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Why Athletes Benefit From Yoga

The video above is 02:19 long. Use your time wisely ;)

Duncan Peak is founder of Power Living Australia Yoga (P.L.A.Y). He’s also a very cool guy & we chat to him about his life as a former army officer, nearly dying, and becoming one of Australia’s most authoritative figures in yoga.


Full Interview with Duncan Peak: Power Living to the Modern Yoga

In this episode we talk about:- 

  • downloaditunesA individuals journey that takes an unexpected twist that we all benefit from
  • A dramatic change in life path that’s lead to building a legacy (his franchise) that we all benefit from as a result
  • There are a lot of assumptions about yoga. Is yoga what you think it is?
  • Why yoga & Crossfit are a great fit & strong men struggle with downward dog
  • Why yoga suits the modern man/women & the unsuspecting masculine guy
  • Yoga…much more than a physical journey and a place to find women in figure hugging attire
  • CLICK HERE for all Episodes of 180TV

Power Living Australia Yoga (P.L.A.Y)

- Learn about P.L.A.Y Here

- Follow P.L.A.Y On Facebook Here


Interview with Duncan Peak Transcript

Guy Lawrence: Hi, this is Guy Lawrence of 180 Nutrition, and welcome to podcast episode number 21. Today our special guest is Mr. Duncan Peak. Now, if you’ve never heard of him, he’s the founder of the amazingly successful Power Living Australia Yoga, also known as PLAY, and he touches the lives of over 6,000 people each week. He’s one of the most well-respected yoga teachers here in Australia and teaches workshops, teacher-trainings, retreats, pretty much all over the world and so it’s a privilege to have him here today.

So, today, he’s actually sharing with us a story of how an army officer, which is what he was, he also had a near-death experience, ends up doing yoga and becomes very authoritative in it, as well. So, we’re very excited to have him on.

If you are listening to this on iTunes, really appreciate the review. The reviews help us get our rankings up, which then, in turn, help us get this message out there to other people, and then go on and, obviously, inspire other people, and then, yeah, so, if you just sit back and enjoy the show, and let’s go over to Duncan.

Awesome. All right. Let’s get into it. Hi, I’m Guy Lawrence. I’m joined with Mr. Stuart Cook, as always, and our very special guest today, Mr. Duncan Peak. Duncan, thanks for joining us, mate. Really appreciate it.

Duncan Peak: Thanks for having me.

Guy Lawrence: Look, it’s awesome, mate. There’s a couple of reasons that, A, was really excited to get your story out to the show, to the show, to our listeners, and B, hopefully, that story will convince theory in doing a bit more yoga, as well, a little while. But, I’m sure you get asked this question a lot, mate, but, you know, an army officer, a first-grade Rugby Union player, to now, you know, becoming a very authoritative figure in the yoga world. How the hell did that happen?

Duncan Peak: Yeah, I suppose it seems really contradictory to why, but I think the same discipline really drives the practice. I think; yoga has an aspect to it we call Tapas that’s a fierce sort of flame and drive within you. It’s a yearning towards to an enlightened state or to have a practice that’s going to achieve, you know, that development of your character. I think, just, the army was a life situation where I chose to go there when I was a young kid and sorted my life out and gave me the direction, and it was a lot of fun, to be honest, and then, yeah, just events happened that moved me into the yoga world.

I’ve been doing yoga most of my life or meditation, most of my life, and so I, yeah, I just sort of fell into the yoga world, and it was more a XXaudio glitchXX 0:02:45 than a quest to become an authority in the yoga world.

Guy Lawrence: Yeah. It’s just sort of just like we spoke just before the recording, just sort of following your passion, and it’s evolved into that. When you say you started yoga at a young age, what age would that have been at?

Duncan Peak: Well, I did my first, sort of, meditation slash yoga class when I was about 15. I was with the family I was living with who were just taking care of me and their father had lived in India for about 11 years, and he just taught us what’s called raja yoga.

It’s a very traditional style of yoga. It’s mainly focusing on your mind and trying to meditate or concentrate your mind, and so that’s when I first started, and then I just used meditation to deal with all the stress and some grief that I was going through at a young age. I’d lost some people really close to me and, yeah, just kept doing it throughout my life, and when I was about 25 I eventually got into the physical style of yogaÉmaybe a little bit younger than that, and started to do what you see now, today’s style of living.

Guy Lawrence: Yeah. Wow. Yeah, you know, because when I watched you speak XXthrough Eloise the other weekXX 0:03:46 you mentioned, as well, an incident in the jungle. It really touched me, as well, I thought that was incredible, and would you mind sharing that bit of a story with us, as well?

Duncan Peak: Yeah. For sure. So, I went to the military. I was an officer in the Royal Military College, Duntroon, and then I became a paratrooper for three years and then worked at the Special Forces training center for three years as a captain. And during that time I did lots of exercises and in one of the exercises I was asked to, well, it’s part of training and selection for things to do seven days without food and walk about, I don’t know, 250 kilometers in that week and get about two hours’ sleep a night, if that, and you get a tiny bit of food, but it’s like a mouthful of food on the third day, and, yeah, they challenge you with a lot of raw, sort of, disgusting foods, to see if you’ll eat it.

But it’s to test your levels of leadership and high-levels of stress. And, anyway, I did the course, and I finished the course, and, on the last day, I handed him my radio and all my flares and things like that, because you’re alone a lot of the time on the course, and then they said, “You know, beeline that way to the clearing, and that’s where you’ll get picked up,” and so I did, and I took my bearing and went there, and on the way walking there after I finished the course I felt this pain in my stomach, and, of course, I’d had pains in my stomach all week, and every time I’d spoken to anyone about it, they’d say, “Well, of course, you have pains in your stomach. You haven’t eaten for seven days.”

So I just, sort of, pushed myself, you know, beyond my limits and went, “Suck it up, you know. Stop being a girl,” and pushed myself. Anyway, I was walking and there was, like, real pain in my stomach, and I got down on one knee and just pulled my water bottle out and was there drinking my water bottle and, as I did, it felt like boiling water was just rushing my stomach. Something felt like it tore in there, and I was completely incapacitated.

I couldn’t move, and I hit the ground, and I was, sort of, in the middle of the jungle, nowhere, and very rare that somebody was going to find me, and I was there for about three hours, I think it was, beforeÉwhich was a whole process I went through of dealing with the pain, because it was excruciating. It was the most amount of pain I’d ever felt, and then I’m dealing with the fact that no matter how tough or physical or, you know, focused I was, it wasn’t going to help me. I couldn’t move and getting at peace with that and, you know, things like accepting my father and accepting the way I was and my mother and just the whole upbringing and losing, really, people close to me very young in my life, all that, sort of, came up, and it was a wonderful spiritual experience in the end. And then, towards the end of that three hours, just luckily, another guy was walking a very similar path that I was and found me, and he carried me to a road and eventually got me help. I was pretty much unconscious by this time and just completely out of it from the pain.

And it took about eight hours before they got me to an operating table, and they diagnosed me with a ruptured appendix and then cut me open and went in to have a look at my appendix and realized it wasn’t my appendix. My appendix was fine, but they took that out anyways.

Stuart Cooke: Oh!

Guy Lawrence: How do you do?

Duncan Peak: Just to get that scar there and, you know, it never happened that you had a ruptured appendix. People wouldn’t diagnose you, so they’d harvest your organ.

Guy Lawrence: Oh, wow!

Duncan Peak: And then, anyway, they cut me from basically top of my chest down to my belly button and just searched around until they found I had a ruptured duodenal ulcer. So my duodenum, the second part of your, the part after your stomach, and it had perforated and was leaking out and, you know, an injury like that, it could kill you in a matter of hours, and, you know, I was lucky enough to survive for however long it was, eight hours, before they got to me.

And then I woke up the next day and, yeah, my beautiful mother was there holding my hand when I woke up, and I had tubes coming out of me, and I had, you know, five-inch incisions down here and another six- or seven-inch incision up here, and I’d gone from being like a super soldier, you know, I was fit and healthy and as strong as you can be to pretty ripped apart, and I sort of knew then that would lead to my discharge from the army and, eventually, problems that happened from that, rebuilding my core and things like that, and another injury I had through football, they discharged me from the army, and that’s when I left at about 25 years of age.

Through the process of rebuilding my core was how I got into the physical style of yoga, and that was sort of like a blessing in disguise, you know? It was what started Power Living in one way, but it ended a career that I was really enjoying in another way.

Guy Lawrence: Wow, I mean, if that had not happened, do you think your life would look very different today?

Duncan Peak: You know I often wonder about that. One of my best friends is the commanding officer of the SAS at the moment, and he was, you know, right alongside us doing all the stuff we were doing, and, you know, I wonder if I would have followed that path. I’m not sure. I don’t know if my heart and my moralistic fiber was in doing that completely. I think it was more of a life decision that changed me to do that.

