Close Encounters with Max Strom

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June 16, 2011

I just recently finished reading A Life Worth Breathing by Max Strom. Well, actually, I plowed through the second half of the book in record time in order to finish before attending live workshop sessions with Max at Inner Bliss Yoga in Ohio. I read the book as part of the Twitter Yoga Book Club (#YOBC) and have been tweeting my thoughts while enjoying the tweets of my fellow Twitter yoginis over these past few weeks.

A Life Worth Breathing is full of little nuggets of wisdom aimed at helping us live a meaningful and happy life, and reading the book got me super excited to not only hear Max speak, but also to practice yoga with him live and in person right here in Cleveland, Ohio.

Max encourages note-taking in his sessions and, like a yoga teacher with really awesome verbal cues, makes a point of telling the audience when to write something down. I attended three of the four planned workshops and have to admit, my head was spinning when I left (in a good way, not The Exorcist way). I took a ton of notes and have distilled them down to this Reader’s Digest version of my key takeaways.

1)      Yoga is a breathing system accompanied by movement and postures.

2)      Max Strom can breathe! Holy cow, I’ve never heard a person breathe so beautifully and for such a period of time. It was quite an inspiration. While Max took us through ujjayi breathing exercises, we practiced inhaling and exhaling to a four-count. I had no trouble with the exhale but found (much to my surprise) that my inhale is very shallow. I’m so glad this came to light and now that I’m conscious of it, I will begin the journey to improve it. Next time you are in yoga class moving through asanas, try this exercise and take note of your breathing.

3)      The ego mind is our worst enemy and will not hesitate to rear its ugly head on our yoga mats. Maybe telling you, for example, that you are not a good person if you can’t touch your toes in forward fold. When this happens you need to call on your internal bouncer and kick that ego right off your yoga mat.

4)      Based on all the new technology and medical advances, if we can stay healthy for the next 15 years, we may just have the ability to live decades longer than we thought we ever would. This is a really cool concept but one that also left me wondering how I will ever have enough money set aside for retirement.

5)      We’ve lost the value of having nothing to do. I know this is true for me, as I’m always trying to fill every moment of every day. I think I need to schedule in a little nothing time each and every day.

6)      Killing time is not an option; live as if you only had a few years left to live.

7)      Demand that technology simplify your life, not make it more complicated. Ask yourself, Does this i-[fill in the blank] really help me save time, or is it a total time-suck?

8)      Make a list every day of everything you are grateful for.

9)      Yoga does more than just open our hips. It opens our eyes, our hearts, and our ears. It has an impact on how we live our life, what we eat, with whom we spend our time…it initiates great change in our lives. I guess you could say I am the poster child of yoga initiating great change, having been a stressed-out workaholic VP who somehow morphed into a blissed-out yoga teacher.

10)   How we decide to react to situations and deal with them is the only thing we really have any power over. Are you going to choose to be Norman Negative or Paula Positive?

11)   Teaching yoga is a privilege. I knew this but hearing Max talk about it really hit home. I never really thought about the fact that my students listen to me for 60 minutes. I need to make sure I use this time effectively and use my voice to help them grow in their yoga practice and hopefully convey a message they can take off their yoga mats.

Just to add some perspective to how tall Max is...

My final takeaway is a little embarrassing to admit, but I promised a while back to be honest and confess the silly things I do. I arrived at the workshops with not a minute to spare and was rushing into the studio to find a place for my yoga mat in the already-crowded room. As I reached the door, a very tall man came right up to me, put out his hand, and said hello. The man looked somewhat like Max, but I wasn’t sure because the man in front of me was a lot bigger than the one on the dust cover of the book I held in my hand. Totally surprised by the height and presence of this man, I looked up as I shook his hand and said, “Are you Max?” The man quickly responded with a smile and said yes, he was Max Strom. Then, like a huge dork, I proceeded to say, “Wow, you’re really big.” Thankfully, he just laughed as I backpedaled to explain my comment in light of his headshot on the book cover. So, write this down: If you ever get the chance to meet Max or any well-known author or person you admire, take a deep breath, smile, and try not to say the first absurd thing that spews out of your mouth.

 

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