Before we start, I would like to Introduce you to Ari;
Ari is a yoga teacher and co-own Lumi Power Yoga in London; His background is in business, in corporate. He spent 20 years as a management consultant, working around the globe. Then he discovered yoga, initially as a way to deal with burnout, and then he got hooked and got deeper and deeper into it, and eventually it took over.
He is from Finland and grew up on a farm.
Elena: When I was reading about yourself, you were saying that youÔÇÖre an unlikely yogi.
Ari: Unlikely yogi yes! I think thatÔÇÖs right. If you had told me 10 years ago that I would be in thisÔÇª like having this kind of conversation with you, I would have said, ÔÇ£You must be crazy,ÔÇØ it just wasnÔÇÖt in my awareness. I was very focused on climbing the corporate ladder, and very logical, very rational, very driven and successful in that, and I always thought yoga was something a little bit weird. But then, as with many things, I got into yoga through burnout and just hitting barriers in my life; professionally I was hitting walls, I was going through a break- up, I was living in a different country, it all came together, and then someone said, ÔÇ£You should try yoga,ÔÇØ you know, one of those things where your friends say, ÔÇ£You really need something,ÔÇØ and I went, and before I knew it I was practically living at the studio, and it took over.
Elena: Amazing. When do you think was your first flow moment that you can remember?
Ari: I was reflecting on that question, and I can certainly rememberÔÇª When I started yoga, a few months in, I did what was then called a Personal Revolution Bootcamp, it was an intense week of yoga, and I rememberÔÇª I was new to yoga, and about halfway through I just remember this one particular practice where I really felt alive and present, and after the practice I remember just lying in a pool of sweat and just thinking, ÔÇ£IÔÇÖm happy. Everything is just working, everything is good,ÔÇØ and I guessÔÇª I donÔÇÖt know if you call that flow, but that was the first sort of sense of me being complete, complete and full in the moment, like nothing was missing, and that really stands out. Since then thereÔÇÖs been lots of different experiences, but thatÔÇÖs what opened the door I think.
Elena: Listening to this, it sounds like one of the dimensions of Flow, the perception of time disapears. During the practice, you were like, ÔÇ£Wow, what just happened?!ÔÇØ like you mention, ÔÇ£I was covered in sweat and the activity was totally finished, but I didnÔÇÖt realise what was going on during the activity,ÔÇØ ?
Ari: Yeah, thatÔÇÖs right, and since then thereÔÇÖs been many different instances, but I think for me itÔÇÖs actually becoming more aware of what is happening with me. What yoga gives me this awareness and therefore I can probably recognise when I am in a flow and when IÔÇÖm not in a flow; I can put feeling, emotions, words, descriptions, distinctions around it, and I think thatÔÇÖs one of the big tools of yoga.
Elena: Being fully aware and fully present?
Ari: Yes, and being able toÔÇª Flow can be quite conceptual, and it is a concept in a way, but itÔÇÖs also a collection of different things that happened, and in order to see that those are happening, I can feel like you need a different level of awareness to notice whether itÔÇÖs happening or not, and I think thatÔÇÖs what yoga has given me; whether itÔÇÖs me being with my kids, whether itÔÇÖs me practicing yoga, whether itÔÇÖs teaching yoga, whether itÔÇÖs leading trainings.
Elena: I like what youÔÇÖre saying, and I totally feel connected and aligned with that. Because also one of the dimensions of the flow state is to be fully present, fully aware of whatÔÇÖs going on, and yoga, as you say, helps you with that. What would you say helps you to be in that state of full connection and awareness?