So, I’m not sure whether I would’ve on my own natural causes got out. I think I would’ve stayed in the army a little bit longer and done a few more things and achieved things in there that I wanted to do, but I think eventually I would’ve got out, but I’m not sure if yoga would’ve ever evolved the way it did. It was never a vision for me to be a yoga teacher or to create the business that we’ve got.

Guy Lawrence: That’s insane, because they often say, you know, adversity is almost like the universe giving you a little nudge into your path that you should be doing, you know?

Stuart Cooke: That’s pretty deep, Guy. Just saying.

Guy Lawrence: I believe it.

Stuart Cooke: So, Duncan, if, for all of our listeners out there that aren’t or haven’t fully connected with yoga, could you explain the benefits? Because, you know, Guy’s certainly a big advocate for yoga. I’m just kind of exploring it. So, from an outsider’s perspective, you know, is it a little bit more than dudes in tight fishing pants performing a few strange poses?

Duncan Peak: It’s mostly girls, not so much dudes. They’re getting a lot more into it now, but look at yoga, if we think of the word yoga, that’s as broad a term as fitness, and I think that’s what a lot of people misunderstand straight away is that within yoga there are so many ways we can practice it, have beliefs around it, so that’s one big thing to consider is that in the style that we’ve done, it’s called hatha vinyasa yoga, it’s the main style. We call it Power Yoga. It’s just a marketing name, basically, even though it is a very powerful style of yoga. They’re not really traditional style of names that have come from ages.

Most of the yoga that we practice these days is only about a hundred years old, but the philosophy that goes with it dates back, you know, eons. So, there’s really a few aspects of it. There’s your physical flexibility and agility and range of motion that is very popular. Stretching. Vinyasa practice. Out of that, the yogis believe we unlock energetic pathways, very similar to Chinese medicine philosophy of meridian channels. We call them Nadi channels. So, we unlock energy movement and flow within the body.

And then there’s the third aspect to it, which is training your mind, and this is the aspect where I’m so passionate about is understanding deep belief systems that you have, that you’re unconscious of, but they control your behavioral patterns, and the yogis call these vasanas, and it’s what makes up a character.

If you can consider, character’s very hard to change. Like, you can go and put on a new pair of tights or wear different clothes or listen to additional music or drive a new car, move to a new town, take up new sports, and you’ve got a different personality, but you put that same person under stress and they’re going to react in the same way, because their character is still the same.

And, so, yoga doesn’t look to change your personality. There’s no ideal spiritual personality. People get lost in trying to change their personalities, but it’s nothing to do with your personality. You actually want to transcend the personality, and we’re trying to change our character, and we’re trying to change our character into being, embodying the virtues of, like, compassion, you know, kindness, love, courage, all those sorts of, you know, things we talk about that have high moralistic fiber.

And so through the practice of yoga, whether it’s a physical practice and being mindful about the reactions you have, or whether it’s sitting in meditation and observing what the patterns of your mind are and how hard it is to really focus your mind, we’re trying to change the same thing in that we’re trying to evolve our character to be less reactive, what we call equanimous, so that we have a more peaceful life, and then, if we can do that, so they say, and I don’t know this from experience, but we can have an enlightened mind, which is a mind that is always like that, and that’s what yoga aims to do in all of its facets. And then anything within that that you’re doing toward that stilling your mind could be considered a practice of yoga.

Stuart Cooke: I’m sold! I’m just going to sign up for a course now. Where did it originate from? Where’s it come from?

Duncan Peak: It’s from India originally in the oldest books of time, called the vedas, and originally it was really only passed down. They believe it came, and, again, this is a bigger concept and they believe it came from the Rishis which passed it, which it means “great seers” which interpreted it from their experiences in meditation from a more of a collective consciousness, and, again, that’s up to everybody to decide whether they believe that sort of stuff, but they believe it came from that level of higher knowledge and then disseminated through great teachers and then slowly through, it was then transcribed into books in the really early, you know, 400 B.C., things like that, and then eventually, you know, you see it evolve into the modern yoga, sort of, evolution that we have happening today.

Guy Lawrence: Yeah, right, because yoga’s definitely growing in popularity. There’s no doubt about that. It’s unbelievable. Like, I remember growing up in Wales. It was all rugby, union, and beer, basically, and how much you could bench press. I don’t think even yoga was on my radar when I was in my teens and early 20s and, but even I went back to Wales recently and saw that, you know, yoga’s popping up everywhere there, and it was changing there, too.

So, why do you think it’s growing? Do you think there’s a need for it, you know, because people are so stressed out?

Duncan Peak: You know, people believe people go to yoga to stretch. That’s sort of a common belief out there. They might turn up for those reasons, but they stay because of the mental health benefits. It’s that there’s something that occurs for them in the asana practice or whatever style of yoga that they’re doing that they don’t get out of normal exercise or other activities, and it’s just a clarity of your mind. It’s self-awareness. You’re getting to know yourself better.

I just think with the mounting stress that we have and the generation of, “Just suck it up and deal with it,” is sort of slowly passing, and our generation who are having children are a bit more open to spiritual ways and alternative ways of thinking. I think that’s just, sort of, you know, started to create a newer generation who’ve grown up with yoga being accepted. The middle generation, like us, who are like, “Okay, well, it is acceptable,” rather than not off the radar, and then our parents who, you know, not so many of them even had opportunities to understand what it’s all about. So, I think it’s just the education within the world, and then the quality of what it is compared to anything else out there. It’s just, it’s common sense, so people they need to do it if they want to be happy and peaceful in this world.

Guy Lawrence: I have to say, as well, like, I, my girlfriend drug me on a yoga retreat in Thailand not too long ago, and, you know, it was the first time I ever did yoga six days straight, and it was two-and-a-half hours in the morning, I think. It was a half-hour meditation and then a two-hour practice, and I felt something shift by the end of the six days, and it was hard to explain. I was trying to explain it to Stewie, and, yeah, it was amazing. Unless you actually put yourself through that experience, it’s hard to actually get that across, as well. You know?

Duncan Peak: Yeah. Yeah. I mean, I say that about yoga experiences is that words will never do it justice, you know. Words always imply a limited perspective on the experiences that you can have, and that’s really what yoga, you know, it’s hard to describe yoga, the experience of yoga, but once you experience it, it’s just obvious. It’s like, “Wow, that’s a state that we should be in at times.” A state of consciousness that we should experience.

Guy Lawrence: Yeah, definitely. Yeah. Hey, I’m just checking. Stewie, you there? Hang on.

Duncan Peak: We lost him?

Guy Lawrence: We lost him. I’ll bring him backÉbecause I went toÉHe’s back.

Stuart Cooke: I’m back, mate. I’ve signed up. I’m good to go.

Duncan Peak: Yeah, I thought you’d rushed down to the studio then. Or freaked you out. One of the two.

Stuart Cooke: I was interested, thinking about the things that you’d said, where would somebody like me start? With, obviously, the different types of yoga that you’ve got, with meditation, and all the movements, where would I start?

Guy Lawrence: Yeah, good question.

Duncan Peak: It’s hard to answer that question. It depends on you as a person. To really know that, yeah, I’d have to know you really well, but I think for, just generally, people should just rock down to their local yoga studios, maybe try three or four out, and if they feel, when they walk in the doors of a yoga studio, that they feel like they belong there, that it’s a place where they’re comfortable, and they enjoy the teachings that are there and the process that they go through, then just stick with that one and start to learn from them and, you know, over time, you’ll meet the people that are meant to teach you, soÉ

There’s that way. There’s a lot of online yoga, where you can watch it, but I think, for me, and our business, especially Power Living, it’s the community aspect of the experience is so important, and to have, you know, likeminded people and that positive energyÉWe always call our studios the House of Positivity, you know? Because you walk in there, and it is, it’s just constant positive energy, and you go there, and that’s just good to have that top you up every day.

So, I just think people should try and find places like that, and they exist. Yeah. And then just wherever they’re comfortable. It’s not that important what style you’re doing, in the initial stages. You can refine that, once you start to understand yoga a little more, and what you think benefits you. That was what the original process of a guru was, was to tell you what style of yoga would best suit you to deal with the character that you have. These days it’s not so much like that, but you can have people help you out with what you should be doing.

Stuart Cooke: Okay.

Guy Lawrence: Do you think yoga is for everyone, Duncan?

Duncan Peak: I think there’s a style of yoga for everybody, but I don’t think that there’s one style that fits everyone. I think everyone is going to benefit from being mindful, you know? Anyone whoÉour human condition is self-reflective consciousness, and there’s issues that come with being able to think about what you’re thinking about.

You know, if you think about, we ‘ve constantly got a conversation going on in our head, and there’s no one there, so it’s sort of insane, you know? And we’ve got to learn to understand that and quiet that and be able to just experience the world without having to interpret it and always have a conversation about it. So I think anyone who does that is going to build more self-awareness and that’s going to be beneficial. So, yeah, I think it is for everybody. But I’m not a preacher that says, “You have to do this. You have to do that.” It’s up to them on their own what they do.

