Travis Eliot: Influencing Inner Peace

Aug 14, 2019

Travis Eliot

Our interview of Travis Eliot for “The Creative Influencer” podcast is available today for download on iTunes, Spotify, and premier platforms everywhere. Travis is an internationally known yoga instructor, meditation teacher, musician, author and entrepreneur. He is the creator of the DVD series The Ultimate Yogi, co-creator of the digital series “Yoga 30 for 30,” along with many other best-selling yoga DVDs. He is also the CEO of Inner Domain Media, which is best described as the “Netflix of Yoga.”

Travis shares his incredible story about his journey to where he is today. His search for spiritual fulfillment holds truths and lessons for us all on how to use one’s influence for good.

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A transcript of the full interview follows:

Jon Pfeiffer: I am joined today by Travis Eliot. Welcome to the podcast.

Travis Eliot: Thank you. Thanks for having me. It's good to be on.

Jon Pfeiffer: You are a yoga instructor?

Travis Eliot: Yes, I am.

Jon Pfeiffer: A meditation teacher?

Travis Eliot Yes, I am.

Jon Pfeiffer: We're going to do the litany of things that you are.

Travis Eliot: [Laughter] It's going to take a minute, huh?

Jon Pfeiffer: Author?

Travis Eliot: Yes.

Jon Pfeiffer: Recently a podcast host?

Travis Eliot: Yup.

Jon Pfeiffer: Entrepreneur, and we'll go through the many available offerings. Now, many of my influencer clients do yoga, but you're my first yogi that's been an influencer.

Travis Eliot: Cool.

Jon Pfeiffer: So-

Travis Eliot: An honor to be on.

Jon Pfeiffer: ... So, yeah. And you have embraced all things digital. You've been on YouTube for over 10 years, I did some homework.

Travis Eliot: I didn't even know that.

Jon Pfeiffer:  You have.

Travis Eliot: It's been over 10 years?

Jon Pfeiffer: Over 10 years.

Travis Eliot: That's amazing.

Jon Pfeiffer: You're on Instagram, and I'll ask you about that. You've been on Twitter since 2011. Now, do you get any... The Yoga community is always, at least my... until I started doing yoga, it was all, you eat granola and... the old stereotypes.

Travis Eliot:  The granola hippies with dreadlocks, right?

Jon Pfeiffer: Yeah. Exactly. Exactly. Yeah. It's not, but that was my stereotype. Do you get pushback from the yoga community about your digital promotion?

Travis Eliot: I don't, at least not to my face. I think that we're in a day and age now where people are basically hip to making peace with spirituality and business, which I like to call being an "inspirituapreneur" instead of an entrepreneur. That that's actually a really, really good thing. And then if you don't market yourself and you don't embrace the business and you don't make peace with the abundance and the money aspect of things, it's actually a very selfish thing, because you're not able to get your message out.

Travis Eliot: If you're not able to pay your bills, if you're not able to go out and make future projects because your business is bad, then you're not getting your message out, therefore, you're not serving people, you're not helping people. And for me, there's things that I have in my life like teaching inside prison that-

Jon Pfeiffer: Which we'll talk about, because I'll ask...

Travis Eliot: Great.

Jon Pfeiffer: ... you about that.

Travis Eliot: I wouldn't be able to go do those things. I wouldn't be able to get on a plane and fly all the way to the state of Maine on my own dime if I wasn't making money in these other sectors of my business. So I think in many ways, people now are cool with it.

Jon Pfeiffer: Good. I'm glad, because it gets the message out. Now, to put where you are today in context, I want to take you back to the start.

Travis Eliot: Okay!

Jon Pfeiffer: You are originally from where?

Travis Eliot: I was born a little town outside Houston, Texas and at the age of two, my parents who were computer and math whizzes got a contract through NASA in Holland. So at the age of two, I then moved to Holland for about a year. And after being in Holland, we came back to Houston. And then at around the age of five, I moved to Winston Salem, North Carolina, which is where I really grew up.

Jon Pfeiffer: And then your mom introduced you to meditation when you were nine?

Travis Eliot: She did. She did at the age of nine. So a lot of things...

Jon Pfeiffer: How did that happen?

Travis Eliot: Well, I don't know. I don't know how it really happened. All I know is my general recollection of those times. And as we know, our memory, even thinking about what happened last week is that it's always not so accurate. But the way that I remember, the thing that I do know that happened that was significant in my life at that age was that's when my parents got divorced. And I don't know if she started giving me these meditation tapes related to that, I should actually ask her. But I do know that both my parents were very spiritual.

Travis Eliot: In addition to being in these math geniuses, my dad loved Buddhism in college and my mom was very open to spirituality, never religious. And for whatever reason, she introduced me to meditation. And back then, you didn't have DVDs and CDs-

Jon Pfeiffer: What did you do?

Travis Eliot: ... and digital stuff, you had cassette tapes.

