My Journey From Damaged Athlete to Yoga Teacher
I thought my story might be beneficial to people unsure of the power of a steady yoga practice. Back in ’78…… Yeah ’78, I started my first serious sport, basketball. By ’84 I was the top recruit from Burlington, Ontario. I played University and City All-Star, but knew that I had taken it as far as I could. So I switched all my focus to beach volleyball and in a couple years I was playing on the Labatt’s Pro Beach Volleyball tour. Needless to say all the jumping took its toll on my knees and lower back! I spent a lot of time in the gym lifting weights, but never focused on stretching.
Winter’s were tough in Ontario and I really despised them, until my friend Stefan took me snowboarding!
I moved to Whistler 6 months later where I absolutely fell in love with everything snowboarding had to offer. We played basketball and volleyball in the summer, but my entire focus was snowboarding ; living in Whistler is, “all extreme”!!
After riding 100+ days a year for 5 years my body was wrecked! To date I’ve broken 9 bones and had 4 surgeries.
My left femur break was the catalyst for leaving Whistler. With my knees, hips, and back messed up, I moved to Vancouver. I joined a great gym and a dance studio. My body slowly transformed but I still didn’t focus on flexibility. I have had many friends mentioned yoga to me and one of the pro snowboarders Martin Gallant, did yoga every morning and he’s still at it! He’s had sponsors for over 20 years and still rides, mountain bikes, and surfs at a high level…. I saw the power of yoga.
So on my 40th birthday I took my first yoga class. It was really embarrassing but at the end of the class I was hooked. It took me 3 years to sit crossed legged, but every class I noticed improvements. I was taking 1-3 classes a week, and about a year into it, the teacher didn’t show up. So I said, “ I’ve been practicing at home….. Would you like me to guide me through my practice?” The other students said, “Sure, we came here for a good stretch!”
Then shortly after that my friend Josh, came in to teach a class and he said, “I’m the most un-flexible yoga teacher you will ever meet.” It was the best thing I could have heard, as I realized that you don’t have to be a Master to teach. You just need to be passionate about the process…… And that I was!
My next step was to find a Teacher Training that resonated with me. My tattooist Steve Moore www.getmooretattoos.com took me to Eoin Finn’s class at Kit’s House.
I had found my teacher!! I got my teaching chops at Kitsilano Workout, where I taught Power Yoga, Hip Hop, and a fusion I called Yoga Dance Mix.
Since then I have added One Yoga for the People, Exhale, Chopra Yoga Center, YYoga, and Stretch to my resume. I am also running workshops, retreats, and making beautiful custom RAD yoga bags.
Teaching full time is a very physical but incredible experience. It reminds me of my team sport days, when the room’s energy is electric, and everyone is practicing with passion!! It’s really incredible when some days you show up for class, and you are down and sore and the students pick you up, and you leave feeling amazing. Everyone is a teacher and a student.
It’s truly amazing how diverse the Vancouver yoga community is! I tend to be more drawn to the more powerful and playful side of yoga. I take a lot of inspiration from Ryan Leier, Dustin Fruson, and Danny Paradise with their Ashtanga backrounds. Eoin studied Ashtanga as well, but he added a surfer vibe to his classes which really drew me in.
I’ve also trained and practiced with Christine Price-Clark, Natalie Rousseau, Sjanie McInnis and Suzanne Slocum-Gori.
I love to remix the styles and add creative flows to my power classes! Keeping it challenging, but also keeping it fresh and fun! I teach Power, Flow, Yin, and The Rocket.
Many times I have pushed too hard and caused setbacks. For the A-type athlete, sometimes just slowing down and taking the “yin” approach is really what’s necessary (as I learned from taking my Yin Teacher Training with Jolene Bayda).
The “long hold” yin practice, has done wonders for moving around all my scar tissue. Slava Goloubov said in class one day, “How you do anything, is how you do everything!” That really resonated with me and seemed to quiet my mind allowing me to focus on my healing breath.
My Physiotherapist Sharon Spinder is untwisting my hips from years of standing sideways on a snowboard, and her IMS treatments have released my tight lower back from heavy weightlifting. But as the years roll on my practice keeps improving!! When my back is too inflamed I focus on my hips. The practice has made me so tuned into my body now.
'Less ego, more compassion'
We have our good days and our bad, but the most important thing is to make time to be on your mat. Over time it’s amazing what you can accomplish, if you keep consistent…. Nothing has to happen yesterday.
While Danny Paradise was doing an incredibly long arm balancing sequence, he said…. “It gets easier when you get older!!”
He’s in his 60’s….. I’ve got some work to do!
Practice and Breathe with Balance and Grace…. Less Struggle more Surrender…..Less Ego more Compassion
Facebook: Chris Duggan Yoga