Inviting us to look within ourselves is Jai Sugrim, advanced certified Jivamukti yoga teacher, athletic trainer, public speaker, recognized men’s health expert, and World Series champion. Jai shares everything you need to know about the inner life, placing emphasis on figuring out our inner motivations and passions in life. He shares his own origin story to illustrate that. Even further, he talks about the value of practice as an idea, and its relation to both yoga and life in finding a flow state that is effortless and brings joy and fulfillment to you. He also relates it to our relationship with food as he offers some visualization techniques on seeing what you could do with your life.
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Mens Health Expert, Elite Yogi, and World Series Champion Jai Sugrim
I’m here with Jai Sugrim. He’s a yoga teacher, athletic trainer and men’s health expert. I’m excited to have you on the show. Thanks for joining us.
Thanks, Josh. I’m glad to be here.
I’m glad to have Jai in the house. I was excited when Arjun brought this opportunity to me because I’m big on one, performance as a professional athlete. Two, I’ve been trying to focus on my mental health. I noticed the more I’ve worked on my mental health, the better my game has gotten. I was excited to meet you. Your experience with the Yankees and everything that you do is awesome. I’m glad for you to be here.
I’m glad to be here. It’s interesting you say work on mental health. Do you have a morning routine that you do?
I normally just wake up and brush my teeth.
Brush your teeth, clean the body and then do you do anything else?
I make a protein shake.
That’s where I come in. In the morning, it’s one of our most reflective. The middle of the day is bound by activity. When you say mental health, it implies a balance of your inner life and your outer life. We have all these objects in the world we’re told that will make us happy. If we have the perfect girl, if we have this big house or this car, there’s nothing wrong with that stuff. I love to chase that stuff too and achievement. The fact is if you look at these things, they’re all subject to time, even our own bodies. You had an injury. I am 43, so I’m feeling for the first time. I went as long as Nolan Ryan, but I’m starting to hang up things that I used to do and pulling back and acknowledging. If I want to lead a long and healthy life is to not train like I’m 25 anymore, which I used to do up until 40, 41. Everything is subject to change.
The minute you realize that everything changes and when you experientially get in touch and it could be a trauma. It could be a loss of a relationship. Some people experience that when they have a divorce or they have a big financial loss. When you realize that nothing on the outside will truly fulfill you, then you’ve begun the inward journey. To me, it’s a balance of, “I woke up. I know I’m going to have a ton of things to do. I have emails coming. I have meetings coming.” You’re working with brands and sponsors. You’re doing podcasts. That’s active. Your mind is moving. Someone’s telling you where to go and what to do. You have to look at things.
The breath that we worked on, it had a rhythm. You’re setting that rhythm. If you do that thing first thing in the morning, you drop inside. You connect with yourself internally. Before you look at emails, set a rhythm. Some crazy, unpredictable thing could happen out here but what you do is you create space. Everyone creates space in their own way internally to respond to shit that’s unpredictable. You can’t control every variable out here. You don’t know when an injury is coming. You don’t know what’s going to happen the next time you have to sign a contract. You know that if you have that relationship to the inner world, you don’t have to respond automatically. The technology we’re talking about is these teachings are timeless. What we do is we adapt them to fit the era. This is the same thing the Buddha was teaching. It’s the same thing that’s in most religions, but religions lose the sense of experience. What I’m focused on is having you experience your own inner life whatever that means.
I’m trying to figure out what this inner life, outer life might be. First off, when you say inner life, is that myself?
It’s composed of a certain psychology. The deepest layer of it is if I ask you, “Who you are? Who am I?” You might like vanilla ice cream. I might like chocolate ice cream. You may like fast cars, I may like motorcycles. There are different things that compose the personality, that compose this makeup. You have a fast switch fiber. You could crush me in seven seconds. There are things that I can do like run 26 miles or stick my leg over my head. It’s genetics. The inner life is how you feel. How can you answer that question of who am I? We were taught that the body’s changing. Where’s the body going? The body walked to VaynerMedia, but where is this body going? The left meniscus is gone. The right knee will no longer fold in a half lotus. There are things I’m hanging up, but realistically the body each day and this is heavy. It’s a moment we can all take. We don’t like this in the West. In India, you see bodies burning on the side of the road. In Peru, you spend ten days with the dead before you bury them. There are cultures that are comfortable with this space.
What is meditation? You could say, “I’m feeling blissed out. I’m getting in the zone,” but meditation is stopping your mind. Who would you be if you had zero thoughts? That’s the space. That’s the deepest inner spaces. You don’t think about this podcast if you could lie down or close your eyes. You have no thought. All of the teachings, every mystical tradition. If they’re Sufis, if they’re yogis, if they’re shamans, every single one of the mystics is concerned with no more thought and that space. That’s God. That’s your inner life. That’s who you are. That’s who I am. That’s where the best football comes from. That’s where Michael Jordan does his best work. That’s where Mariano Rivera, who I worked with, that’s where he saw his off bats and throws strikes. That comes from that place of emptiness and the place of you can’t be in your head. Everyone here, everyone in the whole world, our society is suffering from thinking. Getting out of the head, that’s the game I’m in. Getting out of the head, getting into what connects you and me. What’s the sameness? What’s the substratum? What are your preferences? What is that written on? It’s on emptiness.