Jon Pfeiffer: For the listeners, explain what a cassette tape is.

Travis Eliot: Yeah. Cassette tape is one of these plastic pieces of tape with two holes in it that looked like two eyes and you'd sticking into this stereo and it starts winding the tape around and if you want to fast forward or rewind it, it's like a process.

Jon Pfeiffer: Right.

Travis Eliot: So it plays, I think, 60 minutes on one side and when that finishes, you can flip it over and play it on the other side. So this was the technology when I was nine years old, after 8-track.

Jon Pfeiffer: Have you been a solid meditator since then?

Travis Eliot: No, not in the traditional aspect. From the age of nine until about the age of 15, I was steady with meditation. But when I got to the age of 15, like many 15 year olds, the last thing that I wanted to do was to meditate or to do anything spiritual. I wanted to explore the world of girls and partying and alcohol and all those things. And so from the age of 15 until the age of 26, I didn't meditate. And it wasn't until at the age of 26 that I went to my first yoga class, and then that's when I came back.

Jon Pfeiffer:  And I'll talk to you about that too. Just kind of a digression, but from your perspective now, as somebody who teaches meditation, what are the prime benefits of meditation?

Travis Eliot: The prime benefits of meditation are prolific. It's like every other month, it's almost like you see mindfulness and meditation on the front cover of Time Magazine or some major publication, and that's why we now live in exciting times where the science is affirming what these yogis and what the spiritual teachers have been talking about for thousands of years. So those are now converging. So what the science is now showing is multiple things. One, you increase more gray matter in areas of the brain that are associated with benevolent states such as happiness and joy, nonreactivity, bliss and peacefulness, and you actually shrink gray matter in areas of the brain that are associated with stress and malevolent states of mind.

Travis Eliot:   We also know from meditation that we drop the stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline. And this is a big deal because a lot of science is coming out showing that a lot of the major illnesses and killers like high blood pressure, cancer, stroke, whatnot is associated to the body being in a constant state of stress or what we call sympathetic activity. So we have the sympathetic branch and then we have the parasympathetic branch of the nervous system. Sympathetic is fight, flight, freeze, parasympathetic is rest, restore, repair and grow.

Travis Eliot: So if we're always in that constant state of stress, then this is breaking down our tissues, our organs and our cells, which leads to deterioration and inevitably into illness.

Jon Pfeiffer: So, if you were.... if someone were to listen to your podcast, that would be one way to start meditation. But let's say they live in a cave and don't have access to your podcast, how would somebody start? What's the best way to start with meditation?

Travis Eliot: Well, it depends on the person. It depends on where they're from, because you may have a born again Christian in the state of, I don't know, Texas or somewhere in the south and the meditation technique that's going to work for them is different than somebody who maybe lives in a more liberal or progressive area or another country. So-

Jon Pfeiffer: Or Santa Monica.

Travis Eliot: Or Santa Monica. Exactly. It also depends on what the person's personality type is. If somebody is very type A personality, go, go, go, they have a lot of ambition, a lot of drive, I'm going to give them a different technique than somebody who's already naturally more maybe at peace and subtle. So for example, let's take the context of somebody who's very devoutly religious and maybe has resistance to meditation. I would have them pick a word that they can resonate with. And it doesn't have to be a Sanskrit word, it doesn't have to be a word in a foreign language. It can be in the English language. And that word could be love, compassion, peace, ease, bliss, whatever it is, and then just have them silently repeat that word for two to five minutes.

Travis Eliot: And in between the repetition of the word, there's a gap of space, there is a gap of stillness. And that stillness is where all the magic begins to happen because we begin to move beyond this realm of thoughts and thinking into a dimension of ourselves that's beyond all that. So now we create distance and space between us and the word or the thought. And as Viktor Frankl, the gentlemen that survived [Auschwitz], in Man's Search for Meaning, he talks about our freedom as human beings is all about that space between the stimulus and then how we respond. But most people, they don't respond, they react, because there's no space there. So the space between the repetition of words is really the key.

Jon Pfeiffer: So we're going from meditation to acting. When you were in high school, what did you want to do when you grew up?

Travis Eliot: So the other significant thing that happened at the age of nine was this is when I started getting into acting and into theater. And I've always been very fascinated by human behavior. And so at the age of nine, I would love to study other people, and I would love... and plays and movies, just the history and the context that these stories would take place. So I think more than anything, I've always been very fascinated by storytelling, whether that was done through a book, a play or a movie.

Travis Eliot: So at the age of nine, my mom, again, she just put me into some theater program, and I fell in love with it. And I think for me, the biggest reason that I fell in love with it was because at that time, I was going through this paradigm shift of my mom and my dad divorcing and breaking up and being with other kids and being on a team, so to speak. It wasn't a sports team, but it was a different kind of a creative team, I think was very, very healing for me.

