“Life and death are of supreme importance. Time passes swiftly and opportunity is lost. Let us awaken. Awaken! Do not squander your life.” Dogen.
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We're very excited to welcome yoga teacher, movement artist and personal trainer Michael James Toru Walsh as a Brand Warrior. Based in magnificent Victoria, Canada, Michael has been running Four Body Design since 2015, helping students to create greater health, fitness and purpose in their lives.
1. Tell us about your own story - what's your background and how did your personal experience with a serious illness lead you to yoga?
When I was younger I dealt with a lot of anxiety that was unbeknownst to me at the time. This stress in my body eventually came to a head as a teenager when I developed Ulcerative Colitis, which is an auto-immune disease that effects the large intestine. This diagnosis initially led to a deep depression that allowed the self I thought I was to completely break down. In this state of utter destruction, I was able to rebuild and begin the journey of truly knowing myself. Yoga was the main catalyst to spark this transformation. The movement medicine healed physical and emotional trauma, while it opened me up to a greater purpose for my life.
2.Your Instagram, superhumanjournal, is loaded with amazing stories and reflections on your experiences. How does this writing - and self-expression more generally - fit into your world?
Superhumanjournal is the culmination of all my creative passions. I use it as a platform to express my authentic voice through the medium of body and movement art, writing, photography, and videography. Being able to share my honest reflections of experiencing both the Shadow and Light in my life, allows me to connect to my community in a deeper and more meaningful way. I’ve had so many people reach out to me with appreciation that I share my own vulnerabilities to make them feel safe and not alone in their own.
3.What makes your yoga teaching style unique?
To me yoga teaching is a vehicle to share the movement medicine that I’ve experienced in my own life with others. I utilize movements and postures that clear away stagnant energy to allow the body to open up to a deeper intelligence of healing within. Through this my students are able to discover empowerment and touch a greater purpose for their lives.
4.You write about purpose as a key human motivation. So in your view, how does someone find their own purpose - and how do they best respect it in their life?
In my experience, the discovery of your purpose must start with movement. Purpose is the exploration, creation, and constant refinement of how you can best serve the world through your authentic skill and expression. But before you can get clear on what your purpose is you need to put in place a movement practice – whether this is yoga, running, rock climbing, etc. – that will allow you to move the stale energy from your body and revitalize with fresh insight. To respect your purpose you must walk this path everyday, constantly asking yourself, “How can I best serve myself and others today.”
5.What's your most embarrassing/comical yoga moment?
It was warm summer day and I decided to take my group of high performance swimmers down to the beach to train. We had moved through an empowering and peaceful practice that made the final Savasana extra juicy. While settling in to this final pose, a group of guys with a football tossed their pass wide and the ball came thundering down into the middle of my group. Thankfully no one was hit, but the sound made a few of the girls jump up and scream. Needless to say it didn’t end up being a very relaxing Savasana.
6. You've got a samurai vibe on your website - and a pretty kick-ass dragon tattoo to match...Can you tell us more about the influence of Japanese and/or Asian cultures on your work and philosophy?
The samurai vibe comes from my ancestry of being Half Japanese. Since I was little I’ve had an intense fascination with Japanese culture and its traditions. Especially sushi…I love sushi so much and my grandma makes the best! My grandpa had a samurai helmet in the living room that stoked my curiosity of this ancient warrior class. When I discovered yoga the Warrior postures allowed me to connect with this energy. While my study in Bushido – the Way of the Samurai – has infused itself into my teachings and art.
7. Looking through your social media, we can also see that your partner, Sara Deanne, has a deeply important presence in your life. -Can you tell us a little more about how yoga fits into your relationship?
Sara and I actually went on our first date to a hot yoga studio. It was quite vulnerable to be half-naked and sweaty on our first meeting, yet our yogi hearts wouldn’t have it any other way. Yoga is definitely at the core of our relationship, whether we’re holding hands in Savasana or practicing yogic philosophy to enhance the connection in our relationship.
8. Do many men come to your yoga classes? What advice would you give to any guys who are thinking of taking up yoga?
I do have a few men who are regulars at my classes, but there is no doubt the room is dominated by mostly women. Yoga still has many myths and preconceptions surrounding it. I would challenge men to attend a variety of classes in different styles and with different teachers before they write it off. Most men tend to have a lot of rajasic energy, which is full of energy, passion, and activity, so trying a more vigorous style of yoga like Power or Vinyasa might be ideal. This way they can get in some fitness to work the body and feel purposeful (men in particular need this), which will leave them feeling rejuvenated in their mind-body and coming back for more.
9.What is next for you - anything exciting on the horizon?
At the moment my purpose is directed towards growing and evolving as a yoga teacher. I’m currently developing classes and workshops that are infused with the samurai philosophy of Bushido and the heart-centred vibes of my yoga school Blissology. I have also been feeling called to create a health and wellness event called Gutsy Move. The intention to inspire hope and knowledge into those living with autoimmune diseases like Ulcerative Colitis and Crohn’s.
10. Please leave our community of supporters with some Michael James Toru Walsh words of Wisdom’…
“Life and death are of supreme importance. Time passes swiftly and opportunity is lost. Let us awaken. Awaken! Do not squander your life.” This is a quote by the Zen Philosopher Dogen. While not my words they deeply resonate with me to the core of my being. I actually have the last part tattooed on my wrist. In my words, may all beings be happy and free to discover their authentic purpose in this lifetime.
FIND OUT MORE ABOUT MICHAEL HERE