In the suburbs of Chicago, a loud, loving Italian family instilled in their sons a love of music, of connection, and a work ethic that allowed them to explore their place in the world. One of the brothers is an insurance adjuster still in the Chicago area. The other, Paul Teodo, left a promising career as a Midwestern real estate agent to pursue a slightly more circuitous journey to center to become a yoga teacher in LA.
Their home was full of song. Paul’s mother could sing along to every Beatles tune. She earned her Master’s degree and dabbled in Transcendental Meditation. His dad, aptly nicknamed “Yoda”, aided thousands in addiction recovery by running a successful drug treatment facility. Paul’s take on them, “Both of my parents are caring, generous people who taught me the value of investing in others.” The extended family were also meaningful players. “Grandma and Grandpa Teodo’s cooking was legendary” laughs Paul, “One of my friends actually skipped work and lost his job to eat dinner at my house!” Fortunately, Paul didn’t have to skip work to enjoy such meals in their raucous household and this firm familial foundation gave him the freedom to explore artistic endeavors.
He found expression through music, and during college he lit up the bar scene with singer/songwriter staples. Between covers of Van Morrison and Dave Matthews Band, he and co-conspirator Keith Afable enlivened the crowd with original compositions. They had an almost indescribable connection through music, art, and a search for the infinite. They longed for a “non-traditional life” of adventure and planned towards the future. Then, just after graduating from Miami University of Ohio, Keith was killed in a motorcycle accident.
“I stopped playing music,” Paul remembers.
In one tragic moment, Paul’s best friend, muse, and even his connection to music felt as though it was ripped away. So Paul chose a new career: real estate agent. While successful in the material world, there was still a part of him that was searching for something more. One evening at a closing, Paul read the terms of the loan granted to his client.
“There was a moment when I sold a house to a blue-collar electrician, a nice guy. I saw the loan they had given to him and I knew he was going to lose his house. I knew it was going to fuck him and I knew that he didn’t have the financial education to know what he was buying. I couldn’t do it anymore. I didn’t believe in what I was doing.”
Paul left real estate and, at the urging of friends, headed to Hollywood where his leading man good looks and washboard abs allowed him to sign with famed managers and agents. He booked national commercials for Bacardi, Toyota, Nissan, Coors Light, Coca Cola, and a recurring guest role on an ABC family show. But even in front of the camera, Paul was still searching for what was behind the curtain. Whether he was in the ecstasy of playing guitar, the practicality of a career in real estate, or the excitement of life as a working actor, he sought a stronger connection to himself and the world around him. Like many on this journey, that all changed when he stepped foot on a yoga mat. “I started going to yoga all the time. I loved the intense, physical practice and was also drawn to the philosophical aspects of yoga. The mental portion helped me stay sane.”
He began to connect with his inner-self, the part of himself that wasn’t consumed with booking jobs. Teacher Sara Ivanhoe noticed his dedication to the practice and encouraged his exploration through reading assignments, ideas, and even lifestyle tips. Soon, yoga became Paul’s primary focus.
“The problem with it for me was after having all of these deep experiences, it’s pretty hard to be enthusiastic about playing a shirtless man drinking a Coke or hot cop #2 on a cheesy TV show.”
Paul was contemplating taking the YogaWorks teacher training when, as he says, “I had an incredibly deep meditation while at Temescal Canyon. It was at a time in my life when I was beginning to come out of a pretty serious depression and a lot of anxiety. I had been coming to terms with how out of balance acting felt for me. To this day it was one of the clearest moments of my life. I had no idea how I was going to pay for teacher training. Two days after committing to the program, I booked a print campaign that paid for the whole thing.” It was a welcome stroke of synchronicity in which the outer world reflected the inner intention.
Paul’s pursuit of yogic understanding includes practicing with a variety of teachers such as Sara Ivanhoe, Travis Eliot, Vinnie Marino, Vytas Baskauskas, Jesse Schein, Byron deMarse, Calvin Corzine, and meditation teacher training with Dr Lorin Roche.
“Sara taught me that the physical practice is the crust of the pizza and all of the really great stuff lies in the center.” Sometimes getting to the center can involve needing to get through some pain. One of the things that motivated Paul to meditate was the observation that “I had thousands of incredibly negative thoughts buzzing around my head. By the time I hit bottom, my anxiety was so bad that my fingertips had gone numb. I was so angry and bitter and fearful and sick—meditation helps me see that many of my flaws are actually positive qualities taken to extremes or taken in a self-centered (egotistical) way. If I change my perspective or attitude about something, then that defect begins to dissolve.”
And dissolve it has. Through the full spectrum practice of yoga, including meditation, as well as engaging in group therapeutic work, Paul was able to address the unhealed grief that had interrupted his path as a musician.
Music has become another path through the pain and a way to support meditation and contemplation. For this act, though, Teodo chose a soundtrack for contemplation rather than a setlist for the stage. He traded applause for silence. He developed a meditation practice set to instrumental music he calls “Journey To Center.” This well-loved class at Suzy Schwartz’s studio, Unplug, has been transformational in the lives of his students who praise it has helped them to unfrazzle, get still, and get silent. A Journey to Center is also the name of the instrumental album Paul has released of his original compositions.
When asked about this experience of creating music for meditation, Paul reflects, “I could write the best piece of music, practice it for hours, and play it perfectly. But if I don’t first take five minutes to tune my guitar, the music will not sound good. We have a city full of people that are forgetting to tune their instruments before they go out into the world. I am trying to remind people that the music is useless if the instruments are out of tune.”
Paul teaches at TruYoga, Unplug, Bryan Kest’s Power Yoga and the Yoga Collective. For more information visit: ajourneytocenter.com
David Young-Wolff can be found at: davidyoung-wolff.com
Paul is wearing grey pants by Yogasmoga
Yoga Mat by Jade Yoga