“Resistance can be your greatest teacher, and by being present to it, can open you up to your greatest potential for growth.”
First off I’d like to say thanks for taking the time to sit down and talk about your Yoga and music practice – we’re lucky to have you on the YogiTunes team.
You are very welcome. It’s an honour to be part of such a great team and in service to the music and yoga movement which really inspires me.
What began your journey with Yoga – what was the spark that got your fire burning ? When did you make the decision to teach yoga, and can you talk a little bit about this ?
Big questions. And I guess you could say it was big questions that began my journey with yoga. Questions of self, truth, spirit and the nature of reality…you know, that kind of thing! I had dabbled in yoga for several years previous, particularly interested in the philosophy as much as the physical practice. But the truth is my first real dive into yoga as a consistent practice came as last resort to addressing severe anxiety that I had started to experience in my mid 20s. However, the initial spark that got my fire burning and that set me on my teaching path came a few years later when meeting one of my first teachers, Peter Sterios, at a yoga workshop in Victoria. His approach, style and ability to connect to the room really resonated with me. In particular, there were a couple teachings he brought in which really lit me up and inspired me to take up the path. First was the teaching on how yoga is a relationship. And like all relationships, he asked, what is the most important thing? That you show-up. Which is to say that you bring the fullness, and truth of who you are, as much as possible, to your practice, and let that circle out to all your relationships. That really spoke to me, and felt like a powerful commitment and practice that I could get behind. Yoga is a place to practice really showing up, in full presence, whatever that means to you, in each moment. The other teaching was that resistance can be your greatest teacher, and by being present to it, can open you up to our greatest potential for growth. Though somewhat counter intuitive to the social messaging I had grown up with, this made intuitive sense to me and opened the door to a beginners approach to the experience of life, on and off the mat, that continues to prove very powerful for me. The recognition that resistance can be your greatest teacher empowers the path of acceptance, detachment and ultimately love, to which I feel really called to.
And when did music become part of your life?
Music became a part of my life from an early age and it was actually my Dad’s passion for reggae music, dancing in the kitchen when making breakfast, that was my earliest memory.
In speaking with you recently I asked if you are equal parts dj and yoga teacher, to which you responded “more yoga teacher” – what horizons do you hope to move towards in your yoga teaching and what is next in your teacher training and practice as a teacher?
Yes I feel that I’m both 100% teacher and DJ/musician, but if I had to pick one it is clear that I’m more called to teach yoga and let someone else do the music then say the other way around, although I enjoy that too! Luckily I don’t have to choose, and can instead weave them together as I believe they offer so much to each other. In terms of teaching, there are many things on the horizon, but some things I’m most excited about include my work with Yogitunes, helping to support studios and build skills in yoga teachers around the use of music in practice and class, while providing them with the tools to really explore that space. I also have my first teacher training that I’ll be teaching in Costa Rica in November which I’m very excited about. And growing the Church of Reggae Yoga around the globe is a passion that I see expanding in the future.
Before we met I was aware of you running the “Church of Reggae Yoga”, which sounded intriguing. I wish we had more reggae music to work with (and we’re on the case) – can you let us into what it was that brought you to mix one with the other, and how has the reaction been from people in class?
The connection came naturally as the unification of two of my greatest passions. In that exploration, I found so many ways in which the messaging and philosophy guiding both the yoga path and the rootsier side of reggae supported each other. In fact, I’m still finding ways in which they connect, even to this day. Also, the musicality of reggae, the uplifting melodies and spiritual insights complemented my practice and I knew and quickly discovered that I was not alone. The response has been great, many people resonate with the concept immediately and many, after the experience of a Church of Reggae Yoga session, reflect on both how fun and powerful it is, which I think is such a great combination of qualities.
What advice would you give to teachers looking to fit music into their teaching practice? What should they try to include, and what should be avoided ?
