Lessons From A (Snowboard) Legend

Craig Kelly Memorial at Baldface Lodge, BC, Canada. PHOTO: Chris Wellhausen

I met Craig Kelly in Alaska in April of 1998.  I was snowboarding there with a group from Burton Snowboards back in the hey day of the uproar.  The days were extra long – sundown at 10pm – and we were spending our time up at the Alyeska resort.  We got snowed in – a consistent wet heavy dump for nearly 4 days.

The resort had shut down access to the mountain – and helicopters weren’t running – so it meant that for most of us, we were piddling time at the hotel bar talking nonsense,  hanging in the hot tub, throwing donuts in the parking lot, or just plain being silly.

Craig was good friends with friend of mine, and we got to talking.  He was incredibly intelligent, charming, and if you were spiritually aware in any kind of way – you could get a whiff of his spirituality. I think anyone who spent as much time in the backcountry and traveling some of the most remote and beautiful places in the world as he did, is bound to have a strong connection to the rhythm of the universe and mother nature.

One day – a few of us took a ride into Seward and on the way there Craig would gaze up at the mountains.  He would see lines, places to explore, find opportunities to play.  From inside the car his finger would just point and then run down the glass of the window as if drawing the line he would pick and run through the trees.  He was in his own world for that moment.  This wasn’t some ‘dude’ who just liked to ride…this was a guy in where the soul of the sport action permeated his entire being.

I found out on our way into Seward that he practiced Yoga.  He alluded to it in a way where you could tell that it (yoga) had begun to have an effect on him.  I think it’s hard NOT to be spiritual when you are surrounded by the beauty that he was most of the time, but his practice, the yoga practice, was helping to draw him into what he would do next in his life.  He had said that he started practicing as a way to deal with an injury he had sustained…and as most of us come to the practice – from an injury, looking for another method to heal, strengthen, help, or just improve – we find that with dedication it transforms us – and allows us to truly follow our heart.

My family is from Ecuador and he had mentioned that he wanted to drive through South America to surf and just immerse himself in the culture. He did that…he pursued his dream and shortly after returning would pursue his vision to be a backcountry guide in British Columbia. 

When he passed away I was floored.  I knew, however, he had found peace in exactly what he had chosen.  He chose a path that felt authentic and true to him – he walked away from the hype of the industry and stayed pure to what he loved.  He became a transmitter of  mountain knowledge and know-how to others.  A guru of the backcountry if you will.

I heard him say once and I can’t quite exactly remember how it went – but it was something like, “Some people say when they get on the mountain they get lost or they lose themselves, when I am on the mountain…I feel like I’ve found myself, that I’ve stepped into myself.”

That’s what we are doing every time we step on that mat – we are tapping into ourselves as opposed to checking out.  Yoga was happening to him before he even started an asana practice…it happens in those moments where are so tapped into your pure self that all concepts of time and space disappear.

We are found in the moment we are lost in…completely in sync with everything around us.

Not running against, not running away from, but observing and creating.

In 2003 I went to the Transworld Snowboarding Conference in Banff,  and they paid tribute to Craig Kelly.  His wife was there, and his baby daughter, she was probably around the same age as my daughter now.  It was a powerful tribute..and there was a picture of Craig in savasana along side a river bed on his South American road trip.

I won’t ever forget it.

Craig was a teacher and a beacon for many.  His resolve is something that I admire tremendously. I am forever inspired to find that courage to remain true to myself every day.



The western trend of yoga has diluted much of the conviction and actual hard work involved in the practice.  Emphasis on attire, music, and trendy studios (I believe) has created a lack of truly understanding the essence and work that brings forth benefit from this philosophy and practice.  About 2 months ago I was struggling with the need to conform to meet popular demand in order to continue teaching.  I almost wavered, thinking that in order to teach yoga I had to change,  to blend into what seemed ‘acceptable’ or popular.

I didn’t.

What helped me was a simple motto.  “I want to be a good teacher, NOT, a popular one.”

It’s the repetition of affirmations that leads to belief. And once that belief becomes a deep conviction, things begin to happen.  

Muhammed Ali

The result?  My staying true to what I believe in, in my heart – and who I am as a teacher resulted in a revered Ashtanga based studio, to invite me to come teach there – not because I am popular, but because of my convictions and style of teaching.

The lesson?  Once you find your niche and believe in it with your whole heart – stay true to it.

You may come across a moment in your life that you find yourself having to answer a question that might challenge your beliefs or begin to do something that just doesn’t feel right or align to your values.  You feel it in your body….this IS awareness and intuition.  Learn how to listen to it.

Don’t cave.

A ‘No’ uttered from the deepest conviction is better than a ‘Yes’ merely uttered to please, or worse, to avoid trouble.

Mahatma Gandhi

Whether you are a teacher, entreprenuer, artist, or professional – stick to your beliefs and values once you define them.  You will find that the people you draw towards you, whether they are clients or customers, will be easier to work with because they believe what you believe, and they become your stewards.

“Best Is The Enemy Of The Good”

Recently,  Keith came outside as I was beginning my practice early one morning (we are all early birds in this castle) and said happily “YOGA!”

“Gotta do what I gotta do.” I said.

“Perfect is the enemy of good, right?”  He said.


“Totally.”  I grinned.  Because, I knew exactly what he meant.

I had one of the best home practices in a long time.

” The best is the enemy of the  good.” ~Voltaire

I think we are all too familiar with the voice inside of us.

“If only I had this – then I would do/get that.”

“I don’t have the time I ‘really’ need to do it (practice, go to the gym, run, clean, start a project, cook a healthy dinner), therefore I won’t.”

“If it were this….then it would be that”.

