A sense of calm tranquility and mindfulness fills the air. I’m sitting with over three hundred people at the Edmonton EXPO Centre as part of the 2015 Bust A Move event after just completing one of the hardest workouts of my life. The ladies from Barre Body Studio had me wondering how it was even possible to move the way we just did. Then it happened.
Many in the room were already familiar with who was coming up next on stage. People start running back onto the floor to get their mats out and ready for what was to come. Little did I know that the next 40 minutes would forever change the way I thought about yoga.
Joe Lomnicki is not your typical yoga teacher. He doesn’t look like a yoga teacher. He doesn’t talk like a yoga teacher. He doesn’t play the kind of music you normally hear in a yoga class. This class was more Jack Daniels and Rock and Roll than Herbal Tea and MC Yogi. And I loved it….
I knew that at some point we needed to spread the word about his particular take on yoga to our readers. His brand is as unique as he is. If you haven’t checked out one of his classes yet, this is yoga according to Joe.
You're a big guy. Not the "typical" yoga size... What got you into yoga?
Joe: After a lifetime of competitive sports, pounding weights in the gym and hard living including over sixteen years of football up to and including CFL training camps and practice rosters, injuries had taken a great toll on not only my physical body, but also my mental state. I have had 3 major knee reconstructions, multiple concussions and spinal fusion. I had no idea what was to come once I began this amazing new journey of peace and softness.
While recovering from my third knee surgery and working out at the gym I felt I was missing something. Riding the bike, lifting, and cross training was getting boring and on top of that I was going through a very difficult break up with my fiancé and knew I needed to do something different. I had access to so many different programs at the YMCA through my membership and saw yoga! I remembered doing a few classes back when I played football and figured it would help. I was looking for an alternative to physiotherapy on my knee and therapy for my head and my heart. I had no idea as to what I was about to stumble upon.
From the very first class it spoke to me I had no idea at the time what it was saying but I knew there was more. Within a few months I was attending three to four classes a week working out daily and feeling better than I ever had in my life. In the very near future I was attending ten to twelve classes a week. The gym was non-existent and my body loved it.
After a lifetime of competitive sport, pushing harder and faster all the time riddled with various joint injuries and concussions, this whole "being mindful and kind to my body" was making sense and the results were undeniable. I was surrounded by some of the nicest, kindest, most caring people ever and was always being encouraged to embrace all these new things that were in so many ways helping me become a much better person and kinder more compassionate human.
How would you describe your style of yoga to someone who has never attended one of your sessions before?
Joe: If I was to describe my "style", it would be an opportunity to allow people to truly be themselves in every way possible, they don't force anything foreign but rather encourage them to discover what they need is within themselves. It's not in deities or a lifestyle, how we dress, what we eat and drink or the music that resonates with us it's about what makes them better and happy.
I'm a simple guy in many ways and what I share is simple. I often say I am not a teacher or an instructor and I sure as heck ain't no "gurugi" and sit upon no throne. I'm a " sharer". I simply share what I have experienced and learned along my journey with those who come and maybe something reaches them and encourages them to really be themselves genuine and authentic in whatever way it's real for them.
I share freedom to have fun. To "not be so serious, it's only yoga". Turn the corners of their mouth up and smile, struggle, fail, triumph, unleash their inner awesomeness. We all have it. We just show it and unleash it differently. There's way more people that don't practice yoga than there are that do, so part of my journey is to make it accessible with a welcoming and comfortable and relaxed space and energy.
Love your choice of music during your yoga sessions. What's on the playlist for your classes? Why the choice of music?
Joe: Music is a powerful energy. We all have it in different ways and like different things - rhythms, beats, and lyrics. To me it’s like yoga. There's no one class that works for everyone so why would the music played in class be any different?
When I started practicing yoga and experiencing different styles, I noticed the music varied from class to class, as did the students and the style. One thing that always got me with "yoga style music" was “what the hell” is this? Now don't get me wrong some of it was cool. So very different to what I had been exposed to over the years, but some honestly I just didn't like. Very few teachers went outside of the box with their music. I smashed the hell out of it.
