Danni Pomplun became a yoga teacher by accident. When a teacher didn’t come to class one day, he hopped out of savasana and into the front of the class. The trajectory his life took after that, however, was no accident. “What yoga has done for me is it has given me space,” Danni said. “There is no secret to any of this stuff. It’s just space.” The space on your mat is the space you create for yourself. The teachers, therapists, and mentors you may encounter along the way help support that process. At the end of the day, Danni, who is a yoga teacher and studio owner based in San Francisco, believes the mat is where you take care of you. It’s where he found that he could listen to his whole self and find what it was that he needed in the present moment. Maybe it was the time for contemplation, or the space to cry. Perhaps he needed a good laugh, or to just simply be. “We all just need the space,” Danni said. When we give ourselves space, yoga helps us navigate our lives by being compassionate with ourselves. The practice seeks to find balance through movement, and at times it is challenging and doesn’t always look pretty. Danni believes yoga is messy, but then again, so is life. “Stop pretending like we’re not human and going through it,” he said.
The Space to ChooseDanni had what he describes as a rough upbringing, one that left him with trauma he didn’t know how to cope with or express. He wasn’t aware of what trauma did to the body, and because he didn’t have the language to express what he was experiencing, he escaped by using substances. After a failed suicide attempt, he knew life needed to be different. “Drugs and alcohol are a big part of my story,” he said. “That worked... until the jig was up.” For years, Danni struggled with addiction to ease the pain he experienced as a child and young adult. It was yoga that gave him the space to say he didn’t have to choose that path. Developing a practice helped him learn that he could love himself, and that he had a choice, even when he thought he didn’t. “We had the heartbreak—the person who we thought we were going to be with who left us. We had the friend that no one saw passing and they did. We had the parents that couldn’t manage their emotional triggers and that was put upon us,” Danni said. “And so, these layers were built on top of that person that’s been there the entire time.” When he returned to his yoga practice, he said he didn’t know how to connect with people. His guard was up, and Danni felt like he didn’t have a practice or the tools to do the work, but the community of yogis still held space for him. That’s when things started to shift. He committed himself to practicing in the mornings so he couldn’t be out late the night before. Each day that he showed up on his mat, the walls he built began to breakdown. “I actually started to feel like I could belong,” Danni said. It wasn’t about nailing a handstand—although setting those goals kept him going back—it ultimately came down to the practice of paying attention and creating space for himself. “That’s when the magic happened,” Danni said. When he finally looked at himself and said, “You are loved.” Danni gave himself the space to choose. Now, he owns his own space. A studio he calls Haum.
Building a HaumWhen the pandemic hit, Yoga Tree, the studio where Danni taught and practiced, closed. It was an institution for 20 years in San Francisco, one with a huge following and a place very dear to Danni’s heart. “And the doors closed, and they weren’t reopening,” Danni said. “And I was broken.” He let the pandemic take its course, he taught and practiced virtually, and he waited. Finally, Danni phoned a friend. He asked that if he built a yoga studio, would she come? When she replied she wouldn’t do it with anyone else, he said, “I’m going to build us a home.” Three months later, in July of 2021, he opened Haum in San Francisco’s Mission District. A year later, Haum opened their second studio in Haight-Ashbury.
Permission to be HumanFor Danni, yoga isn’t confined by when he teaches, it’s the way he looks at life. And life can be tough, and he admits he isn’t perfect. “I’m a human being and I’m not going to beat myself up for it,” he said. Maybe we aren’t always at our best, and that’s ok. Danni’s advice? Practice patience and kindness. Be real with yourself. Because when we create space for ourselves, we choose to get whatever comes up, and we also give ourselves the choice as to how we react to it. The goal is not a huge following for Danni, instead the goal is to create space for people to learn the tools that ultimately saved his life. “This shit works,” he said. “I’m living proof.” --
Cameron Joy Machell is a travel writer and journalist. Her work has been featured in Wanderlust, Far & Wide, The Martha’s Vineyard Times, and the New Hampshire Business Review. She caught the travel bug long ago, and her adventures have led her to chase the Northern Lights across Iceland, camp under the stars in the Sahara Desert, and sip kava with chiefs in Fiji. When she's not traveling, you can find her at home in New England, practicing yoga and hiking with her Bernese Mountain Dog.