Sam is an old friend and one of the original members of the Fellowship. In fact, Sam has been part of the crew long before it even existed! I met Sam at a house party back at university. He was etched in my memory having cooked a roast dinner that he had 'urban-foraged' from Waitrose. However, it wasn't until years later at one of the first So We Flow... photoshoots that we realised this is where we'd met before. To put it bluntly, Sam has one of the most proficient and profound yoga practices - both mentally and physically - that I have come across. He has been one of my biggest inspirations over the years and continues to be so...
Samuel Fong Brooks, Yoga Teacher, Movement Enthusiast & Owner of Sheng Yoga
What does your perfect morning look like?
In an ideal world, I would be up at 4am and out the door by 4.30am at the latest - to run or wander around the countryside for an hour or two. I'd then come home to eat breakfast, do my movement practice, whatever I have scheduled for the day and enjoy a quality shower.
I would while away the rest of the morning playing the guitar, reading or writing with a touch of classical playing in the background. If time allowed I would squeeze in some language learning or a spot of drawing.
Tell us about when and how you got into movement.
I'm fortunate to have been enrolled in movement through some form or another from a very early age. Swimming is in my blood - I can't even remember when I learned, I only have the stories from my father. It was my first real passion and I have always loved free diving in the ocean.
I believe my mother encouraged dance and gymnastics. Again it all happened at such a young age that I can't recall whether I wanted to do it! I can certainly remember enjoying it a great deal. I still enjoy participating in all these activities and they inform my broader education of movement and my own practice.
Sam wears our Jersey Yoga Pants
What style of movement do you practice most nowadays and what keeps you coming back for more?
I would say that yoga is my dominant movement practice in one form or another - whether it's Yin, Flow or a HIIT fusion experiment.
There are so many reasons I keep coming back, yet to avoid waffling on, I would say it's predominantly the mental clarity it provides me with. The calm and sense of peace I achieve from practice allows me to handle the other challenges that life presents me with.
If you could only train for 2 hours per week, how would you spend it?
I would say one way around this question to allow complete freedom would certainly be to split the time into styles of activity rather than specificity. In which case I would do something akin to:
- 30 minutes strength and power
- 30 minutes cardio
- 1 hour Yoga and mobility
If I were asked to get specific, then it would be a mixture of climbing, swimming and Yoga. That way I would cover my strength and power, alongside quality endurance from swimming and mobility from Asana.
What is your primary goal in your practice at present?
My primary goal in Yoga practice at the moment is to develop and explore a sustainable movement system. I have a habit of putting on the pressure and finding myself injured or even worse, burnt out, so I'm taking the time to truly listen to my body for the first time in what seems like forever.
What's your all-time favourite movement, pose or technique?
My favourite pose for as long as I can remember has always been handstand. It takes me back to a sense of simplicity and fun childhood memories, like trying to do inversions in the pool without your face filling with water.
Of all the inversions I would specifically and undoubtedly say Scorpion Pose or Vrischikasana. It takes patience and requires surrender; it allows no space for anything else.
What makes a great teacher (of any discipline)?
I'll keep my answer concise, as a whole book could be written on this subject.
Let's start with the less obvious - that being the ability to be vulnerable, both acknowledging and accepting that they don't have all the answers and like everyone else, they are searching for a better understanding.
The more simple and immediately clear are patience, keen observation, tough yet fair, and the ability to leave their ego at the door. I may have to delve into this in greater detail...
In the last five years, what habit, belief or behaviour has most improved your life?
The practice of setting boundaries has most improved my life in recent years. I would even go so far as to say that it has saved my life. I enjoy helping others, yet have never been good at saying no, which has often come with some detriment to myself.
I can't help others if I'm unable to take care of myself. It was usually out of fear of disappointment or rejection, so drawing a line and being able to love myself has changed my life for the better.
Tell us about a time failure has led you to later success.
The most recent example of this would be a couple of years ago. After a solid 5 years of sobriety, I relapsed following a rollercoaster few months that saw me back on the wagon for nearly a year. I was able to turn things around and I can honestly say that it has strengthened my resolve and off the back of it, I was blessed with a great deal of clarity.
It illuminated the reality of how I was treating myself concerning others and was the inspiration for enforcing healthy boundaries and being more selective of the company I keep close to me.
What are one to three books or films that have greatly influenced your life?
Anthony Robbins - Awaken the Giant Within
A book I keep coming back to and discover something new with every read. It provides you with the tools to unlock the power you have inside. Great motivational quotes, exercises and an inspiring personal story of overcoming the odds.