There’s something that makes you like the vanilla ice cream and makes me like its experience. You’ve had a different sequence of experience. If we ate my mom’s favorite dessert and I’m like, “She makes this mango dessert called gurumba.” I’m like, “Josh, try this.” It’s a jam with all these Indian spices. She knows when I come home for Christmas, that’s out because I’m going to kill it. That’s her way to my heart. That’s deep. If I take a wood tool out and make a groove in that, that’s experience. That calls for repetition because it made an impression on me. If you’re like, “Try this chocolate cake my mom made.” I’m like, “It was okay.” I’m not going to go out next week when I walk by some shop and repeat the experience for chocolate cake. It didn’t connect. It didn’t go deep. These grooves are different for everyone. These are where our addictions are. You have this thing. You have an addiction. It’s been repeated many times and it calls for repetition because it’s deep. When we practice that breath, imagine in a well. There’s well water from the Earth. Here is your addiction. Your practice and self-discipline are down here. As a person starts to get discipline every day, you’re tired? Practice. You’re lazy? You’re hung-over? Practice. You stay up late? Practice. The water gets even. Here’s addiction. Here’s the alcohol you’re addicted to. Here’s the drug you’re addicted to. You practice and you practice.
What happens is it starts to weaken. Your practice of waking up early at 4:00 AM or 6:00 AM or 7:00 AM, you don’t have time for those friends that are clubbing it up, getting drunk and sniffing drugs all night long. It took a little bit to make this impression weaker. It took a lot of effort for a human being. A human being is the only one that can change their nature. A tiger’s going to do what a tiger does. A frog’s going to do what frogs do. You come into this world with a personality makeup. We’re the only beings because of the way the spine runs. Our spine goes up and down. Our spine is connected to the center of the galaxy and it’s connected to the Earth.
When you stood straight in Samastitihi and I said, “Look forward.” What you’re doing is you’re making your body in the vibration of a mountain. The mountain is the most stable object we know. It’s rooted deep into the Earth and at the same time, it’s going into heaven. You’re downloading heaven’s energy and connected. Your body is the connection between the two. You, with work and conscious practice, can weaken that stuff that holds us back and everybody has that. It’s that voice of like, “Training camp or he hit my best stuff. I threw 95 miles per hour. He slugged it out of the park.” There’s something that comes in and what the best of the best do is they learn what we’re pursuing. We’re becoming masters of states. It’s bleeding out of professional sports because athletes know it. Athletes need it. Artists need it. Every single other person is starting to tune into this on a mass scale. This is where we are culturally. This is why you’re doing this podcast. This is what the elites have always had. Every single tradition has had this knowledge. Now, it’s being spread out everywhere.It’s takes strength to fall flat on your face and get back up. Click To Tweet
Let’s look back at some of this. We’re talking about this inner life.
Even the way you feel about yourself. I’m confident about certain things but I may be less confident. That’s part of my inner life. Maybe a guy’s confident in business, but not confident in dating. It’s your psychological makeup, psychological state. On the ultimate level, if you want to get down to it because you’re going to die and leave this body. Is there a spirit? Is there more? That’s the deepest level of inner life. I say, experience it. Don’t trust me. Stop your mind once and learn for yourself. My whole training and my whole teaching is to get you oriented to experience that for yourself, without me teaching it to you. I’m teaching a practice to get you to experience that for yourself without being religious. For me, it’s a neurological science. It’s like getting high. You can get high if you roll a joint. You can get high by drinking ayahuasca, smoking DMT. Those things are fast teachers and I’m not necessarily against that path, but it’s damaging.
If you don’t have a structured practice, what happens is these plants show you the very end. They’ll take you all the way up to the Godhead. You come back and you’re still a person with crappy habits and that’s frustrating for people. If they have a practice, it will teach them. If they want to combine a practice with the use of plants, it’s all good if you do it in a safe, structured way with someone like a shaman who knows the plants. I go the path of discipline. I work with kids. I teach the kids. Kids are smart as can be. I was at a high school working with kids. They’d walk up and say the most intuitive, intelligent things to me by looking at two things I did. They would give me some insight about myself. That level of perception we get dull, we lose it. If you spend ten years in an office you don’t like because your parents think it’s a good job, it makes you dull.
When you went into Warrior III and I told you what to do like, “Here’s your arm.” I could say, “Energize your palm from the center out and feel energy moving through it and stop short of being militaristic but feel the energy.” What you did is you took something flaccid, Earth-bound. It’s going down and you brought it to life. I’m stretching out. I’m rooting. I’m connected to the Earth. We talked about the legs and arms going into the middle. Where do you swing a baseball bat from or a golf club? It’s not arm strength alone, it’s the midline, all of the athlete’s power. In certain martial arts, you fake someone out. If you run through the energy of their middle, it’s an energetic slash. It’s the Hara as they call it in Asia. You weaken someone by crossing that line.
I start with the body by showing you. I don’t need to show off the handstand. The handstand was energetic, it wasn’t a gymnastic move. My arm can become stable because I’m pushing from out, in and from bone to bone out. Three times my arm is doing that. Imagine the amount of tension. I took an arm and I made it an energetic thing. That’s getting you subtle and more into this inner world. Every tradition, the shamans in the jungle, this is 10,000 years old. How did they know? They cook one plant that’s a vine and another one that’s a leaf. It’s a feat of free literate chemistry that they’re going to take these two things, beat up the vine and crush it. They cook it for three days to make a brew that’s going to teach you what we talked about, which is something you can’t see. If I had a surgeon in here and then he cut you up, he can find your heart. He can find your brain. He can find the organs. Where is this thing called chakra? You can’t find that.