Ari: Well, I think actually the way I think of flow is that flow is an outcome and flow happens when a lot of things come into place, and so what helps me get into flow is conscious practice of those things that need to be in place. If I think of yoga practice, itÔÇÖs very simple: the more I come on my mat in a purposeful way and the more I practice the physical practice ÔÇô the more I practice my breath, the more I practice my gaze ÔÇô the more likely it is that I will then enter into a flow. ItÔÇÖs almost like those things have to be in place, because otherwise I will always be caught up in the technicality and in the doing of it, but worrying about ÔÇ£Am I doing this right?ÔÇØ
Elena: Yeah. ThatÔÇÖs another dimension, when the self-talk or self-consciousness disappears when youÔÇÖre fully present thereÔÇÖs no self-talk anymore, thereÔÇÖs no ÔÇ£Am I doing this right? Am I doing this wrong?ÔÇØ or that type of thought.
Ari: ItÔÇÖs kind ofÔÇª I was thinking, flow is notÔÇª It might feel easy in the moment when IÔÇÖm in it, but to get into it thereÔÇÖs a lot of work that goes into it, to be able to be in that state, whatever the activity is. If I think of myself as a parent of two small girls, initially that wasnÔÇÖt a flow, that certainly wasnÔÇÖt a flow; I needed to learn and practice and figure out how things work, and thenÔÇª
Elena: Yes, so itÔÇÖs a process and itÔÇÖs also a choice.
Elena: Obviously you teach many students here in the studio. What advice would you give to them about being aware of the flow state and also how to get into that state? What do you think would be the top three pieces of advice that could help them?
Ari: Well, the first one we already covered, which is just practice; there is no substitute for it. The second one I thinkÔÇª Flow, by definition, itÔÇÖs from somewhere to somewhere, so having an intention for your practice. It might be for that practice in the moment, or it might be for that day or it might be for your life, like something that youÔÇÖre moving towards and consciously creating in your being, in your movement, in your breathing; itÔÇÖs all there. And then thereÔÇÖs maybe a final: there is practice and there is intention, and then thereÔÇÖs something about just surrender, like being able to just let go of anything else and surrendering to what is, not aiming to make it perfect butÔÇª
Elena: When you say surrender, you mean acceptance?
Ari: Yes, it is an acceptance, itÔÇÖs aÔÇª ItÔÇÖs an acceptance that all of these things are happening right now.
Elena: Good advice. You were explaining your trajectory and how you started in the corporate worldand how you ended up here, as a co-founder of the studio. What would you tell to your younger self who was starting in the corporate world?
Ari: I would like to say a couple of things. One isÔÇª Something about trusting my intuition more initially, to making things my own quicker, rather than feeling like I need to follow others or dothings in a certain way. Related to that, what I would say is life is short. DonÔÇÖt waste a second; get clear on what you want and move quicker towards it.
Elena: We were talking before about intention and setting goals, what you want to achieve and where you want to go.
Ari has a very calm and peaceful voice, you transmit a lot of calmness and tranquillity. Do you have any techniques that help to ground you, if youÔÇÖre stressed or youÔÇÖre doing multiple things at the same time? What do you do to calm down or relax?
Ari: Well, for me itÔÇÖs the obvious things: itÔÇÖs getting on my mat, itÔÇÖs practicing, itÔÇÖs breathing and itÔÇÖsmoving. The other thing I do is journaling and just reflecting, setting intentions in the morning, reflecting in the evening. It can be two minutes, it can be five minutes and it doesnÔÇÖt take long, but justÔÇª That helps me get a grip of the day if you like, itÔÇÖs a moment. The final thing I do a lot of is I walk. I know it might sound obvious, but I walk everywhere and alsoÔÇª I sort of walk with purpose. I often listen to something inspirational, something that I can learn from, something that puts me in a good state, and I use every bit of time that I have. So when I walk tonight, when I walk from this studio home, I will have about 10 minutes and IÔÇÖll put something inspirational, I will listen to someone talking to me, giving me something that fills me up and it kind of grounds me inÔÇª ItÔÇÖs kind of inspirational, but itÔÇÖsÔÇª I donÔÇÖt know, it just lifts me up.
Elena: What inspires you?
