This week we have the pleasure of hearing from Lucas Rockwood. In his own words:
“I’d like to cordially, formally, and officially invite you to change your life—because for me, this is what yoga is all about.
I’m a yoga teacher trainer, a nutritional coach, a vegan chef, and writer. I studied raw food nutrition with Gabriel Cousens at The Tree of Life in Arizona, and later went on to runCaravan of Dreams, New York City’s long-standing, iconic vegetarian restaurant.
First in Los Angeles and New York City, than later in Bangkok and Hong Kong, I studied, taught, and experimented extensively with Bikram Yoga, Hot & Ashtanga Yoga and nutrition until I found certain principals and practices that are simple, effective, and universally applicable.
“With a regular yoga practice, a plant-based diet, and specific nutritional supplements, it’s possible to radically change your state of health in a matter of months.”
I personally lost over 40 lbs using the simple power of yoga and a plant-based diet, and I’ve multiplied my flexibility tenfold using the YOGABODY system for holistic wellness.
“Naturally, we’re lean, limber, and healthy. Yoga, a proper diet, and superfood supplements can help you return to that natural state-quickly!”
In 2006, I co-founded Absolute Yoga & The Love Kitchen, a yoga studio and health food restaurant on Koh Samui island that continues to operate today and is the retreat location for many of my trainings, workshops, and detoxification programs.”
The Slim Is Simple.org Non-Profit Nutrition Education Effort
Jonathan: Hey everybody, Jonathan Bailor back with another bonus Smarter Science of Slim show, and really excited to share today’s guest with you because he is a yoga teacher, trainer, he’s the founder of Yoga Body Fitness as well as the Absolute Yoga Academy which are two of the most trusted names in yoga today. And you know that we here at Calorie Myth and Smarter Science of Slim are huge fans of yoga. In fact, our eccentric training is in many ways described as weighted yoga. And today’s guest has been studying yoga all around the world, he’s taught over 10,000 students internationally, over 1,000 teachers have graduated from his teacher training programs, and he also just has a wonderful message. He’s a wonderful dude with an awesome personality and an awesome passion for helping people live better. So I wanted to make sure to share his wonderful with you today. Lucas Rockwood, welcome to the show, brother!
Lucas: Thanks, Jonathan. Happy to be here.
Jonathan: Well, Lucas, let’s start at the very beginning which is little Lucas and how you went from little Lucas to being the yoga expert that you are today.
Lucas: Yeah, you know, it’s always a funny story, and I have kind of a random story. I just moved out of the house I’ve lived in the longest in my entire life, and I lived there for four (??) years. I have a very, very random, eclectic life and very much recreated myself a number of different times, and this kind of yoga stint is the longest of any of the stints. So I think it’s here to stick. In terms of my background and how I came into yoga, I came into it just the way I think a lot of people do. I always say people usually come to the yoga class not because they want to learn yoga, they come because they want to get away from something else. For me, it was a bod job and bad relationships and unhealthy lifestyle habits, and yoga seemed like a place where I could go and kind of plug in and check in. And for other people that’s a cross-fit gym, for other people that might be some kind of sport or individual team activity. Everybody finds a different thing that works for them. I think for other people, even a spiritual center, a church or a temple will serve (??) that purpose. But for me, and everywhere I went I found these yoga studies, and there were a bunch of kind of weird, nerdy, nonathletic people like me who could kind of hang out and try stuff with our bodies which never usually seemed to work for us. And very, very quickly I lost a ton of weight. I lost about 48, 41, 42 pounds in about six weeks. My clothes were all falling off of me. I was living in New York City at the time. I really, really clearly remember walking down the street. My boss, I shared an office with her on lower Broadway, and I crossed her on the street, and she literally didn’t recognize me. That was how quickly my how whole life changed really. And I was eating differently, I was exercising differently, I was hanging out with different people. And for me, it was really yoga that hit that switch, and I got really, really excited about it. And again, like I said, that switch gets flicked for different people with different things, and maybe it’s [inaudible 00:03:36]. I see a lot of people really getting engaged with that. I see other people doing very technical things like Pilates. I see other people getting into power-lifting and all kinds of other things. But when you find that sort of lifestyle, when living healthy becomes a lifestyle, I think [inaudible 00:03:52] stop obsessing about things. You stop being paranoid. You just start enjoying life and living, and all kinds of opportunities arise. And that’s sort of what happened to me and led me on this international adventure teaching yoga and traveling the world.
