December’s Yogi of the Month is Bill Eager, a well established yogi and yoga teacher in Kelowna. When I found my way into the yoga world Bill seemed like a legend, he is well know, well revered, and a highly respected teacher. Now haven gotten to know Bill I feel that this is because he is a wonderful teacher but also a great person, truly looking to elevate the yoga in Kelowna and encouraging great teachers to succeed in any way he can. Bill is wise and much to share, make sure you set your mat up in his class.
1 What does yoga mean to you?
What yoga means is multi-faceted and multi-dimensional. Just like me. And, just like everyone I know.
Yoga means stretching and strengthening the body. The heart. The mind. It reaches every part of me.
It means being rooted and grounded and simultaneously interested in moving towards more.
It means a union of opposites. Sometimes those opposites are fierce and sometimes those opposites are a dance of levity and gravity.
Of precision and grace.
It means being stealth like Ninja. It’s having the curiosity of Colombo and Holmes. It’s the hero’s journey of The Wizard of Oz imbued with a ferocious empathy for the emotional / psychological state and feeling tone of every character from Wizard of Oz. And yes. Toto too. Who hasn’t felt these things? Having the stuffing knocked out of you and then, getting much smarter? Vaporizing wickedly toxic entities and living to tell about it? Lacked courage one day and spoke with fearless spontaneity the next? Felt the echo of emptiness in your chest and out of nowhere, be brimming with hope? Lost your way home and then feeling a divine hand lead you back?
It’s all of us.
Yes, yoga means a range of things to me however at the front edge, yoga means celebrating and loving life. It’s being better equipped to meet the rattle and hum in all the messiness, all the joys. Even when there is resistance, (insert suffering here) yoga eventually points me towards a restored wonder of being awake and alive and breathing into this body, this mind and this heart. Yoga means coming home.
Words can be limiting. It’s like trying to describe love.
2 When did you start yoga and how did that come to be?
I started practicing yoga in 2002 and was moved to try it in a class setting after buying a very small book on hatha yoga and trying a few poses at home and my first thought was “well, this feels like something familiar and interesting.” I sought a teacher and signed up for some series sessions with Lisa Frenette – Tuesday nights at the Italian Centre (Lisa taught wherever she could rent space) Makes me sound old, but “back then” I think there was maybe one yoga studio in Kelowna. These were 90 Minute classes of practice and detailed instruction and the following week built on the previous week. The idea was to practice in between at home. Every class, I came away with a remarkable flush of energy, sense of wholeness and well being and a kind of relaxed yet heightened
awareness that felt familiar. Funny thing, these were the very same feelings I experience when I would be climbing or alpine skiing high in the mountains. I thought, “ How is all that possible from this little rubber mat? ” Officially Intrigued.
3 Where and with whom did you study with?
So many gifted teachers. My first serious practices were with Lisa (above) and then Debbie at Anjali Yoga for about 5 years and a good dose of Bikram hot yoga that really snapped me to attention. Curiosity ensued and in 2005 with a desire to deepen my practice, I enrolled in my first yoga teacher training with Don and Amba Stapleton at Nosara Yoga Institute in Costa Rica and although termed “Interdisciplinary” (meaning, what is common to all systems of practice) the underpinnings are deeply rooted in the Kripalu tradition. I returned twice more to complete my 500hour certification.
In 2007 (Venice Beach) I completed a 10-day teacher training with Erich Schiffman who teaches and practices a very original expression of yoga and is a deep influence on my practice and teaching.
Subsequently, I have been very fortunate to study and workshop with Ron Reid, Meenakshi, Rod Stryker, Sarah Powers, Paul Grilley, Martin Kirk, Bernie Clark, Michael Stone and Max Strom as well as many other life altering workshops with a whole cadre of gifted teachers. There is ongoing influence and inspiration from many others whom I continue to practice with and learn from in the Okanagan and in Vancouver.
