Meet Chet - one of the most carefully considered movers we know. Chet combines a scientific, research driven approach to movement with a deep-rooted interest in spirituality, ancient yogic wisdom, meditation and breath-work.
Chet Karsan, Holistic Strength, Movement Coach & Podcaster
What does your perfect morning look like?
8am starts, with 30-40 minutes dedicated to meditation and gratitude after a long shower.
Tell us about when and how you got into movement.
I first got into movement when a gym buddy of mine introduced me to Ido Portal. After watching a short video about his philosophy about true strength, I was completely captivated by his grace and effortless movements - especially his handstands. And as fate would have it, I bumped into an acrobat at my local gym. I witnessed him move so elegantly on the monkey bars - again another hand balancer who captured my attention. At that point I was already burnt out and fed up with weightlifting, so I made the natural shift over to movement.
What style of movement do you practice most nowadays and what keeps you coming back for more?
I'm currently focusing on improving my strength on one arm chins and other climbing related practices. I've been completely obsessed with climbing for the last two years and it's wonderful to become captivated by something new. Despite this, I always stay on top of my stretching practice.
If you could only train or practice for 2 hours per week, how would you spend it?
That's a tricky question. If it were only two hours, the I would dedicate one hour towards my stretching and the other towards climbing. Stretching is something that is highly underrated and something that catches up on people very quickly. Keeping the body loose and supple is very important.
What is your primary goal in your practice at present?
I've got a couple of niggles I'm trying to rehab from. So more climbing and healing my injuries.
What's your all time favourite movement, pose or technique?
Handstands of course!
What makes a great teacher (of any discipline)?
That's a good question. I would say someone who wants his/her students to surpass his abilities or skills. There are too many teachers out there that limited the scope of what they teach people so that they can milk them for as long as possible. If you don't encourage your students to surpass you, then you've failed as a teacher (in my opinion). Also, you have to be willing to learn from your students. I would have to say that in my humble three years of teaching, I've learnt more from my students than I ever did when I was learning. A student's shortcomings are a great way to diagnose and learn about different techniques and methods of teaching. So diversify your techniques. Finally, a great teacher is someone who always wants to improve their game. You have to lead by example and practice what you preach - if you don't, how can you expect others to?
In the last five years, what habit, belief or behaviour has most improved your life?
Becoming process-orientated, not goal-orientated. In a world where people are obsessed about chasing goals and always wondering why they are never happy, be that one person who becomes obsessed with process. Do things for the love of doing them, not to achieve anything external from them such as fame, wealth or success. When you chase goals, you run the risk of becoming depressed when you fall short, or upon completing your goal, feel lost as to where you should head next. We don't listen to music to finish the song, so why do we all rush to achieve goals as quickly as possible?
Tell us about a time failure has led you to later success?
I've never worked a proper 9 to 5 job because of my fear of losing my freedom. My time was more important to me than the numbers in my bank account. Being Indian, that didn't sit well with my parents. There's a saying in Indian culture, "You can either be a doctor, engineer, lawyer, businessman or a failure". I was happily the latter. Once I learned to accept that I would always be a failure in my father's eyes, from a young age I realised I no longer carried my parent's expectations on my shoulders.
P.S. It also helps when you're the middle child!
What are one to three books or films that have greatly influenced your life?
Inner Engineering by Sadhguru
This book was a blessing for me. I don't think I've binge read a book so quickly in my entire life. That's coming from a guy that barely finishes any books. I've got a habit of moving onto the next one once I'm half-way or three-quarters of the way through...
The Matrix is probably a cliche since everyone has seen the deeper parallels between reality and the movie.
The Bhagavad Gita
A must-read for anyone who wants to seek true freedom. It's no wonder why it's still relevant after being spoken over 5000 years ago.
If you could be any animal in the World, what would you choose and why?