Every system throughout ancient Egypt, ancient India, ancient China and the shamans in the jungle describe the subtle body anatomy. This Kundalini energy rises up, like Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. At each of the seven centers are these points. There is a structure. There’s a map for the territory. I tell people to not trust me. I tell them like, “If you did that breathing practice for a month first thing in the morning, that’s where it’s at. You can’t talk to me unless you do it.” It’s a challenge to people’s discipline. I’m a little confrontational about it because it’s the jock, it’s the military dad and my dad was tough. I don’t like to dilly-dally.
We talk about our experiences and our habits and having this self-awareness. Maybe the experience I want to get into and provide some context if you can give a little background. We spoke briefly in relation to Yankees, the athletic trainer. Where did this all start? How did you get here?
I’ll sum it up in a couple of quick stories. One, I was thirteen and crossed the finish line. I wanted to use the cross country to get in shape for basketball season. I’m like, “If I run, I’ll crush it. If I run in the fall, when winter comes I’ll be in good endurance.” I joined the cross country team. The first race was a nightmare. I got through it and as soon as I finished, I keeled over and I puked all over my shoes. I was stiff. My coach ran up, slapped me on the back. He pulled me up and he was like, “You did great. You placed. We won a class C division. Get out here. I’ll see you in practice on Monday,” and he jogged off. Inside I said, “I’m never doing this again. I quit.” The way he said it made me show up. My score helped the team win, I was like, “I guess I’m contributing to something, I might as well stay with it.” Running’s the most metric-driven thing because you have a stopwatch. It’s five miles, it’s six miles. As I stayed with the training, I didn’t know the science then. What was happening is I was building capillaries and building red blood cells. I was becoming an animal. I went from that kid who puked to someone who transformed. This blew my circuits. I went from a C student to a straight A student and I was a legit athlete. When basketball season came, I was sharp as a tack.
What was happening at that young age, I can only reflect as an adult is the mind and body were auto enacting. I was seeing that if I showed up and hear these crazy people like, “Get up and run four miles before school,” and I was like, “It’s 6:00 AM. I’m a kid. I’ll do it.” It would enhance my performance. Somehow that link between my body and mind was made at thirteen and I wanted to keep it going. As I was graduating from college, I couldn’t bear the thought. I was going to interviews at big banks, all these firms, real estate, sales places and I was like, “Why am I in this suit? It’s stuffy. These shoes, I have wide feet for an athlete and they’re killing me. I’m uncomfortable,” and I jumped off the cliff. I said, “I can’t.” I was reading about flow as a young kid. This guy who was talking about flow states where it’s like being in the zone. They didn’t have the brain, the neuroscience data that we have now in the last ten years. It was anecdotal evidence with him interviewing rock climbers and pro athletes who could get in the zone and then give their feedback.
What I learned is I saw at 22 that time is wealth. If you go into these jobs that your parents want you to do, that you’re going to make money because you’re a smart kid. You’re going to spend a lot of your life doing something you don’t like. It didn’t make sense. I jumped off the cliff and back then nobody knew what a personal trainer was. It was like pro sports teams had trainers and my parents were concerned for me. There were like, “Are you okay? Do you need money?” I was like, “No, I work with successful people. They pay me a lot.” They were like, “Are you sure it’s okay? You can let us know.” Until I was traveling with the New York Yankees and hanging out with Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera and all these people, giving them signed baseballs and stuff and they were like, “You’re doing okay.” This is ridiculous but it was basically deciding to do what I love. I was like, “I’ve got to go into fitness and work with the body.” It got deeper and deeper. It’s a trajectory and I love anatomy and physiology. I love understanding how blood moves and how injuries heal.
I went into massage therapy and then I started to get into the mind with neuro-linguistic programming and coaching and using language. Language reshapes. We have the power to retell our story. If you had an abusive father or you were a victim of sexual abuse, if you identify with that, that’s what you’re going to project to the world. You have a way to calm through an exercise. What it does is it calms the nervous system. The prefrontal cortex is the newest part of the brain. Underneath that is the limbic system. This is when we were reptiles. There’s a part of us that runs on emotion. What you want to do is get out of the logical part, which is amazing for abstract thinking, creativity. If you want to get down to where that trauma is, you calm the nerves and you speak and reshape the emotions. You change the meaning of the story and you come out and you’re like, “I’ve been through some things, but people have been through worse and I’ll make it.” It’s a scar. Shit happens. Sometimes an insect will bite you and it will try to kill you and your body will rot. It will spread to your face and your face will start to decay and your throat will start to be eaten with a lesion.
Is this something that happened to you?
That’s me in the jungle fasting for 28 days living with a shaman, silencing my mind. Something bit me. I came back two months later. It bit me in October 2013. I got home and January 1st I saw a zit on my leg. The zit grew and grew until it was a giant concave hole in my body decaying. Eight months later, they found it in my throat.
Where’s the bug?
It’s not a bug. The bug carries a toxin that eats you alive. It replicates and the cells break and it keeps chewing you. There are three forms. One eats all of your organs, one eats your skin and one eats your face. I had the one that eats your face. The point is shit happens. There’s a scar. It could be sexual trauma. It could be your father. It could be anything. We can let go of it and that’s the yoga. That’s the work is to go inside and inside is absolute freedom. The spirit is not going to die. If you’re identifying with Josh Martin, if you’re identifying with Jai Sugrim, you’re in for a lot of trouble. If you’re identifying with power and strength, the strength I’m talking about is inner strength. It’s strength to fall flat on your face. To get back up and practice and know that you’re the thing that’s the innermost. You’re the thing that is beyond. I would go all over the world. I teach yoga and meditation to thousands and thousands of people.
