Interview with SoulCycle & Yoga Instructor, Halle Becker
Were you a rider at Soul before you started teaching? Actually no, I started riding at when they invited me to teach. I decided that I better learn what was going on. I was teaching yoga and that’s how Julie Rice, the co-founder of SoulCycle, found me, through another instructor, Rique…
Rique is incredible. How did you know him? I’ve known him a really long time, since he was a step teacher! We go back about 10-12 years. Julie was talking to him a few years ago and said “I need crazy people on the bike,” and he thought of me [laughing] and I’m really glad he did, because this has been such a beautiful balance to the kind of flow, intense, athletic yoga that I teach. I firmly believe you can’t do one thing, you can’t just spin every day, you can’t just practice yoga every day, you’ve got to mix it up for the body to really get to its full potential from a mind, body and soul perspective.
If you’re spinning all day you’ll be so tight so you need to stretch all the muscles out, and if you solely do yoga, you begin to crave more athletic, intense movement. Right, exactly. A lot of people really want that sweet spot cardio buzz, that in athletic physical class how SoulCycle is, although that’s how I run my yoga classes as well. Plus, because every pose in yoga provides you with a spiritual, energetic moment, every pose is designed to work on the body differently. You really get the healing with the sweat… so it’s a powerful combination. How did yoga come into your life? Did you come from an athletic background? It’s a really good question. I think to put into perspective, I believe a lot of teachers got into teaching to heal themselves from some of the difficulties that they experienced growing up. I was a Jewish girl in a town with no Jewish kids. I really had a very rough, emotional childhood, trying to fit in where I didn’t fit. I had a really expansive background with drugs. That ‘s been a touchstone to my yoga career, because getting
The two worlds that you are meshing completely compliment each other.
That’s exactly right. I think the big piece for me that’s different than most teachers is that I’m a lot older than most of the instructors. I’ll be 52 in August, and I didn’t even start teaching at Soul until I was 50! It’s been very interesting to the riders and for me, and what I want to demonstrate is that if you keep your body together, you eat
ride the bike during the entire class while teaching. I teach one class a day and I ride that class as hard as the riders. Now, you look at some of the Senior Master teachers, they don’t ride all the time, and that’s perfectly respectable and understandable, because they have a full load of 15 to 20 classes a week. So I think the answer to that question is, you’ve got to trust your body. I think you need to feel that you’re still bringing your “A game,” or else the students feel it, so I think everybody will have a different threshold of when they stop. For me, I want to keep going as long as I can. I may not ride the whole class after a while, but the wisdom is the peace that comes with age. At 25 years old you are not necessarily talking about divorce and children, and addiction… You tell the stories that you’ve actually lived. That’s what I can do at 52; I couldn’t do that at 25. So, the youthful instructor will make us feel invincible and gorgeous and young, and when you get to my age, you’re learning, you hit that spiritual button a little heavier because you’ve earned the right to tell it.
How old were you when you found yoga?
I would say I started taking yoga in my late 20s. We were all into high impact aerobics. I was a high impact aerobics teacher, with legwarmers, you remember the first high top Reeboks [laughing]? When I first did yoga I was like, “This is ridiculous, why would anybody use their exercise time to do this?” Because, at that age you are not making the mind/body connection at all. The truth is that you really need to hit the yoga mat, but you don’t realize that until you go continue to go back and keep trying. So, it was a different entry for me into yoga, I wasn’t really into it, I was super inflexible and I just wanted to sweat. If you are a type A personality and you ride at Soul and do yoga, at the beginning it’s going to be difficult for you not matter how challenging the class is, because you have to slow down and quiet the mind.
I remember you making jokes about having a “husband and a boyfriend” since the very first class I took with you at Earth Yoga on the Upper East Side. How did you become comfortable talking about that in your classes?
