Slava Goloubov is a mover. He practices and teaches several styles of yoga, has studied Tai Chi, Qigong and martial arts with monks in China, learned circus acrobatics in Montreal, and is currently adding capoeria and ballet to his movement repertoire. And he won't stop there.
But perhaps what draws us to him the most is how he blends all of these different movement practices to create something unique and beautiful. Yes, this Russian-born, Canadian-based teacher is a movement master in the making. He moves with such fluidity and power that he attracts students from every discipline seeking to explore "freedom through movement," which is often how he describes his practice [@slavagoloubov]. Watch the video below and you'll immediately see what I'm talking about.
Slava and I sat down to chat about what "movement" even means and why it's so important, how to manifest your dreams (for real!), and practical tips on building your movement practice (and generally leading a happy fulfilling life.)
There are no barriers to movement. It’s like rain. It’s so beautiful but you can’t hold it, it will just slip through your fingers. The more you try to hold it and contain it, the more you are missing the bigger picture.
Every discipline has tried to contain itself, but by doing so they miss the spectrum of possibilities. Yoga is incredible. It changed my life. But it is one book and you’re not going to get all the answers from one book. You’re going to get some of the answers, but there are more books. Books on how to take care of yourself, move from different spaces, and communicate with yourself and others.
If you go everywhere, if you go to yoga, gymnastics, capoeira, to all the different movement disciplines, and then channel that into a movement practice then it’s never ending. You don’t find the edges, you don’t grab the raindrops. You just stand there and enjoy it all. That’s what it means to be a “movement generalist” or to have a “movement practice.”
For a typical person who wants to be healthier and more active, it goes back to the basics, back to the four pillars: strength, flexibility, power, and speed. All of these carry themselves through the connective tissue of movement, through every single discipline. But depending on the discipline, you will likely have focused on one and neglected the others. Being a generalist means that you have all of those pillars. We evolved to move in all of these ways. If we cover each of these four pillars then we can jump into any situation and adapt.
Having this kind of generalized movement practice widens your perspective on the world. Different movement disciplines attract different types of personalities. There is the archetypical yogi, the archetypical martial artist, the archetypical weight lifter, cross-fitter, etc. If you’re willing to put yourself in a position where you can go from discipline to discipline, you will by nature expose yourself to different facets of yourself. You are a by-product of your environment. The exposure is what is important. The consistency of putting yourself into new places—that is how you will discover and express different aspects of your personality.
Ballet Slava is different from Yoga Slava is different from Capoeira Slava. Ballet, for example, is very interesting for a male from my background. To express yourself in a very feminine way, coming from manual labour, coming from a construction work environment, coming from our culture. That’s where growth happens. The movements themselves allow you to explore different parts of your personality. Ballet Slava is much softer and more vulnerable than wrestling or jiu-jitsu Slava.
Why Build a Movement Practice and How to Find a Teacher
Does it feel good to bend over and pick something off the ground? Are you stiff or is your back in pain? That is not good. We think it’s normal but it doesn’t need to be like that. You don’t need to lose all of your mobility as you age. It is possible to age gracefully. While we are young it is possible to express ourselves through movement. You will learn a few basic movement patterns and then you will be hungry for more. Try, you will see.
Having a movement teacher allows you to explore different disciplines without devoting your life to it. I spend all of my time in this. I travel the world, I seek out teachers from all movement practices, I learn as much as possible so that I understand how that piece fits in to the four pillars, and I take away everything that I can to serve my students. I want to give them the wealth of my experiences without needing to devote all of their time to it. I’ll never be the best at yoga, circus, martial arts, or any discipline. But as a generalist my advantage is that I understand the broader perspective of things and can offer that to my students. My students get all of the benefits of a generalized movement practice even if they only have a few hours a week to practice because I’ve done the hard work for them. I’ve integrated all of these disciplines into a single practice. But it isn’t static. It will be constantly changing. There is no one “movement practice.” Then “movement” just becomes another vessel trying to grasp the raindrops. There must always be growth. Students should look for teachers who are constantly growing, constantly learning, and never afraid to be a beginner, so that they can bring those learnings back to the students. That is the role of the teacher.
Three Movements You Should Start Working Towards Today
These practices will sound ambitious, alienating, or inaccessible if you are unfamiliar with a movement practice right now. But the important thing to remember is that we are working towards them, not necessarily getting there today, tomorrow, or even ten years from now. It is the intention of moving towards greater range of movement, mobility, and health.