In 2014, I had to look in the mirror because the doctors didn’t understand it. I had to take an experimental drug. They told me, “This drug might kill it. We know it might. This one’s experimental. It’s successful in South America. It’s dangerous for your liver. Which one do you want to do?” I said, “We’re going to go with this one because it’s on my face and I need my face because it opens a lot of doors.” That destroyed my liver and they wanted to stop the treatment. I said, “Call South America and see if anyone’s been tested at these levels. I can’t do this treatment twice.” I had a PICC line in my arm, a line running to my heart. They infused my blood six hours a day with a toxic chemical sodium stibogluconate to kill the organism in the blood. What we’re talking about is what we identify with. I had to look in the mirror and say, “You go around the world telling people we are not the body, we are not the mind.” See how this matters. I think the mind also matters. If I associate you to joy, I say think of a time where you felt the most love, the most joy. What would happen in your head is a cocktail. A mixture of drugs would form a sequence in your head. To me, that’s material. The mind is matter.Recognize that the challenge is in itself an opportunity. Click To Tweet
It’s not even the physical mind. You have the chemicals that are functioning in your brain.
To me, it’s matter. Why it’s tricky is it’s not local. You don’t know what I’m going to say next. You don’t know what you’re even going to think next. This is why the mind is weird and that’s what we’re ultimately studying in these superconscious states. I’d love to hear about one of your amazing states in sports. I pursue this stuff seriously. I talk to elite-level people in all fields. There’s always this warping of time. It’s not the ordinary sense of time. Time slows down. The goal seems obvious. You’re hyper-aware. It’s rich texturally. The colors are enhanced. These are altered states. When we come from inside, when we go inside as a resource, when we touch these states. What I try to encourage people and my regular students are don’t come to my class and get high. That’s cool. It’s great. I know what I do works. At the end when I seal the practice, I say, “Take it with you.” The next time you’re arguing with your spouse, drop in. Drop in before you get pissed off. Take a deep breath.
The next time you have to tell your boss, “I’m not working this weekend,” go to the center. Set your posture and go talk to him intelligently. The next time you need to state your boundaries, the next time you have an opportunity to respond with road rage, take a moment and meet it with what we’re feeling in the practice. I had to live that teaching. I had to go, “This might be it for you. You’re 37 years old.” I never felt like I’m invincible. I am super crazy and I didn’t need sleep. I only need to get my rest. I was a beast my whole life and to have something happen to your body to where I couldn’t get off the toilet. It hurt to sit up. That’s how bad my bones were aching from the drug I was taking. It was crushing me.
I had a girlfriend who would drag me into the hospital and bring me back. I was lucky to have someone. All my food tasted like cardboard. I had to put tons of Tabasco sauce on things to stomach down food because it nuked my whole system. I had to embrace that teaching and left a scar. I have them tattooed head to toe. I was ashamed. When I started teaching in Europe again, I had this sleeve that I would wear over it because it was theatrical before the ink. It was all pink too. It’s slowly getting brown again. One day, I was in Hamburg and I was like, “This is part of my story. I survived something. This is a healing story.” I took it off and you’ve got to embrace. For everyone out there, things happen. Injuries happen. Setbacks happen. For me, you have to know who you are in those lonely dark corners of your mind when you’re alone. You can’t post about the good deed you did. When you are in touch with the great treasure of peace of mind, of tranquility. We need to meet our problems on this planet with that. When we’re talking about education like the stuff I’m talking about, why is it not in high schools? It’s getting there, some high schools have this. We don’t have to call it a religion. We need the technology of consciousness, of breathing. Why aren’t kids doing this stuff before SATs, before a big exam?
You could apply a lot of these methods and ways of thinking to your daily life. It’s important to be able to talk about it in a way that you’re able to give your experience like, “I was bitten by this bug. It had this terrible toxin. Where did that take me? How did that form part of my journey?” NFL is a tough league. You have friends that you run into you might not see again. They’re still alive but they might be on another team, they might get cut, waived. The way that I see it, it’s all a part of your journey. We talk about the experiences that shape who we are and taking that into consideration.
What I’m curious about that I’m here and we have a moment is if you could describe a flow state to me from your point of view on the field. Tell me about the zone. You’ve had to hit the zone to get here. Is it music that pumps you up?
I used to listen to music. I don’t listen to music anymore. I leave myself with my thoughts.
Is it war? What is it?
It’s not war. For me, it’s embracing the challenge, embracing the opportunity. Recognizing that the challenge is in itself an opportunity for me personally and then for this inner life and this inner self. That’s something that I thrive on. If you would have to use the word addiction, that’s something I can’t get enough of. It’s tough because you can only play so long and you try to find ways to supplement that off the field, knowing that we won’t last forever. You have the outer life, the material things and that’s a motivator too. It’s an opportunity not only to improve, get to a state where, “I did that, that’s awesome. This is the challenge and I overcame it.” I played through whatever injuries happen and you have someone try to do the same thing across from you. You play for the challenge. Me personally, I play for the challenge and I play for the opportunity to meet that challenge and what it means to me, but also for the opportunity for that material gain.