Well, my ex-husband Mark and I were together for 11 years. And what was really real for us was that we just didn’t work together, we brought the absolute worst in each other and we were both leading a very high style life, he was a very wealthy guy. We got married when I was 36 but eventually we just weren’t working and I was going downhill really fast with drugs and partying. Everybody was living big, everybody was making a lot of money, everybody was out of their minds. And it was just an “a-ha” moment for me, I just realized that this wasn’t working for me at all. I had some stuff in my family history that I wasn’t able to get pregnant, so when we were getting ready to adopt our daughter, we were still leading the high life partying. Once we brought Maya home from Russia at 10 months old I said, “I can’t do this anymore. I want to be the best mother out there. I need to clean up my act and I’m not going to clean up my act if we’re together.” The reason we work so well is we mutually agreed it needed to end. Luckily, we found each other in a new way and we co-parent together and I will say that I have really healthy outlets now with yoga and my exercise regime that have really helped me show up in that role as an ex-wife and a mother and everything. Yoga has saved my life, and I bring my lessons to the SoulCycle bike and it’s just been a beautiful combination.
And you live very close, right?
We all live in the same apartment building.
That’s just like [the comedian] Judy Gold and her ex and kids!
Yes, I love Judy Gold. See, THAT’S the interesting story that needs to be written. That’s the modern family. And screw the Gwyneth Paltrow and the celebrity “consciously uncoupling” crap. This is real, it’s happening. If you keep your wits about you, you can parent, you can love, and your village can be bigger and you all raise this child together and everybody gets along. Did you hit a specific bottom?
I did. I was traveling to get Maya in Russia and I hadn’t stopped partying and all of a sudden hit me as we were at Buy Buy Baby and all of these baby stores… I just said to myself, “And now we’re done.” It was just done and I got the help and recovery that I needed. You’ll find a lot of our Soul teachers and a lot of my yoga teaching friends, we all have backgrounds of addiction, doesn’t matter what kind it is, but addiction rules your life, and you can’t live your life until you take it on. So, it was really right. It very much coincided with getting Maya.
Do you think it’s almost a transfer of addiction? Moving from substances to intense exercise?
Yes. Once an addict, always an addict, it just depends what it is. But I’ll take a SoulCycle class everyday over a bag of cocaine in the bathroom.
Did you have any particular spiritual thought leaders that resonated with you during your recovery? Like, Marianne Williamson, etc?
Oh yes, I’ll tell you exactly who they were. Marianne Williamson was one of my first with A Return to Love. I actually went and heard her in Esalen, which is an amazing institute in Big Sur, California. A woman that not a lot of people know named Dawna Markova wrote a book called I Will Not Die an Unlived Life. She also wrote Random Acts of Kindness. I was given her book on a women’s retreat when I really faced my drug stuff in Colorado, again on a yoga retreat with my friend Shiva Rae, she’s a big yoga teacher. I found that book and actually now give it out to my students. I also really resonate with Maya Angelou, I think she was amazing and I often recite The Phenomenal Woman poem in yoga. I also found enormous inspiration and healing in the rooms of recovery: AA and other closed meetings where people have the courage to show up and heal. If you want to get clean that’s where you start.
Let’s talk about the yoga retreat you lead in Tulum.
Yes! I do them with Loren Bassett, my friend and incredible yoga teacher here in the city. Right now they are once a year, and last year we had 50 people. We call them Sweat and Surrender, and we just offer this beautiful resort called Amansala in Tulum, Mexico, which is just the most amazing place on the planet.I think it’s a spiritual vortex in some sort of way. We really offer a wonderful getaway, with yoga, your favorite teachers, and wonderful food and massage right on the beach… it’s affordable and it’s really grown. We had 16 our first year, 25 – 30 our second year, and last year we sold out. The next one will be in February. Incredible! Tulum is one of my favorite places ever. It’s a highlight and people really shift there. Finally, HomeGirl Yoga in your apartment. Yes, so it’s Tuesdays and Thursdays 9:30am, in my apartment. I have the most wonderful group of women on the Upper East Side that come. There’s coffee, water, yoga mats… It’s a drop in and we’ll start back up right after Labor Day after my summer rejuve. All of the details are on homegirlyoga.com.
Category: SoulCycle Interviews