Eoin Finn is one of Canada's best loved yogis. In an exclusive interview, Eoin reflects on what yoga means to him, and his view on how the role of the yoga teacher is to inspire, love, and transform.
What led you along the yoga path?
Originally it was the interest in Eastern Philosophy and the inspiration of Joseph Campbell I experienced as a teenager.
When I started university in 1987, my major was philosophy, my minor was comparative religions. When I read the great spiritual books of yoga like the Bhagavad Gita, it really awoke something inside of me.
In my first year of university, when I had the chance to try physical yoga, it spoke to me so much, but was still mellow.
When I moved to Hawaii in the mid 1990's I learned Ashtanga Yoga and this physicality added the missing link to the spiritual practice of yoga that hooked the young, athletic man that I was.
How long were you practising before you trained as a teacher?
I didn't teach for a long time after I started practising. I loved the practice but my sports I loved namely windsurfing and surfing made me so stiff that I never thought that I would ever become a yoga teacher.
Plus I was living on Maui with people who had been teaching yoga for almost longer than I had been alive. They were giants in my mind. How could I compete with them?
Then in 1999 I moved back to Vancouver and there was really not much yoga at all. I couldn't find a class I wanted to go to, so I thought, "if there isn't the type of yoga here I enjoy, why don't I lead some classes?" It was a great gift and I have never looked back.
Which training course did you do and why?
I owe a lot of my early training to a great teacher on Maui, Naida Toraman. Her classes were smaller and we were both very dedicated to the practice.
She was both strict with her alignment and very giving of herself. I assisted her a lot in classes and I learned way more than I ever did in any teacher training.
Still to this day, I believe in the power of assisting and think that the model of taking a teacher's training course and then not seeing the teacher for a long time needs to change. Yoga was traditionally very reliant on the apprenticing approach and I still make this an integral part of the teacher's trainings we offer.
What type of yoga do you teach and what drew you to this style?
This is one of the hardest questions to answer. I have drawn much inspiration from great yoga teachers, from other body mind practices and from my own journey but it doesn't fit neatly into one system.
I am deeply influenced by the teachings of Vijnana Yoga which is a form of yoga taught by Orit Sen Gupta of Israel and Gioia Irwin of Vancouver, but when I trained with them, they didn't have a name for their style.
I have always believed that more than a yoga teacher, I am a Blissologist. Blissology is the art of tuning into the mystical force of love and using it to help us balance out actions that are self-serving and those motivated by kindness and connection to the web of life.
We have an amazing system of alignment and body based wisdom that has evolved with this system.
How do you fit your own practice around your teaching?
I take time to myself, with no distractions and go deep into my practice. I make the time for this daily. If I am travelling to teach or to surf, the practice may be a little shorter, but I just never miss a day. I even practice in airports!
If I don't practice my teaching becomes stale and regurgitated. All we are doing as yoga teachers is sharing what we have learned in our practice with those in our classes.
It is by keeping this passion for evolution alive that makes for inspiring yoga classes.
Sometimes when I don't feel like practicing I remind myself that this is my commitment to make the world a better place and that guides me to my mat.
What do you enjoy about teaching?
I enjoy channelling. I really think to teach well, even though yoga requires a mountain of technical knowledge of bio-mechanics and psychological awareness, ultimately we need to open up to the experience of love.
We need to feel that mystical force and surrender our egos to it. To be a conduit for it. To feel like we are plugging our hearts into this unfathomably deep source and each heart in the room is getting a charge from it. The ripple effect is huge.
What makes a good yoga teacher?
I can only talk to this from a personal point of view. What I mean is the question I can answer is ‘what qualities in a yoga do I enjoy?' There are some classes I don't really feel drawn to go back to that others rave about so I honour the subjectivity of the yoga experience.
I think the most basic skill of a yoga teacher is to have a fundamental background in alignment of the joints. The most powerful and transformative experiences have to do with subtle energies, deep presence and heart wisdom but if people are hurting themselves, you can't make it to this level.
Then there is the skill of pattern recognition. If you can see the pattern in any activity you can transfer the knowledge of how to do something to other people. If you can't see the pattern than the whole experience is like a cacophony and not harmonious music. Nobody can pick up on what you want to share.
With these elemental qualities taken care of, we can get to the paramount quality which is giving people a genuine expression of love. To do this, you have to master two important steps.
One, you have to be present and two, you have to surrender your ego to a force that has guided human beings for thousands of years. It is hard to describe but when you are around someone who lets their heart through when they are teaching, it is intoxicating. The world needs more of it.
Do you think we in 'the West' give enough time and attention to meditation?
No. Not even close. Mostly we work until exhausted and then distract ourselves with physical pleasures and entertainment.
Most people need a few glasses of wine to relax. We are heavy on both the Rajasic and Tamasic Gunas and make little time for Sattva.
I think we need to extend our concept of meditation out of the classical realm of sitting quietly for hours. When our body is at ease, breath is calm and we are truly present, this is the essence of meditation.
Most people set the bar too high and subsequently feel like they can never attain a state of meditation.
How is yoga perceived in the UK now?
I think yoga is still going to become more popular. So many people have taken the dive into the deep end and left the shallows a long time ago. People realize that they feel better and they fill the spiritual void and this has staying power.
We can blow it all, though, if it becomes just another commercial movement. We need to be aware of our intentions for doing yoga and make sure that this great art of curbing excessive desires does not get watered down in our materialistic culture.
Everyone who is the yoga "industry" needs to ask them selves daily about how much of what they are doing is for material or egoistical gain and how much is truly relaying the message of our hearts.
What advice do you have for someone currently training, or considering it as a future career?
Let your heart out, teach what you know and be confident. So many people new to yoga are filled with self doubt because they feel like they can never compare to the older generation of teachers.
But each time you stand up in front of a group of people remind yourself that you are sharing what you truly love in a way that is unique to you. If you love it, you have every reason to be confident about sharing it and other people will surely love it as well.
Think of how many inspiring new bands there are in music. They may not have as many years touring as the Rolling Stones, but there is a lot of freshness and passion that cannot be kept inside.
Find what is in your heart that needs to come out and will kill you if you don't express it. In that there is power.
One of Canada's most popular yoga teachers, Vancouver's Eoin Finn is a Blissologist, Yogi and a Surfer. Strongly advocating a belief in yoga environmentalism and social change, Eoin has been a disciple of Yoga, Eastern and Western philosophy, martial arts and meditation since 1987. He has been teaching yoga for over a decade to thousands of students around the world.