VIKING. GOON. SHAOLIN PHILOSOPHER. YOGI.
Name: Gísli Gunnarsson Bachmann
What city/country are you reppin’? Reykjavík, capital of Iceland
Website I closed it down for a bit, in working progress, will update once it’s up.
Twitter Not that cool, yet
What is your story? I was the goon in school. Always trying to make sure everyone was happy and having fun. I started athletics when I was ten and then took up Karate at 12. By always being obsessed about martial arts then I would classify myself as a martial artist that switched to yoga. I had the plans to be a doctor but right before going to med-school I put it on hold and moved to Thailand for six months to study Muay Thai kick boxing. After that I postponed my med studies even further and travelled for the next 5 years doing whatever I could think of a.k.a. my dreams. I got my yoga therapy certificate in India along with massage and started teaching. I got my certifications as snowboard and ski instructor and worked two winters in Austria in winter wonderland. Then I moved to a Shaolin academy in China to study Shaolin Kung Fu, and ended up going to the famous Shaolin temple to practice there as well. Now I focus on developing my Yoga teaching even further while studying philosophy in the University of Iceland. I’m living with the woman of my dreams and we´re in it for the long run. To say the least: life is good.
What do most people think about your hometown/country? The country is known for its incredible nature and most recently for its Viking clap fans. The stereotypes are few but they resemble the US in many ways, the muscle time, the skinny jeans type and the don’t-give-a-fuck type… I’m a mix of all of them, but lacking the muscles lol
What are you most proud of about your country? We are a very small nation, only 330.000 people, so we are very proud to be Icelandic and we go bonkers when someone Icelandic does well internationally. Also we try to refer every statistic to per-capita since we do very well on such comparisons to other countries. I’m proud of our capability to set an example for other countries to follow and how we could be able to use that even further to demonstrate healthy ways of running a country and nation. But I’m most proud of my love for my country.
How would you describe yourself? Like Will Ferrell in Elf, where in the movie my characteristics would be hyped up to the extremes. Why? I love candy! But in more serious way then I do have that childish carelessness about me. It takes very little to impress me and I don’t need much to be happy. I still have that excited view upon life that children do and that’s one of my biggest qualities. My biggest flaw though would be my tendency to judge others. But I’ve learned to live with that as I’m doing my best to quit it, so I meet my judgement of others with understanding. I try see the truth behind the person instead of holding on to my initial judgement.
How would your mother describe you? She says that I love everybody! Why? Probably because my face lights up when I see the people I care for, which are most people I’ve gotten to know.
What did you want to be growing up? I wanted to be a doctor like my grandpa. I was named after him and I always had a really special connection to him. I’m sure helping others played a part but to be like him was number one.
What characteristic do you value most in others? Vulnerability and humility. The ability and strength in others to be themselves and to getting to know themselves.
When did you last cry? That escalated quickly! … And it almost needs a little introduction but the last time I cried was due to my realisation that the problems I had with my dad in the past were not his fault but mine. Where I realized that I had pushed him away, not that he had stopped loving me. I realized I had stopped allowing him to love me and I cried because I felt then how deeply I do and always have missed him. All I wanted to do then was to hug him and tell him I missed him.
Is there anything you preach but don’t practice, or practice but don’t preach? I’m sure there are, not one in particular that I remember right now, though when I catch myself doing so then I always question myself for doing so and also why I’m not doing it myself. If I practice something that I don’t preach then I’m most likely still too new to it myself or shy about doing it and therefore not willing to share. But I’m working on that as well, part of the vulnerability goal I’ve set myself, be true and happy with who you are and what you do.
