ANGEL GUY . BOOK SCRIBBLER . CHEEKY BASTARD . YOGI
What’s your story? I come from a very spiritual background. I had lots of psychic experiences as a child and was encouraged to follow an intuitive path. I was paralysed as a kid - a virus left me in a wheelchair and I had to learn to walk again. Around the same time, my grandmother was battling cancer. I was close to her and this whole experience left me wide open, sensitive and extremely emotionally aware.
For a long time, I felt wholly like I didn’t fit in; I felt like an outcast in the world because of the spiritual shit - the psychic moments, and this intense sensitivity to everything. I had a strong inner practice – meditation and awareness of spiritual principles but I wasn’t united; my soul and mind were getting stronger but my body was extremely overweight. My biggest interest is angels - not in the sense of fluffy winged beings but more the personification of universal energy. It’s kind of like everything in the universe or God giving itself an image or a face so that we can create a personal connection with it.
I would often ask my angel team what I needed to do to feel more aligned and one day in meditation I heard “do yoga” so I went off to search for a class. I went to a local Hatha class at a church hall for two years. Meanwhile, my writing and speaking career began to take off. I was the youngest in a troupe of mostly over-60s in this class and I’d be the super-bendy adventurous one, in comparison! After encouragement from my classmates, I decided to look for a teacher-training course. My experience of yoga up to this point had been chill. I was still dealing with ‘body stuff’ - my weight and body image - when I found a course starting in Edinburgh. It was ‘Ashtanga Teacher Training’ with the maverick himself, Brian Cooper. I turned up overweight, and underprepared: I couldn’t even chaturanga and my downward dog was a mess. The truth is I shouldn’t have been on that course – I wasn’t ready and I had NO IDEA what I signed up for. Brian told me I wasn’t ready but stuck by me when I decided to go for it. I am eternally grateful for his patience and encouragement. Over the 9 month course I dropped 80lbs and cultivated a strong daily practice through which I watched body and mind change; my strength and focus grew and I found a deep spiritual and physical integration where I felt like everything just clicked into place. Three years on, I still have that strong Ashtanga practice and am constantly delving into other styles - Forest is the latest to win me over.
I am also still writing and speaking. Currently, I’ve published 5 books and have 43 international publishing deals, all focused around my love of angels, forgiveness and spirituality.
What did you want to be growing up? I wanted to be a Religious Education teacher. The coolest thing is that I got a taste of that life when my old R.E teacher invited me to teach 8 classes of A level psychology / RE. It was so fun. (RE? – Religious education? )
How would you describe yourself? I’m a bit of a rebel, outspoken, and fiery as fuck- but I’m all love really!
How would others describe you? Cheeky (I’m hoping in a good way) - and I’m told often I’m a great inspiration (which is lovely).
How would your mother describe you? Last night she said to me, as she called a toast to my latest book, “I’m so glad you’re my son and I’m very proud of you!”… but she also tells me I’m a cheeky bastard all the time!
What do you most value in others? Why? Integrity. It’s key for me. Speak your truth.
When did you last cry? What was it over? I’m often crying - especially when I’m doing my daily spiritual practice but the last thing I cried at was on TV – it was a scene of a transgender character telling the story of the day her mom accepted her for who she was. My heart melted. Acceptance is such a beautiful thing.
Is there anything you preach but don’t practice? Fuck, no. I often say at the end of my yoga classes, “eat lots of chocolate and drink lots of wine” - oops!
We’ve all done a few things we aren’t too proud of, care to share one? I recently lost my shit at a parking attendant who gave me a ticket while I was helping an 80 year old lady into her car. My ego felt bruised that he could do that while I was being of service. I swore lots and lost my mind for a moment. I got into trouble for it but, more, it was a real lesson for me to stop being so self-important. I’ve since written an apology letter.
Favourite meal? Breakfast. I love omelettes especially with feta cheese and greens.
Favourite drink? In the morning, coffee, and at night: G&T (it has to be Monkey 47 gin with Fever Tree tonic though).
Favourite book? Can I have two?!