Of special note, I was privileged to be mentoring the 2009 /2010 Yoga Teacher Training at Trinity Yoga and deeply grateful to Jeff, Sonya and Naresh for offering their tether of support and refinement to my personal and teaching practice.
The beat goes on.
4 What kept you coming back to the mat and has that changed over time?
I am an explorer. I am curious about everything and with yoga, there is a self -perpetuating quality that beckons me – insisting I come back to the mat and check in with life and see what’s going on. How am I feeling? Who’s got the microphone today? Is it the dictator? The communitarian? Or is it that fake- assed wizard behind the curtain? Get him Toto! Good dog.
It’s different every single time. I really don’t know what is going to happen at any level of body / heart / mind or what will be expressed emotionally mentally or physically. It is a fascinating inquiry into the nature of life and the nature of me. Yoga lights up the whole enchilada. What needs attention? What is most resolved and strong and what is uncertain and vulnerable?
For the past 2 years I am well focused on studying and integrating Buddhist wisdom and mindfulness practices. This is especially relevant since there is no question how the state of my mind directly informs the state of my body. I get to notice what I’m like in changing conditions. This is a vast frontier offering gifts of an inward drawn connection that is limitless for cultivating concentration, equanimity and showing up in the flow of life far less distracted. The taste of everything gets more vivid and it is waking me up to my life. Oh the places you’ll go!
What keeps me coming back to the mat?
I am a bit of a yoga geek. As if you didn’t know that.
5) What does yoga bring to your life?
Yoga lets me pause. Yoga lets me soften my heart. Yoga lets me listen.
Yoga brings love. It just does and it can’t help itself. It’s a love machine. A radical self-love already in me and eventually expressed as an everyday awareness – on the mat and off the mat. I get to see, know and feel everything I do in full color and in its full intensity. I am more open and present with family, friends, colleagues, people I do not even know and the whole environment surrounding me more than I have ever been at any other time of my life. I see so clearly now how it’s such a natural expression of our humanity to help others get through.
I see so clearly where I have been such a pack rat of tightly held beliefs, thoughts and old emotional tension, grievances and habitual patterns of tangled up thinking. Now there is a skillfulness gradually emerging towards revealing what was previously concealed and finally, finally releasing and letting go. It began physically with releasing held tension in my body and then moved to the subtler layers: psychological, emotional and spiritual and deeper still. Yoga is healing.
And so the work goes.
6 How has your practice evolved?
I am calmer in the midst of intensity. This is vividly apparent in some of the more dynamic practices I attend. I actually smile as it dials upward.
My inside voice has generally moved from inner critic to benevolent observer. Well not quite a full time resident, but slowly and surely.
Yoga first brought me physical and emotional ease and is most evident in all relationships. In the pause of stillness it presents reminders and questions. What is of greatest importance? Everything is impermanent and life is precious so really, what is of greatest of importance? What am I wasting time on? What am I taking for granted? As in, am I really going to get hung up on this?
I notice I am less quick to judge others and realize that whatever conclusion I am making about them, it is more than 90% possible that what I see right in front of me is not the end of the story. This is pressing pause at it’s best.
On the physical plane I am intrigued with building poses with refined inner and outer alignment where I can feel un-congested and dissolved of unnecessary tension in all physiological, psychological and muscular-skeletal aspects. Building a pose that is supported and stable, full of breath and has a sense of opening and I can viscerally sense the pulse of energy as it floods the body. I am very intrigued with the inter dependence contained within the intricate web of fascia and connective tissues and how simple alignment cues can change a pose from hanging by a thread, to a safe, powerful and sustainable expression.
My practice is evolving from generally favouring stronger practices (Yang – sun practice – flow, vinyasa) – to also exploring quietude and receptive attention. (Yin – moon practice – inclusive of meditation, mantra and pranayama).
I see a relevance and necessity of both and depending on what is needed on a given day, will often combine the two into the same practice. It’s all a work in progress
I am a serious student and will be hopefully for a very long time. Regardless of that seriousness, seems we manage many good laughs along the way. Yes?
