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Steve Ilg: Sweatin' the Spiritual Stuff
Lessons in Becoming a Wholistic Fitness Warrior - Part 2

Steve Ilg Yoga photo by Wayne Williams "I'd work with a student," he says, "and they'd get their spirit up during our workouts, and they were happy and smiling and full of life. And they'd leave the gym and already you could kind of see — they'd reach into their pockets for their keys and they'd start to think about what they had to do. Pretty soon they were on their cell phone, their posture was collapsed and the sparkle left their eyes. Everything that was beaming and beautiful about them moments ago was gone."

(Article continued below.)

So Ilg found a new challenge for himself: link the workout and everyday life into one seamless, universal flow — not an easy task in a society that has accepted industrialization as second nature. "The great schism, I feel, really occurred when we moved from that hunter-gatherer mode into more industrialized, 'comfortable' living," he affirms. "Suddenly the thinking mind started to take priority over the feeling, moving mind. It's like we have engineered fitness out of our life so completely that now we find ourselves running like rats on a treadmill, going nowhere, when we should just enjoy going out for a hike."

Those who make the decision to train Ilg's way find the gym the least of their challenges. Wholistic fitness, Ilg says, "is everything — it's how they sit, it's how they stand, it's how they hold eye contact, it's in their word choice." If someone approaches Ilg, wanting to learn balance, they receive some unexpected lessons. "A very simple prescription of mine would be to work on your non-dominant hand," he chuckles. "So on certain days of the week, they're instructed to brush their teeth with their non-dominant hand, to wipe their butt with their non-dominant hand, to wash their dish with their non-dominant hand. It infuriates them! They see just how addicted they've become to one side of their body. And they wonder why their back hurts, why their thinking is not clear! And you slowly start rerouting that and it forces them to slow down and that pisses them off. They can't connect the dots between something very practical like that and a spiritual practice. It's too big of a stretch. They want their chakras aligned but they don't want to work on their non-dominant hand."

Those brave souls who face up to these trials of body and spirit are Ilg's Wholistic Fitness Warriors. The real meaning behind the term, he says, is "the battle against the ego, the battle against that conditioned part of us that sees ourselves as a separate entity, divorced from the flow and sacredness of life." The rewards of becoming a Wholistic Fitness Warrior are great — inner and outer strength, a sense of calm and a marked slowing down (and sometimes reversal) of the aging process. Ilg himself is 43 but one can't say he is as fit as a 20-year-old - most 20-year-olds are just not anywhere near as fit as he is.

While the program outlined in Total Body Transformation is a rigorous one, Ilg maintains that the path of the Wholistic Fitness Warrior is open to anybody — "14-year-old kids, 83-year-old women, 300 pound, overweight guys, handicapped people." He is not in the least concerned with demographics. "I guarantee you, whoever made up the word 'demographics' wasn't a Warrior," he says wryly.

So what kind of person becomes a fledgling Wholistic Fitness Warrior? Says Ilg, "People who understand not just the necessity of fitness, but the absolute vitality." Add a hefty dose of resolve and a yearning for inner stillness, and you're on your way.

Back to Page 1 >> Sweatin' the Spiritual Stuff

Photos of Steve Ilg by Wayne Williams

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