JRR Tolkien - The Lord of the Rings
Truly a 'Tour de Force' that captivates the imagination and has provided me with unforgettable characters, landscapes and stories. There are tales woven within tales, encapsulated by an epic story of success through adversity. Friendships, betrayal, romance, war and a whole lot more. Fantasy at its best.
Julia Cameron - The Artist's Way
This has been an eye-opener to the emotional tapestry of my life. It's a book that offers deep insight through a range of engaging activities, to get you back in touch with your ability to create.
I had no idea this book would have such a profound impact on my life and as I continue reading, I discover more unexpected joy through often challenging home truths. It balances playful exercises of self-discovery with deeper practices of honesty and connection with the self. A book for living.
If you could be any animal in the world, what would you choose and why?
I always struggle with this question given the current strains that we have put on the planet, yet environmental concerns and implications ignored, I would probably say a sea turtle.
I love the ocean. The idea of gliding through a coral reef blissfully grazing on greens appeals to me. Plus the bonus of being able to pop up on shore when I fancy a spot of heat is great. I have met a fair few turtles and they always appear so calm yet playful - I guess that is also very much my nature.
What's your guiltiest pleasure?
This is a difficult question and I will be admittedly obnoxious and provide a convoluted entry here and respond first with a question of my own. How can we consider it pleasure when it entails guilt? Would that not be an oxymoron or is it to suggest that we are in a state of ambivalence - in which case surely that becomes removed from true pleasure?
I only feel guilty when I have done something to actively upset another being. I used to struggle with guilt around my actions, if I felt that I wasn't behaving in an optimum or 'perfect' manner, I'd have to put in a lot of work to not berate myself. Therefore I don't feel guilty about anything that provides pleasure.
In the past I would have said watching too much TV, binge eating or something considered a carnal sin. Yet all these activities serve a purpose and are the right choices in the moment. Guilt is only felt in hindsight and is always a choice.
When you're feeling stressed or unfocused, what do you do to resolve it?
It depends on what form the stress or lack of focus takes and when it presents itself. To minimise the occurrence of these elements in my life, I maintain a regular morning routine of mediation, dog walking with play, writing and movement.
I break up my day with small segments of movement, such as pull-ups, press-ups and general stretching. If I feel something is becoming too much to handle, I turn to various breathing techniques, get up and go for a walk in nature if time allows, or simply have a cup of tea.
If the need presents itself and I need to vent, then I will shout to the sky, punch something or go on a long run! It always helps to have multiple outlets for processing emotion. I find that my morning writing does a great deal to hold me together throughout the day. It's a good place to purge.
What advice would you give someone who is about to embark on a movement and wellness journey? What advice should they choose to ignore?
This is a super simple one to answer and I believe it applies to all aspects of learning. Try multiple styles and a variety of teachers within each discipline until you find someone whose ethos resonates with you. Seek out someone who challenges you and can guide you to where you need to go. Don't seek an echo chamber. Find a practice that speaks to your heart and feeds your soul.
Avoid anyone that preaches as though what they have to say is gospel or believes their form to be the only way.
What are the worst recommendations you hear in your profession or area of expertise?
One thing that stands out for me and always has since I started meditating is the instruction to actively clear your mind. It has never made sense to me and I believe this is much to do with a lack of understanding of mind and a lack of experience or practice on the practitioners part.
While we experience moments of clarity and freedom, it's not through 'doing' and the very act of trying to do so ceases meditation. We're in a state of being and total acceptance in which the mind is present and our awareness is still there, yet we step back from the reactivity.
Within Yoga, I often witness a lot of movement cues or advice that isn't beneficial for the body. In particular, teachers encouraging students to keep going when the body is clearly saying no. People get too caught up in postures and flexibility, so much so that they forget to watch out for hyperextension, passive movement or simply the wellbeing of another individual.
It can be hard to separate ourselves from the ego and the achievement that ourselves or our students feel upon completing a physical feat. Yet if we become purely wrapped up in that, we are failing to present a successful, sustainable and holistic method.
If you could share one message to every single person on the planet, what would you say and why?
Spend more time with Mother Nature. If we all took a little more effort to go and wander through the forest, swim in the ocean and hike through the countryside, we'd experience less stress and anxiety and in turn. decrease the need to look for easy external sources to cultivate fleeting moments of happiness.
It would also hopefully lead to an increased appreciation for this planet and a desire to protect and nurture it - which is what we are here for after all.