If any yogi needs permission to play her edge, burst open her heart, laugh at herself and feel utterly exhilarated, Adam Whiting‘s class will take her there.
And when his guitar accompanies him into the studio, it’s a sure sign that savasana will be a resonant bath of cell-tingling, soulful sounds.
But as Adam shares here, behind the potency of his gifts lies the story of introversion, a journey from self-hatred to self-love, and the enduring question of what being a yogi even means (quite simply, not being an asshole).
When an introvert opens up: Read Adam’s full, deep, heartfelt interview below.
Being An Introvert
I have always been an introvert. It’s been something I have struggled with my entire life. I would look at people who thrived at the art of small talk, or who could weave through a party speaking to everyone with such admiration. And then I would look at myself like there was something wrong with me for feeling so awkward in so many social situations.
It wasn’t until I was in my thirties that I felt myself getting more comfortable in my own skin and began to truly understand what I need to thrive. I need space. I need silence. And I need to be alone every once in a while to centre, recharge and refocus my energy.
The Fulfilment Yoga Brings
With all of that being said, there is the opposite side of the coin. When I became a first-hand witness of the power of yoga and the ability of the practice to truly save lives, I knew that it was something that I had to share in any way that I could. I feel at home in a yoga studio, or on retreat, or leading a teacher training.
But as with all things, there needs to be balance. I need to counter the output of energy that goes in to teaching with some quiet reflection and a good cup of coffee. And when my cup is full again, there is nothing in the world that fulfils me as much as talking about yoga with anyone and everyone that will listen to me.
How Sharing Yoga Can Heal
I am currently in Padangbai, Bali leading a vinyasa yoga teacher training. During the foundation setting of the first week, we had evening sessions where we all shared our stories and how the practice of yoga has helped to connect us to a state of healing, of wholeness, and of how it taught us how to maintain a closer relationship with joy.
No matter what the training is, or where we are in the world, we always realise that there are more similarities in our stories than there are differences.
The one conclusion we always come to is that having felt the true potential of the yoga practice, it feels selfish not to share it.
When I am sharing the wisdom of yoga, it feels as though there is a deep river of contentment flowing through me. Sometimes it is a calm hum, sometimes it is a steady electrical buzz, sometimes it is full body chills hovering in the space just before tears. There is a joy that I experience that is like no other feeling, it is the joy of finding connection to purpose, and it is a joy that I hope to give to as many people as I can.
Stagnancy Is The Call To Reconnect
Our physical body will have good days and bad, our emotional body will still move through its states of exaltation and despair, and our levels of inspiration will sometimes be tapped into an endless ocean and sometimes we’ll be left wandering on the surface of the moon.
The peaks and valleys are an intrinsic part of this human experience, but the knowledge that we are that which is steady and still underneath it all is the yoga.
During the times that my cup feels empty or I feel uninspired and stagnant, it is usually a sign that I have become disconnected to the deeper levels of my own practice. More often than not, once I notice that the spark in my teaching is less luminescent, I can recharge by allowing myself stillness and by spending time in nature.
“Ultimately, The Ten Commandments, The Eight-Fold Path, the 8 Limbs of Yoga are trying to say the same thing: Don’t be an asshole. Live an honest and simple life. And don’t harm others. “
Tough Lessons In Self-Love
I never used to have a good relationship with my body. Too many scars, too much of this, not enough of that. Every walk past a mirror drew me towards hatred and disgust.
And when I first found the asana practice, those feelings were directly reflected in how I moved my body. There was a sense of aggression in the way that I moved, the way I pushed myself towards postures and the way that I compared myself to others. Never good enough. Never strong enough. Never open enough.
After a decade of moving through my asana practice with that subtle but steady negative energy, I suffered a spinal injury that required surgery and significant rehab to come back from. As painful as the injury and recovery were, they taught me to slow down and to treat every movement with the care that it deserves.
From not being able to walk more than a few steps without crumbling in agony, I am now able to be truly grateful for the simplicity of movement. Every hike with my dogs, every rock climbing sessions, every handstand and every forward fold have so much more love and gratitude wrapped around them.
My physical yoga practice is now slower, but so much stronger than it ever was. It is a gentle strength, though. A more forgiving and compassionate strength. And it is so much more connected to the heart of the practice.
Accessing Magic Through Music
When I was young, becoming a guitarist was the only thing that I could think of. Every song that I loved drew me into a fantasy of being able to communicate that depth of emotion and heart through my hands and through my songs.
Music that comes from the soul-space without the anchors of desire for commercial or corporate success has the ability to bypass reason and logic and land right in your centre. You can’t avoid the pulls and tugs on your heartstrings and you can’t deny the access it demands from your primal pulse.
