Autobiography of a ‘Yogibanker’

Name: Scott Robinson
Location: London, UK
Occupation: Banker and Yogi, aka ‘Yogibanker’

Scott Robinson side angle London.JPGThe ‘yogibanker’ was born in a yoga studio in Notting Hill, London in April, 2012. In preparation for my first career change on a 15-year working holiday to the UK, the idea of ‘managing stress’ seemed too good to refuse. It took a while I must say, until yoga became part of my regular routine.

My first ever yoga class was with a lady by the name of Julia. She encouraged me to continue with my practice, despite the initial resistance that I hopelessly displayed, so much so that she encouraged me to follow her to an art gallery turned yoga studio called Debut.

I look back at my yoga practice at Debut with much fondnessasana surrounded by contemporary, abstract art became a unique and interesting practice. Deep into the practice, I often found myself gazing at a particular piece, so much so that I ended up buying some of them afterwards. The art gallery owner was clearly onto something.

From there, my practice progressed in leaps and bounds, to a proper studio, the Life Centre. After trying many different styles and teachers, I settled on my practice and one teacher and became a ‘yogi groupie,’ only going to his classes. Perhaps I became a ‘yoga snob.’

But, above all, it was two yoga retreats over Christmas in 2012 and 2013, that deeply ingrained in me the practice of yoga. The first retreat was at Suryalila Retreat Center, an olive farm converted into a world-class yoga retreat centre, approximately an hour from Seville, Spain where I met the lovely and inspirational Vidya Heisel. Since that retreat, I have been determined to return there one day to complete my yoga teacher training.

The second retreat was in a beautiful retreat centre, La Serranía, in the north of Mallorca, Spain,where I met my lovely girlfriend.

Having built up my knowledge and practice, like every good yogi who has learned in the West, it was time to introduce and bring such techniques to the corporate world. I quickly learnt that the techniques and practices that a ‘yogibanker’ has are very powerful—perfectly balancing the competing demands of the workplace, all in the name of ‘sealing the deal.’

My regular asana practice before work has been nothing less than transformational. It’s like flicking on a switch as the subtle energies within my body come to life, leaving me feeling refreshed and focused. It’s no surprise that ‘Warrior II’ is my favourite pose, the steady focus that it brings as I stare down the length of my arms through my fingers,  visualising the deal at hand. In a time-poor environment where the opportunity to get away and spend time on the treadmill during hectic days is virtually non-existent, that half an hour before work with my YogaGlo (an online yoga platform) is a lifesaver.

Scott Robinson yoga tropics.jpgEven simply applying ujjayi breathing, a conscious effort to slow down the passage of air in order to induce calmness and inner strength, is a tool that we all have, here and now. The many techniques of yogic breathing have saved me many a time, especially when I’m having to deal with powerful bankers, as if I’m the matador with his capote, gently managing the flow of the conversation in a way that makes me feel totally in control.

Being ‘cool, calm and collected’ are also the traits of a successful manager. Inspired by Buddha’s teachings, having the realisation that anger is a mere ‘delusion’ of the mind helps me to become more mindful when managing conflict and making decisions.

The culmination of all these methods and practices was revealed publicly in July, 2016 for the first time in Balance magazine. A brave first step, but one that is necessary in order to be a ‘pilgrim’to show others that there is a different path that one can take in order to reach his or her own salvation in the corporate world.

Indeed, the very path that the ‘yogibanker’ treads is full of dichotomies and apparent inconsistencies. If we look around in life, we also see so many things that are diametrically opposite to each other: light and dark, black and white, love and hatred, God and the devil…being a yogi in investment banking feels to me like something similar, too.

However, if we really acknowledge ourselves and accept that this is who we are, and the role that we play, we can find a waya path that brings these two areas together, in balance and harmony.

To think that years ago I was in a completely different space…the transformation has been nothing less than remarkable. I thank many people such as Amanda Falkson, Maggie Richards, Satish Kumar, my lovely partner, Susanne, and many others for their inspiration and kindness in helping me on this path.

“When wealth is lost, you have lost a little, when health is lost, you have lost something of more consequence; but when peace of mind is lost, you have lost the highest treasure.” – Sri Paramahansa Yogananda

Scott Robinson bio.jpg

Scott Robinson, aka ‘Yogibanker’ works in the financial industry in the City of London and is an avid yogi. Scott’s mission is to share with the corporate world the practice of yoga and all its amazing benefits. He passionately believes that the secret to professional success is to lead a healthy, balanced lifestyle (including lots of yoga!). He also wishes to speak for the ‘silent majority’ of people that work in financial services and who are ordinary people living simple, holistic lives. Follow Scott on Facebook here and on Twitter @yogibanker1.