Guy Lawrence: Everyone has to discover it for themselves, right?

Duncan Peak: Yeah, I really believe in that, yeah.

Guy Lawrence: It’s funny that you mention that, because that was going to be my next question, was because the health and fitness industry focus a lot on nutrition. They focus on, you know, physical appearance and the physical strength of it, right? For which, and sometimes, it seems to be all physical aspect, but how much do you think mindset and, you know, our daily thoughts actually affect our health?

Duncan Peak: Well, I think it is your health. I mean, I go and do demonstrations at health and fitness expos and things like that, and get up there in my tights and tie myself into a pretzel and do all fancy handstands and, you know, all the bodybuilders walk past and are like, “Wow! Look at that! He’s flexible and he’s strong.” And it’s a nice way to be able to connect with those guys.

But I see I lot of that world, the fitness industry, and they look amazing, but they’re not healthy. They have so much attachment to their body and their ego, and that’s how they judge their sense of self-worth. There’s people who aren’t like that. Who are very balanced, and they’re awesome, and they’re in that world, and they’re great examples, but the industry as a whole is so much about what people think about you, and that’s something we need to get away from, is what people think about us and develop what we believe about ourselves and develop that self-love. So I think that mindset is, that’s how I would judge well-being.

And then with the nutrition you put into your body, it’s obviously going to have a huge impact on what your thoughts are and what your character is, so, yeah, for me it is how I judge well-being as opposed to how much do I think it has an impact on well-being, I think it is what well-being is, is the way you think, or the way you’re attached to your thoughts.

Guy Lawrence: Yeah. Absolutely. And then you can see why yoga is actually then helping so many people, you know, that do it.

Duncan Peak: Yeah. Having said that with yoga, to be really raw and honest, I used to have a saying when I started the business, was “Market to the ego, and teach to the heart.” You know, there was a reason why we’re successful, it’s because we recognize that people do want to lose weight. They want to look good. They want to be flexible. They want to do the fancy poses.

And for some people, that’s what they want, and so we’re like, “Okay. Let’s tell them that’s going to happen. Let’s bring them into the classes and while they’re in there, we’ll just mention a few of these philosophical points.”

Stuart Cooke: Yeah. Just whispering, right?

Duncan Peak: Yeah, exactly. You know, rather than preaching it, because it turns people off. And so, let’s do what the world needs, or not needs but people really want, this desire, and then let’s teach them about what desire really is and the suffering that can come from, you know, so desirous. We have this other saying, “A constant search for pleasure is the root cause of your suffering.” That’s like one-on-one yoga. The constant search for pleasure is the root cause of our suffering.

And, so, yeah, we probably get them in through pleasure, but then we teach them about what that doesÉ

Stuart Cooke: What it really means.

Duncan Peak: Yeah.

Guy Lawrence: Absolutely.

Stuart Cooke: I’ve noticed that you’ve released a new book, as well, Duncan. Would that be a great place for someone like me to start? Or is it a little bit more advanced?

Duncan Peak: No, I mean it’s written for a first-timer who’ll pick up the book, and it’s got a little bit of my story in there, and it has just so much about the mental side of it and understanding the character and that aspect. Everything that we’ve just discussed, and then it goes right into the physical practice, and how to align your body and how to keep it very safe, and it gives two different styles, a dynamic style of yoga and then more the yin, sort of, gentler, not gentler, but just slower, holding poses for long periods and working on different connective tissue within the body. Working on fascia as supposed to muscle and tendon. So it goes into a lot of that, but it’s not too technical that it’ll turn people off. We made it so it’s a coffee table book, as well, so it’s nice to be able to look at and just visually be able to learn from it, as well as get in there and study, if you’d like to. So, it’s called Modern Yoga. It’s available on my website. You know, it’s something that’s taken me three or four years to write. That really is what Power Living is. You know, we use it for our teacher trainings as our manual because it’s really what we’re trying to get out there.

Guy Lawrence: I was going to say, you must be a busy boy.

Duncan Peak: Well, it’s started to slow up for now, since that’s been done, and it has been ten years this year. Yeah, I’ve given everything I’ve got for ten years.

Guy Lawrence: You hold retreats, as well, right? Are they retreats just for yoga teacher training, or are they for peopleÉ

Duncan Peak: No, anyone.

Guy Lawrence: They can just come on and do it?

Duncan Peak: We have, a lot of our retreats we have are teacher training and the retreat running at the same time. We just separate groups and do things together. Because there’s so much community focus that it doesn’t matter who you are, teachers training or just a student, we can join and do a lot of the community activities together, and then we can do more technical stuff for the teacher trainers.

We have, I don’t know, we’re up to about six or seven retreats a year, and we do about eight or nine 200-hour teacher trainings around Australia and New Zealand. It’s pretty busy, but it’s not just me anymore. There’s, I don’t know, maybe 80 people employed in the company. We’re nearly up to our eighth studio now.

It’s kind of crazy. One of the things about our business is that there are six owners in the business. Not just myself. That’s been one of our successes is using our senior people that come up through the business and then allowing them to open a studio with us, and they love it, and they’re there, and yes.

So, we do retreats for everybody and teacher trainings, as well. I think within the industry, we’re known a lot for our education, so our teacher trainings are very popular, because we’re probably one of the first to do contemporary styles of yoga. We certainly do the retreats. I like them the most. They’re the fun ones.

Guy Lawrence: That could be a good place to start for someone, as well then, if they wannaÉ

Duncan Peak: Yeah. For sure.

Stuart Cooke: You’re thinking me, Guy, aren’t you?

Guy Lawrence: Yeah.

Duncan Peak: XXWe want to run one in Bali for an excuse. It’s a good place to come hang out.XX [0:26:07]

Guy Lawrence: We’ve got the foam boards, as well, Stewie, you know.

Stuart Cooke: I’m good for boarding.XX [0:26:10] Absolutely. I’ll book the tickets, Guy. I’m just thinking, Duncan, with all that you’ve got going on, surely you’d then be using your yoga and meditation to quiet your mind in order to actually get some sleep, right? Cause you’re a busy boy.

Duncan Peak: Yeah, yeah. I mean, I’ve got a very agitated mind, you know, I think one of the reasons I’m so into yoga and meditation is because I’ve needed it, you know, since I’ve been a young boy. I don’t ever profess to be this really calm and peaceful person. I’m not like that. I’m a pretty big personality and I need to center myself or I sort of lose myself, you know?

So, yeah, it’s a daily practice, you know? Like this morning, I woke up. The first thing I do is an hour of yin practice up here in my lounge room. Sit for 20 minutes or a half an hour and meditate and then go and have a surf. That’s pretty much how every day starts for me, you know? I’m pretty lucky in that way. Yeah, I sort of need it, you know? I need it. Especially beingÉone of the hardest things is being a CEO, you know, and having so many people work for you and doing all that side of it, and then you’re in a meeting that’s like intense and there’s millions of dollars being discussed and then you have to leave that meeting and then walk into the yoga room and start to teach people, you know?

Stuart Cooke: That’s right, yeah. There’s that switch.

Duncan Peak. It’s a funny skill, you know? Not everyone that works for us has that skill. They belong on the facilitations side or the business side. That’s probably one of my biggest challenges and meditation is the only way that I’ve been able to achieve, be able to do that.

Stuart Cooke: I think I would benefit from that. Just thinking about all the things we have going on in our business, as well, and a busy family, busy business. Definitely, you’ll be doing a bit moreÉ

Guy Lawrence: Definitely. We’re fortunate to do what we do. We have, you know, we get to do some cool stuff and we did some DNA testing, and what gene was it? You had a COMT gene, was it?

Stuart Cooke: Yeah, I had a COMT gene and just some, which affected my cortisol levels. So, you know, I’m very busy, and I’ve got lots going on, but my cortisol levels don’t clear. So, like clearance pathways were blocked with this particular gene, so just about ways to lower cortisol and, of course, thinking about meditation and considering yoga, as well, as a told for that.

Duncan Peak: Cortisol is one of the biggest neurochemicals of the moment that’s causing us to not be in health because at night time the body’s got to clear that, rather than focus on rejuvenating the tissue.

You know, one thing you bring up, Stu, is meditation is sometimes is very hard for people just to sit and go, “All right. I’m going to mediate.” People aren’t ready for it, and so getting into just mindful movement, whether it’s yoga, tai chi, chi gong, it can engage people so that they’re able to at least do something and enjoy that before they’re actually, “Well, okay, now I’ll start meditating.”

I do encourage a lot of beginners to get into the asana practice, you know, however they want to do it, dynamic or gentle, or a tai chi, or a chi gong, and then allow that to bring you into a more still mind. Sitting becomes just a natural evolution.