Jonathan: Luca, I can absolutely empathize with so many aspects of your story, because I was first drawn to yoga simply because I was doing cross-fit before cross-fit was cross-fit which is just known as being a football player and training exclusively. So I was really, really into football for… it was my entire life. And then I experienced really bad injuries. Tore a hip flexor, blew my knee out three times, all kinds of bad stuff. Had to stop but continued with the type of exercising we were taught to do to train for football. And while I liked the way it made me look, the way it made me feel. I had just chronic lower back pain, and if I bent over at the waist, I literally could get my hand maybe three inches below my knee. But the idea of touching the ground, I had just come to accept I am not a flexible [inaudible 00:05:04] And then, this is going to really make me look bad, but I remember watching this documentary that said part of the things that humans don’t realize is involved in sex appeal is how we walk. Because if you notice when people get older, like quite old, they generally display more stiffness and less fluidity when they move. And the ease with which we move is actually perceived from an animalistic perspective in our brain as like this is a healthy person, this is someone I want to mate with, this is someone who is sexy. So I was like, okay, I’m in pain, so I was like let’s try yoga. I remember picking up a book called Real Men Do Yoga and just started to do it in my bedroom. And it’s been 13 years and at least once a week I do yoga. And I cannot tell you the transformational affects it’s had on my life and my body and my mood. I just love it.
Lucas: It’s an amazing thing. A lot of people want to be given that pill or that magic answer, and I don’t really buy into that. Before I found yoga and it really clicked with my personality and my [inaudible 00:06:17] But before I did yoga, I went to the gym. That made me feel great, too. I used to do crazy cardio, sort of run yourself to the ground workouts, and that was amazing. I ran for as long as I could run until my body didn’t want me to run anymore and just kept getting injured. And so I think it’s whatever it is for you. And a lot of people get caught up on the names or the styles or whatever it is, and so many things can work for people. And there’s people doing styles of yoga I’ve never heard of that they’re just finding so many benefits from. There’s people doing styles of physical fitness that I’ve never would ever have any idea even where they learn it, like parkour and all kinds of different gymnastics techniques that are popping up thanks, in part, to YouTube and the Internet. And I just think when people can plug into that natural, primal, fun nature, it really… using your body, exercising, moving and gaining that agility and flexibility can be — Like you said, it’s the sign of youth, and it makes you feel great, and it leads, naturally, to positive changes. Which is really what we want. Right? We don’t want to force ourself to be healthy. We don’t want to feel like we live forever, we really want to live forever. And I think a lot of [inaudible 00:07:28] sort of feels miserable to people. And when you find something that you really enjoy, I think it just happens naturally.
Jonathan: And yoga is uniquely practical and permanent. Meaning that it’s, at least for me. I don’t care where I am in the world, I don’t care what I do or don’t have at my disposal. I can be sitting in an airport terminal and have been known to start busting out and doing some yoga. And I can anticipate that when I’m in my 80s and 90s and, God willing, my 100s, I can still do yoga. Which is great because, again, thinking football, I love playing football, but you can’t just go get 22 buddies, a bunch of pads and start playing football. Especially when you get hurt doing it. So I also love yoga as just a permanent and complementary and safe, sustainable and scalable complement to any existing fitness routine.