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I Ain’t No Expert…

Name: Emma Todd
Location: Sunshine Coast, Australia
Occupation: Artist, Mama and Student

Emma Todd raysMy new neighbour is a yoga teacher, “or almost,” she says, with laughter shining from her being. I could not only see the sound, but I could feel it in every atom of me, the moment she threw her head back and laughed. Looking back I realise that was when I was first hit by her invisible positive power … her yoga rays. I’ve been infected ever since that moment.

Not that I’m any stranger to yoga. For over 20 years now, I’ve been a haphazard practitioner of Sun Salutations and other asanas featured in magazines I’ve happened to flick through in various waiting rooms. These gorgeous, glossy pages would magically find their way into my bag and have become a little worn and creased and faded, like me. The pages remained in my possession like talismans even though the asanas are memorised by my body and soul. Extended periods of disciplined practice, when I swore to yoga like a new love that this could and would not ever end (because it felt so darn good), were followed by long bouts of yoga droughts where the only practices were hedonism and procrastination in all things. Eventually, with a flabby mind, I shyly hobbled or skulked back to my mat and breathed through each position with love and acceptance and surrender—and always, yes always, within a day or two, I wondered where on this Earth I’d been.

Something mysterious happens the moment I step onto my mat, even when I feel a little tired or uninspired. But every time I finish, I am awake, renewed, and present again. Perhaps the times when yoga disappears from my life in the physical form are just as important and necessary as when it is present, like yin and yang, light and shade, sweet and sour. I can never appreciate something fully till it disappears; I can never see something properly when it’s always the same. Balance has been a dance on a tightrope, filled with high drama, danger, and safety at some point off in the distance. If only I could get there. I’ve come to long for some gentle and sustained harmony, just as I begin to redefine what freedom is.

Emma Todd balanceSo I guess I don’t know all there is about yoga, and I don’t profess to be an expert or highly skilled at it—but with the likelihood of sounding very, very corny, it makes me want to be a better person.

When I’m breathing, I’m alive. Once I begin yoga again after a hiatus, I realise it’s like I haven’t been breathing at all.

When I was told that I had to stop yoga for a period after surgery on my eye, suddenly, despite being sloth-like in mind and body, I was deeply alarmed that I would never be able to do downward dog again. My, did I protest too much. The idea that I may never practice yoga again EVER was inconceivable. I realised how profoundly important yoga is to me and that I needed it in my life.

I guess yoga hasn’t really transformed me. It is transforming me continually, and as time passes and years come and go, I want to embrace yoga more and more. As this slow-moving journey continues, I find I want to go deeper and deeper, not through knowledge gained, but through the greater freeing of my mind—freedom through the physical expression of my body, freedom of my soul through the return to my body, to the return of being present, here and now. Freedom, always, freedom.

A life spent roaming, often fleeing darkness, the promise of hope somewhere new, this time starting over, again and again. The profound dream once had of horses galloping across a broad, unfolding terrain, feeling the earth creating itself, rumbling up through my bare feet, my heart beating hard and fast; feeling the pounding of the earth as the hooves of a hundred brumbies spill out across that wild terrain, mains flying and nostrils flared, getting closer and closer, my ridiculous joy rising with the chorus of their galloping and I long to run with them. I ache to join them running through this place, this world being born, and everything reaches a crescendo of bliss as I experience the beauty of freedom.

“This is freedom,” my soul says, throwing her horse head back and laughing as she runs, her mane flying like kites and I know this is it.

And I don’t know why, but I turn my back on this magnificent scene, and hop into a black plastic garbage bag, with a rectangle cut out for my eyes to see only the clouds in the sky, and I begin to suffocate.

The dream has haunted me. Full of unparalleled bliss and profundity, and a sour ending where I choose to rob myself of breath, I have tried ever since to avoid suffocation, only to seemingly meet my destiny on the path I choose to avoid it. Yet yoga is the path I consciously take now to walk, dance, run in any way to freedom, and it has come from being still and breathing deeply. And it is here I find myself, each day now, breathing, nostrils flaring as I arch my head back and my hair falls down my back and I search for that place in my dream, and occasionally I think I glimpse it.

I choose to hop out of that plastic bag and run with all the wild horses.

 

Emma Todd bio photoEmma Todd lives with her daughter near the ocean where every sense is magnified. Although flirting non-committally with yoga since she was a teenager, last year saw her having to confront her eye health head on and undergo major eye surgery to attempt to stop further loss of sight. A bridge she never wished to cross, ultimately it has been a beautiful awakening that has set her firmly on the path of continuing self-awareness and taking care of her health and well-being. Yoga is now an established part of Emma’s work-in-progress life. Emma is dedicating herself now to her art, wishing to “inspire creatively and be creatively inspired,” as well as commencing the journey to become a Hawaiian Massage practitioner this year. You can find Emma and her art here: https://www.facebook.com/boheme.em.

