Max Strom is a global teacher, speaker and author. He developed Inner Axis, an innovative method that incorporates well-being exercises, breath-work, and breath-based yoga movement to generate personal health and growth.
My mission is to help people remember who they are and what they are capable of and to provide tools that will empower them to live a more meaningful life. Max Strom
Back in September 2016, Yogamatters interviewed Max about his personal yoga journey and internationally renowned work for its blog. You can read In the Spotlight with Max Strom here. In this article, Max mentions that his Inner Axis classes had just launched at triyoga London. Eighteen months and several workshops later, Max is now looking forward to coming back to triyoga Camden to deliver his inner axis yoga: 200 hour teacher training course from May to August 2018. Having been approached by triyoga’s founder Jonathan Sattin to bring Inner Axis to London, Max has always been impressed with the perfect combination of professionalism and commitment to wellbeing and healing that he’s observed at triyoga.
In my experience, triyoga is sensible and organised. You don’t always find that in the yoga world. Max Strom
It’s great to have the opportunity to catch up again with Max Strom and to find out what’s been going on for him and for Inner Axis in the last eighteen months. Max always enjoys coming to teach in the UK, as he now considers the UK to be his base for his Inner Axis work. There’s so much that he loves about the UK. Small as it is, he sees the UK as the centre of the world in terms of economics and music, for example. The fact that the UK is small also means that things can happen very quickly. The potential for change is always there and always exciting. And Max finds the British fun to work with for a range of reasons.
I find that the Brits are hard workers and are prepared to commit themselves to working hard on whatever is before them. They play hard too – they smoke more and drink heavier, they’re digitally addicted…and then they wonder why they feel so isolated and why the government has perceived the need to appoint a Minister for Loneliness…I often say that the Brits hold the global award for the most suppressed and that comes with a heavy cost. I suspect it’s the result of a war footing that the British have never shaken off – the stiff upper lip and keep calm and carry on mentality. If people cannot express grief or shame for example, then neither can they express love or pride or joy. There’s a lot of work to be done but the great thing is that people in the UK are really ready to give it a go. Max Strom
One thing is for sure: Max Strom and his Inner Axis method are bringing something to the UK that people here are hungry for. There’s a tremendous response to Max’s work in the UK. His workshops and trainings are always sold out. There’s always a long waiting list.
That’s because Inner Axis works. Not after a year of practice. Not even after a week. Within minutes, students can notice an immediate difference. Just one session in itself is an impactful experience. Max explains that for some who have suffered with panic attacks for years, their panic attacks instantly cease.
For Max, it all comes down to breathing. Breathing differently creates an immediate change in the body.
Max is now working with corporations, hospitals and the military in the US. Some of the organisations he’s working with want to adopt a wellbeing programme that works but have said outright they don’t want yoga. They don’t want the cultural baggage that comes with it. Whilst Max loves yoga and the impact it has had in his own life, he gets it. He can see where they are coming from.
Sanskrit is a dead language that is only spoken in one tiny corner of the world. It’s like Latin. And yet we expect people to be OK with attending a movement class that includes words from this language and some allusions to Hindu spirituality. And some people are really put off by this. I think the Vinyasa Flow yoga world is not serving the majority of people any more. Max Strom
This point of view has caused some pushback within the global yoga community, but what Max is most concerned about is bringing something that works to the people who need it most. The effects of stress and sleep problems are well-documented and US corporations are recognising the need to address workplace stress. 25% of US corporations have been running mindfulness programmes. Athletes of all disciplines are recognising the power of yoga to reduce the risk of injury and to lengthen their careers. But it’s only the in the last year that breathing has become a part of the zeitgeist. And yet breathing is the key to change, according to Max Strom. Yoga can be taught without enough attention to breath. As a spin off of Buddhist teachings, mindfulness does not include a lot of breathwork. The breath is central to Inner Axis. Breathing immediately calms the nervous system. Breathing can have an immediate, noticeable effect on complex issues such as PTSD.
Max is pragmatic in his approach to workplace stress. Dealing with the symptoms can only ever be one part of the solution.
