For those of you who don't know,
"Wanderlust festivals are all-out celebrations of mindful living. [They] bring together exceptional yoga and meditation instructors, musicians, speakers, artists, and chefs for transformational retreats in the world’s most awe-inspiring natural resorts." - Wanderlust Website
As soon as I heard it was actually possible to volunteer at these kickass events, I went about applying immediately. Crossing all my fingers & [yogi] toes I eagerly awaited their response knowing if I was accepted, this would be a perfect opportunity to meet and network with other travel-lovin' yogis & yoginis (and possibly snag a couple interviews to boot!).
A few weeks later, I received an email from Volunteer Coordinator, Emma who let me know I'd be helping with "artist hospitality" - I was STOKED. I was assigned to work with two awesome girls, Imogen (Media coordinator) & Sophia (PR extraordinaire) in the Presenter Shala for my three "work" days [we also got one free Pilgrim Pass to be used on our day off]. On my second day, Imogen and I were paired up and sent off to comb the entire island for a step ladder and a staple gun (don't ask) realising this was my chance to do a bit of self-promotion, I decided to mention the blog. To my surprise, she was super-intrigued and to top it all off, offered to set me up an interview with acro-duo Claudine & Honza Lafond who I've been wanting to interview for AGES.
True to her word, the next morning Imogen announced that I'd be sitting down with C&H for an in-person interview at 4pm that same day.
The reality of the situation hit me in the pit of my stomach: I've never done an in-person interview - I was petrified.
Praying the terror in my eyes went unnoticed (I think I got away with it) I decided to focus on my second dilemma: I was totally unprepared.. Luckily I have a list of 28-or-so "generic" interview questions up my sleeve that I usually email to prospective interviewees. I hastily trimmed the list down, threw in a couple more "personal" queries and hoped for the best. I preceded to spend the next couple hours Googling things like "how to conduct an in-person interview" and "how to record conversations on an iPhone".
4 o'clock rolled around in what felt like a matter of minutes and, armed as best I could, I set out to meet the pair.
Thank goodness, Claudine & Honza are totally down-to-earth and easy to talk to.. They breezed through my questions and were (mercifully) understanding and totally unfazed by my obvious lack of experience in the field of journalism. These two have come a long way and I (along with many others) am not ashamed to say am envious of their amazing lifestyle, travelling the world and teaching yoga while inspiring others on so many levels. Not only are they total veterans when it comes to living life on the road, they're also really good at talking about it. I hope I've successfully conveyed their infectious lust for life & all things yoga + travel in the Q&A that follows.
I've left the majority of this interview unaltered, only lending a few brackets to sentences for enhanced read-a-bility. I hope you enjoy! Also, links to their website, Facebook, Instagram etc can be found at the bottom of the post :)
I'd love to hear a bit about your yoga journey... I know that's a really generic (& generally broad) question.. perhaps how you got into Acro-yoga would be a better, more direct way to start?
Claudine: Well I can start with yoga because I love sharing how it started off.. I was 15 and a friend of my mom's said I should try a yoga class while we were in Bali. The class was set in an outdoor gazebo, [and I remember] the instructor guided us through this beautiful chanting. It was an Iyengar yoga class - two hours of practice and I had no idea what it was all about at the time, but I was completely mesmerised, fixated and really curious so the next day I got up early and went to the class again and went back every day for about two months; from there I was already hooked and at a young age. I didn't really understand what it was all about but I was so fascinated and curious. That was a long time ago now [laughs] but yeah, I was so clear about wanting to do more of this.. I mean once, there was a pregnant woman in class and I remember thinking "I want to be doing THAT when I'm pregnant" - it had left a strong impression on me so, I was very sure early on that that's what I wanted to do.
How often do you guys travel?
Honza: We probably travel about 6 months of the year.. This year it's shaping up to be more. We like to chase the summer, it's just something we started doing and we like doing. We dreamt it up for ourselves and somehow it's happening so, it just depends on the opportunities and the kinds of things we want to do and of course where we want to travel. We like to go to new places every year [also] there's a few regular festivals and destinations that we go to to teach. In between that, we try to weave in a bit of down time... to relax, see the sights, enjoy [ourselves].
