The philosophy graduate and ex-elite athlete has been described as the “the Thoreau of Yoga”(no small claim!) and has been immersed in yoga and Eastern Philosophy since the last ’80s. His main MO? To share happiness and joy through his energetic and humour-infused style of Blissology yoga practise.
Having trained karate in Japan, Finn fuses this as well as his surfing know-how to create a yoga practise that draws on multiple physical disciplines – resulting in a unique method that has helped him train over 100 Olympians and other pro-athletes.
Based in Vancouver, Finn was recently in Sydney to lead a large-scale ‘Yogi Rockstar’ session at the Wanderlust 108 festival, so we took the opportunity to learn a thing or two from the world’s happiest yogi.
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b+s: What does a ‘blissologist’ do, exactly?
EF: I study the art and science of happiness. So far, my biggest conclusion is that if you want to have happiness in your life, you need to love fearlessly. I don’t mean just romantic love, but real kindness. At the end of our lives the main measure of true success will be the legacy of love and kindness that we left.
The short way we have of summarising this is to say that “Kindness = Happiness.” Period.
How did you ‘find’ yoga?
I studied yoga philosophy and meditation at university, in Halifax, Nova Scotia on Canada’s east coast. I was also an extreme sports athlete and I was looking for ways to increase my performance and take the aches and pains away. I bought books on yoga and started to practice.
I later moved to Maui’s North Shore for the big waves there and I didn’t know it, but Maui, Hawaii was a hotbed for Ashtanga yoga. Once I tasted this more physical form of yoga I was hooked. It was like the gym, the temple and the university all in one. Even though I was stiff and broken from all my sports, I committed to do it until the day I died.
How does surfing and yoga complement each other?
Surfing and yoga were made for each other… On the physical level, intelligent yoga increases the mobility, strength, flexibility and balance that will help a surfer rip. It also helps us use the breath and mind-muscle awareness to self-regulate our nervous system. This allows us to think clearly and find grace under pressure on our boards. Yoga is a surfer’s superpower!
Ultimately, both yoga and surfing are about soul. Surfing is more of an extroverted path to bliss where we embrace the beauty of nature with gratitude and joy. Yoga can be a more introverted path where we find peace, calm and contentment inside regardless of external conditions. You don’t need pumping waves or a stellar sunset to find this inner joy.
Can you summarise your practise it for someone who isn’t familiar?
Yes. What I grapple with is that (in larger society) there is a belief system says that are separate and in competition with each other. We lose the plot and think that the purpose of life is to work, shop and entertain ourselves.
The fact is that we don’t have a long time on this planet. Each moment and each relationship is a blessing. Blissology is about making a commitment to showing up in all of our relationships with kindness and reverence. This includes our relationship with the planet… This should inspire us to… make a commitment to leave a cleaner, greener campsite than the one we came to, as an intrinsic path toward happiness.
How does this apply to life off the yoga mat?
Not surprisingly, life off the yoga mat begins with how with how we treat ourselves on the mat.
Too many people treat exercise and yoga as a punishment for the high-calorie food we ate yesterday. But I believe that it is a reflection of our commitment to living the most joyous life possible. This kindness and reverence starts with our own self, each time we step onto the mat. When we feel good in our bodies and our minds, we tend to do good in the world.
In Blissology we believe that this deep-seated sense of kindness exists in all of us but we tend to forget about it, or only party connect to its power. Our yoga practices are about tuning into what I call “the wise guide inside” and using this wisdom to have the most sustainable relationship with our own body and mind.
But it doesn’t end there. We take it off the mat and let the wisdom of our “wise guide” shape our relationships with our friends and family, our communities and with nature.
What are some your top three tips for getting more ‘bliss’ out of the everyday?
#1. Nature appreciation
This means we take a few minutes every day with no phones or to-do lists and fully observe something beautiful in nature. Then we “relax, breathe, observe and receive.” I call it the “transmission of the beautiful.” The more we blur the line between where nature ends and we begin, the happier we will be.
