I’m happy to have Max Strom as my guest today. He’s a teacher, speaker, and author is known for inspiring and impacting the lives of his students and has become one of the most respected teachers of personal transformation and yoga worldwide. His methods address the internal, emotional, and spiritual aspects of our life, as well physical healing and health. Max is the author of the fabulous new book, A Life Worth Breathing: A Yoga Master’s handbook of Strength, Grace, and Healing.
Do you think yoga can improve the average person’s life? How? Yes, absolutely. Sports generally isolate the body to strengthen and vitalize it, whereas yoga affects the body and nervous system, and mind. This is done with breath-initiated movement which creates a powerful emotional and mental response. It relaxes, invigorates, and awakens the nervous system. And it also strengthens and vitalizes the body. This is way beyond endorphins – it “re-boots us.” We achieve self-empowerment.
Meditation is not always easy to start. Why should a person should make the effort? Meditation taught poorly can make you feel like a child whose been punished with a “time-out.” This is obviously not what it is meant to be or why it is a practice that has lasted for thousands of years. The first thing we need to observe is that our mind is in turmoil. Our thoughts, memories, planning, grasping creates a kind of mental storm. And after drinking a triple latte and then heading out onto the freeway and listening to depressing news each and every day, it’s no wonder so many people are on anti-anxiety medication.
But your natural state is alert stillness, so to re-learn or remember how to achieve it is not as difficult as you might imagine. Remember when you were a child and you would go outside and stand with your arms out and then spin around and around until you got so dizzy you would fall over laughing? Then you would lie on your back and watch the world spinning around. Well, this is similar to what it may be like when you first try to sit in meditation: The body stops but the busy mind keeps going, spinning around. But with the help of yoga’s breath-initiate movements, the mind is slowed down and can finally come to rest. When this happens you don’t fall asleep, but instead attain that state called alert stillness. The meditation feels extraordinary and takes you even deeper into your true self.
Breathing exercises are a big component of yoga. Can you provide some suggestions on how to use breathing to improve your life? As materially well off as we are here in the United States, too many of us are also chronically living what Henry David Thoreau coined “a life of quiet desperation.” According to John M. Grohol, Psy.D. in the PsychCentral News, in America alone, over 30 million people exist on antidepressants and anti-anxiety drugs. And the ever-growing use of sleep-aid drugs has increased to over 56 million people, according to Denise Gellene with the Los Angeles Times.
To develop the breath is to open the door to transformation. Breathing exercises are one of the only practices that help to get us out of pain on the mental and emotional levels, as well as in our body. The less pain from the past you are holding, the happier you become. The happier you become the more positively you will affect those around you. Using breathing in this way will help bring your life and relationships back into alignment.
What advice do you have for people striving to breathe their way out of stressful situations? Breathe in and out of the chest; expand the ribs as if breathing from your heart center. Do it for at least one minute, preferably 5. You will make better decisions, more soul-based and less fear-based.
Are there any other components that you advise to accompany this work? Yes, self-inquiry. We must ask ourselves questions so that we reveal ourselves to ourselves. For example, you could ask yourself, “What is my code of ethics?” I think most people don’t know. And if you already follow a code, challenge it. For example, do you believe in telling the truth? In all situations? If not, then define some situations where it would be permitted to tell a white lie. Discuss these with your loved ones. Asking life questions of yourself brings you wisdom as well as self-knowledge.
Max Strom says that his book, A Life Worth Breathing, isn’t a book of yoga posture that teaches physical exercises and alignment. It teaches life-alignment, and offers exercises that challenge your perceptions of the world and yourself, that are most likely rooted in fear and pain. It will help anyone who truly wants to undergo personal transformation. Check it out! When you do things to improve your health and life, you say, “I love me!”
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