We’ve all done a few things we’re not proud of, care to share one? Show us you’re not perfect. I wasn’t really an angel when I was younger, and to my quite recent discovery then I really deeply hurt some kids around me. I was at a party the other night and a kid I went to school with was there. I felt quite hostile energy from him but couldn’t understand why. Later that night he sat down next to me and asked me if I remembered what I had done to him. Feeling really awful now I admitted I didn’t so he tells me this story of how when once playing outside in the snow with bunch of kids I had held him down in the snow and showed and rubbed snow really forcefully in his face. Not in the joking kind of way but in the mean “I really mean to hurt you” kind of way. The worst thing about it was not what I had done but how deeply emotionally I hard scarred him for his entire life after it. It was devastating to hear what crazy negative impact I had done to that poor boy’s soul. I was almost in tears feeling the depth of his pain through me and I told him how incredibly sorry I was for what I had done to him. I gave him a really long big hug where I was able to open my heart fully and poor my energy into him, showing him how deeply sorry I was (sounds weird I’m sure but that’s how it felt). Afterwards, during that same night, I felt how much my apology had meant to him and I felt better. Still left with the bitter idea of how many others I might have hurt on my way to where I’m now.
Let’s play favourites? Breakfast lunch or dinner? Which one? Dinner, the only meal I can really go big.
Favourite book? Hardest one so far… But the book that had the biggest influence on me and taught me the most valuable lessons was the book of the five love languages by Gary Chapman. But my favourite book I keep going back to is Self Reliance by Ralf Waldo Emerson.
Sport/activity to play? Volley ball for group sports, running on my own. Running is my meditation. Volley ball simply being the only group sport I’m decent at.
Sport/activity to watch? Football/soccer
Favourite place you’ve been too? The Andaman Islands, belong to India. Most incredible place I’ve been to with turquoise sea and white beaches that are so empty that you can run around naked.
Favourite drink? Port wine, just like the grandmas (at least that’s what I’m told every time)
Favourite drink at the pub? Jack and coke, and tequila.
Tea or Coffee? Coffee, though if I had tea like they do in China I would be a bigger tea fan.
Boxers or briefs? Briefs, like it tight and snug, just like yoga pants.
Dad’s son or Momma’s boy? Tough one! Best intimate moments with my mom, but still Daddy’s boy.
Heartbreaker or hopeless romantic? Hopeless romantic, I’m really really hopeless. Tried the opposite, didn’t work.
Favourite Song? All these things that I’ve done – Killers. Heard it first at my friend’s funeral and it has ever since then been my favourite.
Favourite Movie? Forest Gump. In a weird way it was the most inspirational movie I’ve ever seen
Best dance Move? Ballroom dancing moves, that’s my go to to impress. But when I’ve had the right amount of drinks and the Dutch courage kicks in then I get real creative lol
OK, Let’s talk about Yoga. What does a male yogi look like? At second though I want to say anything and everything but sadly what first came up is muscular, trim, flexible and graceful. Guess I still need to work on my judgemental shit.
What are the biggest stereotypes about guys who do yoga? Most likely the ones I just mentioned. And now I feel awful…
What was the biggest challenge when you started the practice? That every stretch hurt like hell. I thought I was flexible but found the opposite.
Why do you keep coming back? I just don’t feel the same without it. After knowing how good it feels when you practice regularly and consistently then I always have that comparison to when I don’t. Without it I’m always worse off.
What was the biggest challenge when you started teaching? To teach the way I felt was right and not by the same methods as everyone else.
What is your best advice for a guy who wants to try yoga for the first time? Give it a real shot and not just one time. Commit to few classes and do them or else don’t bother. You’re going to feel shit the first time because it’s going to be awkward, tough and painful and you’ll think everyone will be judging you. But by going couple more times, you work through your initial insecurities and start feeling the real gift of it.
Tell us a story when your Yoga practice came into play off the mat? Saying I love you is a big thing in Iceland, such a big thing that it’s even so awkward that you won’t do it. For example my mom will sometimes write “I love you” to me in English even though it’s “Ég elska þig“ in Icelandic, simply because it‘s too much to do so in Icelandic. This does not make her look bad by any means, and she really loves me, it‘s just that awkward and unnatural. My dad for example, to my memory at least, had never told me straight out that he loved me. I hadn‘t either, or at least not for a very long time and what yoga did for me was to give me the courage to know better. To know that it was worse not saying I love you to my close ones than to be awkward about it. So I started saying it. At first super hesitantly but it grew on me and got better and better, so good that I was able to tell my dad that I loved him. I did so few times until, at 23, he finally said “Ég elska þig“ and ment it. I can‘t tell you how incredibly much that ment to me. Yoga has taught me to fight my fears and open my heart and for just that I will be forever greatful.