What would you say is your #1 yoga related carry-on item?
Claudine: For me, right now, I have 2 - they're both kind of therapy/unwind items:
- "Yoga Tune-up Balls" I sleep with them, actually, under my neck.. they're great, we use them at our studio as well and for training we encourage all of our students to bring a pair of them. I take them on the plane [too] they're just great for unravelling the muscles!
- A beanbag eye pillow
You guys are very into social media - that's actually where I found you initially - I'm sure you're aware that you inspire a lot of people on there.. I'm trying to think of the best question to ask you about it..
Honza: DON'T do it [laughs] Do not get into it!
Is it a black hole? I know I tend to get carried away and overwhelmed with my own accounts...haha
Honza: I can speak to this one because I make all our posts - Don't I [Claudine]?
Claudine: Honza is the "artist" in the relationship. He's been an artist for a very long time... he's the creative genius behind our Instagram account.
Honza: So, my advice would be unless you love to create visual art, or for some strange reason you love to take a picture of yourself every day - or what you eat; I don't get that one. But anyway, then I wouldn't. I don't think people should have to feel they have to do this because its the new "norm" and I feel that most people who wanna create something for themselves - not just in yoga, but in any industry - seem to be kind of forced into this [idea of] having to post and you know, the thing about it is not everyone is necessarily gifted or interested in visual arts .. in taking pictures and looking at lighting and angles and all of that, which I think is a huge part of the accounts or the "streams" and the popularity that some accounts get: It's a visual form of art and, unless you are maybe famous for something, so [as a result] people [just] follow you [for that reason, you need to be invested & interested in that visual aspect of it]. I think twitter is kind of like that: it's more about the person who is known in a certain industry rather than the actual visual content. That's why I think Instagram has that differentiation: it's about the pictures, not so much about the text - well, not for everyone but for the most part. So, yeah I would say if a person feels that they have to be on it or they think its important for whatever they're doing my advice it to tell them to do some good research into what platform serves them best and pursue that. For us, it was always going to be a visual [platform] you know, we started with Instagram and I remember one day we thought "wouldn't it be wonderful if we could take short videos on this platform?" and I think it was 3 days later, Instagram announced 50 second videos and we we're like "score! well-manifested!" We obviously write captions about what these moments are about, but we're not so "gifted" and maybe in some ways not interested in the text form. Other people write blogs and they can beautifully arrange words to express themselves, [while] we are more into our [physical] practice so, to capture a moment in our practice is really [what we] do.
What would you say is the craziest, coolest place you've done yoga?
Honza: Wow, we've had a few.. Obviously we travel & part of what we have become in a way is we explore the places we travel to through the intention to capture our practice at those places. So, that's a wonderful drive for us because - I don't know how much travel you've done - for us, we can go for a bit but, we're not those adventurous nomads that can get very excited, put their whole life in a backpack & keep going.. there's a limit to it for us. When we need a little bit of routine, we just slow down and find stillness and be in our own "home" and so it's wonderful for us to have another reason, if you will, or it is a reason but it has so many aspects.. it's an artistic expression, it's a way to explore a new place. Tt's [also] a way to meet new people: most of our photos are taken by strangers, we just ask them to help us take a picture - we say "do you have 10 minutes? Ok, do you mind lying on the ground here and getting just this exact angle that I've prepared for you?" [laughs] So there's a process to it that we enjoy which goes well with the way we like to travel and we get to capture our practice in these amazing locations where you would probably just stand there and take a "selfie" or something.. so also, it kind of forces us into a continual practice because to do this - to get into these postures - we've got to warm up.