It’s like someone going to the doctor for treatment because they’ve put their hand on the burner. The doctor can treat the burn – time and time again if necessary – but at some point, the doctor needs to ask ‘When are you going to stop putting your hand on the burner?’ Max Strom
Max Strom works within the corporations to look at reducing stress and improving wellbeing in the workplace. Sitting is now considered to be the new smoking in terms of the problems around posture, cardiac and immune function that it creates. There’s an inherent challenge there, alongside the prevalent addiction to digital technology. Social media is so seductive. People feel empowered when they’re able to comment openly and immediately about world issues. And yet loneliness is registered at higher levels than ever before.
So what does Max’s own relationship with technology look like in practice?
Being active online is an important part of my work, but the key is that I am not constantly available. When I eat a meal, I switch my phone off. I switch my phone off in the evenings too. To address the physical effects of sitting in front of a screen, I’ve started to use a headset and voice dictation. That way, I can stand up and move around and dictate a chapter of my book or send a voice text at the same time. And I’m developing a team too to help me with my communications work. Max Strom
In his own personal practice, the challenge is always time and Max finds himself necessarily adopting an often abbreviated practice. Max sees this as the time to start slowing down to create more time and space in his life.
After 22 years of teaching yoga, Max is now teaching the physical practice less and less.
After 12 years of travelling internationally, Max is now looking to travel less and make decisions astutely about what to get involved in and commit himself to.
This is in part due to the fact that like all of us, Max is not getting any younger! There’s a conversation opening up in the yoga world amongst Max and his peers about how yoga influences the effects of ageing on the body – for better and for worse. They all started exploring yoga for themselves and teaching yoga during that new wave in the early 90s and now 20 years on, some are needing knee replacements and hip replacements and of course, questions are being raised. For example, Max Strom would never teach or encourage his students in the Western world to achieve Lotus position, as he believes it’s not good for Westerners as a rule. He had his critics over the years but he’s now 61 and his knees are fine!
However, two months after Yogamatters’ last interview with Max, he suffered a mild heart attack in November 2016. He didn’t know it was mild at the time, of course. He was exhibiting all the classic symptoms of a heart attack and was all alone in a friend’s house in Los Angeles. And so he called an Uber! He figured it would be quicker than an ambulance. This brush with death had a long-term effect on Max.
I’m not saying having a heart attack is ever a good thing, but it made me more vulnerable and more willing to explore and express my emotions afterwards which was a good thing. There was an increased intimacy in all my relationships that I’ll always be grateful for. Max Strom
Max was immediately open on social media about his heart attack. For some of his students, it was frightening to realise that their teacher was not immortal, that practising yoga is no guarantee that you will stay healthy forever. Whatever your lifestyle, 60% of heart attacks are caused by genetic anomalies. There’s nothing you can do about that.
A lot has gone on for Max Strom since we last spoke, hasn’t it? A lot has gone on in his home, the United States, too. Before we let him go, we asked Max how he felt about the current situation in the US and the challenges that he sees.
The US is in deep cultural trouble. As is the UK. You copy the US and the best thing you can do is stop! The current president is symptomatic of a far larger problem. We’ve created an infantile narcissistic culture. There’s a faux awakening that’s actually mirroring the problem – a militant, radical left wing that is as intensely bigoted and aggressive as the extreme right wing.
The news media has become an entertainment business. True discourse has become more and more rare. Instead, they’re pouring gasoline on the fire.
I’ve got my work cut out in the US, that’s for sure! The good news is that there are some good CEOs out there, humanitarians who want to bring about change. And the corporations have more power than the government, so working with the corporations can really effect change. Max Strom
If Max Strom’s mission truly is ‘to help people remember who they are and what they are capable of’, then there has never been a more important time for this work to take place. Like Max, we could all potentially benefit from taking a step back and remembering the power of the breath. With the challenges of this digital age and all the demands and stresses of our lives, maybe now’s the time to reassess what really matters and what a more meaningful life could look like for each of us as individuals. Inner Axis aims to provide the tools that will empower each of us to live a more meaningful life, whatever that looks like for us.
If you would like to find out more about Inner Axis, then visit his website.
If you would like to find out more about Max Strom’s workshops at triyoga London, then visit Triyoga’s schedule.