In this exclusive interview, Christian tells the very personal story of how he found yoga, made new friends, and turned his life around.
What would you say the biggest adversity in your life has been?
Since the age of 14 I have struggled with drug addiction. Long term heroin addiction stole every piece of me that made me, me. When I had the ability to stop I didn’t want to, and when I wanted to stop, I couldn’t. Those 7 years taught me more about life than anything else I believe I have, and will, experience in the future. I got sober at 21 and have been sober ever since. Sobriety date: September 12th, 2013 - coming up for 5 years clean and sober.
What was it like growing up in SO-CAL / Orange County?
Southern California has a reputation for its beautiful beaches, palm trees, and lack of adversity. Marketing has done an amazing job to show you all the beauty. But within every region lies its counterpart. I grew up on the north side of OC, where gangs, drugs, and violence is a lot more prevalent.
I was fortunate enough to grow up in a household of unconditional love, and had a respectable upbringing. My mother taught me how to cook, clean, and give lots of hugs. My dad taught me how to ‘be a man’. It was an interesting dynamic, because my dad taught me the only way he knew how; to hide those ‘weak emotions’ deep inside. I was not allowed to cry, so when I would suppress my tears they would manifest into anger. Like most parents, they did the best they could with what they knew, and so there will always be a processing of unlearning the things that no longer serve me, in order to make room for what does.
What was the crowd like that you were hanging around?
I always sought out the crowd of people that would validate my insecurities and justify my rash behaviour, though of course I didn’t know that at the time. You know those kids that were popular because they always got into fights, always had a connection with alcohol and drugs, skateboarded, ditched class, never did their homework, the class clown? Those were my peeps.
What did the road to becoming a yoga teacher look like? (eg, what sports did you play? jobs? Lifestyle?)
My whole life was the road to becoming a yoga teacher. All my trials and tribulations, hardships, letdowns and failures, fused together to guide me to my purpose.
I practiced karate, played soccer, tried football and then stumbled across basketball, and really fell in love with it - it was my outlet. I practiced day and night, from 5am practices before class, to playing pick-up games until the gym closed. By the time school rolled around I was good enough to play college ball, but having already been to rehab twice, I could not keep up my grades and ended up getting kicked out of school.
Next, I took up skateboarding and fighting, because for some reason I felt they went hand in hand. Skateboarding allowed me to get high and do what I want, but eventually I got sober and got serious about fighting, competing as a boxer. I wanted to go professional, but competitive boxing was a full-time gig and it was too much, so I decided to retire.
I was at a weird point in my life; I went plant based, introduced mindfulness, meditation, and healthy habits into my life, but still felt like I was missing something. I had a buddy at the time, Jacob Manning, who was fresh at teaching yoga. If it wasn’t for the fact that I just wanted to do cool tricks, I would never have given yoga a chance. I took his class and was sore for a long time! From that experience, not only did I find my purpose but I also found my best friend, Jacob.
Would you say it is difficult for you to open up? If so, why?
Being vulnerable has been my biggest struggle in this journey of finding myself and growing spiritually. I have over 20 years of conditioning that told me crying, sadness and sympathy was for the weak minded. It’s not that I don’t want to open up, it’s just that I’m freshly learning how to.
I have come a long way when it comes to the vulnerability. I am capable of crying now, not a lot by any means, but enough to choke up a bit when I look at my son, or watch a good movie. I am consistently working on it, and Hailee and Bodhi are great assets for me in this chapter of my life.
If answered yes above, do you have a daily practice that helps you develop a deeper connection with those vulnerabilities? (eg. yoga, parenting, friendships, career, etc)
Yoga allows me to connect to myself physically and open up emotional channels that had blockages. But a big one that has truly helped with empathy and compassion is going plant based. Everything is comprised of energy, which cannot be created nor destroyed, just transferred.
I believe that when you eat an animal you are turning a blind eye to the slaughter of a human being while ingesting the sadness, turmoil and fear that animal experienced in its last moments. I can’t see the attraction of eating animals, all the nutrients we benefit from go through a third party. For example, the calcium in cows comes from the plants they eat and the omega 3 in fish ultimately comes from the ocean-based algae they ingest.
Plants provide you with all the protein you need - and such proteins do not promote cancer or increase inflammation. Additionally, you get complex carbohydrates for sustained energy, healthy fats that don’t block your arteries, plenty of fibre and water to promote hydration.
It’s also the best way to lose weight. If you’re eating plant-based whole foods, you’re eating nutrient-dense foods that make you healthy without taking in extra calories. Learn to show love and respect for your own body and treat it like the temple it was intended to be.
We know that you recently earned status of ‘Father’ - how has that changed the way you function, train and exist daily?
It has fundamentally changed the whole ball game. Not negatively, rather making me more responsible in realising priorities. I don’t get the luxury of training and practicing whenever I want anymore. Everything has to be properly scheduled around Bodhi.
I would not trade it for the world, as cliché as it may sound. Our main purpose collectively, and individually, is to live in some sort of altruism. And what can be more altruistic then guiding new life within this realm of existence. I get the privilege of introducing Bodhi to yoga when I teach with him strapped to my chest. I get to show him empathy towards all living and sentient beings. I get to show him how to love unconditionally. Bodhi has been the biggest blessing in my life, right next to my partner @haileeyoga.
All of us guys were little boys at some point. Do you remember who your role models were? If so, what them made them so special?
Growing up I had role models that were great, and some that were not so great. I idolised Eminem when he released the Marshall Mathers LP, simply because he didn’t care about what anyone had to say. Scarface, Michael Jordan, Allen Iverson, Denzel Washington, Marvin Gaye and Oscar De La Hoya were all powerful men who were living out dreams that I, one day, wanted to carry out.
You are a very talented photographer. How does photography play into the way you look at the world? More specifically, does it change the way you look at yourself?
Photography started out as a hobby, more so a tool, to provide content for my Instagram/Facebook pages. Jacob Manning and I knew we needed higher quality images, and so shooting photos was just something we did to create content. But as we kept doing it, I started to fall in love with the artistry of it all.
It allowed me to see myself from an outside perspective which, without film and photography, we have no real way of doing. I enjoyed capturing the right angle, mastering the natural light and manipulating the sun’s rays to work in my favour.
I decided to study video on YouTube, and must have done 100 photo shoots for free to gather experience. After mastering a variety of techniques and working late hours, I found myself quitting my 9-5 job and taking up photography full time. Now, it’s my bread and butter - my main source of income.
Everyone wants to be a part of something bigger, and feel a part of the process. That’s why athletes chase endorsements, a child hangs out with the cool kids, that’s why fashion trends exist and ultimately how we keep evolution going.
I know Shelby Smith, who I call ‘the voice’ of OHMME, and I watched as the vision unfolded. I love the idea of showing to the world that yoga is not just for women, and to demonstrate that there are men out there who like sport, love movement, live all over the world and indulge in regular yoga practice.
The OHMME squad treat one another like family. We all have the same goal, with different assets to bring to the table. So when OHMME asked me to become a part of their tight knit family, saying yes was the only reasonable and obvious choice for me. Not to mention, their clothes are phenomenal. I mean, have you tried the new Voyager Trousers yet?! Like having the warm hug of love and Mother Kali around your legs and butt!
Alongside Christian Florez, we have four additional OHMME ambassadors. You can find out more about these yoga practitioners, including Christian’s friend Jacob Manning, here.