On Sunday April 3rd I’ll be flying up to San Francisco to attend a celebration of the life of my old friend Larry Schultz. Larry passed away from liver disease caused by hepatitis C on February 27th, while he was visiting his wife Marie’s parents in Toledo, Ohio. He was 60 years old, three months older than me. Larry passed quickly, surrounded by family and friends. On his way to the emergency room, knowing his time was up he said to Marie, “Can you believe it? Throw me over the bridge!” Just like Larry—a joker to the end.
I first met Larry in Austin, Texas in 1982. Pattabhi Jois was teaching in Austin for two months, hosted by my friend Stan Hafner. Stan had convinced Larry to start yoga with the master himself. At the time Larry was selling life insurance, driving a BMW, and wearing gold chains. He was so stiff and toxic that he shook like a leaf during the whole practice.
Stan and I dubbed him “Scary Larry” and Guruji called him “Bad Man”. Even though the practice was incredibly challenging for him, Larry got hooked. When Pattabhi Jois came back to the States in 1985, Larry came out to Encinitas to practice with him and then followed Guruji to the Big Island of Hawaii. Larry loved Hawaii and ended up staying a couple of years before moving to San Francisco. In San Francisco, Larry started to teach a little bit, beginning with some private clients and eventually teaching some group classes in his apartment on Portrero Hill.
In the early 90’s Larry started “It’s Yoga” on Folsom St. I had the privilege of teaching the first ever workshop there. Larry had a novel concept for his yoga studio, kind of a health club concept, offering a great introductory deal for new students. The deal was “90 Days for 90 Dollars.” A lot of people came through the door at It’s Yoga and were introduced by Larry to the ashtanga practice. Among those that Larry initiated into the practice who went on to become celebrated teachers are Duncan Wong, Russell Yamaguchi, John Berlinsky, Tarik Thami, and Clayton Horton.
During the 90’s I taught many workshops at It’s Yoga. Larry used to say, “Timmy Miller, the ‘Human Can Opener’—you’re happy to see him come and you’re happy to see him go.” I would always schedule an extra day or two after the workshop to spend some time with Larry at his “country house”, a little west of Sebastapool. Larry called the place “Nauli Land” It was quite idyllic, set beside a small lake and surrounded by forest. Larry and I spent many happy hours hanging together in Nauli Land.
Soon after the inception of It’s Yoga, Larry was introduced to Bob Weir of the Grateful Dead through his friend Danny Paradise and invited to go on tour with the Dead to teach them yoga. His gig with the Dead lasted a few years until Jerry Garcia’s death in 1995. Through Larry I met and taught yoga to Bob Weir and Phil Lesh and got to hang out with Mickey Hart, who was a neighbor of Larry’s in Nauli Land..
Larry always had deep love and enthusiasm for yoga, along with a great sense of humor. His greatest gift, in my mind, was as a promoter of yoga. He had no illusions about himself as a teacher. In his eyes his job was to get people in the door, get them started in the practice, empower them, and instill a sense of fun in the work. Larry used to say to his students, “When you get too good, it’s time to go.” He had a refreshingly casual approach to teaching, sometimes starting a class by saying, “Okay, five A’s and five B’s—I’m goin’ for coffee.”
Larry was a true original, an iconoclast in a world where most of us just follow the rules. He blazed his own trail in his own inimitable way. For Larry it was all about the Fun. We had lots of it together, and I’ll miss that and always treasure the time we spent together. I’m sure he’s in Nauli Land right now, twisting up a fattie.