‘You Can Heal Your Life by Louise Hay. This was the book that created my publisher Hay House and it’s also the book that changed my whole way of thinking that encouraged me to move into a journey of self love. Louise has become an important role model in my life and she’s a true soul who walks her talk and it’s inspired me greatly
The other is ‘A Course in Miracles’ – it’s my daily spiritual practice. It’s a little wild and out-there as it’s a channeled text, said to be the voice of Christ, even though it’s non-religious… sounds mad, right?! It’s a 365 day course in forgiveness – I’ve done it 8 years in a row and I’m so grateful for all I’ve learned from it.
Ok, let’s talk about yoga, how’d you get into it? I was overweight and wanted something to help me get back in shape that would honour the spiritual connection.
What was the biggest challenge when you first started practicing? Strength – my arms were like jello – I could barely hold myself up.
Why did you keep coming back? The rejuvenating feeling that swirled around me when it was over. That was a triiiip!
What would make you skip practice? Not waking up in time… I have slept in so many times through morning Ashtanga Mysore class - OOPS!
Do you teach? YES! I do when I’m not on speaking tours or on a writing deadline. I’m in it for the love of sharing; I love sharing the idea of self love with others and I love demonstrating the possibility. Recently a lady in my class cried because she finally touched her toes for the first time – that was a fierce loving feeling, man - epic and indescribable. I wanna do It for the larger lads too – so many people are overweight and don’t go to yoga because of it - because they thing it’s only for the super-lean and strong - but yoga is for everyone. I still have a little belly and lots of stretch marks and I’m proud to go shirtless and show these notches on my journey of self-love.
Other than yoga, what keeps you busy? I own a boutique yoga studio now, which is epic. The rest of the time, I’m writing my books or on a flight somewhere to go share my ideas about angels and spirituality.
What advice would you give to someone stepping onto the mat for the first time? Take it slow, don’t try and copy your neighbour and find a class that’s centered around beginners. There’s nothing wrong with being new – this is an exciting journey.
What challenges or issues have you experienced being a guy who teaches/practices yoga? Not that many, and I feel lucky to be able to say that. Because I already was known for my spiritual work, it made sense to others that I was incorporating yoga into my work. I did once encounter indirect hostility from a local teacher who was talking about me to students we both know, however. I dedicated my practice to them for a week straight – whenever fear or judgment is present it’s a call for love to enter.
What does the BOYS OF YOGA project mean to you? I love BOY and I never dreamed of being asked to join. I’ve been following on Instagram for a while and I love seeing all the wild poses and inspirational posts like everyone else. I feel that there’s something infectious about sharing this practice and I am grateful for the courage within BOYS OF YOGA to take this amazing energy far and wide. For me success for one guy in yoga is success for all guys in yoga. WE ARE ONE. #LAD
If you could spend some time hanging out with some of the other BOYS, who would it be, and why? Adam is my yoga man crush – his pictures are incredible. Jambo – LOVE THAT MAN. He’s like an encyclopedia of body-love knowledge. I’m grateful for his positive posts and the anatomy knowledge he shares online. Finally – Michael James Wong (obviously). Without that dude this project wouldn’t be what it is today. I want him to teach me handstands please.
What’s your favourite pose? Can you cue us into it? Side Angle Pose
Standing at the top of your mat and turn to face right. Take your feet wide about one of your legs length apart. With your heels in one line, turn out your right foot to face the short edge of the mat and turn the back foot in slightly, to engage your back leg and quads. With warrior 2 arms and keeping your hips facing the long edge of the mat, sink deep into a lunge on the right leg. Push away with right middle finger, then bring your right elbow lightly on top of your right thigh and sweep your left hand over head. Once you’re there, think of turning your heart to the gods by drawing your left shoulder back and your right shoulder forward. If you’ve got it, push down with the right ball of foot but float and spread the toes. And breathe.
What pose do you fucking hate? Why? Marichyasana D (half lotus bound twist). It’s grizzly and has been the one that’s held me back for YEARS. I also despise standing splits – they just don’t do it for me, feels horrible!
Yoga is... the practice of knowing yourself.
Your quote or mantra: Holy fucking hips!
Interviewed: April 1st, 2016
Photos by @michaeljameswong and property of BOYS OF YOGA LLC