Ari: IÔÇÖll tell you the main thing that inspires me, and itÔÇÖs being able to make a difference in peopleÔÇÖs lives. Whether itÔÇÖs just someone coming to a yoga class and just having a 60 minutes time-out from their busy life, just time out, just space, or whether itÔÇÖs theyÔÇÖre going through something and that 60 minutes gives them a new angle on things or whatever it is, but itÔÇÖs just being able to give back what IÔÇÖve gotten from yoga and share that gift of presence, clarity, intention, and that inspires me. Yeah. ThatÔÇÖs what makes me get up in the morning.
Elena: ThatÔÇÖs your purpose?
Ari: Yes, it is.
Elena: I like it. Maybe you use the same techniques, but after long days or long practices or maybe sometimes stressful moments, do you do something to recover? Does yoga give you that recovery, or do you use other methods?
Ari: IÔÇÖm kind of a reflective type, so that helps me recover, my own space; IÔÇÖll quite happily go into a cave for an hour and that helps me recover. The other thing that helps me is being taught or trained or inspired by somebody else, like letting myself be a student and maybe going out todo a workshop or do a training, and getting filled up and recovered in that. Yeah, sometimes you just need to refill.
Elena: I donÔÇÖt know whether youÔÇÖd like to share anything else?
Ari: My teacher is Baron Baptiste and in his book he talks about flow, and thereÔÇÖs a sentence which I wrote down because I thought this was so spot onÔÇª He says, ÔÇ£Yoga is the point where many aspects of a person merge together in one flow towards some new point, the point where many aspects come together in flow towards some new point,ÔÇØ and I thought, ÔÇ£ThatÔÇÖs it.ÔÇØ ItÔÇÖs bringing the physical, mental, spiritual, all of usÔÇª When IÔÇÖm in practice or in flow or wherever, bringing it all together and then moving from there towards a new point. ThatÔÇÖs what we talk to in classes, flow, we call it Viny─üsa and itÔÇÖs one of the pillars of the practice.
ThereÔÇÖs a lot of value in just flowing, like physically moving and flowing, without trying to get it right, like justÔÇª and thereÔÇÖs an energy that comes through in that and thereÔÇÖs a release that can happen that way. The word ÔÇ£flowÔÇØ has so many different meanings, but to me thatÔÇÖs how it manifests itself on the mat.
I started to write down the characteristics of flow: thereÔÇÖs presence and thereÔÇÖs direction, thereÔÇÖs purpose, thereÔÇÖs clarity, body and mind integration. And sometimes itÔÇÖs alsoÔÇª At least for me, flow isÔÇª Sometimes itÔÇÖs imperfect, in the sense that I will go in and out of the flow. So itÔÇÖs not necessarily this unique, blissful state thatÔÇÖs always magical.
Elena: I agree, you cannot be 24/7 in that state, you can go in and out. The more tools you have or the more practice, you will get more into that. And in the end itÔÇÖs a choice, so if you also have that intention at the beginning of the day, you will see it more often.
Ari: Yeah. And itÔÇÖs really being awareÔÇª One thing is practicing on the matÔÇª Where IÔÇÖm doing a lot of work right now is training other teachers and running workshops and being in front of people and leading things, and being able to notice when IÔÇÖm in a flow with that I love that, like having the audience and being able to deliver my message and sensing whatÔÇÖs going on and being in that flow, and itÔÇÖs great to be able to bring tools physically of the practice into that.
ÔÇ£Am I breathing? Are my two feet on the ground? How am I standing? Where is my mindgoing to now? What am I focusing on?ÔÇØ bringing all of those things and being able to see that.
ItÔÇÖs like everything becomes three-dimensional and quite vivid when IÔÇÖm in that state. And then noticing also when I go out of that and I go into the ÔÇ£need to look goodÔÇØ or trying to say things in the right way and then stepping back. I just find it fascinating.
Elena: When was the last time you were in the flow state?
Ari: When I teach, I think thatÔÇÖs where I always look for a flow state. It was when I taught, two days ago.
Elena: ThatÔÇÖs good. Thank you so much!
Ari: Thank you! Good questions.
Thank you Ari for your time and wisdom, see you on the mat.