Born into it
Some people are born to do what it is they do and Tamal Dodge is no exception. He was quite literally born into Yoga. Raised in his family’s ashram in Hawaii, Tamal has been teaching yoga for the last 10 years. With his star on the rise – he has a new DVD out and an appearance at the upcoming Tadasana Festival in April – he was kind enough to take some time out of his busy schedule and answer a few questions for Yoga for Men…
Tamal has been practicing yoga his whole life. Born and raised in his family’s yoga ashram in Hawaii, he has been teaching for the last 10 years. Tamal had founded Yogaco in Santa Monica (one of the largest yoga studios in Ca). He has produced Kirtan CDs, books and articles on yoga and meditation as well as toured the world teaching yoga. Tamal has been featured on many television stations, yoga magazines and websites for his dynamic yoga style and spiritual outlook. Tamal has developed a strong following nation wide and internationally. His vigorous vinyasa classes are filled with humor, music, and meditation. His yearly retreats, workshop, and teacher trainings are a way into the life and times of being a modern yogi. Tamal’s goal is to help you be in the world but not of the world, to be truly peaceful and happy. Aloha and Namaste
How did you find Yoga, or better yet, how did Yoga find you?
Tamal: People ask me all the time “have you gone to India?” and I always say no…I feel india came to me. I was born and raised in a yoga ashram that my family owned and ran. I was blessed to be in a situation where I was learning to do down dog and meditation before I could talk.
It was a very special time and I am grateful to have been apart of it.
Which other physical activities/exercise do you enjoy besides Yoga?
Tamal: I surf, run, jump rope, and train in brazilian jiu jitsu with my yoga.
How do you feel that Yoga helps you perform better in those other physical activities, or in your day to day life?
Tamal: Yoga really helps prevent injury and also heals injury so that your other physical disciplines are enhanced and you aren’t walking around with aches and pains but feeling strong, healthy and vibrant.
Yoga also helps with your breath control and mental focus so you can progress in your other exercises and go further than you ever thought you could.
Which asanas (postures) do you feel are particularly beneficial to men and why?
Tamal: Guys tend to have really tight hips and hamstrings so after they have warmed up to practice pigeon, half splits, forward bends…anything that targets those areas is sure way to loosen up all that congestion or tightness.
What would like more “average-Joe” men to know about Yoga?
Tamal: Most guys tell me that they can’t do yoga because they aren’t flexible. What I want guys to know is flexibility is only one aspect of it, that yoga is toning, strengthening, calming, stress relieving and much more. The list can go on and on.
I also hear guys say yoga isn’t manly enough for them. That they associate it with something only women do…All I can say is I train UFC fighters in yoga, and almost every professional athlete incorporates or practices yoga regularly.
What are you working toward right now in your personal practice? (i.e. solving a physical, emotional or spiritual issue)
Tamal: I am always striving to become a better person, to see people as not only living creatures but as “atma” or souls. This way I have respect for them in a physical way and a spiritual way.
I never consider myself as a master of yoga even though I teach every day of the week. I feel I am a student of yoga and that I am always striving to learn more and grow physically mentally and spiritually. My hope is that the last class I teach in my life will be the best class I will have taught in my life and the last things I do in my life will reflect a lifetime of study and practice.
How would you best define or describe your personal form of Yoga?
Tamal: I would say that I try to stick to tradition versus making anything up or trying to create my own thing.
The word yoga means to “yoke” or “unite” with God. Originally you would practice the asana (postures) the pranayama (breath work) so that you could sit and meditate without meditating on a kink in your neck to a stiff back…But you were free and clear to reflect and go deeper without the bodily distractions. So I would say that my own yoga practice would follow these basic guidelines of tradition.
What are your tips for someone just beginning their practice?
Tamal: First find the type of class that you feel would suit you. Don’t be afraid to ask questions when going to a yoga studio.
- If you are a really active person you will probably like an athletic style of yoga (vinyasa or power yoga…)
- If you are a type “A” individual and need a lot of structure try an Iyengar class.
- If you are looking for stress relief and calm in your life take a restorative class.
Be honest with yourself and you will find your cup of tea. Also take the level one class. A lot of guys want to jump right in and do all the hard stuff right away and be amazing the first day out. It’s best to go to a level one and learn the basic then take it from there.
How does your diet regimen affect your Yoga practice?
Tamal: I have been a vegetarian my whole life. People get shocked that I have never eaten meat, fish, or eggs in my life time and can’t believe that I am healthy and not emaciated…I follow the yoga diet or ahimsa diet (non-violent diet) it’s one of the fundamentals of all yoga traditions and is mapped out in Pantajali’s eight sutras and Buddha’s eightfold path.
I don’t guilt or judge anyone if they are not a vegetarian as that is not yogic either…I do encourage people to try adding more vegetarian options into their lifestyle and help people if they want to move into becoming a a vegetarian. My diet makes me feel strong, grounded and healthy all the time, which really motivates me to exercise because my physical energy level is vibrant.
How has Yoga grounded you more in your daily life? Do you find yourself to be more calm and more at ease?
Tamal: Absolutely I feel yoga and its plethora of tools helps me deal with all of life situations and dilemmas. Instead of stressing out and losing it you feel calm and assertive.
Whether it’s the physical practice of yoga that keeps me in a peaceful state of mind or spiritual tools that help me deal with individuals and my own crap. Yoga is continually guiding me.
Which positive latent qualities about yourself do you feel that Yoga enhances most?
Tamal: Yoga gives me a craving for knowledge and to share whatever I learn on my journey. My father (a great yogi) once said, “if you don’t share your knowledge you’re a thief”. So I try to live up to that ideal.
What advice would you give to a guy who has never been to a Yoga class before and might be somewhat intimidated?
Tamal: Let loose! Even if there is a girl next to you in class that can do a hand stand for 10 min…to not be discouraged. Most teachers will have open arms to a newbie not to mention a guy newbie since they are so rare in a yoga class. Try to have fun and feel free to take breaks whenever you need it. Make it fun for yourself.
Which style of Yoga do you practice and why?
Tamal: I used to practice Ashtanga now I practice Vinyasa as that is what I teach…
Which asana (posture) is currently your favorite and how are you benefiting from it?
Tamal: I am into whatever poses help me in my current situation that day. Meaning if my shoulders are tight I will do something that targets that area…If I want to work on strengthening my body I will do something that tailors to that…For fun I am currently practicing a lot of inversions (handstands, head stands…)
Shameless Plug: What personal, business or studio projects are you currently working on that you want people to know more about?
Thanks again to Tamal for his time. YfM
*photos courtesy of Tamal Dodge