Esak Garcia, international yoga champion and hot yoga teacher extraordinaire, will be at Casa Om August 2-10 for a fun and inspiring clinic. Esak will help serious students of all levels dig more deeply into their personal yoga practice, exploring the joy as well as the challenges. Between workshops in London Esak found time for a quick conversation with blogger Kathryn E. Livingston about the upcoming Jedi Fight Club clinic and his yoga journey.
Q: What is this Jedi Fight Club clinic about and how did you come up with that name?
Esak: It’s a training for yogis who are interested in deepening their practice; it’s sort of a boot camp-style training where we’ll spend the majority of the day doing pretty intense work. The name was playfully given by a friend who attended the clinic several times, and the name stuck. Some people flinch at calling a yoga training a ‘Fight Club’ but the foundational text of Yoga tradition, the Bhagavad-Gita, is the story of a trained soldier being coached by his Higher-Self, or God, to charge forth onto the battlefield. It is a metaphor. A Yoga Fight Club is ultimately a training that prepares each person to take on his or her own ego; it’s not just about physical postures.
Q: Is the clinic for advanced practitioners?
Esak: Not necessarily advanced, but for the student who is serious, and looking for more than just a vacation with a casual yoga class–someone with the intention of deepening his or her yoga practice. But there’s no prerequisite as far as skill or experience. The only requirements are willingness and interest!
Q: How many hours a day will you actually be practicing yoga?
Esak: Between five and six, but it will vary from day to day. We’ll be sure to have plenty of time for breaks to enjoy the beach and great food, and go on a couple of cool excursions in the area. I’ve been going to the Mayan Riviera since I was a teen and I’ve been there with groups a number of times. I know a lot of cool spots– swim holes, beaches, and places to interact with wild life. I have friends there so I know the area very well. I really enjoy bringing groups to this area; it’s my favorite place to have retreats.
Q: You’re very well known in the world of hot yoga. How did you get into the practice?
Esak: I got into yoga through my mom who is a practitioner. I practiced casually in the background of other things from high school through university and several years after. My main interest as far as physical activities were American sports; I played baseball and football in high school and then I got into martial arts pretty seriously for a few years. I did yoga to support those activities. In 2001 I had a shift and I went to teacher training. Since then yoga has really been the center of my livelihood, my passion, my career, and what I do.
Q: How old were you when you started practicing yoga and where did you do your training?
Esak: I was 17 when I began; I trained with Bikram in Los Angles in 2001. I feel that my yoga training has continued every year since then. I pursue mentorship from people with more experience than I, namely Mary Jarvis, but my greatest teacher has been experience and practice. I feel like I have been in some sort of a yoga training ever since I began.
Q: When did you get into competition?
Esak: Competition began in the USA in 2003 and the Jedi Fight Club training that I’m now teaching is the same training that I put myself through while preparing for competition. So Jedi Fight Club started as an outgrowth of my competition experience, but the clinic that I’m offering this summer at Casa Om does not have a competition focus.
Q: Why did competition attract you?
Esak: It was just something that was happening. I was very close to the organizers of the competition; Rajashree Choudhury is the main proponent and advocate of the international competition. When she put the competition together I was really serious about my practice–in love with it. I wanted to support the event and be a part of it. Competition opened up a doorway for me to really deepen my yoga practice and my whole experience of yoga in ways that I could never have foreseen.
Q: What do you hope will be the main take-away for students who attend your Casa Om clinic?
Esak: The tagline, if you will, of my trainings is “change your mind.” Our experience of our physical selves is a reflection or a result of our mental state. To work very deeply with the physical is really the building of a strong mind, or it could be described as an intimate encounter with your thoughts. I’d like to offer people a sort of playground to have that encounter with themselves. And it’s fun! I’d like participants to come away thinking, “Wow, that was so much fun and I spent some time with some really amazing people doing something that I love to do — Yoga!” That’s been my experience at these trainings and that’s why I love doing them so much. We have a lot of fun, and we play yoga all day. It’s a good life!