There’s a place. There’s pain and there’s danger. You could get crushed or you could crush someone. It’s like a war. We were doing the forward bend and I showed you how to engage the front of the legs so the back of the leg can release. This union of opposites is a Law of the Universe. It works in the body. Agonist, antagonist, it’s everywhere. There’s male, female, inside, outside, left, right, North, East. It’s yin and yang. It’s a fundamental Law of the Universe. This energy of effort but also surrender. If I will-powered through my yoga, it would look ridiculous.
When you talk about being in that state, you’re exerting effort. At the same time, it’s effortless. Is that what you were trying to get at?
I wasn’t trying to get to that, but you made a point that’s fundamental to my teaching, which is to get to yoga. Imagine yoga is the body of the bird and on one wing is practice and effort and the other is surrender and ease. I didn’t want to go there, but it’s a core teaching and it’s fundamental to all things. Before I got to yoga, I was running marathons, I was weight lifting, I was doing many things and it was all effort. I didn’t know anything about totally surrendering with the effort. That’s where I start to make a lot of progress is when effort and surrender meet. It’s funny that’s part of your MO.
When I’m in the zone, some plays I might not even remember what happened. It’s like, “I didn’t make a tackle in the backfield. How did I get back here? I tossed this 300-pound lineman.” I do that all the time, I toss 300-pound linemen, grown men like they’re nothing. When I’m in the zone I do, but that’s beside the point. It’s important to also put this in a way that the audience can relate. To your point of someone who might be in a dead-end job. You’re interviewing for these jobs at banks, real estate firms, whatever it may be. It’s important to and this is something that I’m realizing for myself and the things that I enjoy. I can’t say I’ve only done things that I enjoy, but the things that I do contribute to allowing me to do the things that I enjoy. How important is that do you think in getting to this flow state, this effortless and being something that you might feel fulfilled in or that brings joy to you?
I encourage people to time travel. It sounds quirkier than it is, but sit down. Be still. Close your eyes. Imagine the end of your life. You see what you could have done and where you are. See your funeral and understand you’re moving through. In the third dimension, you do have time to work with. It’s important. If we want to get deep, we could get into karma. Karma basically is action. It’s we took an action, we did some yoga. I suggested you move to yoga. You might walk by and go, “Jai, I talked about that place. It’s awesome.” You might walk in. A seed was laid for you to go in there and learn the spiritual teachings. To look at your action and to see the sequence, one thing you did sun salutations. One thing led to the next and to the next. You didn’t wind up in a difficult marriage, you built it. It was a sequence. You wound up at that job. If you start to practice on the mat, you can see how action builds and builds. We’re in a sequence all the time, it’s order. What we want to do is disrupt the order consciously. The only way to do it is through concentration. A person needs a spiritual practice or what I’m teaching which is the signs of concentration.
Through concentration you can see, “I hate my job. I need to make a game plan. When I have X saved up, I’m taking that class.” I love this other field when I was a kid. I loved photography. Technology has evolved so much, I need a couple of classes. Once I take these classes, I know my buddy, Mark, knows this other dude who I can ask to be his apprentice. You get your hustle on and you put your heart into it. You make a step from one rock to another and you step over. You need a game plan and you need to break that sequence. If you’re doing the same stuff repeatedly, you can’t break the sequence. We’re talking about habits. If you for example go to yoga, what you do is you wake up all consciousnesses as awareness. It’s being more aware. It’s saying, “When I wake up and I do this with my wife, I can’t remember the last time I did something. No wonder why she’s crabby.” It’s like a light bulb goes off and those light bulbs go off only when we take time to our self. Insight doesn’t come when you’re emails in the morning, Facebook, Instagram in the morning. You usually are not going to have a breakthrough. You may not know all the elements of your getting in the zone because I’m cracking up and trying to piece it together. If we broke it down, you might have a pregame meal. You may have rituals.
I have rituals. Every game day, I’m doing the same thing.Embrace the pain because that is part of the game. Click To Tweet
That’s what I’m talking about. That’s where the layman reading this can go, “What’s my pregame? How do I get ready to become a photographer? What am I doing? Am I researching? Am I learning about how cameras have evolved? Have I saved up for the one piece of equipment that’s going to get this new game going?” We need to take action. To me, the action has to be rooted in insight. Where does insight start? It starts with if you can’t sit with yourself for five minutes a day, how can your girlfriend? How can your boss? Who is going to sit with you if you can’t be with Josh in the morning for five minutes alone? Quieting your mind and saying, “Let me rehearse this day.” I knew we were going to talk. I was excited about it because I’m from sports. I wanted to connect with you. I ate a specific meal to make my mind crystal clear.
What did you eat?
I ate a soup and a salad and I fasted for half of yesterday.
What kind of soup? What kind of salad?
Do you know a little bit about macrobiotics? It’s the science of eating. We talked about yin and yang, there are foods that are contracted. That’s like meat and beans. There are foods like squash that are yin. What I try to do is balance, so I stretch. I have to do stuff that’s like this, while it’s strong. I need the balance between hard and soft. If I eat a lot of animal food, I have warrior genetics. I’ll become a beast, but it’s stiff. It doesn’t allow me to move properly, but I look great. It’s probably a normal level of human flexibility, but I like to be a little more flexible. I did vegan for a few years. When I had this disease on my leg, seven doctors walked up to me and go, “You might want to eat some animal food here in conjunction with the medicine.” I was like, “Are you sure?” and then more doctors came on to me. This hole wasn’t closing and I was like, “I’m going listen,” and on the last day of the treatment it was magic. I flaked off the scab and it healed. It opened my mind and I did a lot of research. It was kabocha squash soup with kale, carrots, a little bit of rice and quinoa. The salad had all the fruits, flaxseeds, greens. I’m into fat lately because it’s the base of the hormones. I make a conscious effort to eat a fair amount of saturated fats.