I think when starting out there are some basics skills that should be learned and Alex and I are going to putting together a webinar for Yogitunes to help teachers learn these skills, which I’m excited about. Two bits of advice I would give however would be: 1. Start with a ‘less is more’ approach and in particular be aware of and intentional with the use of simplicity and complexity in your teaching with music. For example, keep the music simple when the instruction is complex (like at the beginning of class or when introducing a new sequence) and vice versa, simplify the instruction when the music is complex and taking up more space. See it like a dance, where your partner is the music and sometimes you are taking up more space and sometime you allow the music to lead and even teach, which brings me to my next point: 2. Really consider (and limit) the lyrical content of the music you’re choosing and when it comes in. Make it relevant. The music can teach but you have to give it space for students to connect to it. The worst thing that can happen in class is that music distracts the students from their practice and their body and ultimately their breath. Similarly, and I joke about this, the teacher can also be a source of distraction. So the yogi has some responsibility here to try and stay focused on presence and the principles of yoga despite the music or the teacher, however there’s lots the teacher can do, especially working with music, to support this focus. So for example try not to talk too much over lyrics. Set up your class so that if you want the students to connect to messages in the music you leave space for it. It’s a great technique to set-up the teachings in the music too, because you can anticipate what’s coming you can bridge your teaching with the teaching in the music and that can be very powerful.
As you’ve browsed the YogiTunes library of music, can you point people towards five releases worthy of a good listen ? Tell us why you love them !
Ok yeah. So a few mixes for practice and classes that I love are:
Soundsoul Watering by Jano ~ I like the momentum in this mix and the dubby tracks. I like the intensity which is moderate and the intention for the mix and music which is love based and watery which goes well with the earthiness and fire that I naturally bring into practice.
EOTL mix Surrender ~ Great for a gentle restorative or yin practice. This mix is beautiful and etheric.
Vinyasa I: Communicate ~ a little shameless promotion here, this being the first mix I put together for yogitunes using some of my favorite artists in the catalogue. A beautifully textured opening, soulful beat, heavy mid section and a long meditative cool down. This describes a template for a yoga practice that I just love.
Worthy of a good listen:
Back Porch Tunes by Interchill for it’s loungy goodness and featuring of some great artists I love including Rising Appalachia, the Polish Ambassador and Dirtwire.
The Human Experience by Broken Open ~ because I think this concept album about the different facets of love is powerful and really well done. I love David’s music and the numerous collaborations on here are really nice.
What do you have coming up this summer on your music horizon ? Where are you performing and what are you stoked about ?
I’m stoked to stay committed to my practice amidst the wildness of summer and of putting together some more music mixes for YogiTunes. I’m very excited to be teaching at few really beautiful festivals holding space with The Church of Reggae Yoga. Super excited to experience Beloved Festival for the first time and to be sharing this practice there and also at 2 more local gatherings, Blessed Coast up in Squamish and Atmosphere Gathering on Vancouver Island.
You, Andrew Interchill and Alex (Rara Avis) all live on Salt Spring Island, in beautiful British Columbia – how long have you been here and what was it that brought you here ? For people who haven’t visited what in your view makes it a special place ?
I’ve been on Salt Spring for almost 3 years now. The desire to move to a smaller community with more nature was part of what drew me here but also the community and just something about the land here. Many things make Salt Spring special. Its uniqueness. Its natural beauty and powerful energy. The concentration of artists and alternative thinkers and dwellers. It’s amazing how much is going here for such a small community and the yoga and music scene is quite vibrant. It doesn’t surprise me that YogiTunes is headquartered here and that fact also feels like another affirmation of why I am here. Salt Spring has a magic, that’s for sure, and I think is palpable to most who experience her.
If you were a yoga position, which one would you be – and why ?
Simhasana. Lion’s pose. Because courage and humility are two values I like to keep close. And because the hatha yoga pradipika says that if practiced properly this pose can eliminate all disease!
Please finish the following: Music is…
Ever inspired and moved by the medicine of music and its use in contemporary yoga, Adam’s passion for mixing music for yoga classes began with his teaching career in 2010. As a DJ and yoga teacher in the west coast festival circuit, Adam is continually inspired by this beautiful tribe of unfolding creativity, potential, and love. In 2011 he created The Church of Reggae Yoga to bring together some of his greatest passions including reggae, yoga, prayer and dance, which has now reached thousands of yogis and festival goers around the west coast as a unique, fun and powerful practice. Adam’s natural flare for facilitation in the music space has drawn him into the ecstatic dance world as part of the Dance Temple crew on Salt Spring Island, which has hosted weekly community dance event for the past 7 years. Musically drawn towards bass heavy tunes, dubby in nature, Adam’s eclectic tastes integrate many genres into dance mixes and yoga based offerings aimed to move the body, centre the soul, touch the heart, and inspire the spirit.