Had I not found yoga?
Whaaaaat? I can’t imagine it and when I try my inside voice populates with swear words.
Well, I would probably still be rushing around very distracted trying to get somewhere as fast as possible. There would be perpetual and worsening tension in every part of my body. I would in all likelihood have such fully ingrained habitual / compulsive patterns, I would not be able to see anything clearly. I would for sure have maintained and embedded that edgy quality one experiences in the business world and shows up not very gracefully as a kind of ambitious and negative tension. And no doubt enmeshed in all kinds of carefully crafted coping strategies and energy draining defense mechanisms all in order to be justified and to screen out suffering. I would still have that concentrated crease of tension right between my eyebrows. It’s gone now!
Anyway, this is not a fun question. Just the thought of it exhausts and horrifies me. Please don’t make me think about this anymore.
8 What is your “can’t do without” favorite pose?
May I have 3 ½ poses please?
sukhasana – cobblers or happy pose. Sitting with ease and steadiness. Speaks for itself and can be very challenging after long periods and depending on the fluctuations of the mind.
baddha konasana -butterfly. There is a multiplicity of effects from this pose physically, energetically and emotionally. It is part of my daily practice.
ardha candrasana transitioning to ardha candracapasana. -balancing half moon to balancing half moon variation. There are many openings in these poses and an array of engagement required. I have found an awesomely fun and empowering way to move into it…ask me anytime and I show you.
9 Tell us about an asana you struggle with!!
sirsasana headstand – mind over matter – I am trying to find a place of ease and steadiness and so far it has eluded me. I feel fear in this pose. Probably didn’t help falling over a few times and one such time caused a calamity of human dominoes. Handstand anytime but this one….argh!
I know, patience grasshopper.
10 You inspire so many, who inspires you?
My teacher colleagues… as you know, there are many wonderful teachers right here in our backyard – some in particular who have been especially powerful and inspirational in their teaching. Anyway, in an earlier draft I was naming all of you until I realized the implications of missing someone who does in fact inspire me as a teacher and friend. Therefore, if you are a teacher reading this and I know you from me in your class or you in mine or in class together or busting out poses in a local coffee shop, then you are most definitely on my A list and I am humbly grateful for you being here at this time in my life.
The students. When they show up so deliberately and consistently the way they do. This is Namaste at it’s finest and I am super elated and affirmed when I hear a comment from a student that says and I quote – Email subject line: “Yay for Yoga” Message: “You know what I love about yoga? It’s like hitting the reset button on everything”
And further still, I am hugely inspired and moved by anyone visibly active being in service to causes and purposes that go outside the realm of self –interest. I am really wowed by your sense of resolve and compassionate action.
11 What tips can you offer beginning students for a safe practice?
Try and start slow and feel your way into a practice that fits. There is a great variety to choose from and many, if not all studios offer an introductory offer so you can try out different studios and teachers. You will probably know it when you find it.
Meet yourself where you are. Honor your limits. Take your time. It should feel good in your body. When there’s struggle, always challenge yourself with compassion, care and always feel safe. If you have injuries, stuck-ness or limits in your movements, let your teacher know what’s up.
Keep the flame burning and practice what you learn at home
12 How about guidance for beginning teachers?
Have a home practice.
Everyday, practice some poses. Simple movements combining full -breath and awareness and then gradually add a seated pranayama practice and meditation. Perhaps even mantra. Get the guidance of your teacher for this.
Even if it’s only 6 or 12 minutes in total (24 minutes is optimal, time permitting) the effects are striking. Nothing much else can replace the exponential effect of practicing daily. Encourage yourself to find a place and a time for this necessary refuge. Morning is best pre-anything else if you can manage to carve it out. But anytime will work. (Could even be split morning and pre dinner)
Make it a practice ritual anchored like a rock in the river and everything will eventually flow around to accommodate it. A practice not for public display but something just for you that touches in to your heart, mind and body so that when you do show up for your class, you walk in with the match already struck…yoga sewn into every cell in your body. It’s unmistakable.