Stuart Cooke: Yeah, right, that makes a lot of sense, because from a, you know, meditation perspective, it almost seems impossible to sit there and just zone out when you’ve got this chatter, constant chatter, left and right. It’s definitely a skill, or it’s a muscle, I guess, that needs to be built.

Duncan Peak: Yeah. Definitely.

Guy Lawrence: I find that while we’re in the surfs, though, as well, that helps keep in the moment, you know? I’m constantly just there, and you know, that’s my excuse. I’m going out to be present.

Stuart Cooke: Yeah, right. So just think a little bit about exercise and nutrition as well now. Do you do anything else outside of yoga, exercise-wise?

Duncan Peak: I surf every day. Sometimes two or three times a day, and so that’s pretty physical in itself. I probably go to the gym once a week, I suppose, but when I train there, I train very much, not so much CrossFit, but more in that world where it’s power-to-weight ratio, body work, lot of Swiss ball work, and a lot of core stability work with cables, rather than lifting heavy weights. I really don’t do that anymore. I did years ago and my rugby-like days, but I don’t really do that sort of stuff. Yeah, it’s just because I enjoy it. I would, yeah, I think it’s, yeah, I’m just a man who enjoys that stuff.

Stuart Cooke: Exactly. You mentioned CrossFit, and we got quite heavily into CrossFit last season, last year, and found that a lot of the CrossFit athletes and participants were really connected to yoga for flexibility and mobility. Do you get a lot of CrossFitters coming your way?

Duncan Peak: Yeah. We’ve got a really good relationship with their communities, and a lot of our teachers teach at the local CrossFit gyms, just to make it easier for them, because, you know, people only got a small amount of time a day to exercise. Yeah, CrossFit, I think, is an amazing evolution. I think it’s a very sensible way to train the body, but there’s also, there’s risk involved in training the way they do. It’s pretty heavy and it’s hard on your joints, and if you’re not somebody who’s grown up athletically, it can be a little bit dangerous.

I think yoga will just help bring people into a postural development that’s going to allow them to get better alignment in their lifting capacities within CrossFit, and also allow them to have recovery a lot quicker, so they’re not turning up to do their next session so sore with fascial adhesions and knotted up muscles. There’s more of that fluidity in the body. So yeah, I think they’re great, you know, great complement to each other and, yeah, it’s cool to see it allÉ

Guy Lawrence: I guess any sport, really, wouldn’t it? Yoga complements, I imagine.

Duncan Peak: We trained the Waratahs and the Sea Eagles for many years, you know, big rugby teams over here. The guys, as much as they hate it, because they’re doing something they’re working against so much muscular resistance. They, every single one of them, yeah, are an advocate for it and straight after the game, like Monday morning, or a yoga session on Tuesday, it restores them to be able to go out there and train as hard as they would, like as if they were to start a new season, so the rejuvenating aspects of doing it are phenomenal.

Guy Lawrence: I go a question that just popped in, as well. When I go to a yoga class, it’s normally just me and a couple of other guys and just full of females. And after doingÉ

Stuart Cooke: Poor you, Guy.

Guy Lawrence: Yes, it’s pretty tough for me, and after doing CrossFit, throwing weights around, you know, thrust those shoulder presses, God knows what, like I get into a downward dog, and I’m the first one to drop to the floor. You know? And normally the other guys, as well. Why is that?

Duncan Peak: Well, you’re working against muscular resistance, so you’ve got a range, you know, if you go to here and depending on how tight, you know, a lot of the muscles under here, your subscaps and your lats and things like that, is, like, people who’ve got range or who don’t have the muscle bulk, who just naturally have that range can just do these really easilyÉ

For people who are tight, through a pec or minor lats, etc., to go from here they’ve got to engage a lot of their muscles on the back of their shoulders that help extend the shoulder joint, or flex the shoulder joint to be able to work. So, they’re working muscular very hard just to hold their arm at that place, because of the tightness that’s being built in the tension in the muscles to get the power that you’re looking for.

Your biggest strength becomes your biggest weakness. You’re working against your own muscle tightness, and not everyone has that muscle tightness. It’s like me. I’m pretty flexible. I can hold downward dog forever, but I’ve got the muscle bulk but there would have been a time where I, where it was very difficult to hold downward dog, because of the tightness. Yes. It’s interesting like that sometimes. You’re biggest strength is your biggest weakness.

Guy Lawrence: I’m really glad to hear that, because I’ve now got an excuse, because my tightness is terrible.

Duncan Peak: And, also, you’ve got, it’s a stability way that the muscle is working as opposed to a contraction, an eccentric, concentric movement, you’re moving more of that isometric hold, and CrossFit is more movement rather than hold, and that’s one of the things that makes the yoga asana practice, again, very well-rounded is because you’re doing contractions and, the eccentric and concentric contractions. You’re moving muscles under load both ways, but then you’re holding, and you’re stabilizing through joints and things like that, and there’s not so much of that in a lot of other, you know, gym and CrossFit and physical work, and so that’s another thing is you’re just building up the endurance to be able to hold, as opposed movement fit.

Guy Lawrence: Fantastic.

Stuart Cooke: Keep at it, Guy. It’s a work in progress. I was wondering, Duncan, what your typical daily diet looks like. How do you, you know, healthy body, healthy mind kind of thing. What do you eat?

Duncan Peak: First thing is a green smoothie in the morning. I make a green smoothie, you know, with your coconut waters and your greens and get that into me pretty early in the morning. That usually lasts me up until mid-morning, and I might have some fruit and some nuts and a little bit of a snack, and then lunch, it just depends where I am and what’s going on.

I try and get a salad wherever I am, and then night time, it’s usually, you know, fish and a salad or something like that, or I have meat occasionally, as well, and have a salad with that. Try and stay away from lots of breads and a lot of those, sort of, complex carbs, but I must admit I do love them. I was a baker when I was a young kid. I love my bread, but you know, I’ve found that for my body type it’s not the exact thing I should be eating, soÉ

I must admit, I would love to be perfect in my diet, but when you’re working so much, it’s one of the first things that you let slip, so I make sure that I do my green smoothie every morning and get all my nutrients that I need for that day and then I really just focus on trying to be as healthy as I can throughout the rest of the day with what I eat.

Stuart Cooke: Perfect.

Guy Lawrence: Fantastic.

Stuart Cooke: That sounds good. It is tricky, especially when you’re on the road. Very hard to try and keep on top of your diet.

Guy Lawrence: Big time. Big time. Mate, we always finish with a wrap-up question, and it can be non-nutrition, anything really, but what’s the single best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

Duncan Peak: That’s funny. I’ve written that before. It’s pretty simple. My mom always used to say to me, I’d tell her everything that I was doing, and I was a ratbag as a kid, and the cause of so much heartache, even though we’re best friends now, you know, and always have been, but she used to say, “Duncan, I don’t care what you do, as long as you’re happy.” And she’s always been like that. Whatever I’ve chosen to do, whether it was military, whether it was yoga, whether it’s everything else that I decide to do, she’s like, “It’s up to you what you do, just as long as you’re happy and follow your heart in that way.” And I believe that’s the best bit of advice I’ve ever been given. I’ll always go back to it.

Stuart Cooke: Yeah. That makes perfect sense to me.

Guy Lawrence: Yeah, definitely, and how can we get more of Duncan Peak? So, if anyone listens to thisÉYou’ve obviously, we know you’ve got a bookÉ

Duncan Peak: Yeah, It’s called Modern Yoga which is available on the website www.powerliving.com.au. We’ve got studios in Neutral Bay, Manly, Bondi Beach, South Melbourne, Fitzroy. We’ve got two opening up in Perth, and we’ve got another one at Bondi Beach. So getting to any of them, and then there’s over 1000 teachers in Australia that I’ve trained that are out there teaching for other studios and their own sort of stuff, so, yeah, you can get along to any of them and you’re going to get a little bit of what we’re doing. I teach mostly Manly and Neutral Bay and Bondi Junction. So you just check out our schedules, or come along to the retreats. You know, I run all the retreats and all the teacher trainings, so, yeah, but everyone in our business is so well-trained, just get along to a Power Living school andÉ

Guy Lawrence: I noticed, as well, only just yesterday you had an online program, as well. Is that right?

Duncan Peak: Yeah. We have some online course, some online yoga, which is where you can just sign up and get on video, basically, our classes. People in remote areas, you can do that. We also have some stuff on TV. XX?XX [0:38:59] Yeah, there’s a lot going on in that world, so, yeah, lots of opportunities. We have the DVDs you can purchase as well, and audio CDs for meditation, all available on the website, yeah, there’s lots of aids out there to help people get involved and get into it.

Guy Lawrence: No excuses. That’s awesome, right?

Stuart Cooke: You’re pointing your finger at me, Guy, when you say that.

Guy Lawrence: You know, mate.

Stuart Cooke: Thank you very much. That is awesome. Thank you so much, Duncan.

