You’re probably aware of this by now, but there’s whole a lot more to the practice of Yoga than twisting yourself into pretzel shapes on a sticky mat in moisture-wicking pants.
Yoga, a sanskrit word often translated as to yoke or to join, refers to the integration of all parts in to one complete and whole experience.
Yoga can be described as the ability to be fully present- in a state which renowned psychology-researcher Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi calls flow- from moment to moment. Yoga can also be described as the practice of cultivating that presence and learning how to maintain it.
This is one of the powers of the physical practice of yoga asana (the poses)- deliberately putting ourselves into moments of discomfort, challenge, and imbalance in the body gives us a chance to practice that state of ease, non-judgement, and pure presence when we find ourselves experiencing similar difficulties in the mind.
If you can learn to experience that feeling of flow and presence anywhere in your life, you can learn to experience it everywhere in your life. And it’s not an exclusive art. Yoga is at the heart of the human experience.
I recently watched a skateboarding documentary about the living legend skateboarder, John Cardiel, a total California dude by any measure. The film, an epic journey capturing years-worth of concrete face-plants, copious amounts of booze, and various types of drunken bodily elimination followed by howling laughter, isn’t really where you’d expect to find someone talking about yoga. But, in his own totally righteous dude way, that’s pretty much exactly what John Cardiel did.
As it becomes for many people who take to this sport, skateboarding was life for JC (I didn’t make up those initials, folks.) Skating day into night, day after day, was the norm for Cardiel. He and his friends even traveled the world following an obsession to skate unskated parks and pipes.
When an accident left JC paralyzed and doctors told him he’d never walk again, friends and fellow skaters were devastated. They had trouble imagining a John Cardiel that wasn’t flying through the air on a four-wheeled board, setting new records daily.
But JC considered it just a bump in the skate rail -and he’d eaten pavement too many times to let another gnarly concrete happy-meal get him down. True to his fearless and determined reputation, Cardiel incredibly defied the doctors’ prognoses and got himself out of his wheelchair in less than a year.
Now with a permanent limp and poor range of motion in his ankle, walking is still no walk in the park for Cardiel and riding on a skateboard at all is mostly just a memory. Add to this the fact he still sees everything in his environment through the lens of a skater looking for spots to ride, and you might think this would make JC one sad, sad cat- maybe even angry, resentful, self-pitying, or reclusive. And, let’s face it- any of these feelings would be so easy to slip into and would, on some levels, feel completely justified.
But JC hasn’t slipped into any of these things. Friends are amazed at his attitude, his quick proficiency on a bike (his new wheeled beast of choice), and his ability to still have an awesome time no matter what s*** he’s getting into.
In an interview for the documentary, titled “Epicly Later’d”, John Cardiel explains how he’s still able to experience that same deep connection and profound joy that he used to experience on his board. And, while his explanation may be lacking in traditional eloquence, it’s full of heart and- somewhat surprisingly- an amazing explanation of Yoga and the secret to happiness.
“Yeah, dude, I mean it’s all the same, you know, because it’s not necessarily the skateboard itself, or skateboarding; it’s the energy that’s, like, going down at that moment. And you can recreate that, f***in’, you know, playing a game of f***in’ flick football, you know what I mean. We could f***in’ VIBE right now and it’d just be like skating, you know? I mean, straight up, we could get into some s***. We could get a dice game going or something and we’d just be f***in’ “Rrraaaahh!!!”- and it’d be like, that was great! You know what I mean, it was just like a session. You know what I mean? Same vibes. Straight up. And I don’t even trip, whether it be a bike or whatever- it’s just f***in’, the whole gamut- it’s just vibes.”
So, what the f*** is John Cardiel talking about? Presence. Flow. Being willing to experience what is instead of thinking of what isn’t. Being less attached to the vessel of the experience and more present to the experience itself. This is what John Cardiel is talking about. And if you check out his calm, serene, and perfectly focused face in these amazing pictures, you’ll know he’s not just talking s***.
If you want to hear the interview in all it’s glory, this particular excerpt begins at 14:30. Continue watching until the end if you want to hear some closing thoughts on the legendary skater and see some great shots of him “vibing”. (Yeah, duuude.) The full documentary is available here.
Thanks for reading! Share your thoughts and replies in the comments below. – xo