A welcome ‘home’
Durango celebrates return of beloved yoga guru

Intermediate and advanced students hang from the new ropes wall in Kathy Curran’s Smiley Building studio. Noted San Francisco yoga instructor Manouso Manos returns this weekend to lead his annual Durango workshop./Courtesy photo

by Amanda Kiessel

The Durango yoga community is preparing to celebrate the return of a much-loved sign of spring. This weekend, San Francisco-based yoga instructor Manouso Manos will lead his 20th annual local workshop on May 15-17 at the Durango Sports Club.

Manos is one of only two people worldwide to earn Advanced Senior instructor status from BKS Iyengar, founder of the Iyengar yoga style. Over the past 30 years, Manos has made many trips to India to study the 2,000-year-old discipline with the 85-year-old Iyengar. Considered a “living legend” by yoga adherents, Iyengar’s take on traditional yoga uses props like straps and blocks to maximize the therapeutic benefits of each physical pose.

“The use of props and aids makes it so that anyone can do the poses, so I think it’s a superior form of yoga,” says local author and long-time yoga practitioner, Maureen Keilty.

This year’s event, organized by 4 Corners Yoga’s Kathy Curran, will continue with the successful format of past years. The instruction will focus on the needs and goals specified by the participants. “Before the workshop, there is a long line of people letting (Manos) know their injuries, and he formulates what he’s going to teach based on what they tell him,” Curran said. “Almost across the board at the end of the weekend everyone says, ‘That was exactly what I needed!’”

What’s unusual about Manos is that he allows beginners in his workshops, Curran said. But what’s exceptional about him is his incredible memory."Years after working with someone, he will remember their injuries, and will show them how to work a pose to protect or heal this or that," she said.

Keilty, who, due to a serious cycling accident in the ’80s has one leg that is much shorter than the other, agrees. “He teaches thousands of people a year, but he remembers me,” she said. “When I would do the lotus pose with my legs crossed, my left leg didn’t go as high as the right, but after Manouso helped me, I was able to do the pose with my legs even. He realizes we often put limits on ourselves when we don’t need to.”

This individualized approach to teaching has made Manouso’s classes popular both locally and on an international level. Curran describes him as a “therapeutic genius,” and people seeking him out for everything from depression to infertility.

Manouso Manos, one of only two advanced senior Iyengar yoga instructors in America

Manos, whose family was originally from the Mediterranean island of Crete before settling in California’s Bay Area, leads workshops in major cities all over the world, including Amsterdam, Berlin and Buenos Aires, among others. However, the lure of small town Durango has brought him back every spring for the past two decades.

“Whether I am some sort of strange celebrity or not, it’s just nice to know that I come back (to Durango) and it feels a bit like home,” he says.

During his past trips to Durango, Manos has developed a unique relationship with local residents, both in and out of class. While his early visits worked to get the area yoga community “excited and moving,” he

“You watch the young ones who grow a little older and have a child … and they come back the year after and their lives go on. I’ve been lucky enough to associate with these people in the various stages of their lives,” he said.

The care and attention seem to go both ways. Manouso relates how restaurants will remember his preferences from the previous year and that people will greet him on Main Avenue. “It’s nice to be able to walk up and down that street and have people know me, considering that I’m there two and a half days a year,” he said.

If he feels like a “local fixture” as he describes it, he certainly has a home in the area. The owners of the Rochester Hotel on Second Avenue have hosted Manos for many years free of charge and always reserve his favorite room, so he has enough space for his own yoga practice, according to Diane Wildfang, co-owner of the Rochester.

“I think he is important to the community and … whatever I can do, I really want to do,” she said. A longtime student of Curran and Manos, Wildfang described what keeps her returning to his workshops year after year. “He’s got an energy that reaches out to people and they don’t forget that,” she said. “He’s a big presence. I would never say this to his face, but he’s kind of a rock star.”

For more information on the Manouso Manos workshop, visit www.4cornersyoga.com and click on “workshops.” •