Lucas: It is interesting. It really, really is sustainable. The most advanced yoga practitioners are pretty old guys right now. A lot of them are deep into their 50s, and in the world of athletics, that’s older. And yet it’s not a traditional athletic practice in that you can [inaudible 00:08:40] for doing it properly and safely, it doesn’t degenerate your body the way other things would. And I say that with a grain of salt because I would never want to discourage anybody from doing any form of physical exercise. A lot of yoga teachers want their students to quit running and quit cycling, and I couldn’t think of anything worse that quitting doing something physical that you love. But at the same time it is cool that, first of all, you own it. It’s your practice. You don’t need a gym, you don’t need weights, you don’t need a ski slope. You can take it with you wherever you go. And the second thing is it gets better with age, and you enjoy [inaudible 00:09:15] more and more skilled. There’s the sort of muscular activities and benefits, and there’s the nervous system side of things. And the nervous system side of things, training your nervous system, is really an advanced practice. And that comes with a really consistent practice over time. And you see the benefits of that immediately. They really, really compound with age and time, and after years and years, your ability to focus and balance and do things with your body is really quite remarkable. Especially for guys like me. A lot of guys like me are trying yoga. We’re not athletic by any stretch of the imagination, so for somebody who’s never been able to use their body in any kind of coordinated way to be able to yoga practices at a beyond competent level is an accomplishment in and of itself.
Jonathan: Lucas, let’s unpack that a little bit because I think that going to where listeners are at, I think most people understand, for example, things like aerobic exercise can have these global benefits. And things like strength training have these global benefits. But let’s talk about some of the global benefits that are unique to yoga practice.
Lucas: It’s a great question, and it’s one that we’re just starting to learn a lot more about. A lot of my contemporaries and colleagues, they talk a lot about the science of yoga. There’s not really anybody doing the science, which is a shame. But we’re starting to. The whole quantified self movement, and the availability of cheap gizmos that you can strap to your finger and your chest and take your blood. We can learn all kinds of interesting things. And the way in which yoga differs, perhaps, from certain forms of exercise. And I say perhaps because there’s people doing mindful forms of every [inaudible 00:10:54] power-lifting, cycling to whatever. But from a lot of forms of exercise, the real difference is that mind-body integration from breath. So what does that do? Well, on a very measureable, tangible level, it’s stimulates your parasympathetic systems. So it’s calming down your body, it’s reducing your heart rate, it’s lowering all your stress hormones which are associated with everything from weight gain to degenerative illnesses to insomnia to you name it. And so it has this really, really power body-strengthening, body-lengthening impact while at the same time chilling you out which is kind of a remarkable mix. And, again, I wouldn’t want to say that yoga is the only thing that can do that, but yoga is really, really consistently [inaudible 00:11:38] in order for somebody to be lifting or training really, really hard, or if somebody’s an endurance athlete. In order for them to get that same benefit, they need to be doing it on a pretty intelligent level. You can be pretty clueless about yoga and still get those benefits right away, and that’s what’s really cool about it. And that’s what I love about health in general, is its accessibility to everybody. If we look at the three big things we kind of work on in life, it’s usually health, wealth, relationships. Relationships are really hard; wealth is a pretty big struggle for people; but health is something that a lot of people can start feeling exceptionally healthy 24, 48 hours. If you’re really in a bad place, maybe three days from now. You could potentially start feeling amazing. And that’s what I get really excited about. That’s why I love teaching yoga and sharing yoga, empowering people with these at-home tools where they don’t need complex gizmos or really expensive trainers or anything. It’s just hey, here’s some simple movements, here’s some breathing exercises, here’s why it works. And the next phase which I’m really excited about is, hey, let me show you how it works. Let’s measure your heart rate. Let’s measure your heart rate variability. Let’s check fasting blood glucose. Let’s take your body temperature. And let’s see how this is actually effecting you hormonally, chemically. And what this is doing, because I think once people really start to see the benefits, they can break out of this traditional fitness paradigm where they think the only thing that’s good is if they run seven miles a day. Everything else is crap. Or the only thing that’s good is P90X. And running seven miles a day is awesome, and P90X is awesome sometimes for some people. But what’s really, really awesome is when you find the thing that works for you, and it doesn’t break your body, and you love it.