“If I can’t make it to the studio, then I won’t practice.”

The voice telling us that all conditions must be a certain way before we begin or do anything that we know might improve our lives (or change it). The weather reporter as some people call it.

The other perfection advocate within us is the one that keeps pushing, forcing, advancing, tweaking, changing, until this illusion of perfection is achieved.  This can often leave us burned out…defeated…hurt.

Sometimes,  good – is exactly all we need.  I think Mick Jagger coined it perfectly – “You can’t always get what you want, but you get what you need.”  For me, this has been a huge learning as of late and it has helped me in cultivating a home practice that may not be what it is in the studio, but, the fact is, over time, it could be.

Perfection is just an endless pursuit. It is not an actual.  Ever.

You don’t have to be a yogi to experience this.

An infinite distance lies between nothing–the unsaid comment, the unwritten letter, the undone act–and something, no matter how much room for improvement remains. In comparison, the distance between that something and perfection is barely noticeable at all. www.edbatista.com

It’s about effort.  NOT getting it right every single time.  Chances are within those efforts we catch glimmers of perfection or as some would say “excellence”.

“99% Practice, 1% Theory”, Right?

Keep practicing,



Maintaining Momentum

Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving ~ Albert Einstein

Implementation of my ‘new life strategy’ has been boding well for me in terms of managing my life, expectations, and improving overall well-being.  Not only am I feeling better about NOW, my yoga practice has also changed significantly.  My awareness is deeper and I find that I am cutting through the mental bullshit and getting to the clearing in my mind and body more expeditiously. I am finding new depth and strength on a more subtle level on the mat and off.

When we go from feeling stuck to developing a strategy and then taking action – we create momentum – we send other things into motion.  Things begin to happen – we taste the savory nature of small successes and begin to feel energized and motivated.  The challenge?  Maintaining it.

A couple of things I have learned in maintaining momentum in life/business:

1.  Keep your goal visible:

  • In business I always liked to keep my goals visible.  This was something I could always use to speak into and use to determine actions of my team.
  • When thinking of designing your life – create a vision that includes short term, mid term, and long term goals.  Let this vision include words and images that inspire and keep you motivated.  A vision board may not be your cup of tea, but the reality is we all need something to remind us of what we are actually working towards.
  •  Make it dynamic.  Your vision may change as a result of a new idea – and that’s okay.  If you get a fresh idea include it…this IS part of a creative process.  Also, if an old idea just doesn’t jive any longer – let it go.

2.  Revisit & remind yourself and others of your goals.  Companies do this monthly and or quarterly based on results….shouldn’t we do the same?

  • Determine what’s worked and what hasn’t.
  • What new actions need to happen or old actions need to go.
  • Remind yourself and your support group or team – this goes a long way in maintaining momentum and motivation.

3.  Capitalize on the energy from one success to move to the next – immediately.

  • The best time to do something is when you are inspired to do it. Not only are you more motivated after a success you are also energized. Use this energy while you have it.

4.  Consistency/Discipline in your actions:  Whether you’re in business or dealing with a personal transformation – staying disciplined to the tactics/or actions is important particularly over long periods of time (I thank my ashtanga practice for giving me this discipline).

  • Look at your weekly goals and determine the daily actions necessary to accomplish those and do your BEST to do them daily.   I like to use certain days for certain actions.
  • Build in a buffer knowing that life is going to ‘happen’.
  • Be realistic with your time and action list.  Focus on the priority goals and perhaps get rid of anything superfluous.

5.  Be the Tortoise – as in the Tortoise and The Hare.  Keep moving forward with modesty and perseverance (this goes hand in hand with consistency).

  • Are you familiar with sprinting out of the starting gate the suddenly stopping when you’ve gained traction? This quickness and overzealous nature can lead to burnout, exhaustion, injury (if dealing with exercise or even yoga), or taking too long of rest (i.e. a vacation).  The result of this means you end up falling behind and then racing to catch up again.
  • Consistency cultivates steadiness. Peaks cultivate burnout (in some shape or form). Valleys cultivate laziness or dullness.
  • Set yourself up for success by creating an achievable and realistic pace as well as being aware of your efforts.

6.  Create Balance:  We all need to take a break from our regimes in order to re-fuel. Think of a road bike team that works together.  They are moving forward at an aggressive pace, but at certain times the front rider drops back to draft and rest.  They also have rest days built into their practice.  They create a pace and strategy that is fervently moving forward and manageable over the long haul.

  • Include YOU in your time management or schedule.  Time for personal growth (classes, etc…), reflection, and your health (eating well and exercise).
  • Take rest on days your body or mind demand it or better yet, include days of rest in your schedule.  Make sure the rest is consolidated and actually rejuvenating. More than a day here or there may be a warning sign that you’ve been working too hard (this would apply to even to too much exercise).
  • If you find that you are swinging too far up or too far down in terms of your efforts, get to a place where you can regroup and then set up a paceline or strategy that is achievable and do your best to stick to it.

Momentum requires diligence and steadiness.  These are just a few tips, but I would love to know what are some of the things you currently do to maintain momentum and consistency in your efforts?

And remember, it’s all just practice…

Creative Potential

“Yoga releases the creative potential of Life.  It does this by establishing a structure for self realization, by showing how we can progress along the journey, and by opening a sacred vision of the Ultimate, of our Divine Origin, and final Destiny.  That Light that yoga sheds on Life is something special.  It is transformative.  It does not just change the way we see things; it transforms the person who sees. It brings knowledge and elevates it to wisdom.”

B.K.S Iyengar, Light on Life

The above leaves me speechless – what more does one need to ramble on about the wonder of this thing called yoga – he said it ALL right there.