Adam Keen – On Yoga & the Quest for Meaning

I am so delighted to bring to you Adam Keen. Adam is an amazing Ashtanga Yoga teacher who is constantly seeking answers and finding the big questions. He has his own podcast called Keen on Yoga and offers instruction via his  online teaching platform. During this conversation we discuss topics like:

  • how to investigate yoga practice from the angle of self care
  • the true purpose of yoga and how to access it
  • Ashtanga Yoga in the modern world
  • the benefits of Yoga on mental health
  • and so much more

Visit Adam on his website: keenonyoga.com
Find him on Youtube here: ADAM ON YOUTUBE
Follow him on Instagram: Keen_on_Yoga
Enroll in his upcoming Yoga and Mental Health Workshop here.

You can listen to the full episode for free here.

Todd McLaughlin

I’m so happy to have Adam Keen here today. Adam, how are you?

Adam Keen

Fine, lovely to be here. Thanks for inviting me. It’s really always a pleasure to be the guest rather than the interviewee. I’ve always said to people that it is actually easier to be a guest than it is to be an interviewee. To be the interviewer is challenging. When I hear people critique my interviewing style, I always say, well, I’ll set you up with the podcast next time you have a go. Because it’s really not easy, you know, to get that balance, right. And I’ve done over 100 on the Keen on Yoga podcast. Yeah, maybe 150 interviews now, and I’m still still working at it.

Todd McLaughlin 

Oh, definitely. Well, on that note, you have your own podcast Keen On Yoga. I’m curious, who are your inspirations if you are to listen to another interviewer? Or who have you gained a lot of inspiration from other interviewing styles? 

Adam Keen

Yeah. It’s a good question. I only listened to the older ones. I mean, obviously, you know, we’ve got a shout out to Peg Mulqueen at Ashtanga Yoga Dispatch. She has been out there for several years now. I’ve gained a lot of inspiration from from Peg obviously. I have a lot of respect for Peg for doing and you know, starting what she did so early and getting it out there with all those teachers so early. So I listened to that over the years from when she started. You know, I listen to Harmony and Russell’s podcast. I find Russell hilarious. You know Russell is a very funny guy and a friend and I’ve had him on the podcast, I find him very funny. Yeah, I know, bits and bobs. I look at stuff, at different interviews on YouTube. Yeah. Is that alright?

Todd McLaughlin

That is all right. Good answer. I was just curious. Sometimes I think that if I want to learn something here, let me let me listen to some of the greats. So that is why I am curious if there’s some people that that inspire you? 

Adam Keen

Yeah. I mean, the thing is, and I don’t want to derail this to a talk about podcasts or the kind of ins and outs of being an interviewer. It is really hard thing. And you never know how hard it is until you actually do it, you know, because you want to try and get out of the way. And the difficulty is, if you’ve got something to say, like me, you end up getting too much in the way. So people I admire are able to ask the questions and somehow get out of the way enough. Because when you come in tune into someone, I know as well as anyone else, you don’t want to hear the interviewer. You want to hear the guest. Nevertheless, I tend to still speak too much in the podcast, and I always berate myself for this afterwards. I just wish I’d shut up more, you know. And so I suppose the people I respect are the people that have managed to kind of corral the interview and conduct it in such a manner that it feels they’ve guided it. Interviewers are like a great waiter, you know, seamlessly at the table. They’re never hanging at the table, and you don’t want them there. But they’re always on hand when you need them. I mean, in England  one you probably don’t know, maybe do? Do you know Jonathan Ross? 

Todd McLaughlin

I don’t. 

Adam Keen

He’s a famous interviewer. Yeah, he’s a famous English interviewer. He’s been around many years, and he’s quite good in terms of giving people space. These are on the BBC on television. 

Todd McLaughlin

Nice. Nice. 

Adam Keen

Yeah. So yeah, that’s cool. You go, oh, I appreciate that. 

Todd McLaughlin

When did you start practicing yoga?

