Eoin has studied yoga, eastern and western philosophy, and meditation since 1987 and has been teaching for over a decade. He talks to us about the connection between yoga and surfing, what "Blissology" means, men and yoga, and more.
MBG: How did you come to yoga?
EF: My Major in university was Philosophy and Comparative Religions. This led me to study yoga and eastern Philosophy academically at first. With this interest piqued I learned simple Hatha yoga. It was in about 1995 when I learned Ashtanga yoga from Nadia Toraman while living in Maui. As a young man, this extra bit of athleticism was all that I needed to really commit wholeheartedly to the practice and I have never looked back.
It came to me in university. It honors my most major influence, Joseph Campbell, who coined the now infamous bumper sticker phrase "Follow your Bliss." He lit a fire in me at an early age and gave me language for the mystical experience and yoga. Blissology in a way is a result of Joseph Campbell's ideas that every religious tradition and philosophy accumulates cultural baggage and the original message can become diluted over time. We need new ways of retelling the messages that work for the sensibilities of each era. My calling is to find simple straightforward ways to inspire people to have more Love, Joy and Wonder in their lives.
Can you tell us more about the connection between yoga and surfing?
Yoga and surfing go together magically. They both lead to a soulful experience where we are blown away by the radiance of life. In yoga we withdraw from the world and go inwards for this experience. Surfing is more an embrace of the world than a retreat from it. Both lead to the same joyful place but through different doors.
You've worked with a lot of pro-athletes -- how do they approach their practice/how do they use yoga to enhance performance?
I always tell athletes why I want to teach them. I ask them that if they found the fountain of youth in a forest would they want to hoard it or share it with others? People answer differently, but I want to share it. Intelligent yoga is that fountain of youth for athletes and it can greatly enhance their performance and extend their careers. I have seen athletes give up anti-inflammatory drugs, reverse back pain, and literally start winning Gold medals after slumping for half a year with just one week of yoga and meditation. It is so powerful. Why? Yoga done with proper alignment will allow for smooth joint functioning, it allows you to balance out soft tissue imbalances, the movements are slow and controlled so there is a lot of neuro-physiological re-patterning, it has a large restorative aspect which counters the wear and tear on the body. These are just physical. The really deep power of yoga for athletes is the ability to keep body and mind in harmony so we they can have grace under pressure.
Men and yoga -- what's the biggest misconception? Any advice for a guy who's thinking about hitting the mat?
They think it is all about flexibility and don't want to do it because they are naturally so much tighter than women or the thin wiry men that the yoga media often promotes. Men really hate to suck at things and I hear it all the time from them, "I don't want to go to class and embarrass myself."
I tell them two things: One to think yoga is all about flexibility is like thinking baseball is only about pitching. It's a large part of the game, but by no means everything. Secondly, the logic of avoiding yoga because you are too inflexible makes no sense, it is like saying you are too dirty to shower!
I get a lot of guys in my classes -- about 40% are men. My advice mostly is to share first hand the ways I feel immensely better in body, mind, and soul from yoga. All they have to do is put the ego aside, taking the pressure off to look good, and make a mission of leaving the yoga space feeling better than when they arrived.
You travel a ton -- how do you eat healthy on the road?
I actually try and limit my travel or put it into chunks of time. As a surfer, too much travel cuts into my surfing time. When I do though, it can be hard to get good food but I almost always manage to find it. I think you need to have the attitude of a hunter and gatherer -- constantly keeping your ear to the ground and seeking out prana-filled foods. You can usually find a yogi on the ground wherever you arrive and probe them for tips on where the source of good food is. When you find those places, stock up. I almost never travel without food. For example, I am leaving for D.C. tomorrow and before I went to bed, I went to a good raw restaurant here in Los Angeles. and packed a little picnic lunch for the plane. Sure beats the food at LAX. You have to think like that.
Who's influenced your practice?
My major influence is a woman from Canada named Gioia Irwin, she's really mellow and moved to the mountains to garden and live her yoga so you probably don't know her. Aside from her, I love to "cross-pollinate" and study a lot of other techniques like massage, structural integration, chiropractic, body-mind psychotherapy, and martial arts. I think two other main teachers I have are Tom Myers who authored Anatomy Trains and Susan Apposhyan who wrote Body-Mind Psychotherapy.
What does yoga mean to you?
Ultimately I feel like there is an intelligence that guides us to be more connected to others and more open to profound peace and joy. This may be merely a neuro-physiological state or there may be a mystical force out there in the universe that we tune into. Either way yoga is the art of staying in touch with this force that opens us up to a deep love.
Many people don’t get the connection between the physical yoga practice to this part of our being but to me, after the yoga practice your mind and body are more open and receptive to the heart’s message. We become like an antenna for it. It’s so powerful.
What's next? What are you working on?
Besides a baby due Valentine’s Day?... Writing. I feel like explaining concepts in an easy to understand way that makes them fun and inspirational without dumbing them down is my major talent in life.
I also look forward to using my newly acquired U.S. Work Visa to teach in America and I am lucky to have connected to YAMA Talent who has been great about helping connect with studios across the country. Throughout this all, I want to make sure that I am as authentic as possible and really walk the talk.
For more on Eoin:
Blissology.com and YAMA Talent
If you're in NYC, you can checkout Eoin's Blissology series starting on Friday at Pure Yoga