Fats have been a villain for a long time, but it’s absolutely necessary.
Sugar is your enemy. Humans are not adapted to sugar. As a minimum of alcohol intake as any human would benefit from, alcohol is the opposite of meditation. It has a negative effect on your metabolism. It crushes your metabolic rate.
What do you mean when you say sugar? Is this processed sugar? Are these carbs?
Refined sugar. All carbs are not created equal. We have to look at humans constitutionally. What works for you may not work for me, it may not work for Arjun. Our genes are from the equator. When you go closer to the equator, the plants grow differently. These people can handle where the heat is. They’ll usually handle carbs and fruits better. When you start to get more polar, this is where people are eating meat animals. When you get into the mountains, there’s little plant food growing. They’re ketogenic almost. It’s going to be a little bit of your genes and your constitution. You’re a lot of red fiber. You’re a lot of fast switch fiber. I have intermediate fiber, so I adapt endurance and speed. You have to do a thorough assessment. Macrobiotics is a system. Macrobiotics is from Japan and rooted in Chinese medicine. Ayurveda is from India and these masters go through a science of individuating the food to match you. If you go through a series of thorough questionnaire and assessment and movement. You know like, “Meat works well for this person. It’s not good for this person.” If someone’s like, “Aery and Arty are talking about esoteric ideas,” and their hands are cold, we’d call them Vata and they need meat to be grounded because they’re airheaded. They’re out to lunch. They’ll never plant their feet on the ground and talk. They’re going to be spaced out the whole time. That’s a constitutional type.
Is it like a personality thing?
It’s a physical and personality. The mind is also matter. These ancient systems know that. The food makes your mind as well. If we got jacked up on two cups of coffee, it would change our energy. If we went out for a hot spicy Indian dinner, it will change your energy. If you eat a balanced table like what I’m shooting for with the balance with the macrobiotics and Ayurvedic principles, what you want as much as you can is stability but sometimes you want to be excited. I know a lot of athletes get amped up on caffeine. What we’re doing is there’s a certain level of skill. Do you work out? I’d love to ask you about pain. Your muscles are going to burn. You’re going to feel like quitting. This is something everybody goes through in different parts. Your life happens to be making a living doing this physically. Pain is occurring in the mind. How do you transform? In order to get the runner’s high, I had to lie to myself, then it would transform into a pleasure. It was dark. I would get into a place where I’m suffering, I’m lying and then I’m like, “I’m either going to die or thrive.” Once I flip that switch, it was embracing the pain. What do you do with the pain for you to get through it and to be successful?
First off, no pain no gain. I had to say that. Injuries, especially in football and most of the sports, is part of the game. Not even beyond injuries, just training. The lactic acid buildup, the burning in your muscles, how do you get through that? It’s a certain mental state. I’m honest with the pain. When you say embrace the pain, this is painful but I’m also doing this for a reason.
What I’m curious about is your link. That’s where the average person can tune it. It sounds like you’re linking it to the reward. That’s where the spirit is.
Not even just the reward. The challenge in embracing the pain and how much can I endure this workout? How much weight can I do? How many reps can I do this time? There’s something about it. It doesn’t make sense to everyone.
You’re tapping into something inside you. That is your inner life. You have inner strength. You’re not coming from the outside, that’s deep. That’s from a deep part of yourself that knows how to handle that pain and to make it rich and fulfilling. You know that pain is going to be rewarding at some point if you smash through that pain. There’s something there.
There are a lot of rewards. I started playing football for the relationships, for the friendship. That was a reward for me. Can my buddies count on me? Whenever it’s down the wire, I don’t want to let my guys down, my team down. It’s the same thing. I have a responsibility to my team. I have a responsibility to myself. I have a responsibility to everyone that’s helped me get to this point. I have responsibility for all the work that I’ve done in the past to get to this point. When I think of embracing the pain, it takes all that into consideration and understanding that what it takes is what it takes. I’m going to do it.Pain is going to be rewarding at some point if you smash through that. Click To Tweet
When I run, that’s solitary. I can pull a muscle. You’re in a situation where you can break a bone. You can have a concussion and you’re coming back from it. That’s another level of things that are out of your control.
I like to think of Gary Vee in this situation, “You go and control what you can control.” I forget his exact words but he talks about this all the time. There’s something else I wanted to bring up about the visualization techniques and sitting with yourself, seeing your life and what you could do. Gary Vee talks a lot about regret and not having regret. That’s something that I’m trying to put into practice now. It’s something that I don’t concern myself with. If it’s going to happen, it’s going to happen. There’s nothing I can do about it. I can prepare. I could do my prehab. I could do the shoulder exercises. Do the leg exercises to help stabilize my joints and put them in the best position. I can simulate as close as I can to game speed, game revs, game forces and game angles when I’m running or changing directions or when I’m engaged with someone. There’s a practice, experiential aspect to it. You play a certain number of snaps and it’s like, “I’m not going to put myself in this position because I know that’s not going to end well for me.” Unfortunately, a lot of those cases might have ended in injury in the past. We’re able to avoid those situations in your play.