Adam Keen

Yeah, straight into that one. When did I start practicing? It was in 1999, I think when I started I was at university. And I’ve told this story many times, but I’ll tell again, the obvious backdrop of how I started is that I was depressed. I was studying philosophy, as most students of philosophy are. Probably, I don’t know, what comes first? The chicken or the egg? You know, like, whether the propensity is there with a philosophy student to be depressed. It ends up you know, they call it a counselor, the therapy area of the university. So I was in therapy. And then the teacher said, the therapist said, well, you know, you and everyone else in philosophy here is depressed as well. So, I find that kind of funny, but I also found that kind of concerning. The people that come into philosophy, obviously, are the people that had questions about life. We’re using the vehicle of lucid thinking, you know, rational thinking, to work those big questions out, and it didn’t work out. And that was what shocked me. Because, you know, as an 18 year old, when I went to uni, you know, I thought it would work out. I really thought that you could think your way out of your problems in life, you know. And what I realized is that you couldn’t do that. And so I started with movement practice. I thought I was going to be tai chi but that conflicted with my night life at uni. That class was on a good drinking night and so I didn’t do the tai chi. And there was a yoga class that was on a different night, there was, you know, it was a free night, you know, non drinking. So I thought I’d go on to that. But there’s something in maybe I intuitively thought there’s something in the body, right? If it can’t be done through the mind, it must be something in the energy of the body, that’s throwing up these negative thought patterns that I’m suffering from. I thought that could maybe be changed, like a, you know, rewiring a, you know, electrical thing or, you know, like reconditioning a car engine or something. There’s something wrong with the engine, you know, that’s making these thoughts happen, rather than the other way around. Thinking that if you could think more clearly, you know, then then everything would be okay. So, I stumbled into yoga classes. Most people do. It was a hatha yoga class. It was slow, but it was challenging at the time, I was not really in good shaper. You know, as you’re not when you’re in that that period of time when you’re kind of late teens and early 20’s. You generally kind of suddenly fall off the bandwagon. You know when you’re a bit younger. I was into football, I was into martial arts, at that certain age, you kind of you just let it go. I think when women get involved we’re not really, not that it’s their fault, but they come on the scene and then that encourages bad behavior on your part. Then more drinking and reducing the the things you should do so. So that was my life at that time. Outside of philosophy, and I was not in good shape. And I found yoga to be incredibly challenging even in the easier class. I remember doing bow pose, Dhanurasana. And finding that was very, very painful. Same with forward folds. That also was incredibly challenging, almost unbearably painful. Yes. So I wasn’t flexible. I wasn’t flexible at all. It just kind of struck me though that after the first class yoga was something that I had to do. Just for my own mental health, it felt like it was definitely the right thing to do. In terms of the responsible thing to do. To take care of myself, you know, because at that time, I was also prescribed antidepressants, I was on them, you know, and I’m not gonna say anything about medication. There’s a whole lot of debate out there about medication. So I felt though that I didn’t want to be on it forever. I felt that it wasn’t something I wanted. Maybe I felt I could maybe do without them. But I couldn’t maybe just come off it just like that. So that was a really another really fundamental reason to get to that yoga class and try and do something for myself. Rather than just, you know, go to the therapy and get the prescription. With that method I felt rather disempowered. I felt like I was out of control. And the yoga made me think, basically, on a basic fundamental level that I was doing something that put me back in control. Taking control of the situation, you know. But then on my plan to get into Ashtanga Yoga or, or become good at it, you know, the asanas, that kind of happened. Just because I had to be dedicated for the mental health reasons to be quite honest with you. Yeah, I did it every day. From 15 minutes a day, and expanded to 30 minutes a day. And then I expanded it a bit longer. At that time in England, yoga was the generally the domain of like, a certain middle aged lady. At this time, you know, not necessarily the case now, but at the time, it was, like an older lady who made the mainstay of these classes. They basically kicked me out in the end. The attitude at the time was that yoga was not really for a young guy. I was 19 or 20 as a bit feisty, you know. I was pushing buttons with the questions I was asking. 

You can listen to the full episode for free here: https://nativeyogacenter.buzzsprout.com

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