Interview Of The Week with Brian Coones: The yogi nomad

He was bullied and teased a lot about being overweight in his teens which contributed to a lack of confidence and self-esteem. Then he served in the US army and got injured in Iraq. The physical injury was only the surface. His mental, emotional, and spiritual injury was even deeper. He felt the wounds of war and betrayal to the core of his being. Yoga literally has saved his life in many ways and helped to manage his traumatic experiences. Now, his mission is to inspire others to overcome their own obstacles and trauma, so they can live a wholehearted life filled with compassion. Brian Coones shares his story with Tibloom and tells what he does to the world.

How did your yoga journey start?

I started practicing yoga a little over 11 years ago. I was getting out of the army and I needed something to help to avoid surgery, for the back injuries I sustained in Iraq. I started it for the physical benefits and I quickly recognized the mental and emotional benefits of the practice. I was calmer, more focused, had more manageable symptoms of PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder).

and the hobby led you to becoming a professional yogi?

I had been into yoga for a few years when I did my first yoga teacher training with no intention to teach at all. I did it for myself because I wanted to deepen my practice and work on my trauma. But I already had a clientele, as I was working as a personal trainer, climbing instructor and guide, and ran team building events for companies. They were all interested in doing yoga with me as well, so I just happened to be pulled into yoga teaching. Since then, I have over 3,000 hours of formal education in yoga, Tantra, Ayurveda, meditation, bodywork, anatomy, movement, and working with trauma.

You do another type of yoga, too. The naked yoga.

I got pulled out of my comfort zone into teaching naked yoga with a small group of friends several years ago. That experience led me to look at my relationship with my body and being naked on a deeper level. I started practising alone in my room or out in nature, then photographing it. Taking pictures allowed me to study and look at my body in a new way. It helped me to overcome years of social conditioning around the body, being naked and sexuality. It also helped me to overcome the labels, judgements and shame I was living with to develop a deep wholehearted love and appreciation for my body.

I used to hate my body and myself, especially after Iraq. I remember waking up every day with hatred and anger towards my body, feeling like it wasn’t good enough or that I was weak, and I didn’t take care of it like I do now. When I was a teen I was much heavier, 240lbs at my heaviest compared to 165 now. I was carrying around so much hurt and anger that my physical body experienced that pain. My practice taught me to love and take care of myself better and it opened up so much inside of me. We hold unto the unresolved corpses of our past dragging and carrying the shame and hurt others have projected unto us. Learning to love yourself wholeheartedly and unconditionally allows you to live a life where we project compassion and vulnerability as a strength, rather than shame and judgment. When you truly deeply love yourself inside and out, it frees you from the labels and judgments that others throw on us; allowing us to understand that they are just projecting their own hurt and shame onto us. When we realize that we no longer are bothered by the judgements because they are not the truth, this gives us the ability to respond with compassion as well, instead of anger. It gives us the ability to break the cycles of shame and trauma by being different. Loving your body is so much deeper than just loving your body. Our body does so much for us. It is the house of our hearts, minds, emotions; it is where our spirit lives. Loving yourself starts with the body you live in, with what we can see, touch and experience. Opening up to this particular layer allows us to go deeper into the rest, within the body.

Do you think finding self-healing in yoga makes it so popular?

Yoga has become more and more popular because these practices are still around, after thousands of years. They have withstood the test of time because they work. We are finding out in Western culture that so many of the things experts tell us work, in fact, don’t work at all; causing more harm than good. Yoga is a system that teaches us to take care of our body, mind, emotions, and spirit; it forces us to look into the mirror and accept that the reflection we see is a culmination of our life choices. If you don’t like the reflection, the only person that can change it is you, and yoga empowers us to do so.

Yoga works on a physical, mental, and spiritual level. I personally really don’t know where I would be or who I would be if I had not found yoga. Physically, it has helped to heal from my many injuries. It has helped to create a strong, flexible, functional body. I have avoided back surgery for 10 years and hope to avoid it for the rest of my life. Mentally, it has helped me to learn to live with PTSD without the use of medications. I still experience the symptoms of PTSD, however it does not control my life. It has brought balance and stability to me as a person and in my life. Spiritually I am very connected to spirit and have developed a deeper relationship with nature, the spirits of the planet and universe. Yoga has taught me how to have a relationship with the Divine and to recognize the Divine in all.

I see you have a lot to teach and share and you can really help because you’ve been through a lot…

I do what I love and love what I do. I live and share my passions with others. I teach many forms of yoga: hatha, vinyasa, yin, tantra yoga, yoga for PTSD and trauma, acro yoga and slackline yoga. I am also a Rolfer (1), and do Thai yoga bodywork. I have training in NLP (neuro-linguistic programming) (2) and EFT (emotion freedom technique) that I incorporate into sessions. I travel all over the world and teach, 24 countries so far. I am also a professional adventurer. I teach rock climbing, outdoor survival, and go on many adventures, from whitewater rafting to snowboarding.

I am currently working with my friend David Hanan’s non-profit organization, The Travel Proxy. As a professional videographer, David takes adventure footage, edits and uploads it to virtual reality headsets. These headsets are then taken to children’s hospitals, hospices and other similar places so that people who are unable to go outside can have a virtual reality adventure experience.

Currently I am not teaching as much as I would like, as I am using my GI Bill (benefits help you pay for college) from the army and going back to university; furthering my education in yoga, tantra, psychology and working with trauma. I will continue my education over the next three years, and in-between semesters I will be travelling and teaching around the world. My big plan is to partner with a few other people to buy a large property, and establish a permaculture healing and adventure center.

I love helping and serving other people; teaching and empowering them to live their best lives, to love themselves and others. I love that I get to make a positive difference in people’s lives.

If you want to see a difference in this world, the difference starts with each of us. It begins with how we treat ourselves and each other. So, that means being conscious and present in the given moment.

Last but not least, what would be your advice to someone who wants to start yoga?

Find a local class and support your local yoga teachers. If you can’t find a local class then there are plenty of online options. Find an online class with a less-known instructor, rather than famous teachers on large platforms. Start with a beginner level class at least twice a week. Be patient and kind to yourself during the process. Yoga is not just a physical practice, it is much deeper and will open things up inside of you if you allow it.

(1) Rolfer: Rolfing practitioners massage the muscles and fascia all over the body. Their goal is to fix your posture and structure so the body will correct any lingering imbalances that cause pain. Source: Healthline

(2) NLP: neuro-linguistic programming is an approach to communication, personal development, and psychotherapy. More widely, it has been applied as a therapy for psychological disorders, including phobias, depression, anxiety disorders, post-traumatic stress disorders. Source: Medical News Today

You can find Brian on Instagram @flyinwithbrian

Thumbnail image by Erick  Monterossa, image bellow by Peter Grant 

brian inside.jpg

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