When you’re talking about things like visualization, letting go, it’s out of my control. That’s your frame. To me, that’s my yoga. It’s out of your control. You don’t know how the day is going to go. Why don’t you visualize it in the morning? It’s all the same stuff. It’s taking the ancient and timeless teachings and making it here and now relatable. What I’m saying is get your mind right in the morning. Get up. Do you first, then turn on the phone. Visualize the important things. There were some fun things I wanted to talk about. I saw myself going through it. We’ve hit most of that. There were some unpredictable moments but the meal I had, the enthusiasm. We need to walk through more consciously our day. There’s that balance of what the Earth needs is this energy of competitiveness, which is good in the entrepreneurial world. We have to like effort and surrender, it’s cooperation. Hustle but how can we cooperate? We were saying that nobody wins if the planet burns up. Where’s the water going to be in a few years?
Whatever happened to South Africa? Weren’t they running out of water in Johannesburg? Did they ever run out of water? That was in the news and everyone was freaking out about it. You haven’t heard about it since.
It’s a disaster that we need to watch out for wars that might happen over water. That’s on the horizon for this beautiful planet. Competitiveness mixed with cooperation, we have to straddle that. It is to keep teaching, to keep giving this. It’s to keep inspiring kids to get more grants coming in for the curriculums that are right for high school. Giving this as an elective to more athletes in high schools to connect with themselves. I learned the stuff late. I had some good training as a kid. I feel if some of this was available to more people at a younger age, we would be having a different generation coming up. It’s an exciting time with the technology of consciousness, meeting this hyper-tech world that we’re in naturally.
There’s stuff to be self-aware and to get that space and time to yourself when you’re carrying around these mobile computers. You’re going to have access to anything and anyone in the world.
Here’s a trick, try to put the phone out of the bedroom and use a regular alarm clock. That in the morning it’s setting you off. To me, it’s work. You get tempted. Wake up without it. Wake up with an alarm clock and do some morning practices. It can be breathing exercises. You don’t have to do things out of the yoga playbook but you have to do things consciously. You have to do things with awareness.
We talk about yoga playbook and there’s a lot of overlap. We’re realizing that and what it takes to be a successful professional athlete and you talk about these flow states, getting in the zone. What it takes to create change in your life and accepting what you can’t control, you can’t control. What you can, you can. You can do things like put your phone out of your room. Things to prepare for your day that as I prepare for anything that might happen on a football field, you prepare, “I’m going to have this specific meal.” There are decisions and things that I can control, that you can control that will help you on your journey or through your day, whatever that may be.
It’s an idea that we’re all in it together. When you tap in, there’s a unity. There’s something of that brotherhood in football. There are people you haven’t met yet but they’re also your brothers. These people go to war with you, so there’s a deep bond. The stakes are high in a similar way. All people share the same desire to thrive the same. You travel a lot I see. Your operating system is wiped clean. When you see that parents want more time with their little kids, they don’t want to be at the office all the time. This is a universal thing and you start to see like, “We have it good in America.”
It’s all about perspective.
At the end of the day, are you becoming successful to build a bigger fence or a longer table? That’s an interesting thing.
In terms of a dining table or who you’re sharing versus putting up boundaries.
Are you looking to build a bigger dining table or a larger fence to keep people out with your wealth and success? At the end of the day, you’re not going to take any of it with you. What is this for? Doing something like your podcast and sharing the videos with yourself working out and seeing you in pain, but keeping going. That’s the light that the world needs. We all have that spirit inside. The more people that can touch that, the more people can do that. We come together and we look at the water issue. We get the scientists on it and we get clean up and we get tech behind it. You’ve got something and we start talking about how we deal with the world population.
You hit it on the head, which is something I wanted to mention. It’s about coming together. We have these boundaries, these fences that we all put up. One thing that I appreciate about team sports is that when you have a common goal or something that affects everyone. In the case of the world population, the impending shortage of water, that’s something that affects everyone. How do you solve that by coming together? Being together and having that perspective of how similar we are when you travel and all the things that we have in common.
It’s important to have opposing viewpoints. Someone could be a total Republican, gung-ho about it and someone could be far left. It’s getting polarized that it’s like, “If you disagree with me, you’re an animal. I’m going to call you Hitler or something.” Why can’t we let each person speak or getting at a point where we’re not even allowing each other to speak because we have different viewpoints. To maybe see that, “Some of their ideas are okay and some of their ideas are okay.” The more division that we have, the absolute mess we’re making of this whole situation. People complain about how bad it is. I had a woman walk up to me holding her ribs and her chest and she was like, “The Kavanaugh hearings,” and I was like, “Put your feet on the floor. I know you don’t agree with it. We don’t have the evidence to throw this guy under the bus. You may not like everything he’s done in his life, but take a breath and go on with your day. This is the news. President Trump isn’t stopping you from being amazing now.” That’s the mistake we make. Food’s going to help you crush it on the football field. The phone and the stuff you’re looking at is food for your mind. She woke up. She came up caved over the news with her chest hurting. I was like, “Open your chest.”
A large part of that, going back to the things you can’t control. You can’t necessarily control what other people are doing. Another part of the Kavanaugh hearings is that the implications on half the population, those are real. In order for that to manifest, how do you let it affect you? Is that something that you’re not going to get out of bed? Personally, it’s something that should motivate you. It’s about perspective, the context, “I’m going to get out of bed. I’m going to do this. This is bullshit. This sucks. How can we change this? How can I control what I can control to make the difference, the change that I want to see?” That’s a big part of that.