Sun Salutations. If your spine is not healthy your body will not be functional. Sun salutations wake up the spine. And they can be modified for anyone at any level.
Cartwheels. Cartwheels cover a particular movement pattern that is universal. It addresses the four pillars of speed, strength, control and power. If you can truly understand a cartwheel then it will inform your movement in all disciplines. There are simple patterns to learn and progress towards a full cartwheel. Anyone can start.
The Splits. Legs are so important. If you can increase flexibility and functional range in the legs your movement practice will become more effortless. The legs carry us. Literally. Doing the splits sounds daunting but, again, it’s all about the slow progression and intention.
Injuries & The Seasons of the Body
Injuries can be a source of growth and development. If you have a mobile enough understanding of your practice and a non-constructed view of the world, even if you get injured there is always something to do. During an injury to my legs I learned to juggle. You can always train the software which controls the hardware. Your brain is the software, your body is the hardware. The hardware needs to be maintained and looked after but the software is what controls it, and you are the driver.
We all have seasons because we are of this planet. You need to know when to rest and when to learn to move energetically or dynamically. It depends on which season you are in. We cannot live all of our days in summer.
If you take proper rest you’ll notice that your progression will catapult much further. They’ve done studies with high-performance athletes where two groups trained for a period of three weeks. One group took rest breaks and the other didn’t. The rest group saw greater improvement in performance because they were conscientious of these cycles.
Most people get hurt when they move too fast too soon, or not enough over a long period of time. If you move too fast, too soon then you are throwing yourself in the ocean without understanding how to swim. You need to understand the technique, the philosophy, and the body mechanics. Similarly, if you aren’t moving enough you will get injured. We were made to move. We must move. There are recent studies and reports that have come out saying we are in a global health crisis of sedentary lifestyle. This is not how our bodies evolved. If we do not move enough we are not optimizing our life and when we do try to move we will likely injure ourselves.
It’s like juggling. You start with one ball and that is the simple pattern. Then you add more balls. It’s more complicated. You can add more balls sooner but it will be sloppy until you have mastered the basics. It’s fine to be sloppy when you’re juggling. But if you’re sloppy in a movement practice that uses your whole body, that’s where injury happens—when you’ve added more balls before you’re ready.
Aesthetics & Goal Poses
Our culture is obsessed with how the hardware- the body -looks as opposed to how you can move it. Once you have that moment where you realize, "Oh, this isn’t actually fulfilling for me to have achieved this aesthetic goal," that is the perfect point to introduce a movement practice.
This “six-pack mindset” manifests in different ways in different disciplines. Yogis might not be focused on obtaining those perfect pecs but there are some for whom a certain pose like splits is the end goal for them. There is no pose or aesthetic look that is an end goal for me. That is like trying to catch the raindrops.
Just because you have the splits doesn’t mean you are a better person. You’re a better person not just because of what you can do but because you’ve put yourself in enough different environments and expressed your body in enough different ways that you have a broader understanding of the human condition. That is the crux of it. You need to challenge your perspective so that you can grow. Experiencing different movement patterns will do that.
Finding Your Life’s Purpose & Manifesting Your Goals
The "Ah-Ha Moment" for me was at a time when my whole life was falling apart. My relationship was ending, I had just been laid off my job in construction. I had no purpose. No direction. I knew I was kinaesthetic. That drew me to construction work. But I knew that wasn’t the right environment for me. I decided to go on a 10-day silent meditation retreat called Vipassana. It had been recommended to me by a friend.
To find the right path I had to cultivate sensitivity. You have to do the difficult, internal work. For me that happened when I went on Vipassana and I’m in this quiet space where everyone is meditating. Coming from working 9-10 hours/day in construction, the contrast was intense. Once I had a taste for that sensitivity it became the driving force. I couldn’t turn back.
Don’t treat your life like a closet. If you keep putting things in and trying to close the door, one day it just opens and it all falls out. Vipassana was a way for me to declutter. You have to find a mindfulness practice that works for you. Something that forces you to do that difficult internal work. Of course there is still stuff in my closet. But at least it’s clean and there’s less of it.
It’s an intentional act to find your purpose or dharma. When I came back from that Vipassana I sat in my living room and all I knew was that I wanted to shift my direction. That intention to shift created a snowball in my brain. I was on top of the mountain and there was just freedom. I could do anything. Then I decided where to throw the snowball. And now it’s an avalanche. Now it’s unstoppable. Now I know where I’m going. But at that moment in my living room I just had to sit down and create the mental fruition. I wanted to be more healthy in my body and help people understand the same for themselves. I wanted to understand and I wanted to give back. I didn’t know what that meant. I didn’t know I was going to be a movement teacher. But that was the beginning point— the seed.