Every time I go to live shows, I’m not only drawn in by the music, but also that so many people have come together to share in this experience, to move and sing together in a beautifully tribal way.
Through my music, through my storytelling and through my yoga, I hope to in some way bring people together to connect on a deeper level to those around them and to themselves. I am lucky enough to be working with a good friend to create a new music release that I hope moves people closer to that connection. More details will be released soon, but we are hoping for a late 2018 release.
His Heart’s Call To Leave Sydney
It took me a long time to see Australia as home. It was so far away from everything that I knew. It was so far away from my family. But as unfamiliar as it was, it was equally as breathtaking, and it taught me so much so quickly. It abruptly pulled me out of all of my comfort zones and made me stand face to face with so many of my doubts that I had about myself.
But the energy of Sydney immediately drew me in, and the people that I grew to love and now call family were quick to welcome me into the thriving yoga community.
That city has the ability to plug you right back in to nature at a moment’s notice. The energy of the ocean constantly roaring in your ears, the grounding of the cliffs reaching above tides. I can feel it now even as I sit in Bali writing this on my day off of our Teacher Training.
It was a sweet and painful feeling to leave Sydney three years after moving there and feeling like I was leaving home. It was a hard decision, and one that I didn’t take lightly, but there was a growing chorus in my own head that was telling me that it was time to keep walking down my path.
I sat still for about a year hearing the pull, but not listening to it. It gradually became impossible to ignore and now I’m journeying ahead. I don’t have a home yet back in the US, and I’m hesitating because I’m not sure where the best place to call home is, but I have no doubt that I am where I am supposed to be and that I’ll end up in the right place.
Dogs & Embodying Unconditional Love
When I was in my mid-twenties I felt like all of the pieces were falling into place. I owned a house, I had a girlfriend that I loved and wanted to marry. And we had two dogs. Yet I was miles away from happiness.
I didn’t know who I was or how to be happy, and without the internal happiness that I didn’t find until later in my life, I couldn’t make my partner happy. The relationship ended, I moved out of my house, and I had sole custody of two white fluffy dogs. They are now almost 11 years old and have been by my side through every success, every failure, and every breath in between. They sit with me every morning when I meditate. They lay by my mat when I practice my asana, and they show me pure unhesitating love every time I walk through the door.
Oliver is a big Labradoodle. He is me in dog form. He is loving and he is a goofball. But he is also overly sensitive and gets depressed and anxious when I travel or when things change too quickly. Diesel is a Westie and she is the alpha; tiny and fierce. But she is loyal, and she keeps my feet warm every time I lie down.
These dogs have cost me a not so small fortune. I have moved them around the world, travelled with them across the United States, spent thousands on ultrasounds to monitor Diesel’s heart condition, and even more on MRI’s for Oliver when he started having seizures. But these dogs are my family. They embody what unconditional love truly means, and they teach me how to soften, to slow down, and how to come home – not to a building, but to my family. Human and non-human alike.
The ‘Don’t Be An Asshole’ Yogic Life
In this Teacher Training, we have been weaving our way through the Yamas and the Niyamas, ethical restraints laid out by Patanjali in the Yoga Sutras. As always happens, the conversation always steers towards the questioning of what was meant when the document was written and what it means for modern yogis today. We always steer towards the question, “What is this term, ‘yogi’, and should we throw it around as liberally as we do?”
I never claim to know the answer or to steer the conversation towards my own biases, but it is a question that I often ask myself. Am I living a yogic lifestyle? Am I practicing what I am preaching? I’m a vegan: Check. I overindulge in coffee: Is that an uncheck? I meditate: Check. I am sexually active: Uncheck.
A person can drive themselves crazy placing weights on the scales of yogi-ness to see where they stand. Ultimately, The Ten Commandments, The Eight-Fold Path, the 8 Limbs of Yoga are trying to say the same thing: Don’t be an asshole. Live an honest and simple life. And don’t harm others.
Intention Is Everything
Some modern yogis wear those qualities like a sarong that they can tie around their waists when it suits and let them fall to the ground when it doesn’t. Some modern yogis let it soak down into the marrow of their bones until it becomes non-negotiable. And the rest of us are somewhere on the spectrum of the imperfect in-between.
And for us, it comes down to intention. Which direction are we moving? Are we seeking to be more mindful in our thoughts and actions? Are we trying to rise above the mundane gossip and smallness that consumes so much of our time? Are we committed to making a positive impact on those we come in contact with even when our mood is shit and our temper is short? If so, I don’t care what we call ourselves, but I’m glad to know you and I hope that we can be friends.
When I’m in my heartspace, what I love about myself is…
my ability to help people connect with their purpose and to see themselves as full and complete as they already are.