What initially inspired you to do yoga?
Mayhem… Literally :-) ! I had been medically diagnosed with what western medicine labels Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. This medical condition was as a result of karmic conditioning ie. Life lived pretty hard. I have been (along with many other brave beings) over exposed to trauma as a result of working as a Correctional Officer in a Maximum Security Penitentiary for many years.
Years previous I had been introduced to yoga by my brother Alistair and his girlfriend Madhuri. I remember enjoying it as a teenage however I was still interested in more ‘active’ (relativity) and more ‘extreme’ activities such as Downhill Mountain biking and other sports. I would be lead back to yoga years later but I now realize the seed had been planted then as a teenager.
Fast forward to the age of 31 and I have an amazing medical doctor who is also a yogi and meditator. Forever grateful for that combination. The groundwork had been laid to guide me back to being exposed to the practice. Circumstance and living had beaten me and allowed me to develop what Chogyam Trungpa would have called neurosis. (PTSD) It made sense to delve into the practice. Surrender!
What do you remember about your 1st yoga class?
I remember a lot about that class. I was blessed with a brilliant teacher by the name of Lara Franck. At the time I didn’t realize, couldn’t realize the blessing in having an extraordinarily skilled teacher for my introduction to yoa. I now am even more grateful I went every day to practice while she was in my immediate sphere of influence!
I remember buying a three month pass knowing I was stubborn and it would force me to return. I remember the class was full of older women. I remember shaking like a leaf in my first revisit to a standing forward fold and looking at the more experienced, older than I, woman to my right, who clearly had been practicing yoga for years. I remember looking at her folded gracefully in half and thinking, ‘I’m in good frickin shape and I’m shaking like a leaf… how is that older lady not shaking… she is older… and skinny and stuff…’
Most of all I remember the feeling in Savasana and MORE importantly the feeling that I carried with me upon leaving until I returned the next morning for another class. I was hooked from the get go! Endorphins and energetic flow lead me to actual sleep. I hadn’t sleep a good nights sleep in months.
What keeps you coming back to your mat everyday?
The Mayhem if I don’t come back!!! Haha… the challenge, the progression of practice, the physical pain if I don’t for a few days, the mental anguish of the people immediately around me in my life if I don’t practice for a few days, my job, … the habitual patterns that got me here in the first place… just with the volume turned down you know!
This practice has revealed little bits and pieces of truth and awakening allowing me to peek out from behind the cocoon of my habitual patterns every once and a while.
What part(s) of yoga resonate with you?
The plethora of full spectrum teachings that progress the individual practitioner towards living their practice and affecting wholesome change that is ‘basically good’. You can take it as deep as you like. As my teacher often says, ‘you may come here for a tighter butt but maybe you will pick up Samadhi along the way!’
As I have taken on a teaching role in the past year I have been graced a whole other level of resonation. To be given the opportunity to share that, which has helped me to rapidly and progressively, change my truth towards aligning with that which is basically good. To be able to teach and spread this practice to my peer prison workers, their families, friends, and the general public is pure MAGIC if you ask me. To be able to watch yoga deconstruct ego and force true self to the surface. To watch people tangibly change their experiences of their bodies, to alleviate little bits of suffering here and there, and most importantly to watch them get ‘it’. Smiles!!!
Heads up I make all my students take seated meditation for a ‘substantial’ (relative) amount of time, at 99 percent of the classes that I hold at my home. I love being a meditation dictator!
How has yoga affected your life?
At the risk of sounding grossly cliché the continuing practice of yoga quickly graced me the opportunity to reside higher along the spectrum of happiness and contentment. Overall it has been a gradual steady opening that at times accelerates to tumultousness in all areas of life… hahaha.. its funny cause its true…
Again to laymenize (the language of me) it make suffering less in all areas of my life. Practice has taught me experiential impermanence through both stillness and movement. From inversion to seated meditation the dynamics of this practice will interweave into your being if you apply the right amount of effort. Its magic!
I remember the lady from my first class who I practiced beside telling me after a few months of dedicated practice, “James you have to keep coming. I can see happiness in your face.” That is when I began to truly believe in the transformational power of the magical practice of this conscious work that we call ‘yoga.’ This is truth!
What does it mean to you?
To me ‘yoga’ means conscious work at the level of working my self towards a more open heart, clear mind and free body. Getting closer to our true selves.
In the real world yoga means being more present in what I am doing. This is true at work or with family and even pets. Or even when I’m on my own. Get back to being which is conducive to living life in coexistence energetically. Not being burnt out and pissed off at the world.
To be conscious involves a certain amount of awakening. Now that I have been graced these teachings by those who have come before me and been brilliant enough to figure out how to package these teachings to appeal to me, it is my dharma to bring the teachings to others. That really excites me! Also one has to remember that awakening is on a spectrum as well. It is a continuous.
Simply put the daily practice of yoga should contribute to me living a more mindful life. I should more naturally paying more attention to whatever it is I am doing in the present moment. Living my practice means I pay more attention to my intention and actions and the results thereof. More specifically an ongoing non linear consideration of the following: Right view, right intention, right speech, right livelihood, right effort, right concentration, right mindfulness.
How does yoga make you feel?
After a full spectrum Asana practice 99.9999 percent of the time elevates (makes better) my mood and being. If it doesn’t then I’m not surrendering enough to it. As I now consider post meditation/mat practice part of my practice too that changes things… well considering that I run the full gambit of feelings, emotions, sensations during practice. But when I sit and watch it that is when the magic happens… intuition!!!
Has it contributed to some healing in your life?
Completely and with Produndity!!!
What makes you avoid yoga?
It all comes back to fear doesn’t it. Avoidance or aversion. If I am avoiding my own practice these days I do so by saying, ‘well you have a full time job, plus you teach, plus you study, you can skip practice!!!’
Procrastination is procrastination… If I don’t have a practice what is it that I am teaching. Time management is my biggest challenge these days. I’m learning. That part with tumultousness at times too! Love the path!
When the sun comes out I can get lost on my motorcycle and slack off on physical asana practice. That is why some friends and I started a yogi motorcycle club. Group rides will be happening this year.
What makes you commit to yoga?
Sometimes it is a remembrance that this practice gives me tangible results. Other times I realize I am behaving like an asshole and should probably get to a class or engage in some home practice. I was and can still be one sick mofo. Practice reduces the dis-ease in my life that can manifest as disease or disorder ie. PTSD. Yoga tangibly helps alleviate my symptoms. I quickly came to the realization after dedicated years of practice that not only does it alleviate the symptoms and in fact has FORCED me to TRANSCEND that diagnosis. The results have been rapid growth. Again a term I first heard in a yoga studio, ‘post traumatic growth!’
What about yoga enables you to help others and change the world for the better?
It is a practice that can allow one to transform themselves in a wholesome way, and progress towards living their practice and residing in awakening. Its just that simple!!! (insert audible laugh) It is Dharma! (truth) Tried tested and true over the expanse of space and time and at the risk of sounding overly pretentious… Legit! By giving people this tool, this yoga, this conscious work, we are literally transforming the world one person at a time…. One practice at a time… now just think what will happen when 51 percent of people are conscious 10 percent more than they were yesterday. Now what effect twould that have on their immediate environment.. keeping in mind that it is now a majority who have awakened to living a more conscious life.. that is our next ‘evolution’ a rapid raising in conciousness. I believe we are closer than most think! The curve of progression is getting steeper!
Do you have a favorite quote that you live by and if so, what is it?