Healing is a lifestyle.
– Yaje Popson
the Yaje Popson interview.
13 March 2019 / interview: Matt Beare
You can be the healthiest bastard alive; eating good, exercising regularly, doing everything to stay healthy, but if you don't take care of your mind, all those efforts can be a waste. Science these days is frothing all over the mind-body connection, coming out with new info all the time about how our minds and bodies heavily influence each other, and just one of the things that makes this a solid interview is Yaje going deep into his experiences with the power of the mind.
Skateboarding in my opinion is like 70% mental; you can spend ages flapping a trick because you're scared to stick it and then when you actually fully go for it, you roll away first go. There's a quote that goes along the lines of "The cave you fear to enter the most holds the treasure you seek the most." , and not only is this exactly what goes on with skating, it's usually what holds us back from doing anything else in life. We all have insecurities and fears that hold us back from growth, and usually battling them is what takes the biggest "life-balls" to do, making it a job that's rarely accepted. Yaje is one of the few that took the job, and in this interview shares some of the knowledge and wisdom he's learned along the way, along with everything else from self-healing, to psychedelic plant medicines, the long-awaited secret to his "liquid legs", skateboarding as meditation, and much more, this one covers all those topics you won't usually find in a skateboarding interview...
Alright, so let’s start off at the deep end. In the first Jenkem Curry vid you said you spent 3 years in Brazil to take control of your health and overcome knee pain you’d been struggling with. You said you wanted to take some time to take control of your health and get into self-healing, what do you mean by self-healing?
I could recognize there were improvements to be made in my lifestyle, not only in my diet and physical alignment, but also habits of thought, values and intentions. How could I just jump into a quick fix of surgery, when I could see misalignment in my entire being. I was also so gung-ho about all this natural medicine and psychedelia I was reading at the time that I had to try it for myself before letting anyone operate on me. It was kind of a familial inheritance being from a family of doctors.
What does being healthy mean to you and how were you hoping to feel after going to Brazil?
It was never planned to take three years off skating and move to Brazil it was just a journey, I ended up falling in love with Brazil and South America after traveling and living there. I look back and appreciate that time I had away from the skating, even though all my sponsors dropped me, and everyone thought I went crazy. Skateboarding and especially New York City can be such a bubble if that’s all you know.
Health to me starts within. It starts with an honest witness, a willingness to observe and face our faults, to unlearn our cultural neurosis, and to put into light our deepest darkest feelings, even unfelt ones. How we may be coping with them is where disease starts, eventually manifesting physically if it becomes an issue. I was eating an empty void for years, I had to take a step back and look at my digestive system, which in Chinese medicine is also related to the knees.
Healthy to me nowadays is staying clear; a passage for whatever may come and go. Not getting too caught up in this or that concept or notion because one man’s medicine may be another man’s poison. You just have to listen to your body, become sensitive, and don’t over eat. There is no right or wrong way, which is hard for the mind to conceive because it means putting a pause to its constant chatter and clinging. The world will always be raging, there will always be a new health fad and super food but what is really required is a tuning into ones intentions, and finding a calm in the storm so the sun can shine.
Why did you feel like you had to leave the US and head over there to get the job done?
New York can be very dense and hard to hear the light, especially during the winter. South America has a very spiritual aura about it. It was good for me to see lush Brazil and be with my grandmother before she died.
What are some of the ultimate nuggets of wisdom you learnt over there?
In your Transworld Roll Call interview you said you don’t think your knee pain was just a mechanical issue but a manifestation of your inner issues. How did your physical issues change as you overcame your inner issues?
I was such an escapist that I was willing to skate through the pain as a form of survival outside of my miserable environment in school or at home. I didn’t take time to heal, or face the core of my issues, Skateboarding was my way out, and I was so afraid to fail that I manifested a knee problem just from fear and avoidance of it. What you run from, you run to. Eventually I had to face my fears and go through the pain in order to grow, as long as I avoided it, it only got worse. True healing is of the entire being not just the symptom.
Are you 100% now?
I don’t know if I will ever be 100% but I would not be where I am without the struggle. I am only getting healthier.
You got proper into Yoga, meditation, even Ayahuasca when you were out in Brazil. How did these kinds of things help you? Did they help your skating?
Ayahuasca gave me the perspective to take those methods into consideration, but there are infinite methods; skateboarding in itself is a meditation, such a precision that sitting, breathing, and focusing can only help you on the board. As we sit there, watching our thoughts like clouds in the sky passing by in meditation, disidentifying, it’s the same thing to me as zoning out on a trick and breathing through all doubts and fears until you find that flow state. Yoga and stretching are good for preparing the mind.
What would you recommend as a good way to get into meditation for someone who’s never done it?
To realize first that everything is a form of meditation that requires your attention and focus, to realize that not only do you have attention, but that you are consciousness itself, and from there we can begin to exercise that awareness.
How many years of meditation are required before you can turn your legs to liquid?
Haha, that’s more rhythm, timing, and reception, I blame the Brazilian blood.
What kinds of things do you do now you’re back in the US to stay on top of your health and help your skating?
Cooking at home and drinking a lot of water is the wave, but I get hungover even from skating so it’s just all about balance, taking those days off for your body to recover.
What do you think of the state of people’s health in the US and in the skate world, would you say skaters in general are in control of their health?
Our values may be off but it’s a blessing and a curse, there is only solution. For skaters what we do is so strenuous that we are almost forced to look at our health after a while in order to keep skating. Education vs. Extinction.
You talk about foods having medicinal value – like different herbs and spices – can you expand on that a bit. What kinds of issues can food help you overcome?
Food can really be medicine if we treat it right. Anything can either heal you or hurt you depending on how you use it. I put emphasis on timing. When you eat, is often more important than what you eat. Not spacing out your meals, snacking, or eating out of boredom can make all the difference.
Do you have any foods in particular that you eat to help your skating and anything you try to avoid?
Ginger is my favorite all around antibiotic, anti-inflammatory. You can actually feel your joints clear up immediately after one bite of ginger, its good on the go. Avocado will also oil your joints, yes, thank you.
I try to avoid processed or refined foods. Especially refined sugar, they eat away at your joints, and give brittle bones..
What’s the secret to picking a good avocado?
Read her response.
In the Jenkem vid you also said skate trips were times where it was difficult to eat healthy. Do you manage to eat good on trips these days or do you just give in for the trip?
Sometimes you can’t help it on skate trips. I’d rather just be grateful for what I can get go with the flow not be too difficult for the crew, but we are all pretty health conscious on Alien Workshop and like to cook at home even on trips.
Do you still go for physiotherapy on a regular basis?
Healing is a lifestyle, we never stop growing. I still do yoga but it is an informal yoga of intuition where my body will just feel where it needs to open up, finding the tightness, stretching and breathing.
Are you working on any parts or other projects at the moment?
Chris Thiessen and I are going to London to film for a Burial board release video on VX, Stoked! I’ve never been to London. Gotta keep VX alive.
What are 3 health tips you want to impart on the skate world?
Alignment on the board is important, balance raw vs. cooked foods, and aim Alkaline.