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Hangin’ With…Eoin and Insiya Finn

Eoin and Insiya Finn are big in the global and local yoga scene, spreading their happy Blissology message through teaching both yoga and surfing, launching social initiatives in the downtown eastside (like their Lu's Pharmacy program) and continuing

Eoin and Insiya Finn are big in the global and local yoga scene, spreading their happy Blissology message through teaching both yoga and surfing, launching social initiatives in the downtown eastside (like their Lu's Pharmacy program) and continuing to do something they call the Hammock Manifesto (read: set up hammocks in a city and its people shall come to chill). Their relaxed vibe and good aura is positively awesome to be around -- the world could use more folks like Eoin and Insiya. Namaste! --May Globus

How long have you been in Vancouver?

EF: I've been back since 1999. At time there weren't a lot of yoga classes. In fact, I could just think of a handful that existed back then; there was only one yoga studio. [I was living in Japan doing real estate] for three years or four years but was never really happy, though the money was awesome. A couple of doors closed when the Japanese economy got bad, and I thought to myself, you know, the money's great but if I'm not inspired by what my hearts wants to do, why bother? For me, I've always had a life mission. If [what I'm doing is] not totally in line with my life mission, even if the money's awesome, then I'm not doing it. So I went back to Hawaii for surfing and windsurfing and doing yoga again. [When I was living there], I never thought about teaching yoga because a lot of the people I was learning from had been doing it from before I was born. Why would I teach there when there were so many masters [at it]? Back here, I couldn't find any yoga classes I wanted to go to, so I thought I might as well start teaching them.

I've always had a certain path -- for a few years, I went off it, but got back on again. It was through a series of doors closing that good things started to happen. It's an important lesson about life. They always say when one door closes, there's another opening. When you look back on your life, you'll realize how you ended up in this place. Even though some of the decisions you had to make to get there may have been painful, but in retrospect, [an invisible hand] is pushing you along this perfect path this whole time.

So you feel like you're on your perfect path?

EF: Oh yeah. More than ever. Every day it becomes even more fun. It's not just a path; it's got a lot of rope swings and slides, too. I'm having fun, man!

And what are you doing, Insiya? Teaching yoga as well?

IF: Yes, I teach yoga, too. I also write about sustainability and health and sometimes about political [issues for publications, like The Tyee]. I used to work in advertising, and when I moved to Vancouver, I ended up doing leading the marketing for Lululemon. I did that for awhile, but then left to pursue my own goals which included teaching yoga and really trying to communicate health and wellness through everything we do. Part of that is working with Eoin and then pursuing my own Ayurveda studies. It's such an amazing science!I grew up in India, in Bombay. You grow up with those principles but never really think about them and you don't really question it. But when you're away from your culture, you start to question why do I feel like this? And you try to regain your balance, maybe with yoga and ayurveda, which is an extension of that.

Tell us about Blissology.

EF: Blissology is a way of defining what I've been doing. Blissology is the science of being happy. When you really drill down into what that means, it means that you tune into this amazing force -- like love and connection and awe -- and use that to get in touch with those aspects of yourself. You use that to try and balance out the two most important aspects of being alive: one is your own personal desires and the second is your impact on the web of life. Balancing the two out is the whole Blissology mission. It sounds simple but I really think everything do in life, every issue that we have as humans, comes down to that paradigm. Why are in trouble with the environment? Too many people are looking at their own selfish desires and not looking at the web of life. Why do we have so many social issues, like in the downtown eastside? Same kind of idea.

And tell us about your Lu's Pharmacy initiative.

IF: Again, keeping with whole Blissology mission in mind, I think yoga is such an incredible tool. As a personal practice, it something that helps you feel better. And when you feel better, you want to make other people feel better. You want to share that with other people. We've been combining yoga and social change for awhile, like with our Yogathon, which will be on July 24 this year. It's our eighth year running. Eoin co-founded the cause with Maxine, the camp founder and a friend of ours, who came up with this idea of yogis coming together to raise funds for camps for kids impacted by HIV. It was the first time people actually said that their personal yoga practice not only benefited them, but a whole community of people.

We lived in Strathcona for awhile, and we were definitely really close to just observing what what going on [in the DTES] and how people existed there. We kept thinking with our approach to yoga, we want to make it accessible to everyone, but we also realized there are people who will not walk into a yoga studio space and come in and try something, so we bring yoga to them. I found out about this cool initiative in the DTES called Lu's, a pharmacy and health clinic for women only. The amazing thing about it is that it's a cool space; the architecture students at UBC did an initiative where they created an inspiring space for Lu's. You walk in and it's painted bright pink with steel and everything is beautiful. It's an inspiring space to be in. I spoke with [Lu's], set up a yoga program there, so graduates at our yoga teacher training school can go in and log practice hours and teach a group of women every Wednesday and Friday.