What challenges have you experienced being a guy who teaches yoga? Well, it was a great pick-up line at first… I can’t think of any challenges by teaching yoga, especially by being a guy. Being a guy actually gave me more of an edge than anything else.
What does the next 5 years of yoga look like for you? Stay tuned! I’m very ambitious about my teaching and my own practice. Not in the way that I want to be the best but in the way that I can only gain full understanding of how the body works by learning it by experience. So by doing so I can be the best teacher possible. Aim for the stars. Don’t be afraid of not reaching it, the only thing you should be afraid of is your own limitations on yourself.
Things seem to be changing, what does the future of yoga look like in the western world? More openness from the general public of trying it out as well as major growth within the practice and teaching of yoga. To say the least I’m super stoked about the future of yoga and to be a part of it.
Other than yoga, what else keeps you busy? Travels used to take up all my time but now it’s basically school, teaching, massaging and seeing friends and family. It’s simple but I love it. I was longing for a routine, simplicity and structure in my life and now I’m in and at a very good place.
In your own words, what is BOYS OF YOGA? In basics: Eliminating the stereotypes of who can and do yoga and revealing how yoga can be for every single one. In depth: Giving men (boys) the opportunity to feel the softer side of them, eliminate their restricting believes of who they have to be as men and the courage of unlocking the emotional locks and blockages that we have placed upon ourselves for our own protection of being hurt.
And what does the project mean to you? Right now an opportunity but hopefully in the future a platform to really make a change and make a difference.
What does it mean in your city/country? Sadly I believe, it’s not well enough known. But then it just means that it’s up to me to change that!
Why do you want to share your story? I believe it might help others upon reflection of themselves to have someone not being afraid to open up about their own difficulties, struggles and insecurities so that they might be more willing to do the same. To be an inspiration for their own good I guess.
If you could spend time with hanging out, practice and chillin’ with some of the other BOYS, who would it be, and why?
Nothing personal against the other boys, I’m sure you’re all super dope but since I only get to pick three then they would be
#1 Lord Veda (London), simply because he’s martial artist and philosopher as well. Plus I just think he’d be a cool guy to get to know.
#2 Yancy (New York), he’s got insane practice and has super interesting story. Think he’d be a great teacher of yoga as well as life.
#3 Albert (London) so he can hook me up with some modelling agents lol. No he’s got great practice as well as Yancy and he’s got a cool view on life, think he might be interesting.
What is your go to yoga pose? The wheel pose. I made myself do the wheel 30 days in a row, three attempts every day because I really struggled with it and I felt I needed to improve my anterior flexibility. The results were insane, by improvement of course but most of all how much I learned from it. Ever since then it has been my greatest teacher and always my go to pose. I try to do it at least four times per week but preferable every day.
What pose do you f*cking hate? Hip openers, sideways, and deep hamstring stretches. Being a runner then my hips and hamstrings were always really tight and those are the first things to lock up again if I don’t practise for some time. Butterfly pose kills me and Pachimottanasana is my prime enemy. And then double pigeon almost makes me cry every time.
Yoga is everything. I use yoga for everything, for all the things that I do and all the things that I say that might not be fully accepted my society, yet. Like if I just want to wear tights for the day, or complement people, talk about the books I read or the thoughts I’m having. Basically when anybody gives me the looks of “what the heck” or “you are so weird” then I just say that I do or teach yoga and I’m met with an understanding “ahhhhh”. Yoga gives you the freedom to do anything and to be anything you want. Therefore yoga is everything.
What is your favourite quote, or personal mantra? A poem by Marianne Williamson called “Our greatest fear”… If you don’t know it then look it up. It had and still has a big effect on me.
Interviewed: November, 2016
Photos by @michaeljameswong and property of BOYS OF YOGA LLC