I would easily be a bird (especially a falcon or eagle) for the ability of flight through wings. Otherwise it would be a feline. Cats are the most elegant creatures. One could say they have the most elaborate yoga system in existence. They have the ability to lick any part of their body through stretching and staying supple throughout their entire lives. Cats couldn't give two shits about anyone or anything. They do things on their terms and their accord. The most self-assured, equanimous animal on the planet!
What's your guiltiest pleasure?
I don't have a typical guilty pleasure - unless spending time alone, stretching and meditating count.
When you feel stressed or unfocused, what do you do to resolve it?
I rarely become stressed, but if I find myself unfocused it likely means I'm focused on something else. Address what's distracting you before you concentrate on something else.
I read or listen to the teachings from the Gita and other Indian scriptures and meditate. In fact, there's a beautiful quote from Gandhi about the Gita:
“When doubts haunt me, when disappointments stare me in the face, and I see not one ray of hope on the horizon, I turn to Bhagavad-Gita and find a verse to comfort me; and I immediately begin to smile in the midst of overwhelming sorrow. Those who meditate on the Gita will derive fresh joy and new meanings from it every day."
What advice would you give someone who is about to embark on a movement and wellness journey? What advice should they choose to ignore?
As I've mentioned before, be content with where you are and enjoy the process. This doesn't mean you don't strive to improve yourself. Far from it. It just means that you don't become fixated on comparing yourself to others.
Secondly, widen your disciplines. Don't get stuck with one and consequently become single-minded. For example, there are enough hand-balancers, acrobats, Capoeira artists, break-dancers, climbers out there who are simply outstanding because they have been practice their art for many, many years. Don't treat it as a competition. Try and become the Jack of all trades. You will remain in love with all your disciplines rather than failing in and out of love with one and moving onto the next. Always push yourself to become great at each and every one.
You should ignore anyone that teaches you that their discipline is better than someone else’s. Unfortunately this is one of the darker elements of the movement community. Once a person makes a name for themselves under a particular practice, some feel it’s their duty to sell their discipline over another one by putting others down. Understand that movement isn’t about being amazing at a couple of fancy animal movements or some basic Capoeira tricks - it’s how you interact with your body and how you choose to express it.
What are the worst recommendations your hear in your profession or area of expertise?
One of the worst recommendations I’ve heard, and unfortunately I fell victim to, was that I tried to train my movement training like it was the only thing in the world that mattered. The person I learnt under (not going to mention his name or method) created a very rigid program for me to follow. And one that I felt was going to be way too intense for my body, yet I foolishly believed in his method and teachings. Don’t get me wrong, it got me the results I wanted, but it came with a price. When you go from training with weights for four years and then you suddenly switch over to gymnastics rings, the types of muscles you focus on switches from the larger prime movers to the more intricate stabilisers and tendons. And that switch takes longer to get used to. I don’t think my former teacher cared about that. He was too obsessed with a person getting a particular skill without considering the long term cost. Having said that, I definitely don’t have any regrets or resentment whatsoever because it allowed to become a more intuitive teacher when it comes to knowing when a student is ready to move onto a higher progression.
If you could share one message to every single person on the planet, what would you say and why?
Practice selfless service. Linger on that thought for a second before you read on.
We live in a world where everyone seems to be out there for themselves. They don’t seem to care much about helping or elevating others unless it benefits them (whether that’s financially, recognition or how it makes them feel). Even people that give to charities or give to the homeless still give because of the feeling they get from giving. That’s still giving out of self-satisfaction. Try and get into the habit of giving purely for the act of giving, and nothing else. You will see that the way you look at the world will change completely.
When you give purely for the act of giving, you start to see what the process is all about. Consciousness by its default property, is designed for service. The sun provides sunlight for the planet, the trees provide us with oxygen, and fire provides us heat and light. In fact, we all work to provide a service for someone or something. So by being a person that takes more than he/she gives, you are going against your natural inclination. This is one of the reasons why mental health is on the rise. We’re too self-absorbed and always thinking about ME or I. Why is this happening to ME? Why can’t I do this? Why is he not helping ME?