By Jeff Simms
Photos: Courtesy of Supersoul Farm; (Above: Raghunath Cappo and his wife Bridget, at Supersoul Farm) Courtesy of Jeff Simms
After moving in 2008 from California to New York City, Raghunath Cappo’s career as a yoga teacher took off. In demand regularly at high-profile studios around Manhattan, more students than ever were drawn to his signature brand of high-energy classes that were physically demanding yet firmly rooted in decades of studying yogic philosophy, including Cappo’s six years living as a monk.
But while the trajectory of his career soared, other elements in his life were suffering.
Cappo’s son and daughter, who were beginning preschool and kindergarten in Manhattan’s public schools at the time, were diagnosed with selective mutism, an anxiety disorder. While the children remained nonverbally communicative, they began to refuse to speak publicly, overwhelmed by the sensory overload of their New York City surroundings.
The situation forced Raghunath (born Ray Cappo) and his wife, Bridget, to question success and reconsider what had been their original dream together.
“New York City was incredibly helpful for my career,” says Cappo, a musician-turned-teacher who began practicing yoga in 1987, “but, truthfully, it wasn’t where we wanted to be. For my kids, the city was overwhelming. It’s an intense place, and I didn’t want them to grow up thinking that type of competitive environment was normal.”
Three years after moving to the city, the couple turned off all electronic media, traded in their television set for a creek and a forest and moved to the Hudson Valley to get closer to nature. They settled just outside of Chatham, in Columbia County, where they began to lay the groundwork for Supersoul Farm—a concept they’d actually connected on years earlier.
“I think previously I might have misunderstood my kids’ needs,” Cappo admits. “As media and culture get more and more fast-paced, to stop and look at something breathtaking like a waterfall or a stream looks boring. But here in the country, working in the garden or sleeping under the stars, it’s like the first step to seeing God and to seeing miracles happening.
“After one week upstate, the change of environment had worked. The kids spoke in one week.”
To appreciate Raghunath’s path, you have to go back more than 30 years. A native of Danbury, CT, Cappo was heavily involved in the 1980s punk-music scene and subculture of the Lower East Side and in 1985 started his own band, Youth of Today.
The group went on to influence tens of thousands of fans, with Cappo’s lyrics focused on positive living, animal rights and spiritual awareness. But in 1988, at the height of the band’s popularity and immediately after the death of his father, Cappo, then 22, called it quits to go to India and move into a bhakti yoga ashram.
“My father’s death gave me a wakeup call to the temporality of this world,” he says. “It sent me on a very urgent search for spirit and helped create a foundation for everything I’ve done since.” At the time, he planned to stop doing music altogether and live simply as a monk.
About a year later, however, Cappo re-emerged with another band, Shelter, this time heeding the advice of one of the world’s most beloved sacred texts, India’s Bhagavad Gita.
The Gita has influenced luminaries from Mahatma Gandhi to Thoreau, Emerson and George Harrison, and it recommends not artificially renouncing the world but instead approaching one’s work in the world as service to offer to the divine. Even bigger than Youth of Today, Shelter lasted for more than a decade and toured the globe dozens of times, exposing countless listeners to the Eastern philosophy of bhakti, the undercurrent that runs through the 18-chapter Gita.
(There are numerous yoga traditions that focus on asana, or postures. Bhakti, the yoga of devotion, is often considered the essence of all yoga systems.)
As his musical career wound down, it was the continued study of yoga that brought Raghunath and Bridget together in 2003. Both were living in California and training to become yoga teachers when they unknowingly began to plan Supersoul.
“We were on a similar path and were dreaming of the same thing,” Bridget says. “I keep notes for everything, and I still have notes from our first date. We talked about what we could do to best be of service in this lifetime.”
They married in 2004 and moved back east four years later. After leaving New York City, the couple created the Foundation for Inspired Living, a nonprofit organization, in 2016 and opened Supersoul Farm on their 11-acre property last year.
The center is dedicated to what they call “the urgent importance of reconnection with the land” and builds upon Cappo’s following within the yoga community, which multiplied even after the move upstate due to his ongoing traveling and teaching schedule. On the road almost every weekend to yoga studios throughout the region, he leads multilevel yoga-teacher training courses and twice-yearly pilgrimages with students to India as well.
This year, Supersoul—a mostly wooded campus with a yoga studio, guesthouse and several organic gardens—will host workshops not just on yoga asanas but also on permaculture (self-sustaining, eco-friendly agriculture), classical Indian music and yoga philosophy.
It’s through that range of programming that a community has rapidly coalesced around the center. Not a yoga resort but an educational facility where people can study deeper facets of spirituality and natural living, Supersoul is also a place where all walks of life and levels of experience are welcome. If there’s any requirement, it’s only a supportive, judgment-free attitude.
“Now we want to step back,” Bridget says. “We have never considered this place to be our place. We’ve felt like it was our calling to do what we could to get it started and to create an environment where people would feel welcome. We felt an urgency for our culture to reawaken its lost connection with the earth and with spirit.”
Together, Raghunath adds, strolling along the creek that runs through Supersoul Farm, it’s been their passion to walk the line between finding value in a sacred tradition yet being part of the world. And the move out of New York City, as much as it helped them find their niche with Supersoul, now seems part of a greater plan.
“Sometimes culture paints us into a corner with our career or lifestyle, but we want to show people that there are options,” he says. “We want to raise the banner for creating a conscious community. When you make a choice with integrity, there’s a ripple effect of auspiciousness, and I believe that’s what we’re seeing now at Supersoul.”
For more information about Supersoul Farm, visit www.supersoulfarm.com. █