#2. Cultivate Prana
If everyone on the planet knew what ‘prana’ meant, we would have a much better relationship with our food, our thoughts and our exercise. Prana is the yogic equivalent of the Chinese word “Chi” or the Japanese word ‘Ki.” The yogis believe that prana comes through our food, our air and our water.
My definition of prana is things we ingest that increases our bodies ability to create healthy cells while minimizing the cleanup process. As an example, when we breathe clean air, this air is absorbed by the blood stream for cellular respiration. The body can efficiently make these cells with no wasted energy. However, if we breathe dirty air, our body needs to expend energy to filter the carbon monoxide out. If the body is a factory, when the creative energy in prana is buried under toxins; it’s like taking all your workers off the assembly line where things are built and putting them on janitor duty. No factory is efficient with too many janitors and not enough workers who can build things.
Eat fresh veggies and fruit with a direct line to the sun (without any factories between you and your food), drink clean water, and breathe clean air. This is prana.
Nothing shifts our mind set as fast and as easily as gratitude. It is so easy to focus on what is going wrong in life. In fact modern neuroscientists like Rick Hanson have demonstrated that the human mind has a “negativity bias.” We are hardwired as part of our survival to remember the bad experiences in life.
Most people unconsciously run mental loops of all the things that aren’t going right in their lives. Especially in this era of social media, we tend to compare our lives to the “perfect” lives of others.
However, gratitude breaks the spell. We no longer live under the tyranny of what I call the “itty bitty shitty committee.” Within 30 seconds of thinking about something we are grateful for, we are completely different. Life again becomes full of peace and possibility. Our bodies feel expanded and open not tight, rigid and contracted. This is key for mental and physical health. In our Blissology school, we encourage people to make a habit of finding three things you feel grateful every night before sleeping.
You have worked alongside some big names in the world of modern spirituality – Oprah, Deepak Chopra, Ekhart Tolle… who has been the most interesting?
I would have to say most recently I loved meeting and chatting with author Elizabeth Gilbert who wrote Eat, Pray, Love at my classes at Wanderlust in Hawaii.
Our Blissology practices are so much more than just yoga poses, they are ultimately about authentic and deep human connection. This means sometimes we dance, sometimes we high five each other and cheer others on (even though many yoga schools emphasise using your “library voice” in yoga and not making eye contact in the studio). She was into the process 110 per cent and our conversation that day was open, honest and so down to earth.
Who was the most memorable celebrity to teach?
I’ve worked with a lot of actors, artists and pro-athletes, but when I think about the most memorable instances of working with celebrities, two musicians come to mind: Nahko and Michael Franti.
Both times, each artist sang and played at the end of one of my yoga classes, a point in the practice when we were already open to the deep essence of life: a cocktail of joy and pain; love and loss. Each time, the musician plugged into the feeling of what I call “savage bliss” a space of connection at the end of a Blissology yoga class, where we hold space to experience whatever is true, raw, vulnerable and honest; and the experience of music along with my commitment to holding that space of bliss for a community of students, elevated the experience to a whole new level. These memories will forever be etched in my mind.
You’re passionate about ocean conservation. What is one thing anybody in their everyday life could do to help the health of the world’s coral reefs?
In 2016 I visited the Great Barrier Reef with some friends from lululemon Australia. We wanted to transplant coral there as part of the Blissology EcoKarma work we do in Bali, Hawaii and Florida. However, at the time, the Australian government had laws against interacting with coral in any form at the time. I’ve just learned that this has changed and discovered groups that are transplanting coral on the GBR. This is amazing news and my goal over the next year is to be back on the GBR transplanting coral.
Any plans to open a Blissology school in Australia?
That would be a dream. The truth is my wife and I think of it often. I am in love with the beauty of Australia and Australian culture. I feel so at home with a people who love the ocean. I mean, in Canada, we don’t have professional surf contest results in the sports pages of our newspapers. Compared to other cultures, I find Aussies have time for each other and time to chill and watch as many sunsets as possible. This is so important for our individual happiness as well as the health of our communities. A Blissology center in Aus? Sign me up!