The classes are open to the public, as well; you can fit about 10 women in the space. They started with one or two people, and I went and taught a couple of times. Honestly for me, it was one of the best yoga classes I've ever been able to teach because it reminded me of why we practice, why teach and why we spread [Blissology]. You see these women light up. You can smell alcohol on their breath, but for that one hour they're with you, they're not drinking, they're not on the street and they're actually looking forward to [yoga] and looking after themselves. It's so inspiring.

So are the classes filling up now and do you see regulars from the DTES?

IF: Yes, there are anywhere from five to ten women that come now. Once of our teachers couldn't make a class and couldn't find a sub, so one of the women there actually led the others through a practice! We want to empower these women to be able to lead an actual yoga class.

EF: It's such a great win-win for everyone. Take care of yourself and take care of others. And the people who teach these classes are volunteers.

Do you find these women from the DTES more appreciative of yoga?

IF: In a way, it [can be] hard. You can see resistance when you start teaching. I love teaching everyone, but this has a lot of power. [When] we walk around, we wear masks to protect ourselves, especially in cities. We look different at the start of yoga practice than we do at the end. After you've been through a whole cycle, you come out savasana and there's a vulnerability in your face and expression. I saw that so much more acutely with those women. They're in a hard environment from day to day, and [at the] end of a yoga practice, you can see how much they've softened.

What's the the Hammock Manifesto?

EF: We do these retreats in Costa Rica where we teach people yoga and surfing and bring marine biologists to teach them about the ocean. They're amazing experiences, but being in hot Latin American countries, every afternoon you [have to] sit in a hammock. I realized that after 20 years of yoga and meditation, I felt closer to enlightenment being in a hammock than ever. I thought if we did this in our norther climate, if everyone took 10 minutes every afternoon and sat in a hammock, then so many of our health problems would disappear, our relationship problems would disappear and we would probably treat the earth better, too.

Five or six years ago, we gathered people in different cities and put up hammocks, like in front of the Vancouver Art Gallery, as spontaneous relaxation sites and got people to get in the hammocks at lunchtime. If you really want to change people, you don't need to force them. For example, the first time we did it between 10am and noon, telling people to get in our hammocks and relax, but most don't want to be talked to. No one wants to be trapped. We [finally] got some people in and it was working pretty well and soon, it just started [happening]. Instead talking people into getting into hammocks... just kind of did it yourself.

EF: Yeah! It went from, "Hey, come get into our hammocks!" to "Hey...can we get our hammock back?" The lesson here is create something good, and it will have power on its own. It was so incredible, because people get it. We do it in San Francisco and other cities, too. All this social interaction happens; people just spontaneously start meeting, people that you would just normally walk by on the street. We have such a cultural busy-ness that you don't have time to stop to think of what your impact is on your body or the planet. The next Vancouver one will be on July 6. We also have a Facebook group: Hammock Enlightenment Society.

IF: It's about creating a community in a city.

Where is your zen spot here in Vancouver?

EF: My serene spot is definitely Tower Beach, but only where half the people are full-on naked. There's a lot of trees that overhang where you can hang hammocks, too. Lighthouse Park in West Vancouver is also very cool. There's a lighthouse beacon, you can see the Mount Baker sunset and there are old growth trees there, too.

IF: I think my calm spot is the west side beaches, like Spanish Banks. I used to love running there.

What makes Vancouver so awesome?

EF: When I first moved to Vancouver, what I realized made it so great was how easy it was to leave the concrete behind with a half-hour, hour or two-hour drive away into the mountains. It's no accident that people live here -- they love being close to nature somehow. And I also love the consciousness of this city's people; they're very connected to nature and really are, for the most part, interested in personal and social evolution.

IF: I've lived in a lot of cities, and what I love about Vancouver is that it is very livable. It doesn't feel so much like a city as much as a cluster of neighbourhoods put together, and each one has such a cool distinctive feel. It's an interesting and diverse place. We don't necessarily have the culture and history of New York or Paris...

EF: But New York doesn't have the Canucks!

IF: ...but we're a unique city. We have the mountains and the ocean, and I think there's an incredible awareness of nature. We have clean air -- it's something I notice every time I step out of the [YVR] from elsewhere, and I take a big gulp. I love Vancouver.

Thanks again to Eoin and Insiya!