Ella, a writer on our creative team, caught up with global yogi Chris Chavez at his home in Istanbul, Turkey, to ask him more about a phrase he shared during a recent community class in Vancouver which inspired our team and turned into a Yoga Journal ad.
When our graphic designer Steph and I attended Chris Chavez’s packed class at the Vancouver Convention Centre, we weren’t thinking about creating a Yoga Journal ad. I was amazed with Chris’ ability to make a 400-person class feel like a private lesson with 399 of my closest friends, and Steph is still laughing as we watch the video now.
Q: Steph and I couldn’t stop laughing during your class. Don’t you think that yoga should be…serious?
A: I find that the quickest path to a student’s heart is through laughter. If the yoga is working I don’t think we need to take ourselves so seriously.
Q: What does it mean when you say ‘the yoga is working’?
A: If the yoga is working, our heart should be open and we should be less stuck in our head. We should be able to appreciate the diversity of expression in others. I guess that becomes the practice off the mat!
Q: As you joked and called out your many students by name, it became clear how important the relationship between teacher and student is. Can you tell us more?
A: Ultimately, you should be able to find a teacher that you can relate to. If you cannot relate to a teacher, what are you going to learn from them?
Q: Now the million-dollar question: Who is James?
A: James is a longtime student who has trained with me to be a teacher. He teaches yoga in prisons and he is a massive guy, really big and strong. When he comes to practice I like to connect with him because he is such a light spirit and such a big man.
During Handstand, I looked across the room and saw this big mountain of man hurling his legs up into space. If he didn’t keep it tight he was going to take like five people out around him. In that moment my words came out like that because they had to. When I teach, my main job is to get out of the way. I purposely don’t filter what I say because I want it to come from the soul. (Editor’s note: James made it up into handstand without taking anybody out.)
Q: How do you feel about your words being immortalized in our ad and potentially being taken out of context?
A: Yoga teachers are sometimes put on this pedestal where we’re supposed to be a certain way and not say certain things. I don’t believe that the expression of the spirit has to be so serious. I can say some crazy stuff, but in there is genuine love for the students that I serve and my ultimate goal is to inspire them to access their own spirit. And by the way, pole dancers are some of the most awesome yogis I know!
Practice along with a video of Chris’ Vancouver class (and find his handstand instruction between 29:50 and 33:15).