199: Rocky Heron – New Paradigms and Possibilities of Practice

New Paradigms and Possibilities of Practice

Kathryn welcomes Rocky Heron onto the Mindful Strength podcast to chat about his teaching career and practice evolution. Rocky shares how strength training and bodybuilding has helped to expand his thinking in movement – moving beyond some of the dogmatic approaches to teaching yoga. The conversation rounds out by discussing the uniqueness of his isometric training and how that can help build strength & body awareness.

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About Rocky Heron

Kathryn welcomes Rocky Heron onto the Mindful Strength podcast to chat about his teaching career and practice evolution. Rocky shares how strength training and bodybuilding has helped to expand his thinking in movement – moving beyond some of the dogmatic approaches to teaching yoga. The conversation rounds out by discussing the uniqueness of his isometric training and how that can help build strength & body awareness.

 

Podcast Summary

Rocky Heron is an experienced yoga teacher who offers many engaging continuing education programs through Yoga International, community collaborations and beyond.

Kathryn was so excited to welcome Rocky onto the podcast to talk about how his yoga practice has evolved and grown from the early days of yoga asana to now integrating practices like body-building and isometric training.

Rocky discusses how his initial training in yoga didn’t offer a lot of room for his own personal inquiry, interests or experiences; instead, like many teachers at the time, he was given specific poses and movements to do. As his journey evolved, he began to encounter different teachers and different styles of movement that helped him start to question the paradigms and redefine what yoga could mean for him (and others!).

Podcast Time Stamp [15:42] – “I think I’ve had to continuously redefine what yoga is for me so that it’s not like, “OK, now I’m doing my practice. Now I’m at the gym. Now I’m dancing. Now I’m…you know, kind of compartmentalizing my movement practices by label or by name. I recognized that for me at least, those lines become a little bit blurry about when I’m practicing and when I’m not practicing. What is and what isn’t.”

This discovery was in many ways ground-breaking and, as he explains, it helped him see that yoga can take place in many places like the gym. Tying it exclusively to one form of movement was reductionist. He learned that the practice mat could integrate all kinds of styles – and he could also go the gym, lift heavy weights in addition to asana. Yoga did not have to be all the things all at once. Life could have movement variety.

He expands on this here:

Podcast Time Stamp [24:17] – “I was one of those people, I think in the beginning, and really for a while, that felt like, “OK, yoga is like the only thing that I need to check a lot of boxes. It’s my gym. It’s my personal physical therapy. It’s my meditation practice; my spirituality practice.

And as such, when I would get on my mat, I was sort of overwhelmed by all the things I was trying to accomplish through the practice of yoga, including maintaining and developing a physique that I also was interested in and achieving.

And, you know, it’s not a revolutionary idea, but it finally occurred to me maybe I could just go to the gym and work on something other than a traditional yoga practice to achieve this other goal that I have. My yoga does not need to be checking so many boxes…”

This interview underscores what a lot of teachers have encountered in their practice over the years. We have learned new insights and, as Rocky stated, we have “synthesized” these learnings into movement practices that honor a mindful, deepened relationship to self and community. And while we are evolving so much, a specific movement practice doesn’t have to “check all the boxes” and meet all the needs.

Parallel to this evolution was the shift in Rocky’s personal reasons for bodybuilding and strength training. He candidly shares his personal reasons for practicing. He emphasizes that moving to feel good, confident and strong in your body is a worthwhile pursuit. You don’t always have to move to work on becoming a more knowledgeable teacher – it’s both personal and professional.

Kathryn and Rocky round out the interview talking about isometric training. They both reflect on the value of training isometric strength and how integrating those principles into a yoga practice, for example, can help students’ build their body awareness.

Rather than telling folks to engage this or that muscle when they are in the pose, Rocky points out how you can guide people through an isometric exercise to fire on their muscles and then when they are in the pose, it’s easier for them to feel how things are engaged. We often see so many poses with arrows pointing in all directions telling people what to engage – it can feel like a long laundry list. Rocky and Kathryn share how isometric approaches can make cueing less cumbersome and the practice way more embodied – engagement feel more intuitive.

Podcast Time Stamp [49:44] – “It was such an aha moment for me. I attribute my gym practice to this. I realized, “OK, those arrows are not necessarily saying what I should be doing once I’m there”.

They are potentially showing me how I got there – meaning it’s the movement into and out of a pose that can inform what’s happening isometrically when you hold it. Journey versus destination. But exploring on the other side of isometrics, exploring different pathways into and out of poses has made it so much clearer to me what it is I’m meant to kind of sustain or hold once I’m in the pose.

This is a great interview. Rocky’s personal and professional growth mirrors Kathryn’s (and many other teacher’s) journeys. His work highlights how integrating strength and discovering your personal practice can revolutionize your movement.

Rocky’s Links

Website

Click Here

Mindfully.Fit App

Click Here

Yoga International Featured Teacher

Click Here

Instagram

@rockyheron

Isometrics Article

Read Here

Woman in triangle pose on a yoga mat