Shining On with Yogi Taylor Harkness
Jul 31, 2015 02:10PM
● By Linda Sechrist
Taylor Harkness is a former paramedic that came to yoga via the sport of rock climbing. His students and social media followers adore his steady doses of inspiration, laughter and honesty. Harkness will present five Shine On yoga workshops at The Yoga Loft, in Naples, from September 11 to 13.
Why is your approach to yoga so joyous?
Many facets of life are serious. As adults, we have bills, taxes, work and responsibilities. Life gets serious and we stop playing. We take ourselves too seriously, forget to laugh at our mistakes and stifle the learning process. I've found that we can do a lot more, and push ourselves to new levels when we’re laughing and having a good time, rather than when we’re caught up in our mental stuff. If we take a breather, relax and add a smile, we’ll go farther.
Where do you turn for inspiration?
I look for inspiration in just about everything. One of my mottos is, "There's a lesson here somewhere.” I can watch a show about crocodiles and think, "Look at how adventurous those videographers are," and start contemplating adventure and what it takes to be courageous. When I see a billboard about princess-cut diamonds, I might think about royalty and how unfair and harsh it is to place ourselves above others, and that we are all equal. I get inspired in the process of thinking and exploring those kinds of thoughts.
While I might want to turn my brain off after a long day at work, it’s more energizing to get the creative juices flowing by engaging in conversations with people who make me think differently or who encourage and support me. I also read books that spark my interest.
As a traveling yogi, how do you prevent burnout?
I’m currently working on this. Traveling is hard on the body. It’s even harder to be away from home, my loved ones and my routine. The people I meet on my trips keep me fueled and charged.
When I do get home, I try to unplug. To stay well-rounded with my interests, I mix things up. I've recently started Brazilian jiu-jitsu. I'm also a rock climber, and my boyfriend and some friends and I just went camping last weekend. It's really important to step away from the mat. I can turn off my phone, watch a movie, take a nap or even go read by the pool. The work will still be there tomorrow, and there's always another yoga class I can take.
Who are your teachers, and why is it important to study with more than one?
My first teacher was Tymi Howard, who has a unique way of pushing everyone to his or her limits. I learned so much about asana and challenging myself. From there, I began to soak up other styles, allowing every class, whether from a senior instructor or a fresh trainee, to teach me something.
I worked alongside Kathryn Budig. I still work with Jason Crandell. Both are talented and well-known teachers. Not everyone has to be world-renowned to offer something pivotal. Some of the biggest lessons I've learned were in classes led by moms who teach one class a week, or gym buff types who incorporate varied movements.
I practice frequently, but not often enough to grow bored. I practice with different instructors and styles to keep my mind open and my body on its toes, wanting more. Variety has a lot to offer the mind and the body.
How has the study of anatomy had such an impact on your approach to yoga?
I want to be able to move freely, dance, run and play with my grandkids well into ages where others are thinking, "He's way too old for that.” Having a firm grasp on how our beautiful body works is important in order to know how to keep it mobile and healthy. Good habits in our yoga practices lead to strong, able bodies. Bad habits or misalignment lead to injury. Repeated injury leads to broken bits and pieces.
Do you dream of someday prescribing yoga and meditation as a means of combining them with primary health care?
In my opinion, that would be better than most prescriptions written today. We are victims of our own advancement. Got a headache, stomach ache or high cholesterol? Take a pill. Many people think yoga translates into vegan, abstinent, super-flexible monk types. The biggest lesson I've learned from yoga is that moderation and mindfulness are key. I eat humanely raised, organic, local meat. It’s good for the animal, the environment, the economy and me. I enjoy alcohol in moderation and choose brands that follow sustainable practices.
Meditation has been shown to ease depression, increase efficiency and lead to better mental and physical health. It’s scary to think we are in control of 99 percent of our health, because that comes with responsibility. I believe we should explore what we’re responsible for with functional medicine professionals who rely on lifestyle changes before prescribing drugs. In my opinion, what we all need is a good dose of yoga and meditation, more vacation time, family time, good healthy food and a pay raise—the list goes on.
If you could leave just one message with your students, what would it be?
You're good enough. We're told too often that we're not skinny enough, rich enough, good looking enough or smart enough. The media is saturated with these messages to entice your subconscious into buying products to supplement your flaws. You are more than your wrinkles or rolls. You're more than your ADD, chipped front tooth or lazy eye.
We spend way too much time and energy on negative thoughts. We all have them. It takes practice to shift the shaping and wiring of our brain to focus on the good and really important things, but we can do it. This is what Shine On and my classes are all about. It’s the message behind everything I do.
For more information on the workshops, call 239-260-7725 or visit YogaLoftNaples.com.