Travis Eliot, creator of The Ultimate Yogi DVD, is leading a Yoga fundraiser for Doctors without Borders. As the global spokesperson for the Yogathon to benefit Doctors without Borders, Eliot is offering a special gift for those who donate to the non-profit organization. Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is an international independent medical humanitarian organization that delivers emergency aid to people affected by armed conflict, epidemics, malnutrition, natural disasters, or exclusion from health care in nearly 70 countries. In the following Q&A, Eliot explains how The Ultimate Yogi (UY) became part of this philanthropic effort.
Thanks for being the global spokesperson for the Yogathon to benefit Doctors without Borders. What made you say yes to this philanthropic opportunity?
There is form of yoga called "Karma Yoga" which is the yoga of selfless action where you give without expecting anything in return. I've actually been thinking a lot lately about how I can give back and this opportunity presented itself. I've heard a lot of wonderful things about Doctors Without Borders and I am extremely honored to support their mission of providing medical care to people in the midst of catastrophe.
Have you and/or UY supported other charities or non-profits in the past? If so, what criteria influences whom you choose to support?
It's no secret that there are a lot of people in need. It's also no secret that our planet is in a state of crisis and so are many of the species that inhabit this planet. I've been a supporter of organizations that protect our natural environment. I also support my friend Brock Cahill's Kurma Alliance that does it's best to protect sea turtles which have been described as the "yogis of the ocean." I guess the criteria that influences me are simply what speaks to me in my heart but honestly it always feels good to give in whatever way I can!
There is clinical evidence backing up the benefits of a regular Yoga practice. What are your favorite stats that have measured the value of Yoga for health improvement?
In 2010, there was a study done by Harvard Medical School and several other organizations that studied patients with GAD, generalized anxiety disorder. After 8 weeks of practice 90% of participants reported significant reductions in anxiety. Doctors were able to see through MRI positive shifts in certain areas of the brain associated with concentration, regulations of emotion, and an increase in anxiety-reducing neurochemicals.
These are pretty amazing results and imagine if the entire world's population used yoga/meditation to decrease stress and anxiety what a better planet this would be!
For those who are not familiar with you, could you briefly describe how you became a yoga expert and teacher?
I just started out as a student with no ambitions to ever teach. But after a couple of close calls with death, I kind of felt like I was steered by the Universe on this path of teaching. After being a student on a Yoga Retreat in Thailand I was invited there to stay and start teaching. Then the big Tsunami of 2005 hit which led me back home to Los Angeles where I started teaching donation based classes to just a couple of students in little martial arts dojo. The rest is history.
What are the most profound changes in your life that you have experienced after becoming a Yogi?
I would say on a physical level that in addition to becoming way stronger and way more flexible that I healed chronic neck and knee pain from old injuries. The other thing is the moment I started practicing yoga all my negative habits just fell to the way side. Things like drinking, partying, eating bad just stopped without any effort. It was like the Yoga made me feel more Whole and I didn't need any destructive vices to fill the inner void.
How did the UY program come about? How did you conceive the idea of it and what was your intention for the product out in the market?
The UY program came about because nobody had made a real Yoga fitness program of this scale. It just seemed natural to put something together that would be revolutionary for people that were willing to stick to the program for 108 days. Fortunately the universe hooked me up with student Yariv Lerner who helped me to produce this massive project. The intention behind UY was always to have more healthy, happy people walking the planet.
After being a Yogi for several years, how do you continue to challenge and grow your practice and skills given that you are an expert?
Well, you can never be a teacherless teacher. The moment that we stop growing and learning is the moment that we start withering away. I've spent a lot of this year studying with a remarkable teacher named Annie Carpenter at Exhale Venice. Also, I'm always devouring books, listening to music, and watching videos that continue to feed me so that I have more to pass on. Lastly, I'll say that as a teacher you have to practice every day. Just like you wouldn't want an attorney that doesn't practice every day to represent you in an important case you don't really want a yoga teacher that doesn't really live the path to guide you down the road.
Will there be an UY 2.0 or 3.0? Is the 108 day regime a good way to prepare for a yoga retreat with you?
I don't know if there will be a UY 2.0. For whatever reason I've never been short on ideas and I have things constantly brewing in my head that I think have the potential to be incredible. Also, I kind of feel that the momentum of the current UY is just beginning and has barely scratched the surface of it's potential. So it feels right to let that live and breathe some more and if the conditions are right then release something down the road that is equally if not more amazing than the original UY!
If someone does UY108 they would absolutely be prepared for a retreat with me, in fact they would probably be prepared for a lot of things! But, I've had ladies that have dragged their boyfriends to a retreat with me and even though those guys hadn't really done yoga they were fine. My style is challenging but the constant message is to be respectful and always honor what your body is communicating to you.
Have you seen improvements in health and overall well-being in those who are healthcare professionals that were skeptical about Yoga? If so, which personal stories stand out to you most?
Yes! There is one surgeon that did the 108 and he was excited to share that his focus was sharper in the operating room, the yoga helped his back due to all the hunching that was required, and that he was able to be more present to his patient's needs. He also shared how dramatically the journey enriched his relationship to his wife and kids. If that's the case wouldn't you want your doctor to be practicing yoga?!
For those who donate to the fundraiser, what kind of thank you gifts can they look forward to from UY?
We would love to offer those who donate a digital version of the Ultimate Yogi Cross Training practice that is a well rounded session that will challenge your strength, balance, flexibility and stamina. Both your body and mind will feel amazing at the end of this class!!
To donate now and receive your digital gift, click here.