Everything we do and think affects the environment around us. There a direct correlation between how you think and how the world perceives you. Recognizing the power of our intentions and thoughts is something I have witness directly. It can be spooky. I used to think how I would love to go to South East Asia to travel and teach and go to South America and explore the jungle and culture. I’ve now gone to those places twice. None of it would have happened it I hadn’t created the intention and put it out there.
Create a general intention every morning. If you have intention, you have direction, and if you have direction, you have purpose. Without any of that you are just walking blind.
Morning Rituals & Diet
Every morning I wake up and say to myself three things. One, what kind of day do I want to have? Two, a specific small thing that I want to magnetize towards myself. Three, my bigger goal, the overarching intention that I have at the time. The consistency of doing this is the sole reason I am where I am today.
For example, I might say: today I’m going to have a fantastic day, I’m going to meet somebody I haven’t seen for a while, and there will be a business opportunity. A bigger goal would be that our Acro yoga school will be the most sought after school in the world and I want to be one of the best movers in the world. The bigger goals take time and perseverance but the results are slowly coming.
Oatmeal is a good thing to eat for breakfast. Or Acai bowls. Don’t over-complicate things.
I'm not vegetarian, but I am conscious. I care where my food is coming from. But if I go to a dinner with friends and family and they have prepared meat I will not say no. They have put intention and love into preparing the meal and I respect that.
My morning ritual is to set my intention, have breakfast, and then wake up the body through some movement and stretches. That is every day. During the week I’ll do yoga twice a week, circus twice a week, parkour once a week, and then I have my general movement practice. I do that daily. I try to fuse all those pieces together, sequence it together. That is my practice.
Wise Words & Other Takeaways
Focusing on aesthetics is like having a Lamborghini that you keep in the garage. Take it for a drive. Take it around the block. You’ll be hooked. You won’t be able to lock it up again.
Never be afraid to be a beginner. When I started capoeira there was a seven year-old boy there who was better than me. Those emotions are hard to deal with. I was coming from a world where I am recognized to be at a certain level. You’re looked up to a teacher and then all of a sudden you’re going somewhere and no one knows you and you’re not better than anyone. In fact, you may be worse than everyone. But if you’re not willing to put yourself on the limb with practicing something else, you’re going to hinder yourself from understanding other perspectives. You’ll hinder yourself from understanding the human condition.
Right now I’m very inspired by Ido Portal. As much as I have planted the seed in others and continue to do so, his work initially gave me permission to say “I don’t have to just do yoga. I can go outside of that range. It’s ok to go to a place where you are not good at.” That was a life shifting moment for me.
I wish more students would step forward and ask questions. Once you step forward and open that door, there is so much information that flows. Have that brave moment and ask someone. You will be surprised how much you get back. It will be a catalyst for a whole series of questions. The people who ask are the people who progress. If you never ask, you never learn.
My favourite question is, “What’s the bigger picture, what’s it all about?” It’s all about the layers, the exposure, and the human experience. You are not here to do a particular job and repeat it over and over again. You are here to give full appreciation for your bodies and to give it the honour it deserves. It’s a wonderful thing that we have this human structure that has been evolving for millions of years. It’s beautiful that we have this particular personality implanted into our vessel. So why not explore the edges of body and mind and spirit?
At the end of my life I want to be able to say I’ve had my fill, let’s see what the next progression is. While I’m here I’m going to experience as much as I can. I’m going to feel things as they are. Through meditation, through Vipassana, I have learned to stay in a equanimous place, whether in a good mood or not. It’s about giving full amnesty to the present moment, no matter what you are experiencing.
I can teach anyone to juggle in 45 minutes. I’ve taught a dozen people. It’s just pattern development. [Amanda’s note: Oh yeah, no big deal. *Sarcasm.* I believe it, though. He halfway taught me how to juggle in 22.5 minutes.]
I hope you enjoyed learning about Slava and his unique approach to a movement practice. You can learn more and get in contact with Slava at his website, on Facebook, or Instagram. And as always, if you’d like to learn more about movement and how to implement Slava’s suggestions into your own life, please let us know. We take all of your feedback into consideration when developing new programs.