Make a plan –maybe even have a theme – review the plan, practice the plan – even if you abandon the plan, better to have had one in the first place.
Tinker with poses, sequences and transitions – find the subtleties. Read any kind of book that expands your vocabulary and find new ways to describe things going on in your class.
2 sided poses – I see this even with some experienced teachers where the second side is shorted. Find a way to time the full number of breaths evenly for both sides.
Plan a class where you repeat certain poses or sequences so the class can feel into it all over again and have a deeper experience now that they have an idea of what it’s all about.
Attend classes. Try someone /someplace new once and awhile.
Have a mentor if possible. A teacher. Check in. See what’s going on.
13 What few steps do you think a yogi can take today to tremendously improve their practice?
Drill down. Find a teacher that will help you do that and practice everything you are learning at home. (see above)
Find time for stillness – for quiet. Notice your energy. Notice how awesome and magnificent it is and in that moment, give yourself a strong dose of genuine gratitude for your life. Find some of the subtler practices that help with calming the nervous system. Work with breath and with watching the breath. Meditate. Notice where your attention is and revel in that sweet moment when you actually realize your attention has been abducted by your thoughts.
From a relaxed place brings access to a deeper intuition, a kind of knowing without knowing. A knowing and discernment that informs what you need to be doing or saying in any given moment. Start to trust your inner most feelings. Once you’ve arrived in that place you may also see something remarkable. You may start to see clearly we are more alike than we are different. You may see and recognize that we all have longing, desire and yearning.
It goes deeper still.
We all want to feel love, be safe and healthy, free from suffering, have ease and be happy. Invoke these things for yourself. Start there and then, dedicate it outwardly towards others. People you know who love and support you and people who have helped you and people you see but don’t know. Then to the ones you are in conflict with (this gets challenging) and lastly, all sentient beings. Find the kindness. Locate the love and let your heart tremble. This stuff works. It will melt those icy lines of separation. It takes time. It’s rich. It’s real and knows more than we do. It’s a practice.
Leaving you now but before that, here’s a perfect compliment to the practice of asana, pranayama and meditation. This is the best mantra ever…please try it for your self. Take a breath in and on the exhale open you mouth and say Wahoooooo!!!
See, you didn’t even hit the mat and you feel better.
And, please mind the flying monkeys.
14 Where are you teaching now and how can we find out more about you?
Trinity Yoga. I teach 3 classes per week at Trinity Yoga.
Saturday: 9AM. I have been teaching this particular class for nearly 8 years. The practice is a moderate to vigorous hatha flow and other stuff.
Thursday 7PM and Saturday at 11AM teaching yin and meditation
You can also find me guest/sub teaching yin and the occasional flow class at Moksha Yoga.
Come to class and you can find out loads more about my practice and other relevant musings and watch for some upcoming workshop offerings.
Email me anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org
Or find me on Facebook email@example.com
My hometown is Vancouver.
I resided 2 years in Whistler and 6 years in Toronto. Talk about opposites. Educated in Marketing and Project Management and living in Kelowna for 17 years.
In addition to teaching yoga, I primarily work in land and Real Estate development. I also provide consulting and facilitation services to other businesses as well as charitable and non- profit organizations.
I have served on many local boards as both a director and a board president. My only current board position is with Bumbershoot Children’s Theater. This is a really great organization now in its sixth season.
In addition to the obvious super natural environment in BC… 2 of my favorite places on the planet are Costa Rica and Nepal. I hope to get to travel soon to India, Indonesia and Equador.
For fun I like to long board (I have a small fleet) surf, downhill ski reasonably fast, X/C Ski, trail run, hike, climb, cycle, play tennis, golf and love, love SUP.
Other stuff I have a tremendously deep appreciation for is all streams of artistic expression. Books, film, live theater, music and visual art. I have dabbled in music, singing, drumming, piano and guitar. I like photography and have also very lightly dabbled in acting and film making.