Duncan Peak: Thanks, Stuart. Thanks, Guy. It’s been great.

Stuart Cooke: You’ll be seeing me sooner than you think.

Duncan Peak: All right, mate, well if you’re going to come along, let me know. We’ll set you up with a VIP pass and take care of you guys.

Stuart Cooke: All right, thank you, mate. That’s fantastic.

Guy Lawrence: Bye, guys. Awesome.

Stuart Cooke: Take care. See you, buddy.

2 Minute Gems: Making the most of what you got!

By Guy Lawrence

In this 2 Minute Gem, Toby Morrison explains what his turning point was when at his lowest period in his life. Toby is an exceptionally positive person and tells us how he went on to turn his adversity into his passion… Simply inspiring & it will make you want to get the most out of your day!

You can watch the full Toby Morrison interview here.

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: A Guide to Recovery We also highly recommend you check out his best selling book – Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: A Guide to Recovery

Do you know anyone who needs inspiring that you could share this with? Have you overcome adversity yourself? Love to hear your thoughts below… Guy

Toby Morrison: Overcoming chronic fatigue (CFS)


Bare with me here for a second. Imagine you are so exhausted you sleep for 18 hours a day and your exercise regime is to walk for a couple of minutes as you simply can’t walk any more. You are so burnt out, physically you can’t do anything. You begin to think you are dying and suicide starts to cross your mind.

This is what Health & Wellness Coach Toby Morrison had to overcome with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS). He not only overcame the ‘untreatable disease’, Toby has turned his adversity into his passion and has inspired thousands of others to do the same.

This is a fascinating and uplifting story and well worth watching whether you suffer from chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) or not. To learn more about Toby click here.

toby morrison cfs health

Audio Version:

In this weeks episode:-
downloaditunesListen to Stitcher

  • From elite athlete to burnout
  • What is Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS)
  • Why high/over achievers are prone to CFS
  • Why mindset is everything & what Toby did to turn his life around
  • Turning adversity into passion
  • Where to start if you have/know someone with symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome
  • and much more…

You can view all Health Session episodes here.

Full Transcript

Guy Lawrence: Hey, this is Guy Lawrence. I’m joined today with no other than Mr. Stuart Cooke. Again, good to see you, Stu. And our very special guest today is Mr. Toby Morrison, who is a health and wellness coach. That would be fair enough to say, wouldn’t it, Toby?

Toby Morrison: Yeah, definitely.

Guy Lawrence: Yeah. Thanks for coming in, mate. We were just, myself and Stewie, had been talking this week and the one thing we are very excited about is that we love stories that inspire and then go on to inspire others, especially when I guess you take adversity into a passion and then that passion goes on and helps others. So, we thought our audience and ourselves would benefit from this greatly.

So, can you go back to the start and tell us a little bit about your story and what you’ve overcome?

Toby Morrison: Well, I was a very athletic kid and an elite basketball player at the age of 16. And I was training eight to 10 times a week so I was doing double sessions in a day. I was playing for four basketball teams, and I really was just; basketball was my life.

And I got struck down with glandular fever, which is very common with most people with chronic fatigue syndrome. And from there it kept persisting and I kept pushing through and pushing my body to the limit and then eventually I was diagnosed with chronic fatigue six months later.

And it wasn’t like I was just sleepy and tired. It was to the point where I was sleeping 16 to 18 hours a day. I couldn’t eat breakfast, lunch, or dinner.

Stuart Cooke?: Eighteen hours a day?

Toby Morrison: Yeah, just to go to the toilet was an effort. I used to; the first I actually work up and was completely bedridden, I couldn’t even speak, so I actually had a bell that I had to ring to get my mum to come to my room and bring water and food for the first couple of month. It was quite severe and a huge shock to my system and my overall life.

Guy Lawrence: Right. Oh, my God.

So, how would you describe chronic fatigue syndrome, like, in a nutshell? Because there was a term I’d heard of but I hadn’t really looked into because obviously I hadn’t suffered it myself. How would you describe it?

Toby Morrison: Yeah. Look, it’s hard to understand it if you haven’t had it, but the way I would describe chronic fatigue is it’s like you’re jet-lagged or you’ve got that hungover feeling 24-7 and times by 10. So, you know, you sleep, usually, you’re lethargic. You’ve got flu-like symptoms so you’ve always got a sore throat. You usually get symptoms like dizziness, muscle aches and pains. And then it can lead to emotional things and cognitive things like your memory loss is high. Your concentration levels are low. You know, just to keep your eyes open for a certain amount of time is hard. Reading a book or a page of a book is quite the task for someone with chronic fatigue syndrome.

Guy Lawrence: Wow. OK. And would that be something that just hits you like a freight train from day one? Or are there symptoms that are just kind of slowly creeping up?
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Toby Morrison: Certainly. I mean, every case is different, but predominantly what happens with CFS; it creeps up on them slowly. So, usually it starts with a virus, light, glandular fever. Or a post-viral syndrome. And then if that’s not looked after or the health hasn’t progressed, then usually what happens is you’re diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome.

And it creeps up on you. I just thought it was a cold and flu, you know. And I honestly did. I was a kid, so you don’t think of it when you’re a kid, so you think, “I’ll be all right in a couple of weeks. I will just rest. I’ll have a couple of days off school. My main priority is to play the game of basketball.”

And so I would rest all week and then I would play the game on Friday night and then I’d be in bed for another week and play again on the next Friday.

So it was more; I was in survival mode rather than thriving. And then it got to the point where I played my last game and I just remember getting to the game and I felt I was way off. And to chase a ball was an extreme task. I mean, I remember shooting the ball and normally I’d hit that shot every time and I completely airballed it and I just knew that was game over. That night I went to bed and the next morning I woke up, opened my eyes, thinking that physically I was fine and I went to move mentally and I couldn’t physically move.

So, it just didn’t process through my brain. It was very neurological and, you know, it completely hit me for six.

Stuart Cooke: And were you instantly diagnosed with CFS?

Toby Morrison: Not at all. We freaked out. Your body feels like it’s deteriorating, and people would see this with CFS if you are watching, you’ll understand this, but you actually feel like you’re dying. I thought I had cancer at one stage, because your body starts to really disintegrate. You know, your muscles feel like they’re getting eaten away by something inside.

And when you are a kid or even an adult, you’re healthy. I mean, I was one of the fittest kids at school. To, then, being one of the sickest kids, ever in school. So, it was very; in the time of six months you can’t really get diagnosed prior because they need to; your symptoms need to persist for more than six months for you to be diagnosed.

Guy Lawrence: So, you have to suffer six months before?

Toby Morrison: Pretty much. They’re trying to change it now. There is a new diagnostic system that isn’t really that recognized by doctors yet, and that’s a two months thing but still ongoing tests needs to happen all the time to exclude any other disease. Things like diabetes, cancers, and some serious illnesses that people might have.

Guy Lawrence: So, the catalyst for CFS, for our audience, do you think that that was just the extreme schedule of exercise that you were putting your body under?

Toby Morrison: Well, there’s a couple of different cases, but predominantly the people who have helped me and the people I’ve seen for chronic fatigue, they are usually high-achievers. And I was speaking to a doctor recently who specializes in chronic fatigue and he said the same thing. Ninety percent of his patients and the patients that I see are high-achievers or overdoers. So, they’ve got that personality type to really push through and push their bodies to the limit, either physically or emotionally. I’ve got a lot of academic kids at the moment who strive to get scores of 95 and 99 and they just don’t know how to stop. They don’t know how to do the simple things and they just burn out.

Guy Lawrence: So, would it almost cause, like, a snowball effect in the fact that you’re pushing, you’re pushing, you’re pushing, and then all of sudden you’re gonna get to a point where momentum takes over and you get progressively worse?

Toby Morrison: Yeah. These symptoms that we get, even if you don’t have chronic fatigue, there are symptoms like muscle pain, muscle aches, dizziness. It’s a sign that your body needs to change. You need to do something different in your lifestyle. You know, it’s a hint saying, “Hey, hey, slow down a little bit.”

When you’re a kid, you’re going a hundred miles an hour, and you guys will understand this. You’re going a hundred miles an hour, and you don’t stop and think, you know. You can keep pushing, keep pushing, keep pushing.

Nutritionally I wasn’t probably eating as well and I wasn’t getting anywhere near enough rest physically to perform at the best level I could.

Guy Lawrence: I mean, how much has your nutrition changed from when you had chronic fatigue to now? I mean, do you see that in many other cases as well? Do you tackle it from a nutritional aspect as well.

Toby Morrison: Definitely. And we’ve got to look at it like this: The car needs fuel to operate and run and to work. And the way the body works is the same, you know. If you don’t put the fuel in it, it’s just not gonna give you the energy that you need to get your body from A to B. And that might be walking one minute or it might be playing a game of AFL football. Everyone’s on a different level.