 

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Ageless

Name: Nick Montoya
Location: Scottsdale, Arizona, USA
Occupation: Yoga Teacher, Corporate Trainer, Author, Speaker & Father.

I returned to Arizona a year ago and the question I got asked most often was, “What happened to you? You look a lot younger.” The short answer was “yoga.” A little more conversation and they understood that my life underwent a major transformation and I was now the happiest and healthiest I had ever been. By the end of the conversation they would say, “I need that in my life. Can you help me?”

prescription bottles

Photo by Flickr user nirbhao.

In February of 2009, I woke up one morning and could not walk. The back and leg pain that I had been dealing with for a few years suddenly got worse. Lying there, I reflected on how my health had gotten to where it was. It was gradual over the years and the medicine cabinet full of prescribed medications was the result of treating the symptoms and not the source. My doctor referred to me as a “walking time bomb.” My total cholesterol level was 230 and my blood pressure was 180/98. Migraines or unbearable headaches were an everyday occurrence. I had no energy and felt the weight of the world upon me.

No one, not even my three daughters knew the gravity of these health issues, as I held to my Hispanic/Latino perception of machismo – that I am a strong man and can handle anything. I should be able to handle a divorce from a 24-year marriage; and handle being solely responsible for the care and welfare of my three daughters; and handle my job as a senior manager at Intel Corporation where I had enjoyed a successful 27-year career; and handle the publication of a book I wrote; and handle the care of our horses; and handle leadership positions within several Hispanic-based Sacramento community organizations. I did handle everything, some say perfectly. However, underneath, my health was crumbling. The time bomb was going to explode at any time.

When I woke up that morning in early 2009 and could not walk, I soon found myself under the care of the Chief of Staff of Pain Management at UC Davis Medical Center. The diagnosis was extrusions in L4/L5. He suggested to first try a series of steroid epidurals to see if those would be effective in “loosening things up.”

My eldest daughter Giana, 23 at the time, drove me to the hospital for that first surgical procedure. On the way home, she pulled over to the side of the road, turned the engine off and stated that she would not drive one inch further until I promised her I would go to a yoga class. Giana had been practicing yoga for a couple of years and had been bugging me to give it a try. I had refused, thinking that yoga was for “sissies.” I did promise and fulfilled the commitment a few days later when the epidural seemed to take effect.

Nick Montoya tree poseThat first yoga class was mind-blowing. It was one of the most physically and mentally challenging things I had ever experienced. I sweated more than I had ever sweated in my life, and it was not a hot yoga class. As I was walking to my car I realized I felt better than I had in a long time. I went back for more. I kept feeling better and had lots more energy.

Within six months I had lost 50 pounds and was able to get off of all medication. My total cholesterol level dropped to a healthy level of 152. I no longer got migraines and headaches were at a minimum. My back and leg pain were greatly reduced and it was no longer an inhibitor to any activity. It was not necessary to return to UC Davis Medical Center for the remaining two steroid epidurals. My doctors were amazed.

I wanted to learn more about this ancient practice and my philosophy of accelerated learning is this: if you want to learn something, learn how to teach it. So I enrolled in a 250-hour teacher training program and within one year from taking my first yoga class ever, I began teaching five classes per week. I soon found myself as a role model and inspiration for other middle-aged people that needed to improve their health. I was also able to integrate life experiences, concepts from my book and years of leadership training into step-by-step programs – helping people in their transformation to a healthier lifestyle.

Nick Montoya side plankOnce I started teaching yoga, I found myself at another crossroads: Do I finish my career in the corporate world or do I make a significant change and become a full-time yoga teacher? After a lot of reflection, prayer, and meditation, I decided to leave the corporate world and become a world-class yoga teacher, adopting a new mission for my life: help people get healthy.

My first stop was my home state of Arizona to spend time with my parents and to see what I could do to help my Mom feel better. She was managing several chronic pain issues and her health was continuing to decline, despite a cabinet full of prescribed medications. Within four months of practicing yoga breathing techniques, the doctor took her off oxygen. Through a daily chair yoga routine, she has lost weight, increased her strength, and was able to reduce daily medications from ten to three. My Dad takes my power classes and at 83 is stronger than most students half his age.

