditation when you’re sitting on your board waiting for the next set. In yoga, a chakra is a vortex of spinning energy. If you picture a wave it’s just that, a perfect form of a liquid vortex flow. Next time you’re tubed just know that you’re sitting in a chakra, how epic is that?! Totally connected. Both yoga and surfing connect you to the absolute present moment, they both give you feelings of bliss and harmony. Through these physical efforts we quiet the mind and become tuned in to what is real, our energy.

ZAPPO: Who or what is currently inspiring you in your surfing and yoga practice?

LEHR: I found that I was really inspired by the kids I instructed at Summertime Surf Camp in Bradley Beach last summer. I had the super young groms in my group. They were kids from 5-10 yrs old. They don’t care what the waves are like or what they were riding. They just loved the beach and being in the ocean. That’s what it’s really all about, to be stoked no matter what. But it is a beautiful thing when it’s head high and tubing for sure! As far as for yoga, I get inspired by the commitment of my fellow yogis and seeing the awesome transformation of so many people right before my eyes. I’m also inspired by the practice itself and what it constantly teaches me about life. One never masters their yoga practice, it’s different every single time.

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ZAPPO: Describe for me what one may call a “spiritual” experience,  through the act of riding waves.

LEHR: The spiritual experience through the act of riding a wave is indescribable, but it reaches me in moments and in feelings. It’s the smile I can’t get off my face as I paddle out after catching an epic ride. It’s the power of a wintertime bomb lip cracking me in the head, letting me know that there’s a higher power. It’s after a session when you sit on the beach next to your board, looking out over the ocean and you feel at complete peace with it all. It’s the blissful harmony of a human being reconnecting with the elements of nature. It’s the feeling of your energy body being cleansed and purified by the density of the salt water.

ZAPPO: You have so many amazing things taking place in your life at the moment. You are a person who is actualizing your dreams and highest human potential. Where do you see yourself in the next few years?

LEHR: I really don’t have a projection as to where I’ll be in the years to come, but it will involve yoga and surfing, no doubt. My guru says “be receptive” and I feel that if I do that, the universal flow will continue to put me right where I belong.

Do Yoga. Surf. Stay connected with nature. Brush your teeth. Drink green juice.  Slow down. Hug people. Be nice. Help others. Trust your intuition. “Worry is the misuse of your imagination.”

Check out more on Brett Lehr’s offerings here at www.luvlifeyoga.net.

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