But, you know, food was huge. Before I got diagnosed, I was eating crap. I would wake up, I might have had 10 Weet-Bix for breakfast, which high GI food. Apparently, healthy for you. It’s marketed really well. And most of those cereal brands are. But when you’re a kid, you don’t really think about it. You just eat it, because the superstars eat it.

And I’d catch the train to school and I’d have a hot jam donut and a can of Coke for $2 every morning and then I’d go to school. It was kind of high GI food.

And there was no education, and I wish there was back then, for kids like me. But I guess that’s what I do now is I pass it on to young people.

Guy Lawrence: But you still see it in the kids today, you know.

Toby Morrison: It’s terrible. And I think we need to; people like you guys and myself need to spread that word and actually educate people on the importance of food and the types of different foods we can eat.

Guy Lawrence: Absolutely. Absolutely.

I was gonna say, like, where’d you start? If you were in bed up to 18 hours a day and I’d imagine mentally you’re not going to feel like you want to do anything. Physically, you’re not gonna want to feel like doing anything. And if you haven’t got the support from the doctors and things like that, they’re scratching at their head at it, I mean, where do you start?

Toby Morrison: Yeah. And, I mean, it took me four years to recover.

Guy Lawrence: Four years.

Toby Morrison: Four years. There wasn’t much help with it. So, I pretty much missed my senior years of school. I just scraped through. I ended with a score of 33 out of 100, which was just a pass. And I think I studied one hour in that year; in year 12. And I just passed it. And so, one of things is accepting that it’s a long process. And, I mean, there wasn’t much help then, but there is now. There’s a lot more help with CFS and there’s a lot more awareness.

But getting started on a minimum basis is the most important thing. And, when you are diagnosed with chronic fatigue, you freak out. And all you want to do is get better. And we all want to get better. We want the quick-fix solution. We want to get fit. We want to get healthy. We want the best for ourselves, but we want them overnight. And the problem with CFS is you just don’t physically change overnight. It takes time.

And I guess the biggest thing is not to look for those quick-fix answers, but look for the stuff that you can do today that will help you in the future and that might mean nutritionally, that might mean with your sleep, that might mean mentally getting some support and help. Physically, getting moving again. And moving is probably the hardest one because, like you said, you don’t physically feel like you can move. You know, there’s days where you feel like you can’t even get out of bed. So, the first exercise program might be getting out bed. Which is crazy. It’s as severe as that. I’ve got patients who can barely walk up their front stairs. I had one kid; he took 10 minutes to walk up the front stairs; it’s 10 steps.

Guy Lawrence: Are there varying degrees of CFS? Would somebody with a poor sleep pattern and generally low energy levels, would that be CFS?

Toby Morrison: Most definitely. And, I mean, it would have be diagnosed, but there can be cases of mild chronic fatigue syndrome and certainly things that we can control that will help them enormously in terms of working on their sleep routine, their exercise on a regular basis. Eating the right foods day-in, day-out. All the things that we can control.

The severities of CFS are like this. It’s huge. You’ve got people who can’t get out of bed and sleep 16 to 18 hours like I was. And then you’ve got people who are quite actual, function, work full-time, got to school, play a sport. But they just don’t feel great.

Guy Lawrence: Right. OK.

Stuart Cooke: Just to go backwards a little bit, I’m really interested on, as well; I hate using the word “mindset” but I’ll use it in this case, because, you know, with myself working as a trainer for nearly eight years, the biggest let-down I used to see with people, all the way up to somebody who had cancer, to even somebody who just wants to lose weight or actually establish themselves in their athletic discipline or whatever it was, it all came back to how they thought, you know, and whether they would skip sessions or continue and things like that.

And, obviously, the more in need of help you are, I think harder it is to overcome something, because you’re already under much worse circumstances.

So, I’d love to hear some of the things you; because you must have done something, right, to start overcoming these things. So, I’d love to hear what things you would do.

Toby Morrison: So, the biggest thing that I learned from my recovery and my illness was being the victim wasn’t the answer. You know, as a 16-year-old, my life was basketball. My dream was to an NBL basketball superstar and that was it. I had no other option. That was my life.

And so I probably held onto that for a year and half when I was diagnosed with chronic fatigue, so I was frustrated, angry, anxious, pissed off, and what does that make you do? It makes you feel terrible, you know?

So, I probably got to about 16 and a half years of age and thought, “This isn’t gonna help my recovery. If I want to get better, I can’t think like that and I need to let go of the past and let go of the future and just focus on the now.”

And so that pretty means accepting where you are at and acceptance was a huge part of my recovery. And a huge part of anyone’s recovery is just accepting where you’re at and working with what you’ve got. You know, it was a huge part of the recovery.

Guy Lawrence: So, it’s almost like taking responsibility for yourself and these are the cards you’ve got and. . .

Toby Morrison: Yeah, and not wasting energy on things that you can’t control and I guess one of the things was holding onto things that were impossible at the time. Letting go of that was fantastic, because it allowed me to have the space and time and energy to focus on what I could do now, which might have been one minute walking, which might have just being proud of the fact that I could get out of bed and step into the sunshine for 15 minutes rather than think about not being able to play that basketball game that I could have won for the team, and things like that.

So, acceptance was a huge thing. Another thing was setting goals and being realistic. And that comes with acceptance as well. You know, people set the bar too high and they want to achieve amazing things and that’s fantastic but it’s not realistic and they’re setting themselves up for failure.

So, I made the goal of just being able to walk to start with. And this is coming from a kid who used to be able to do a beep test of 15.6.

Guy Lawrence: Did you really? That’s phenomenal.

Toby Morrison: I was super fit, so my whole mindset changed to focusing on the now rather than focusing on the past or the future.

And other big thing, in terms of being a victim, was realizing that there’s people worse off than you.

Stuart Cooke: No matter where you’re at, right?

Toby Morrison: And this is extremely powerful, because here I was as 15-year-old kid walking around the street moping around with my head down going, “This is so unfair, why me, I can’t play basketball, I don’t have any friends anymore, I can’t see anyone. I can’t even go to school.” And when I was walking down that street, I’ll never forget it, a guy in a wheelchair went past me and I looked down and he had no legs and he had no arms.

Well, and the funny thing was, he smiled at me. You know? And here I am about to cry thinking that my life; what’s the point of living, because I honestly didn’t want to live. There was no point. I couldn’t play; I couldn’t do the things I loved to do.

And when that guy smiled at me, I thought to myself, “How dare I complain about my life?” And from day onwards, I think I was 16 at the time, that day onwards I’ve never really complained. I’m very lucky to have legs and arms. Even though I could barely use them, at least there were still there.

Guy Lawrence: Yeah, yeah.

Stuart Cooke: That’s right.

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Guy Lawrence: That’s a great one. It’s a powerful way of looking at it.

Toby Morrison: It’s very powerful. And I was only 16 at the time so I guess I didn’t know the power it had in terms of my recovery, but looking back now, you know, it’s amazing. And even more so now I look; I ‘m so grateful for my life. As you build up and you get more abundant, you appreciate your life much more. And just living and being able to open your eyes in the morning and tie your shoelaces together and have a shower; the things you weren’t able to do once before you can do now. It’s pretty amazing.

Guy Lawrence: Yeah. Right. So, for anyone listening or watching this, what would the takeaway thing be you could say, if they’re in a bad spot, I guess, is to focus on the gratitude and the things you can be grateful for, right?

Toby Morrison: Yeah, the first thing I do with my clients when they come in see me, I go, “All right. Tell me 10 things that you can do.” And they say, “I can’t. I can’t do anything. I can’t play a sport. I can’t go to school.” And they’re filled with all the “can’ts” so they forget what they can do. And, I mean, sitting in my office is something that they’re doing. So, walking, driving, seeing. Some people are blind. At least they can see.

So it’s about just seeing what you can do rather than what you can’t do and then focusing on building that up over time. That list would build from 10 to 20 to 30 to 100, you know, as time goes on and you start looking for more positives rather than negatives.

There’s a stat, we say it first, that every single person diagnosed with CFS has the thought of suicide once in their recovery; at least once. And so it’s quite debilitating and quite severe, so I guess finding something to live for, when you are at that desperate stage, and I know there are people out there who do feel life is not work living, and I was one of them.

My thing that I lived for was my family, because I knew that I didn’t want to be here or wasn’t gonna be here, how upset and how much grief I would cause them. So, you know, as crazy as it sounds, I actually felt for those couple of those years that I was living for my mum and dad and my sister to get through it, because they meant the world to me and they loved me so much that I almost felt like I wanted to live for them.

And it’s fantastic to repay that favor now and for them to see me, what I’m doing now.

Stuart Cooke: That just triggered off another thought. I’ve spoke about it before in the past, but I got involved with a charity that were helping people with cancer, and there was always about 30 people there who had cancer and the majority of them were in a bad way and fighting for their lives. But what was very humbling and good to see was when you put all these people that were in the same situation together, it kind of; there was a strength in that that they didn’t have when they were on their own as well, you know.