Claudine: I'm just thinking about a couple really magical places that we've been to... Santorini in Greece was just really stunning, these locations that we find ourself are so dream-like and surreal; just for our personal practice, to wake up every morning in in these spectacular locations in nature and have that reflected as you're breathing and moving your body is such a blessing. I'm so grateful for those moments when we get to experience these incredible places in the world. Gratitude for both of us is such a strong current of why we are where we are now
Honza: We've been to some crazy, cool places for our practice but we've also taught in some cool places.. This is the first time we've taught on a tennis court (motions to spot behind us) we've taught a class and lead a retreat that was on a cruise ship which was pretty unusual and spectacular and amazing.. A lot of beaches.. Actually, probably the most extreme for me was doing a dancer pose at the base camp of Mount Everest .. That was probably..
Claudine: That was your "yoga peak" [laughs]
Honza: [laughs] Yeah! There are so many special moments and we love having that documented on our feed. We love to share our practice with people but it s amazing to have a documented journey for US - not for anyone else - and in many ways that's how we go about it: it's our personal feed, our personal Instagram, and sometimes people get a little bit opinionated as to what we put up .. a lot of people feel entitled to impose some imaginary standard on us in regards to what we should and should not post and we think it's interesting because people seem to forget that this is our personal account.. we can put - well, for lack of a better word - whatever the fuck we want on our Instagram..
Certainly, people take a lot of liberties with anyone who puts their stuff out there and really, who are they to say what anyone can or can't put on their instagram..?
Honza: Well, exactly. That's really the issue we got into at the start of the conversation: not only do you get into it to put some content out but, once you get into it and you gain a certain following there's a shift - people seem to have a different perception of who you are and how successful and maybe "known" you are - which is the weirdest thing, because nothing really changes for anyone other than the number of "followers" their screen.. but it kind of goes hand-in-hand with it, we have to expect and maybe get ready for those trolls out there who like to offload their own insecurities onto other people and who seem to be doing well.. that's just part of the game.
Claudine: I think we always just handle it with a lot of grace - people are entitled to their own opinion.. we just need to give thanks for them voicing it and just continue doing what we're doing.
Honza: I [just] wonder where this whole thing will be in 10 years, 20 years, 30 years .. there seems to be the reality TV shows that kicked off like 20 years ago just merged into Social Media through Facebook and now everyone has an amazing platform to put out whatever it is that they want to put out into the world. It has its own set of challenges but it has it's own freedom of expression which is unprecedented. I think there's a Social Media platform for anyone as long as you're willing to contribute content in some way online, whether it's a blog, through Twitter, Tumbler, or Instagram or Facebook ... but you know, also we have days where we go "Hmm, I wonder what life would be like without Social Media..." and that sounds pretty good too [laughs]
Claudine: But we're here now in the world of Social Media and we're embracing it!
What about your eating habits while you're travelling; do you find it difficult to stay healthy?
Honza: I eat whatever I want.
Claudine: He does.. [laughs]
Honza: I've never felt guilty about anything I've put in my mouth, ever. I always say "if it tastes good, it's good for you" and I think as long as you're resolved and well and somewhat balanced inside you will generally tend to gravitate to the things that you need without having to think about it. That's just my take on it anyway, Lafond over here [nudges Claudine] comes from a different school of thought [laughs]
Claudine: Well, I've also ascribed to his school of thought but my personal experimentation with food has been more on the natural, raw food, superfood side of things.. I studied holistic nutrition for a while so I gravitate towards, you know, lots of super, healthy, organic treats and when we travel I'm like a little squirrel I've got my bag of nuts, seeds, dried fruits and green powders so between the two of us we're pretty well taken care of.
So, you wouldn't say that a lot of planning & research goes into your diets while you're away? I mean, I know some people that research healthy restaurants, markets etc and pick out all their spots beforehand..
Claudine: We both really love food - I love it even more, I think - and wherever we go there's always something we can eat; we're not super-fussy, you know, we understand food has to taste good and it has to be nutrient-dense but you always have to be flexible when you travel.. you can't be so steadfast on one food being available otherwise you'll be hungry and a bit cranky
Honza: I also have this utopian thought that there's this chemical laboratory in my body that just converts any shit into this amazing nutritious food.. I eat chocolate and I turn it into sustenance
Claudine: I eat chocolate every day actually, raw chocolate in my cereal...
Honza: Yeah, for me it's a block of chocolate & for Claudine it's raw chocolate..