I’ve known Michael DeCorte for nearly a quarter of a century. After high school, he disappeared from my radar–and I from his, no doubt–for a very long time. His lifestyle and partying had actually attained mythic proportions in our home town, and as far as I knew he’d met any number of horrible fates, not least of which was a widely rumoured (and clearly very inaccurate) drug-related death. But this wasn’t the case. In fact, while it’s true that he’d gone on into…let’s call it an active party life in Toronto…I was very happy to discover that he had in more recent years gone through a magnificent process of personal transformation, shifting gears mid-stream from a life of excess to one of intensive self-reflection and focus. From running a direct path to self destruction to running one of the most successful Yoga practices in the GTA (that’s Toronto for our non-Canadian readers), Michael DeCorte is the epitome of what The Man Sphere represents in our motto: “always think improvement.”
I’ve tried in the past to get him to take some time out of his unbelievably busy teaching and workshop schedule for an interview. You can’t imagine how happy I am to be able to finally say we were able to chat and share some of his amazing story and insights. The fact that it was just in time for our New You Issue is the icing on the cake; and I have to say, for me, a personal mark of success. Because to be of professional interest to the people who inspire you is, in my opinion, a sure sign you’re on the right road.
Sports: Yoga, running, weighlifting
How did you get started on your current career/lifestyle path?
After a beginning in life as overweight and excessive with drugs and alcohol, I sobered up, got fit, began to bodybuild/run marathons/do yoga. Went back to school for corporate communications, then realized that my greatest passion was yoga, and became a yoga teacher—founded my own brand, Jock Yoga.
Did you have any mentors who helped steer you on this path?
I’ve had many mentors—my recovery guru Brian, yoga teachers, my parents, my friends, and just about anyone who has come into my life has influenced me. My everyday life experience is my greatest teacher.
How has your work contributed to a) your development as a person and/or b) the lives of others?
My work has helped contribute to my development, in that I’ve learned what integrity is—to be honest, to not compromise or people please, so that I can practice what I preach. I believe(hope) that my story/actions/life can serve as an example to people who think they may be stuck, and that they can always move forward and have a better life.
If you had one piece of advice for someone just entering your field, what would it be?
One piece of advice that I would have for someone entering my field, or for anyone for that matter, would be to be yourself no matter what, follow your passion, and don’t try to be ‘spiritual’, instead aim to be honest—serenity is the compliment to a life lived with integrity.
Do you have a personal work philosophy?
Personal work philosophy would be the same as above—if you need to shake the boat, shake it, don’t compromise your needs for someone else’s happiness—take care of yourself in business.
For fun I like exercise, yoga, horror movies, exploring the city I live in.
What motivates or inspires you?
People who achieve greatness by following their passions is the number one thing that inspires me…and people who overcome obstacles because of a belief that things can be better.
What has been your greatest achievement (personally, professionally or both)?
My greatest achievement would be my recovery from a 250lb chain-smoking alcoholic and drug addict to what I am now…a sober health professional and athlete. Disclaimer: I did not achieve any of this alone–legions of people have guided me on my path.
What is the one thing you hope to achieve?
I hope to grow my audience larger and larger and pass my story along so that others may be motivated/inspired to change into better versions of who they already are—to face their fears and do it anyway.
What is your super power?
My super power is honesty—to the best of my ability
Who’s your hero?
I have many heroes, but I would say my late grandmother Jean Bailey is my greatest—she taught me unconditional love, and to honour/take care of myself.
What are you reading (or watching) these days?
These days, I’m reading Power Through Constructive Thinking by Emmet Fox, and other books that focus on positive thinking—in order to nurture and grow my optimism.
Thinking back to a time when you had to make a hard choice, how did you decide, and do you feel, in retrospect, that you made the right move?
Getting sober was the hardest decision I had to make. You’d think it would be easy, given that I was headed for destruction and certainly an untimely death. Yet with the pull of popularity, the excitement of “partying,” and the fear of being bored or boring for the rest of my life, the decision was the hardest I had to make. Once I saw others recover and change their lives though, I ended up having hope, and believed I could get to a happier place. That’s when I decided to stay in sobriety and work on my life. Best decision/choice I’ve ever made. Life is better than anything I could have ever imagined.
If you had it all to do over again, would you change anything?
I don’t think I’d change anything about my life, as I’m a firm believer that “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” and everything that has happened in my life has brought me to the comfortable place I am now. A quote I’ve heard along the way: “The long winding road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom”—or something like that.
What’s next for you? What’s your next big idea, project etc.?
Next big move for me is to broaden my audience as much as I can in order to share a message of hope, and to hopefully inspire more people to change for the better—physically, mentally and spiritually. I have some TV “stuff” currently in development, and some wonderful working relationships unfolding. It’s an exciting time.
What one piece of advice would you give to your own son (hypothetical or otherwise) in the hope of making him a better man?
One piece of advice that I’d give my son (if and when I have one) would be to simply be himself–no matter what that is—and to take care of himself (words from my grandma), as he’s the only one he has to please and live with for his whole life.
We know that traditionally yoga is practiced only by men in India, but in North America it’s got a stigma as being predominantly female. Have you encountered any roadblocks or resistance in the process of getting Jock Yoga off the ground and accelerated to its current level of success?
I have definitely still met with some resistance from men to doing Jock Yoga. In fact, I still have mostly a predominantly female clientele. That being said, I still do have more men than an average yoga class for sure, and more and more are coming all the time. I think that men liked the idea of Jock Yoga—as it doesn’t seem like a girly or flowery yoga class, though I think some of the publicity surrounding Jock Yoga’s intensity has scared some men off in the other direction as well. Nothing to be scared of! Come and learn–and SWEAT!
How does Jock Yoga differ from other mainstream types of yoga practice?
Jock Yoga is a power vinyasa yoga class (vinyasa means linking breath with movement), the difference from most yoga classes is that Jock Yoga is focused on strength and endurance rather than extreme flexibility, and doesn’t require anyone to attempt poses that would cause frustration, discouragement and embarrassment. Yes, in Jock Yoga we stand on our heads and hands and arm-balance etc, but none of this requires extreme flexibility, and only requires a willingness to try (practice)and a little determination. For the average able-bodied man/woman, the poses of Jock Yoga are accessible over time. We speak in everyday language in class—avoiding Sanskrit and chanting, and I like to tell jokes and make people laugh while working hard. Also, we don’t preach spiritual principles outright in a Jock Yoga class; instead, we remind the student to be honest with his/herself about their capabilities, for safety reasons; this, I believe helps a person to begin an intimate dialogue with his/herself, and allows them to move forward physically, mentally and spiritually in their own unique way.
Are there different levels (say, for beginners) in Jock Yoga, or should one expect to have a certain amount of yoga experience before taking the plunge into this program?
Though I sometimes get beginners in my class, I would definitely recommend some yoga experience, because, although one doesn’t have to be flexible per se, the brisk movements and intensity of the class could overwhelm someone if they have no prior knowledge of what we’re doing in the class. I say to go out and learn what upward dog, downward dog and chaturanga are, and then come and see me!
Jock Yoga online: http://www.jockyoga.com/
Jock Yoga on Facebook: Jock Yoga
Jock Yoga on Twitter: @JockYogaGuy