Jonathan: Lucas, that point about a different way to look at fitness, and even a different to look at life is so critical. Because one of the things I love the most — I didn’t actually put these two pieces together until just now, so I so appreciate your helping me make this connection is that yoga is a perfect embodiment of a smarter approach to exercise. Because here’s a very concrete example. Nobody. Could you imagine being, well you have more experience with this. But I can’t imagine someone going to a yoga class and being like all right, guys, in today’s yoga class, our goal is to burn this many calories. Right? And in fact, I’ll bet if you did monitor it — yoga’s benefits are in some ways completely orthogonal to the conventional measure applied to judging whether or not an exercise routine is effective. It’s like a whole other dimension which shows concretely, look, you are not taking this path, this conventional calorie path, yet you are achieving better results. I love that.
Lucas: Yeah, it’s amazing. And it’s a common question. People say is yoga complete, and how many calories does a yoga class burn. And the answer is really complex. For some people it will burn hardly any calories. For other people, they’ll burn 1,000. I have this one guy obsessed with his weight, and he was losing three pounds in a single yoga class. I don’t even know how that’s possible. He’s just sweating it all out I guess. But it’s really irrelevant. It’s all over the place. And what you said is quite true. A lot of people getting the biggest impact are doing some of the gentlest styles of yoga that you could imagine in terms of the complete life transformation, in terms of their physique changing and everything. They’re doing very, very gentle styles of yoga. And lot of it is subtle energies, a lot of it is hormonal balance, a lot of it is just relieving stress, something they’ve never done before. So it’s a really hard thing to measure. The other question that happens a lot is is yoga enough. And I don’t know why, but it seems like we kind of live in the age of the triathlon, and everybody wants to be a triathlete. I want to be a triathlete. That would be great. That would be awesome. But I think we get this idea that not only do we need to be an awesome parent and an awesome husband and an awesome businessman, I also need to run and cycle and swim and kick ass. And it’s like well, I don’t know if you can do all that. If you can, more power to you. Hats off to you. But for a lot of people, I think just doing one thing is totally great, and I don’t feel bad about that. So what happens with yoga, they say is this cardio, is this anaerobic, is this aerobic, what exactly is it. And I think it’s all of the above. And I’ve done the geeky stuff strapping heart monitors on people, and for some people it’s very cardiovascular, for some people it’s not. For some people, they build a lot of lean muscle, for some people they don’t. The one thing, if you were to pick one thing that perhaps is missing from yoga, and this I learned from a personal trainer. I spend a lot of time talking to personal trainers because they ask a lot more challenging questions than yoga teachers do in a lot of cases when it comes to actual quantifiable health. A lot of yoga teachers kind of default to the ethereal which just doesn’t really connect with my, sort of, square brain. But in talking with personal trainers, one of the things that they said is hey, I love yoga. You’re just missing one fundamental functional human strength, and that’s pulling. I never really thought about that. This is a guy named David working at Pure Fitness in Hong Kong. I thought, wow. That’s a really, really, really smart comment. That’s the only smart critique of yoga I’ve ever heard in my life. [inaudible 00:16:57] involve any pulling. So in our normal life, whether we’re a caveman or we’re working on a farm in the midwest or wherever it is. At some given time we would pull, we would have that pull motion. And it is something that is missing from yoga. You have static holds, you have resistant training, but you don’t have any pulling. So other than that, I think yoga is pretty well-rounded, a well-rounded fitness program, functional strength, functional agility. And it’s really, really simple to add that pulling in. We actually created a device called the yoga trapeze. People in fitness centers use things called [inaudible 00:17:33] or jungle gyms, and this is a way to do yoga poses inverted, and you get that missing element, that pulling, which is perhaps one of the only functional movements missing from yoga.