There are now three generations of Montoyas practicing yoga. Besides my parents, all three daughters practice. The eldest daughter has gone on to become a teacher herself and has combined yoga and Latin dancing into a program, based in Florida, called Shiva Latina.

Today, I teach ten yoga classes per week at the Blissful Yoga Studios based in Scottsdale, Arizona. I conduct lifestyle transformation workshops and retreats, guest-teach in any city I visit and am the teacher featured in a new unique 4-DVD 8-week program for Beginners, called “Ageless Yoga with Nick Montoya.” Thousands of people are now doing “Ageless” and producers are looking to turn this into the “P90X phenomenon” for people 40-plus.

“Ageless” has become a term associated with me. It is not only the name of my yoga programs, it also reflects my physical and mental outlook on life. As I am getting older in age, I am actually getting stronger, more flexible, more balanced, more focused, and have more energy. I am “aging less” and through my teaching, helping others to achieve their own sense of ageless health.

Hey, if I can do it, anyone can!

Nick Montoya bioIn addition to being a Power Vinyasa Yoga teacher, Nick Montoya has enjoyed a successful career as an executive coach, a nationally acclaimed author, consultant, speaker, and expert trainer. After experiencing a dramatic transformation through yoga, Nick reached a crossroads in his life and decided to leave the corporate world to become a full-time yoga teacher. Nick’s wellness programs are produced by Vayu Productions. Nick Montoya can be found on Facebook here and on Twitter @NickMontoya4. Follow The Ageless Program on Facebook here.

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Yoga and Lupus

Name: Katherine Girotti
Location: London, Ontario, Canada
Occupation: Administration Professional and New Yoga Teacher

Photo by Flickr user Andrea Guerra.

I am one of the thousand faces of Lupus. I was diagnosed with Lupus (SLE) over 15 years ago and I have had almost every possible manifestation of Lupus, including: the classic butterfly rash, joint and tissue inflammation, renal failure, pericarditis, ulcers, anemia, pleural effusion, nerve paresis and memory loss. I have lived through two rounds of chemotherapy. It was after this very critical point in my illness, that I was lucky enough to have found yoga. It was then that I decided to change how I was living my life. I quit smoking, changed my diet, I joined a great gym, and have been actively participating in the hot yoga program for over two years.

I rely heavily on my yoga practice for the physical and emotional stability it continues to provide me. Yoga has been an important component in my treatment and greatly alleviates many symptoms of the disease while minimizing the hold Lupus once had on my life. In fact, the benefits have been so extraordinarily positive that I have decided to become an instructor so that I may use my knowledge and experiences to “pay it forward.”

Lupus can affect any gender, race and age. It is an incurable autoimmune disease that can affect any organ at any time. The immune system cannot recognize the difference between its own cells and foreign cells so it will just randomly attack itself (known as a flare), causing inflammation and sometimes serious organ failure. Since each individual’s experience is different, yoga can be tailored to provide very specific relief during any stage of the disease.

My yoga practice has increased my mobility, flexibility and provides pain relief to my sore, inflamed joints when associated with a flare. Yoga relaxes and de-stresses me which can also prevent flares and inhibit disease activity altogether. It also improves my sense of self which has helped me to battle depression symptoms during those times when I get down about my condition. Simply put, yoga keeps me active and feeling positive!

Sadly, my father recently passed away from an autoimmune disease and it gave me a new perspective on life and how it should be lived. Life is too short to delay doing something that you really love and are passionate about. One of my main purposes for wanting to become an instructor is to share yoga with or “pay it forward” to other people suffering with Lupus, Arthritis and other autoimmune diseases, so that they too may benefit, as I have, from practicing yoga. As a volunteer with the Lupus Society, I plan to hold free workshops and classes to educate others on Lupus and yoga. 

Yoga and meditation have allowed me to embrace who I am, to be grateful for everything and everyone in my life, and to accept my disease. It has given me the ability to cope and has provided me inner peace. Practicing yoga has taught me that life no longer needs to be centered on my disease, but instead can be lived with a sense of freedom, meaning, and purpose. 

“The secret of health for both mind and body is not to mourn for the past, nor to worry about the future, but to live the present moment wisely and earnestly.”
-Buddha

Katherine Girotti is a 34-year old yogini living in London, Ontario, Canada. She was diagnosed with Systemic Lupus Erythamatosus when she was just 18 years old. After finding great healing through yoga, Katherine decided to become a yoga teacher so that she could help others struggling with autoimmune disease. Katherine recently completed her 200-hour yoga teacher training course and plans to continue her training next year with a 500-hour teacher training. In the future, she plans to become certified to teach other specialty yoga courses, such as pre/post natal, children’s yoga, yin yoga, and therapeutic yoga.

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