Toby Morrison: Yeah, definitely. And I think it’s amazing because before I set up the centre three years ago, there was nothing out there for people with chronic fatigue in terms of guidance and help from someone who had had it, been through it, and recovered from it.

And so 12 hours a day there’s people coming in and out who have either got chronic fatigue or getting over it and it’s fascinating to see their conversation and just their eyes light up when people see each other going for similar situations and surrounding themselves in that positive environment.

And I guess, in here, it’s more about we’re focusing on what we can do. We’re being proactive in the recovery, so, accidentally, I had a double walk-in the other week and there was four patients in the one hour sitting there and I sat there and I kind of introduced them all and I said, “Yeah, you know, Vic’s going through chronic fatigue and Mark is going really well; he’s training for 20 minutes now.” And it went for an hour and a half. There was laughter and fun. And I just sat back for an hour and thought, “This is just amazing.” This atmosphere and this space is just so positive. And even a couple of them text messaged me after said it was just so nice to see other people going through similar situations and getting better, you know?

Guy Lawrence: And did you ever think, when you look back to when you had chronic fatigue, to where you’re at now? I mean, did you believe it at the time? It must. . .

Toby Morrison: Look. It’s funny; when I was 16, so when I did make that call where I thought I’m giving up basketball and focusing on me and I’ve got to work on what I can work on now and not worry about basketball and the career. In year 10 English, we had to write a journal and the only thing I wrote in that journal (and I hated English) was, “One day I will help over a million people with chronic fatigue syndrome.”

Guy Lawrence: Wow.

Toby Morrison: Yeah, I know. And at the time I just wrote it down; I didn’t think much of it. And, to be honest, I didn’t think it would happen this fast. I didn’t think I would write a book and get it published and done at the age of 25.

But when I stop and think about it, it’s crazy, but I haven’t stopped, you know? Whenever I wake up, I just think about what I was like 10 years ago and wish there was someone like me back then. And I guess that’s a driving factor when I help people. And I do long days and I help a lot of people, and I’m blessed to be able to do that.

Because that’s what people need. And there was nothing there back then when I was suffering, and I guess I just had the drive and the dedication and commit to do it, but most people, when they’re that low, they can’t find that.

So, I guess that’s where my passion lies, and I get a tingle in the back of my head every time I think about it or talk about it. Even if I; I might come home from the office at 10 p.m. but still feel on fire because. . .

Stuart Cooke: On top of the world.

Toby Morrison: Yeah, because it’s just; there’s a need there for people to be inspired and to actually get guidance and I’m blessed to be able to do that now.

Guy Lawrence: Fantastic. Well, we’ve got a list of questions from our Facebook audience as well and we’ve picked out just a few that we think would be great for you to answer, and I think if we start off with; Melissa has a question regarding exercise. And she asks, “What exercise is appropriate when living with CFS? Prior to developing CFS, I was physically active on a daily basis. Now I don’t want to overdo it, but I do want to incorporate exercise into my routine. What do I do?”

Toby Morrison: That’s fantastic that Melissa actually does want to exercise, because most people with CFS don’t. So, going back to what I said before is forgetting about what you were like before; you can never compare yourself to your old fitness levels before you were sick, and you’ve got to start from a minimum. And we call this a baseline exercise program where you can exercise and perform exercises without worsening your systems. And it’s called graded exercise therapy.

So, you might start with; it depends where you’re at with your fitness levels, but you start with the bare minimum and it might be one minute walking or it might be five minutes walking. But you want to choose something that’s quite easy and simple and really where it’s low intensity. You don’t really want your heart rate to be over 120 beats per minute to start with.

Guy Lawrence: So, is this something that you would keep a log book and you’d record this?
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Toby Morrison: Definitely. So, what I do with my clients is I’ve got a daily activity log book and they’ve got to record what they do on that day. And, you know, you can overdo it with exercise. You can overdo it with daily activities: things like housecleaning, driving, school, work. So, it’s just about making sure that you’re doing the right amount for you and not going backwards.

And the best way; the only way you can learn is from trial and error. But you want to have more ups than downs. And the problem is, if you go up too high and you’re trying too hard, the down recovery phase is too long and you’re bedridden. And you can be bedridden anywhere from two to seven days, really.

Stuart Cooke: Oh, wow. That’s insane.

Guy Lawrence: We got an interesting question from Carla, which I thought was quite appropriate as well. “I want to know how I can help someone with chronic fatigue because I feel so helpless sometimes.”

Toby Morrison: So, she wants to help someone else with chronic fatigue?

Guy Lawrence: Yeah. Exactly. What can she do to help others.

Toby Morrison: OK, so, I mean, if she has had CFS herself or hasn’t, I guess the biggest thing is understanding and being empathetic with a friend or client or spouse or whoever’s got CFS. And just encouraging them to be positive and proactive rather than always talking about the negatives.

And it’s quite hard, as a friend. I only had one friend who stuck by me. I was the most popular kid at school before I got sick. And then, as soon as I got sick, all my friends dropped off because I wasn’t that sporty or I couldn’t do anything. And I had this one friend who was a girl who used to pop over to my house every afternoon and just check up on me and say hi and just have a general conversation.

At the time, it didn’t feel like it was that important and I kind of didn’t really care if she came or not, but looking back, that’s what got me through it. Because I needed someone there just to be there for me, you know? And so it’s very important, when someone’s got CFS they have support around them. So, it’s fantastic that she wants to help her friend with CFS. You know, just being supportive and being positive is a great help and it’s so beneficial.

Guy Lawrence: Fantastic.

Stuart Cooke: If you’ve got CFS, is it easy to be in denial about it, kind of thing, and not face up to any of it and just shut down?

Toby Morrison: Very much so. And  that’s a typical trait of the person dealing with CFS is the, “Oh, no, no, I’ll be fine. I’ll be fine. I’ll keep pushing through it.” In a week or two’s time you’re gonna break down and collapse again.

Stuart Cooke: So, I guess they have to get to that point where they’ve the made the decision where they want to do something about it.

Toby Morrison: There’s one bit of advice is you can only help people who want help. And the problem is, with friends and stuff, as much as your friend does want to get better, they might not want to right now and they might not be ready to get better. So, just be patient. Be kind.

And, I guess, do a little bit of research. Read books on chronic fatigue just so you can get an understanding of what it is actually like to have it. It’s extremely difficult to get your head around what it feels like to have chronic fatigue, because sometimes it looks like it’s all in their head. They look physically fine, they might have a laugh, they might have a chuckle, but inside they’re still feeling terrible.

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Stuart Cooke: Yeah, they’re crumbling.

Guy Lawrence: Yeah.

Toby Morrison: Educate yourself; yeah.

Guy Lawrence: Some great points. Alex has asked, “Any particular supplements or foods that you notice which might just help increase energy levels overall?”

Toby Morrison: Yeah, look, I mean, I obviously can’t be specific with that person, but in terms of a general guideline with food, you want to eat regularly. Skipping meals like breakfast, lunch, or dinner is not really ideal. And I know it’s hard with CFS because you might sleep in till 1 p.m. and then miss breakfast and lunch.

Guy Lawrence: Right. Yeah.

Toby Morrison: So, you want to set that routine around your food, and that means having breakfast at a certain time, having lunch at a certain time, and having dinner at a certain time.

The other; in terms of food, we want whole foods. Things that are gonna fill us up and make us feel good rather than eating crappy kind of, you know, fast foods that will only give us energy for a short period of time and leave us feeling lethargic again.

Guy Lawrence: For sure. I mean, I always use the analogy, if anyone asks me, “What do I eat?” just think about what your grandparents used to eat and start from there.

Stuart Cooke: Sticky toffees.

Guy Lawrence: Yeah, yeah, right.

Toby Morrison: All in moderation, but with CFS I guess you just want to eat simple, clean food. I mean, most people know what’s healthy and what’s not healthy. You’ve just got to choose consciously to eat healthy on a regular basis.

Guy Lawrence: That’s right. We always use the term “real food.” “Clean food.” Just, you know, just eat real food. Meat, fish, veggies, fruit. Keep on top of your water and most things will work out for you.

Toby Morrison: I was gonna say one more thing with food. Try and listen to your body. You might go and see a naturopath or a nutritionist and they’ll tell you one thing, but your body knows what it wants and if you feel sick when you’re about to eat something, it’s probably not a great food for you. And you learn over time and you guys will be good with it because you’re used to bodies and you guys are your best teachers, but when you start out, if you eat something that makes you feel sick, probably don’t have that for awhile. Just stick to the foods that work for you.

Guy Lawrence: Fantastic. All right.

Janice has mentioned sleep. Now, sleep; we had a lot of people; a lot of questions regarding sleep and how to wake up refreshed and not feeling like they’ve been hit by a truck. Best remedies, ideas, or support mechanisms. So, what can we do here?

