Yoga Interviews

Read an interview, Meet the Teach, on at by Katie Clancy

Read an interview by Cindi Di Marzo below.

Interview with Be Yoga/Yoga Works Teacher, Peter Ferko 

By Cindi Di Marzo

May, 2005

Peter Ferko is a familiar presence at Be Yoga/YogaWorks studios, but many students may not know that this popular instructor has practiced yoga for more than 20 years, or that he is a multimedia artist whose work ranges from photography and graphic design to musical composition. I was fortunate to have a chance recently to talk with Peter about his experience as a student, teacher and artist.

CDM: Where did you grow up?

PF: I grew up in Washington, D.C., and studied liberal arts at Georgetown University. I moved to Los Angeles to play music in 1980 and ended up back in D.C. before moving to New York in 2000.

CDM: When did you begin to study and practice yoga?

PF: I began studying yoga in 1983 while living in Los Angeles. I read Richard Hittleman [Editor’s note: Richard Hittleman was a popular teacher who founded a studio in 1957 and passed away in 1991. His television series, Yoga for Health, began airing in 1961.], and then began regularly taking classes with Rod Stryker at YogaWorks in Santa Monica. At the same time, I was attending the Self-Realization Fellowship’s Lake Shrine and was initiated in Kriya Yoga meditation. [Editor’s note: The Self-Realization Fellowship was founded in 1920 by Paramhansa Yogananda. For more information, go to]

During that period, I was also investigating a lot of the “new age” thought that was sweeping through L.A. I was greatly influenced by the Course in Miracles. The Course is about the miraculous intuition, synchronicity and peace that is available through aligning with higher mind/unconditional love/christ consciousness. I’ve found many similarities between the Course and Alan Finger’s teachings about aligning with that higher part of yourself through a regular meditation practice to allow unconditional love and wisdom to flow through your life. [Editor’s note: the Course is a system of spiritual self-study that is said to have been received by research psychologist Dr. Helen Schucman through a process of inner dictation.]

CDM: When did you first encounter Alan’s system of ISHTA yoga?

PF: Without knowing it, I experienced ISHTA in L.A. at YogaWorks. After leaving L.A. in 1989, I continued to practice yoga and meditation on my own. I explored other styles, but never found a good match with styles such as Iyengar, Sivananda or Ashtanga. I missed the blend of physicality and spirituality, which I now see as the Tantric aspect, that I had found at YogaWorks under Alan Finger’s influence. It was like a homecoming to find Yoga Zone with Alan Finger when I began coming up to explore New York in 1999. I regularly attended classes with Jean Koerner, who remains a mentor for me. I also have had the immense benefit of advanced study with Mark Whitwell, whose passionate devotion to the viniyoga tradition and Tantra have influenced my approach.

CDM: At what point did you feel that you wanted to share yoga with others as a teacher?

PF: I more or less stumbled into teaching after practicing for two decades. For me, yoga was always a way to make my life work better. After studying with Jean for two years, she suggested that I take Be Yoga’s 500-hour teacher training. I had the rare pleasure of taking the training with my wife, fellow BeYoga/YogaWorks teacher Wendy Newton, in 2002. I began teaching at Be Yoga in November 2003.

CDM: Many contemporary students of yoga struggle to balance the demands of full-time careers with sincere and dedicated study. How do you balance the demands of running your own business and producing art with continued study and teaching classes?

PF: I’m not sure I’m balancing them. I try to surrender, to make space and to trust that I’m getting the right stuff done. I keep waiting for something else to ask to be let out of my life so I can focus on fewer things, but my passion for all the things I’m doing keeps going strong. I take to heart Alan’s advice that 18 minutes a day in samadhi will provide renewal and answers beyond sleep or overwork.

CDM: Your classes are challenging on many levels. Students are guided to keep their movements gentle and in rhythm with their breath; notice how their bodies respond to the movements and be aware of shifts in mental/emotional states. The experience is almost like a symphony, in which many elements come into play and must be carefully orchestrated. Is this the way that you experience yoga in your own practice?

PF: Yes, except that sometimes the scale is more like chamber music with just a few players: breath, focus, ego, observation. I am a creaky old man in the morning, so I breathe ujjaii and flow softly through a super- gentle vinyasa before allowing myself to glide into meditation. So, yes, I have to observe the effect on my breath, on my emotions, my energy, my balance of ease and effort, and remember all of the things I say to students when I have a clearer head.

CDM: What do you foresee on the horizon for you as a student and teacher?

PF: I have been teaching a short intro to Tantra Yoga as part of the Be Yoga teacher training. I hope to offer that this year as a workshop. I think it’s valuable information that students are curious about. Also, I look forward to teaching yoga to more of my close friends; more and more of them are expressing an interest and taking it up on their own. It’s great to watch.


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