Jonathan: I love the message of complete. Because yoga does strike me as complete, and it strikes me as complete in a whole even broader sense. And you mention being a super parent. And I think yoga is one of the few forms of exercise that is so readily adopted and enjoyed by the whole family. I don’t care how young your child is or how uncoordinated your child is, you can very easily have a family of five get together and enjoy yoga together. Because one of the things I hear, Lucas, about physical activity for a lot of people is they’re working professionals, so they’ve got work and they’ve got family. And if they try to add something else into that mix, it’s coming out of their family time. So if they need to go for a three-hour jog, that’s all well and good, but that’s three hours away from their family. With yoga, it seems like you could bring the whole family onboard.
Lucas: Yeah, it’s a big deal, work-life balance. And I don’t even begin to have an answer to that. And the [inaudible 00:18:45] they don’t have time. It’s 100 percent legit. I mean people don’t have time. But yet I did manage to make time for the past ten years, I’ve had a morning yoga practice. And where does that come from? Well, I don’t know. I mean I don’t own a television, I don’t let my kids watch television, so that gives me a little bit of time. I just kind of miss out on some things. You just make it a priority, really. But in terms of doing it with the family, it is something that kids get into. One thing that I find with kids, if you’re trying to do yoga with kids, the hardest things for kids is the sitting still part. So we always amp it up, and we’ll actually combine traditional fitness to get kids really into it. My daughter’s really into tabata training. She’s nine years old. She’ll put on tabata timers, and we’ll do yoga poses like sun salute, and we’ll do squats and things like that. And she loves that. And working within that time constraint for kids, they really, really like it. Even my 2-year-old, who doesn’t even talk or anything, but he totally gets into the tabata yoga. He hears the 3, 2, 1, and he starts jumping around like crazy. But for kids, for sure, you need to amp it up. Because the sitting still part is a huge, huge challenge for them, and it’s going to be much, much easier for them to sit still after they [inaudible 00:19:57] and got themselves really tired.
Jonathan: I love it Lucas. Well this is obviously just scratching the surface. I mean you have such a wealth of knowledge and insight into the broader picture which I think is critical for folks. So what’s next for you, and where can folks go to learn more about you and your practice?
Lucas: Sure. My big thing, my big project that’s on the cooker right now is for years and years yoga has been this elite thing. It’s been similar to — I always compare golf and sailing. Everybody loves it, but it’s really kind of this thing with people with money and people with lots of excess time and excess money. Classes are 90-minutes long, all in you’re talking about two, two and a half hours, studios are expensive, they’re few and far between, and I really love yoga, and I want to bring yoga to people. So I’ve created this new studio concept and it’s called Yoga Body Fitness, and there’s no gurus, there’s no incense. It’s purely physical-fitness based yoga based on the science of yoga. Based on quantified self and bringing in these really simple measurements of results so people can see what’s happening. And I just opened the kind of the beta studio called , and there’s no gurus, there’s no incense. It’s purely physical-fitness based yoga based on the science of yoga. Based on quantified self and bringing in these really simple measurements of results so people can see what’s happening. And I just opened the kind of the beta studio called Yoga Body Fitness here in Barcelona, and [inaudible 00:21:09] ten years, we’re going to have a thousand of them. That’s kind of my big, crazy goal. In any case, to learn more about that studio, you go to yogabody.es, and for our USA site, if you go to yogabodynaturals.com you can download. We have pose charts and audio classes and all kinds of stuff going on there as well.
Jonathan: And that was yogabodynaturals.com?
Lucas: That’s it. Yeah.
Jonathan: Beautiful. Well, Lucas, thank you so much for all that you’re doing to teach this brilliant practice to the masses. I love that. I love that message because [inaudible 00:21:45] need. There is certainly the one percent that get it, but we’ve got to be of service to the other 99 percent. So I so salute you for doing that and for sharing your time and insight with us today.
Lucas: Happy to help. It was great to chat with you, and I hope to connect with you soon, Jonathan.
Jonathan: Thank you so much, Lucas. And listeners, I hope you enjoyed this wonderful conversation as much as I did. Again, our guest today is the ever-delightful Lucas Rockwood. Please check him out online, and remember this week and every week after; eat smarter, exercise smarter, and live better. Chat with you soon.