Why wouldn't I listen to music that I liked? Music that made me feel good, happy, sad, tearful, thought invoking, music that touched my heart in a way. If it made me feel something it would surely do the same for others. Whether it's rock n roll, gangster rap or hip hop in a Powerhouse class or the chilling sweet tunes of R'nB, soft rock and jazz and hell even country in a Gentle Joe Yin restorative class.
I started out slowly. I threw in a different song here and there and got encouraging feedback and suggestions and it snowballed from there. Hey if they're coming to class and want to hear something they love, if it fits it's played. From AC⚡DC to Eminem, The Beatles and Blackstreet, Dr. Dre and Dean Martin. There's something for everyone in every class. But no class is complete for me without The Eagles and Adelle.
Yoga is still predominantly attended by women. What kind of benefits can men enjoy?
Joe: The benefits for me is equal to that of women and maybe even more so in a way that we have traditionally been a little harder on our bodies. Men have egos - WE DO!!! I say this loosely but I think it's part of our genetic make up. I know that's going to ruffle feathers but hey that's what I do at times.
The straight benefits are increased flexibility. I don't just mean in a physical sense but in flexibility in how we view things, how we face them and how we find acceptance. A great many men (and women) come to yoga for something physical and leave with much more.
Improved immune and digestive system, increased brain function, stress relief, increased focus and productivity. It challenges your entire body. A well balanced class will get to every corner of your body, physically, mentally, emotionally and for some spiritually and how can all that not be good for us dudes.
As a former high level competitive athlete, how do you see yoga benefiting other athletes and what would you say to young athletes about incorporating yoga into their training programs.
Joe: My CFL career was short lived and had few accolades. When I sit around having beers with my former teammates nearly every single one of them say that if they did it over, yoga practice would be one of a few things they would add to their training regiments.
The results are right there for them. A higher level of focus (in the zone as we say) and balance. It makes no difference what sport you’re in. Balance is huge. Physical strength is equally important, as is joint strength. Nearly every career ending injury is a joint injury. Our connective tissue needs to be built up as well. Yoga offers huge benefits to help this.
Mindfulness is another advantage. In that I mean listening to your body, being more attentive to pain and injury. The old adage "no pain no gain" is not true anymore. Yes, we need to push our limits in order to be challenged beyond our boundaries. We need to fall flat on our faces in the pits in order to obtain the strength to pull ourselves up and be the top 1%. It's through challenge and discomfort not pain where we grow and learn. Our bodies need time to heal and recover and a balanced yoga practice brings these things into your life.
When I started practicing yoga, I thought I needed to look and act a certain way. I almost felt as though if I didn't I was missing out on things and although in many ways I felt great, I also didn't feel true to myself. I think is important for our growth to be open to new things. To experience an "out of our comfort zone" level of activity, but also not force it. It has to be natural. I often say "don't search for it, let it come to you"
Be open to it and it will find you. Ask yourself what "it" is. You need to figure that out. It's different for all of us because we are all uniquely awesome in our own way. Cutting through all the smoke the bullshit as it were. Making it accessible to those who don't want the dogmatic esoteric angle, why do a pose that honours a Hindu god if you don't believe in Hindu gods? It's not a religion so why try and make it that. Be who you are!!!! If that's what you love then love it with all your heart. If you like drinking fresh raw juice or kombucha or maybe it's red wine and gin? Does it really matter in the end?
What makes you a better person? How can you become kinder and more compassionate? What makes your heart smile? What are you passionate about? That's what's important. I don't speak with an Indian Asian accent, I don't wear hemp clothing, no Mala beads, no crystal pendants no pictures of Ganesh in my living room. I find a balance between my corporate career as a business development manager for a heavy-duty drivetrain component distributor and rebuilder. I coach football and share yoga with football teams and all girls national level fastball teams, hockey schools and pro sports teams. I eat steak and drink alcohol. I love fresh greens and meditative prayer. There's F bombs in my class, inspiration in my words, experience in my teachings, sunshine in my smiles, warmth in my hugs, love in my heart. For all of that I feel pretty F’ing AWESOME
IN THE END ONLY 3 things matter:
How much you love
How gently you lived
And how gracefully you let go of things not meant for you.