Following the launch of our Kirrawee studio and 17th birthday of BodyMindLife last month, one of our ethical yogi props suppliers AKASHA sat down for a chat on the mat with our founder Phil Goodwin.
Tell us about your yoga journey – how did yoga find you?
It was around 20 years ago. My partner at the time was practising yoga. I was busy drinking beer and smoking cigarettes.
Nic fell completely in love with the practice and went on to complete her yoga teacher training. While she was studying she called me in tears and said she couldn’t go back to her normal job when she returned. I think I realised then that I had to make a lifestyle change or I would lose her.
So I signed up for my first Bikram class. And walked out after half an hour.
It wasn’t the best first experience but was such a shock to my system that I felt a pull to return and try again. My Dad had passed away the year before and I was in a process of change. I went to three or four classes over one week and my body started to respond. I’d been researching the philosophical side of yoga too and suddenly the whole practice appealed to me. And so my journey began.
What inspired you to open BodyMindLife?
I was seeking change. Following my father’s death I left my career in investment banking and decided to launch the studio with Nic who was back as a brand new qualified yoga teacher.
I’d been practising for about six months by then. I’m a tough nut to crack but my whole viewpoint changed. I had surfed my whole life and not only was yoga helping me with but it was also changing my mind. I woke up one day and realised I hadn’t had a cigarette in a month – my body was adjusting to a new paradigm. The studios were about a desire to help others do the same.
What are some of your favourite yoga resources (books, podcasts and docos)?
A profound book is Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahansa Yogananda. And my favourite of all time is Hero of a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell. I also dip into Tim Ferris’ podcasts when I feel like I need some inspiration.
I try to devote as much time as possible to learning about the world and people; I probably spend three hours a day simply researching the motivation for people to do things. I love people’s stories and search high and low for them. Right now I’m studying intently with Dr Barry Morguelan.
Positive journeys always inspire me and this is my drive behind BodyMindLife, too. The studios are about helping people to be the best versions of themselves. I live my own life in this way – in terms of constant observation of myself and how I can do better. BodyMindLife is one of my greatest joy and I feel so grateful to have found yoga, and the spaces we manage today. If you want positive change in every aspect of your life relationships, health, fitness, calm, peaceful, sleep and the list goes on… then the practices at BodyMindLife are the best I have seen.
How do you practice mindfulness off the mat?
Mindfulness off the mat is really simple. It’s just cultivation of awareness. But this is also challenging and it can take a while to master. The destination is the journey.
I work to notice my emotions and how I react. If I’m being mindful, for example, I am aware of when I’m starting to feel angry and then choose how this is expressed – rather than flying off the handle… every moment in life yo have choice. Your either expanding or contracting. Being mindful – I prefer to say aware – allows me to choose to expand in every moment.
For me, this is one of the only jobs we have to do in our lifetime. When we are mindless it’s like walking through treacle. Being mindful impacts the decisions and reactions you make. If you’re not aware of yourself and you’re governed by your emotions, life feels like a constant battle. If you are aware, you can form the appropriate energy and response. You can settle your nervous system and build stronger relationships, and you’ll be happier and healthier. I don’t know any CEO’s today that are not incorporating awareness practices into their daily routines. They do this because its so effective. Jeff Bezos the wealthiest man in human history – the CEO of Amazon – revolves his life around meditation. The great thing is its accessibility for all of us. What makes someone successful is there ability focus their mind. Success is 80% mindset and 20% skill.
How do you motivate yourself to get on the mat on those days where you’re just not feeling it?
Yoga isn’t a question for me. It’s habit. I practice every day. And I think it’s important to understand that yoga is more than the asana practice too. Yoga is a state of mind. I do practices to enhance my state of mind.
I do breathing exercises every day without fail. Learning to breathe for the moment is possibly the most important practice of all.
For me, commitment to yoga can be as little as dropping in just once a week for class. If you come twice, you will notice a positive change. From three times onwards, you’ll start to see some life-changing results.
BodyMindLife launched The Transformation Project to prove this theory. It’s a 30 day programme where students commit to practicing yoga and or Pilates five times a week and to meditate for 10 minutes each day. Last time, participants reported that on average, their physical and mental health improved by an amazing 36%. Yes we measure everything at BML:)
Think of yourself as an energy bank. And you’ve been making withdrawals all your life. You start to practice yoga and then you start making deposits. And these start gaining interest. Putting this energy back into your body means you’ll start to feel the benefits. It doesn’t matter how unfit, unwell or unhappy you are, just making the decision to commit to your health and come a minimum of once a week will make a difference.
What distinguishes BodyMindLife from other studios?
Quality of the experience. It’s the place where teachers come to practice. I’ve travelled around the world to experience other yoga studios and discover best practice, and have worked with our team to find the best yoga teachers and bring them to our studios in Sydney.
Our head of yoga for example, Noelle Connolly, is from USA and has trained with some of the leading instructors of our time. She has transformed how Vinyasa yoga is taught in Australia and brought a level of expertise to our teaching team that I think is unparalleled.
BodyMindLife now has five studios across Sydney – all are unique, beautiful spaces. How do you create this calm and peaceful energy?
My beautiful wife and architect Ferique is behind each studio space. Her background is in creating healing spaces and there’s an intent behind each studio to make people feel like they’ve come home. We use sacred geometry to align the physical and the metaphysical within a space. The process and result create spaces that heal just being being in them, we are clear about our intent for the spaces and we really do care about every single touchpoint our students have with us.
Studio aesthetics aside though, our teachers are part of our community too. They practice at BodyMindLife as well as lead classes. There’s a vision of inclusivity at BodyMindLife, rather than exclusivity.
Do you see props as a valuable tool in yoga?
Absolutely. There’s a myth that props are only for beginners or students who are unable to advance in a pose. This is so far from the truth. An advanced yogi is someone who is attuned to their body – who understands what it needs and then moves and responds. Instead of struggling in a pose, props allow us to move with more grace and feel the pose in a more aligned way. This is yoga.
A prop can open up a whole new aspect to your yoga practice. Blocks work to bring the floor closer to your body which allows for more stability. A strap makes your arms twice as long and a bolster is the most amazing way to take Savasana to another level.
BodyMindLife has a beautiful curated selection of yoga products. How do you go about selecting suppliers?
Ethical, sustainable and local. That’s our mantra. We’re honoured to be able to support brands such as AKASHA that share this same vision.
What to you want people to take away with them after class?
When our students walk out our doors, I want them to feel more comfortable in their own skin. To feel lighter, more at peace and energised.
If I had one more wish, it would be for students to be able to take what they learn in our studios into their lives off the mat. I want someone to remember to take three long, slow breaths when they’re stressed at home or in a meeting, and to be more aware of their emotions and how they choose to react.