The day I met Scott Harig, New York City had just been pounded by an ice storm and the streets were covered with, like, three inches of ice. You’d never have guessed it, though, to see all the full mats at Harig’s 9:15 Hot Power Yoga class at Pure West.
I don’t want to use the word “groupies,” exactly. But in three years at Pure, Harig has built an impressive following—men and women who dig his rigorous, challenging flow. Which explains their willingness to risk life and limb to get to class.
Watching Harig in action, it’d be easy to imagine that the 39-year-old has been teaching yoga forever. But really, he has a total past life. For seven years, Harig was a big-time professional mountain biker, based in Colorado. He regularly participated in 24-hour-long bike races, and he cops to once beating Lance Armstrong—though he’s quick to clarify that the famous cyclist “crashed out.”
Perhaps ironically, it was Harig’s uber-competitive spirit that brought him to yoga, after a friend suggested he check it out. “I didn’t like being in a classroom with people where I couldn’t do what they did,” Harig admits. “I wanted to go back and get better.”
Of course, it took years of training—including stints studying with Hansa Knox and Richard Freeman—to mold Harig into a professional. And though he’s more bendy than he once was, Harig still claims to be the least flexible yoga teacher he knows.
More pliable, perhaps, is his state of mind. “I used to be a partier,” he admits. “Now I’m in bed around 10.”
Harig says his eating habits haven’t changed much since finding yoga, as he’s always been careful about what he puts into his body (on that treacherous morning, it was two boiled eggs). But he’s definitely more conscientious in other ways.
“Put it this way,” Harig says. “I won’t kill a cockroach in my house anymore.”
The most substantial change for Harig? He says he’s still achievement-focused, it’s just that his achievements now mean a lot more. “Mountain biking was very selfish,” he says. “Yoga is about giving to other people.” —Catherine Pearson