It circles back to what I’m all about. I have the word in Sanskrit tattooed on my back. It’s Abhyasa. Abhyasa means practice. You’re not going to see that. You’re going to see the news and it’s going to affect you because you’re responding. If you wake up and you have a practice, you can say, “That sucks. What am I going to do about it? Is this going to immobilize me and make my chest hurt and make me crawl into bed like an animal that’s wounded?” Am I going to say, “There’s something I can do? I’m going to educate my little girls differently or I’m going to take my son and say, “I can understand as a father what it’s like to have tons of testosterone and it’s a nightmare. You’re a kid walking around with the heart on all the time.’” What are you going to do with that? You want to teach that kid, “There’s a way to treat women.” Let him box. Don’t let him play with dolls if he doesn’t want to. Don’t tell him his aggression is bad. Put him in martial arts. Let him get that energy out. Let him be a man but to learn to treat women well. That’s a resourceful action in that situation rather than getting bent out of shape. If we don’t have practice, that’s where our society is losing it.
I don’t know what this process is. I know it’s different for everyone. If it happens, maybe you grieve. How do you respond to that grief? It’s like, “My chest and my stomach, I’m in pain,” and I can understand that pain but what’s the next step? You can’t live in pain forever. There’s something to be done about it and that’s a big part of it. The divisiveness in our country, you can’t talk about it. It’s one of those things where it’s unfortunate. It’s something that we feel we can’t control. In reality, when you think about the resources that are afforded to us, our ability to vote. We’re voting together. We’re uniting. Only time will tell, but that’s a special thing. That’s something that we should definitely utilize to make the changes that we want to see.
When I looked in the mirror and I was going to give up this body and thought that this could be it. Whenever you have a moment where you can die and you’ve been healed and I got lucky. All I want to do is everything that I can do to make it a little more peaceful and a little better. If I can do a little something, I feel that’s the only thing driving me. In that moment, I realize that it could have been 37 years old. It could be 67, 87 and 97. It get you in touch with the reality that you are going to leave this place like, “How did you go through it? How did you leave it? Did you take as much as you could take for yourself or did you also contribute something?” Yoga is a tool that some people on this planet are going to connect to. It’s a tool for me that’s free of religion. All of it is turning the light back into yourself and the practices are aimed.
It’s an ancient science. The yogis are not religious people. They’re the guys who go into the forest or go to the mountains or go to the jungle and they’re interested in experience, not sharing their religion with the world. When you’re suffering and suffering and you want to stop your suffering, you go to a yogi because they’re concerned with experience. The layman should have this ecstasy that you have on the football field. Usually, people would have to be in front of a priest and he’d have to be bottom down. He’d bless you with his wisdom and knowledge. We’re getting at a time where this technology is available. Everyone that’s reading this can go to a yoga class and start to get healthier. Everyone can start tuning in to thinking about their food a little better and putting down the sugar, minimizing the alcohol, getting rid of the junk food.
It’s beyond religion, beyond yoga. It’s a practice about the self and where do I fit into the world? Where do I fit into my beliefs? What can I do about that to shape the world that I want, the experience that I want? Jai, thanks so much. You dropped so much knowledge. It’s an information-packed episode. I appreciate your time.
I’m glad you did yoga. Sometimes people get a little scared of stretching and they think it’s just stretching but it’s a well-rounded thing, it’s a well-rounded practice.
Anything I can do to improve or aid in my mental and physical health, I’m all about it.
It’s been a cool talk. Thank you for having me on the show.
I appreciate you. Until next time.
About Jai Sugrim
Jai Sugrim is a yoga teacher, athletic trainer, public speaker and recognized men’s health expert. He is the creator of the Jai Sugrim Method, a scientific approach for bringing the human body and mind into harmony. Jai has worked with many professional athletes, including the New York Yankees, with whom he earned a World Series championship ring in 2000.
Jai has been featured in Psychology Today, The New York Times, The Atlantic, The Huffington Post, and The Today Show. He also created and starred in the cable TV show Yoga Sutra Now, which aired 65 episodes in over 20 different countries including the U.S, Russia, Poland, Egypt, Australia, and Morocco. During 2014 & 2015, Jai’s awareness of the power of mindfulness to impact lives was expanded when he taught yoga to high school students at Frederick Douglas Academy in Harlem, sponsored by a grant from the Sonima Foundation.
Jai has worked in the health and wellness industry for 25 years. He is a C.S.C.S (Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist,) L.M.T. (Licensed Massage Therapist,) Advanced Certified Jivamukti Yoga Teacher, and a Master Practitioner of N.L.P. (Neuro-Linguistic Programming). He is licensed by the National Strength and Conditioning Association, the American Council on Exercise, the International Sports and Sciences Foundation and the Jivamukti Yoga School.
As a health & wellness educator, Jai enjoys sharing his healthy lifestyle and the enlightened teachings with students through his international retreats, speaking engagements, teacher trainings, TV appearances, one-on-one coaching, corporate wellness programs, and writing. Jai finished three NYC marathons, plays basketball, trains in martial arts, lifts weights, and has completed a ten-day silent Vipassana meditation retreat. He has practiced yoga for the past twenty years, including ten years of deep study in the Ashtanga yoga method. He lives on the Upper West Side of Manhattan with his wonderful dog and co-teacher, Foxy Sugrim.