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Meet Your Teachers: Vince Valente

As a boy, Vince Valente thought maybe he wanted to be a priest. Having been raised with religious tradition, a spiritual life appealed to him.

It wasn’t just finding out that priests couldn’t marry that deterred him from his childhood plans—he knew early on that he wanted a partner and children—it was also a desire to understand spirituality in a different sense. In college, Vince read Eastern philosophy in an attempt to find a new angle. A friend of his had similar interests, including an interest in yoga. She took Vince to his first yoga class, which just so happened to be taught by an Iyengar teacher.

Vince thought about yoga more than he practiced it in the year following that class, but after college he began working as a personal trainer at 24 Hour Fitness. There was a woman teaching yoga at the same gym who was pursuing Iyengar certification through the Institute in San Francisco. Vince began to study with her regularly. One day after he had been taking classes with her for a couple years, she asked him to sub a class He was reluctant, but she encouraged him. “You’ll be fine,” she told him, “just get up there and teach some of your favorite poses.” So he subbed the class. He did this a couple more times, and when the woman moved on from 24 Hour Fitness, Vince took over her classes. “Looking back, I had no real business teaching,” he admits, “but I did my best.”

Eventually, Vince moved to San Diego to pursue a graduate degree in clinical psychology. Auspiciously, the yoga studio just down the street was an Iyengar studio owned by senior teachers Mary Obendorfer and Eddy Marks. Vince began attending classes there. He knew he wanted to continue teaching yoga in the Iyengar tradition, but also knew he had a lot to learn. As soon as he finished his graduate degree, he began Mary and Eddy’s teacher training program.

“I was blown away by Mary and Eddy,” Vince recalls. He remembers that they had different but complementary ways of motivating their students. Mary was strict. She was demanding, but Vince knew it was because she cared deeply about her students. Eddy’s jovial personality helped keep things light. “He would get in your face, smile, joke around, but in a way that made you want to work so hard.”

Reflecting on the path he traveled to certification as an Iyengar teacher in 2009, Vince sees a lot “cross-pollination.” As a personal trainer and certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist, he applied a deep knowledge of anatomy, physiology, and functional movement to help clients optimize their bodies. This work laid a solid foundation for his development as a yoga teacher. “Training taught me how to really see bodies and observe how they move,” Vince reflects, “Yoga took things to the next level. It goes deeper. Training works on the physical body. Yoga works on the physical body, too, but it also works on the mind.”

As a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, Vince knows something about working on the mind. He sees individuals, couples, and families at his private practice in Berkeley. This work and his interest in yoga have always been intertwined. Vince’s graduate thesis, which was later published in the Journal of Contemporary Family Therapy, describes the effects of a regular yoga practice on the personal and professional lives of psychotherapists. He has also written a book chapter on how psychotherapists incorporate yoga psychology and even asana into therapeutic interventions. Vince finds himself doing this often: “Yoga psychology is about how to live your life. I often use yogic concepts to help present new ideas to my clients and to give them ways to think about changing their habits.”

Ultimately, Vince’s goal for his therapy clients and yoga students is the same: he wants to convey that there is a way to get through this world. “Everybody needs some kind of single-minded practice, a practice that unites the mind, body, and spirit to help us get through this crazy period in human history,” he says. “We need a practice to keep us happy, healthy, and evolving. It’s more important now than ever before.” This is a large part of why he’s chosen to teach in the Iyengar tradition: “It’s a tried and true method, but it continues to change and morph,” he says. “It’s an anchor you can hang on to.”

Vince’s primary goal as a yoga teacher is to help students in their everyday lives. In this effort, he carries with him the influence of his teachers, Mary and Eddy. “I stay on my students,” Vince says, “I want to keep them going and keep them motivated to observe what’s happening inside, but I don’t want it to be rigid.” He remembers teacher training weekends with Mary and Eddy fondly: “It’s easier getting your ass kicked if you’re laughing.” To this end, Vince endeavors to fill his classes with keen self-study and development, but also a real sense of humor and lightness.

As for Vince, his son is a constant source of laughter: “He’s in first grade this year, and his personality is coming out like crazy. He cracks me up.” When he’s not teaching yoga or counseling clients, Vince loves spending time with his family and being active outdoors. He mountain bikes in the hills around his home and looks forward to annual summer backpacking trips with friends. He enjoys travel and so far has visited Australia, New Zealand, Southeast Asia, and Europe. As someone committed to self-evolution, he continues to pursue new interests including a fascination with Native American spirituality and wilderness survival methods.

There’s so much to learn from Vince. Come take a class with him at Adeline (find our full schedule here)! He teaches a Community Level I/II class on Wednesday mornings from 8:30-10:00 AM and two lunchtime yoga classes: one on Wednesday from 12:00-1:15 PM and one on Monday at the same time. See you on the mat!