“The only reason I’m actually teaching yoga is because of high school,” explains Steve Emmerman. During his freshman year, Emmerman was goofing off one day in science class and, in the course of a physics experiment involving an electrified air-hockey table, he recalls, “I got an electric shock, and it was the first time I can remember not being able to turn my head.”
At first it didn’t seem like a life-altering event, but he says the pain “got worse and worse, and by my mid-20s, it was excruciating.” Emmerman saw doctors, acupuncturists, chiropractors, and massage therapists, one after another, but “no one could find anything wrong with me,” he says. “You name it, I’ve done it, but yoga was the only thing that gave me relief.”
Emmerman graduated from the U. of I. and was working as a clerk at the Chicago Board of Trade when he first started practicing yoga hard-core. “It wasn’t much of a stretch for me to try yoga,” he recalls. “I was kind of a hippie in high school. I would wear tie-dyes all the time and do crazy things with my hair. I also happened to be in all the smart classes, which is not usual for the stoner.”
It wasn’t until Emmerman took a workshop with the Los Angeles–based yoga guru Ana Forrest that yoga became a serious career possibility. “After that weekend, I could move with no pain for the first time in I can’t remember how long,” he says. Under Forrest’s tutelage, Emmerman mastered the deep breathing and pretzel poses and soon found himself in demand for lessons. He now teaches at the Moksha Yoga Center in River West.
“I used to say [in high school] that I was going to be a lawyer, only because that’s what my dad was,” he says. “When it came down to it, I didn’t want to be a lawyer.” Through yoga Emmerman has found a pain-free lifestyle, a good salary, and a fiancée, whom he met at the studio about four years ago. Besides, he adds, “what I do is very fulfilling. I help people overcome all sorts of stuff, physical and emotional stuff. It’s really an empowering and liberating practice.”