Q&A with yoga expert Duncan Peak

Duncan Peak discovered yoga as a rebellious teenager. His early adult years were spent in the army as a paratrooper and officer. In 2006 he founded Power Living Yoga and the modern yoga brand now has five studios in Sydney and Melbourne, with plans for two more this year. He is the author of Modern Yoga, presents on television channel 74me, runs retreats and teacher training around the globe, and is a sought-after corporate presenter.

How did you build such a powerful yoga brand?

I understood a product (hatha vinyasa yoga) very well and had the capacity as a teacher and a business entrepreneur to do what the market was ready for. Timing has a lot to do with any business success.

I think we were really good at making timeless yogic principles accessible to everyday people and not dressed up in so much mystique or ritual. We didn't really market ourselves in the early days. The product (classes & philosophies) was so good, so contemporary and powerful that word of mouth built our business.

Since then the evolution of our culture, our firm vision on slow organic growth and our investment in our people is what keeps us successful. In nine years I have had only two people ask to leave, and both have asked to come back. We now have around 50 employees. Our staff love what they do, we all do, and are very grateful for the opportunity.

How has yoga changed your life?

On a personal level it has shown me how to be more self-aware and stop old behaviours, thought patterns and beliefs that didn't serve me anymore. Physically it keeps me fit, agile and allows me to play all the other sports I love. As a philosophy I have more inner peace.

As a career it has been rewarding beyond my wildest dreams, allowing me to combine my passion for yoga with business acumen. It has also offered me a unique opportunity to pioneer a modern-day approach to yoga in Australia, something I am very grateful for.

Through practising yoga and its philosophies I continually attempt to develop better self-awareness so I know when I am creating stress. Like the times I am placing too much demand on myself, or creating stories out of things that just are as they are.

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As a result of yoga I try to be really aware and accountable for my own inner state at all times. The attitude that 'the problem is never out there or because of someone else but is within me', is really empowering and humbling to remember.

We are always responsible for our choice to be negative or to complain. It is not the situations, it is the thoughts and negative tendencies to act that are the issues. I try to be really accountable to that.

How can yoga help today's executives?

The physical effects for an executive who spends a lot of time sedentary and hunched over a computer are enormous alone. Movement is medicine, sitting in a chair for 6-10 hours a day has such a negative impact on our bodies that it has to be balanced, or will bring disease.

Like any personal development or self-awareness work, yoga offers a philosophy that allows us to deal gracefully with the ups and downs of life. To see the cause of the stress, not just treat the effects.

Any executive that is able to control his/her mind and break free of limiting beliefs will only perform better at their job with less stress and much more clarity/vitality.

The core attitude of yoga is that we need to still our minds. This gives anyone who practices a sense of inner peace. We begin to learn we don't need external gratification to feel good.

Are more men taking up yoga?

The stigma on men in yoga has radically shifted in most circles over the last five years. Now every major football team is employing yoga teachers, and navy divers, MMA (mixed martial arts) fighters, SAS are all getting into it. It is such a sensible and powerful way to train your body, with enormous mental health benefits, that men don't seem to care about the old stigmas anymore.

Many older men, 35-plus, come to yoga at the end of their athletic careers to restore their body and reclaim mobility in an attempt to reduce the ageing process and continue to do all the sports they love as they get older.

What are the most common yoga myths?

That you need to be flexible to do it. You don't have to, working on that is part of the physical path. It is more about tuning your body to feel as much vitality as it can. The other myth is that it is easy. Some styles are certainly less demanding than others but it can be very challenging, often one of the hardest workouts you can do physically or mentally, or both.