Toby Morrison: Yeah, look. Sleep’s very tough. And it’s one of the hardest parts of the recovery process, actually. It’s huge, because medication comes in which can leave us feeling with really bad side effects. Most people with CFS sleep during the day or started sleeping during the day because they’re so exhausted, which then affects their night sleep, which then affects the quality of their overall sleep.

So, I mean, it’s all about just getting restful sleep. One of the best things you can do is cut out sleep during the day, OK? If you are sleeping three to four hours during the day, you need to try and decrease that slowly over time and try and get that back to about half an hour rest during the day rather than knocking yourself out for three hours and then feeling awake until 2 a.m. in the morning.

So, it’s about decreasing the day sleep and then, obviously, trying to get that 9 to 12 hours of sleep a night. Everyone’s different. For me, it was one of the hardest things. But I tried every sleeping tablet under the sun and it still didn’t work.

So, I guess in conjunction with eating well, moving on daily basis (and that might be on a minimum basis to start with), resting minimally throughout the day, and it might; resting’s fine but sleeping is different. If you want to rest, that’s totally fine. But sleeping

during the day is a big no-no. And trying to get that restful sleep from about 9 or 10 p.m. through till the morning.

Stuart Cooke: Can you, like, especially in the early phases of chronic fatigue, when people may not even know or recognize it, could a symptom be the opposite? Of actually not being able to sleep?

Toby Morrison: Yes. Right. Yes. So, people who don’t have chronic fatigue think, “Oh, all you do is sleep.” You know? “You’re sleeping too much.” Actually, what happens, in the long run, sleep is a bit of a cycle. You’re exhausted to start with and then you start to become irritable and your sleep patterns are completely broken up.

I’ve had clients who actually can’t fall asleep until 6 a.m. in the morning. All right? And it’s broken sleep for 12 hours. Because it’s like you wake up every third or fourth hour completely awake and you find it very hard to go to sleep.

So, there’s a couple of things. There’s environmental stuff that you can work on. So, making sure that your room’s tidy and clean; there’s a bit of fresh air coming through and that you’re not too hot. So, if you’re overheated, your body’s just gonna stay awake all the time.

Another thing is not eating too close to bedtime. All right? On a full stomach you’re gonna keep yourself awake for a longer period of time. And another great thing that I have learned: Use your mindset around sleep. Because usually what happens is you overthink it. You start to think, “Oh, I’m not going to be able to sleep tonight. I’m going to feel terrible tomorrow.”

Guy Lawrence: Yeah. You almost make it happen.

Toby Morrison: Yeah. Putting in practices to relax yourself. So, it might be slow music; slow, relaxing music. It might be reading a little bit of a book. For me, it was closing my eyes and visualizing myself running along the beach completely healthy. And this is when I was completely debilitated. So, I was taught by someone to visualize and I’d close my eyes and think about something positive and gently fall asleep like that.

Guy Lawrence: Yeah, right.

Stuart Cooke: If, then, you wake up three hours later, tactics to address that?

Toby Morrison: Well, it just depends why you’re waking up. It might be to go to the bathroom. Sometimes; it’s usually muscle spasms. Symptoms are usually sore legs. So, to combat that, you can either ice your legs, you can elevate your legs so the blood flow comes back down; that’s really useful. And some people benefit from hot and cold baths or showers. I didn’t, myself, but I’ve had a lot of good feedback from doing that.

So I guess, you know, managing the symptoms as best you can. And, I mean, the problem with sleep is, if you have a bad night’s sleep, then what happens is you go, “Oh, I need to sleep during the day. I need to catch up on my sleep.” It’s one of the worst things you can do because then you’re just gonna be stuck in that really negative cycle of oversleeping because you can feel quite groggy, you know?

Set your alarm at a certain time and be kind to yourself. Start with, maybe, a 10 a.m. wakeup rather than a 7 a.m. wakeup. And decrease the time down slowly so that eventually your body gets used to it. I know for a fact if I sleep in too much, I feel 10 times worse, whereas if I have my six to nine hours now, I feel great. But anything over that, I feel tired, groggy, the rest of those symptoms.

Stuart Cooke: What about the “power nap”? Everybody hears the wonders of the power nap throughout the day.

Toby Morrison: Look, it depends where you’re at with your recovery. But, I mean, 20 to 30 minutes of shut-eye during the day is OK if it’s needed. I mean, I used to sleep two to three hours every day, and I needed that.

Stuart Cooke: That really is a power nap.

Toby Morrison: Yeah, it was. But the worst thing was that I’d wake up and feel even worse than before.

So, I mean, resting throughout the day is obviously needed when you’ve got chronic fatigue and that might be: bring you legs up, elevated on the couch. And it might be mediating for 20 minutes to half an hour. And if you feel like you do need that sleep, then you probably do.

Guy Lawrence: Yeah. Right. Maybe just go to the; look at the environment with sleep and things like that. Have you looked at or any thoughts on electromagnetic fields? EMF? We met a lady, the weekend, because we were at the Mindd Forum Foundation, and she was; like, some of the things she was saying about it were quite incredible. I mean, we were aware of it, but, God, she really made us look at it.

Toby Morrison: With that kind of stuff, it’s hard, because if you get too involved in it it becomes a little bit obsessive.

Stuart Cooke: I can see how that would happen.

Toby Morrison: And I did go through that phase at around 17 and I met and old kooky guy, I think he was 75, and he wanted me to throw out my mobile phone and get rid of my computer and the rest of it. And I did for awhile. Because, you know, I just wanted to get better so I’d do anything. But I guess you can’t just hope that that’s just gonna change your life. You know, I think the most important thing that you can do is focus on what you can control on a day-to-day basis.

Guy Lawrence: Absolutely. That’s really good advice.

Have you got time for a couple of more Facebook questions?

Toby Morrison: Yeah, certainly. Yeah.

Guy Lawrence: All right. Barack asks: Are adrenal fatigue, insomnia, and chronic fatigue related?

Toby Morrison: Yeah, they certainly are in some contexts. The symptoms are quite similar. You know, adrenal fatigue can be treatable, though. So, when people say adrenal fatigue leads to chronic fatigue, it’s not really true, because adrenal fatigue, there is medication for it, whereas with chronic fatigue there is none. So, they’re not really the same. The symptoms are quite similar but they’re not the same.

Guy Lawrence: OK. Not a problem. Last question, from Tracy: Can you discuss the causes of brain fog; short-term memory loss. Anything special to help these symptoms?

Toby Morrison: Look, there’s no cure for chronic fatigue and there’s no knowledge behind the symptoms like brain fog, cognitive issues, short memory loss. But it definitely is a symptom. It’s a major symptom.

One of the ways to decrease the brain fog is to give yourself rest breaks throughout the day and concentrate less or stimulate your mind less or for lesser amounts of time. It doesn’t mean that you don’t read or you don’t go to work, whatever, but you have breaks.

I’ve got a few people who are writing books who have got chronic fatigue, and, you know, they write for four hours straight because they’re in the zone and they’re flying. And then after the four hours, they sit back and go, “Oh, my God. I’m so dizzy. I need to rest.” And then they get bedridden for a couple of days.

So, it’s about breaking those spaces up where you’re doing maybe a half an hour block here of mentally stimulating yourself and then half an hour block here. You know, building up slowly. The same goes with exercises. The same goes with mindset; building up your mental stimulation over time.

Guy Lawrence: Fantastic.

Stuart Cooke: So, wrapping it up then, if anyone wants to know more, where’s the best place to come?

Toby Morrison: They can go to my website www.cfshealthcenter.com.au. I’ve just released my first book, which is called Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: A Guide to Recovery. And there’s heaps on online help and support on my website, which will give you the mental strength and the physical strength just to get started again.

Guy Lawrence: Are you holding seminars as well? Is that something that’s gonna happen?

Toby Morrison: Yeah, I’m holding a seminar in Melbourne on the 23rd of June, so you can book tickets on my website. And I’ll be going around to each state eventually and helping more people. But, yeah, if you do want to get in contact with me, the best thing to do is email me and I’ll try to get back to you as soon as possible.

Stuart Cooke: Well, we’ll put all those details on our website as well. And thank you so much for your time.

Guy Lawrence: Yeah, thanks Toby. And for anyone that was sleeping 18 hours a day, you know, getting up to walk for a couple of minutes a day and has now turned that away is fantastic and I think there’s a message in there for everyone watching this, whether they’ve got chronic fatigue or not.

Toby Morrison: I have to pinch myself sometimes. I guess, looking back, I did everything I could in my power to get better and I did. It took four years to recover, but I’m so lucky now and blessed to have the life I’ve got.

Guy Lawrence: It’s fantastic, mate, and I really appreciate the time.

Stuart Cooke: Thanks, Toby.

Guy Lawrence: Bye.

Toby Morrison: Goodbye.

 

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