Travis Eliot: And when we eventually, after doing the rehearsals and we went on stage, it was an experience unlike anything that I had ever gotten to really taste.

Jon Pfeiffer: That adrenaline rush of a live performance.

Travis Eliot: Exactly! Yeah. And the rush of stepping beyond your comfort zone. I think especially at that age, I was more of an introvert. Like here I was meditating. I'm a nine year... like what nine year old kid--

Jon Pfeiffer: From North Carolina who meditates?!

Travis Eliot: --In North Carolina, is going inside and meditating. Like, that's crazy! And this brought me out of my shell a little bit, and I think that helped me find quite a bit of balance.

Jon Pfeiffer: Then you were off to college to study acting?

Travis Eliot: Yeah. In high school, I worked at three TV stations. So not only was I an actor, but I was also very much into all aspects of filmmaking, whether that was cinematography or directing or producing. So I worked at three TV stations. I worked at a local news station, I worked at a public access station and I worked at the local school station. And I did everything. I would do cameras, I would do lighting, I would do editing. I learned all of that.

Travis Eliot: And I remember being in certain classes in school and the teachers teaching whatever the subject is and I'm like drawing out on this piece of paper this whole scene and where I would put the lights and where I put the camera and the dolly track and where the actors would go. I just was so fired up about that. So at the end of high school, I had to make this decision, am I going to be behind the camera or am I going to be in front of the camera? And it wasn't an easy decision, but I decided to go in front of the camera, and that led me to an amazing acting program at East Carolina University where I majored in acting there.

Jon Pfeiffer: And I either heard or read, you got to call for a casting director after you had graduated? George Lucas's casting director?

Travis Eliot: Yeah. That was senior year in college. And this was at the time when they were casting... I can't remember which episode it is because there's so many of them, but they were looking for the young Anakin Skywalker. And at that time, I was already a professional actor. North Carolina was producing behind California in New York the most amount of film and television in the business. So I was able to start working, doing commercials, industrials, TV, whatnot. And yeah, I got a call from my agent. They said... forgot what her name was, but they were looking for an Anakin Skywalker, and I was just so excited that they were... Here I was, this kid in North Carolina about to graduate and they were... Hollywood was calling.

Jon Pfeiffer: Yeah. Eventually, you did go to Hollywood.

Travis Eliot: I did.

Jon Pfeiffer: You worked on a movie first, got some money and then you moved out?

Travis Eliot:   Yeah, I worked... Right after I graduated college, I worked on a movie called Domestic Disturbance with John Travolta, Vince Vaughn and Steve Buscemi. And I was a teamster on that movie. So I was in the union. I made a lot of money. I was 22 years old-

Jon Pfeiffer: Making union wages.

Travis Eliot: ... making union wages, got the full benefits, whatnot. And so after that, that movie had wrapped a couple months after that, me and two buddies of mine, we loaded everything up in the back of a U-Haul trailer and attached it to my buddy's Suburban and we drove all the way straight to West Hollywood, right off the sunset strip near The Whiskey A Go-Go, The Viper Room, and we had a new home there.

Jon Pfeiffer: How long did it take you to get adjusted to LA?

Travis Eliot:  It took a long time. I actually never felt like I really got adjusted till I found yoga two years after being in LA. The first two years was... it was crazy. A lot of partying, drugs, girls. Eventually, I spent all my money. Going to casting, got a job at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel. It was just all over the place. But still, at that time, I was not going to give up on being an actor. Whatever it took, I was going to make that happen.

Jon Pfeiffer: And how did yoga enter your life?

Travis Eliot: So when I was working at the Ritz-Carlton, I did a few different jobs there and at one point I was working in the banquets department and there was this other guy named Brandon who kept talking about this yoga class he was going to. And I liked Brandon, he was an older guy and he took me under his wing a little bit in the department. He just had a good energy and a good vibe, one of those people that doesn't have to say a lot, but you can just feel a good vibe. And he always talked about going to yoga, but I had this weird stigma as to what yoga--

Jon Pfeiffer: Granola.

Travis Eliot: Yeah, very. Well, Yeah. And not even the granola thing, but really just... to me, yoga was about bending your body into a pretzel, and I imagined that your teacher would kind of look a little bit like Moses, with a big beard, possibly a turban, you know they're like 80 years old...

Jon Pfeiffer: Man-bun maybe... [Laughter]

Travis Eliot: Yeah, man buns are cool now, but back then, they weren't a novelty. So yeah, I had a lot of resistance to it, but he just kept bringing it up and bringing it up and he had this good energy and eventually I let him drag me to a class.

Jon Pfeiffer: And you liked it.

Travis Eliot: It was more than like. It was love. It was love at first sight. And it really, more than anything, it brought me back to who I was at nine years old. So it brought me back to this kid that was meditating and this kid that was inherently good and pure and had the whole world in front of him. All things were possible, nothing could stop him. And this kid that went on a journey, as many of us do. And sometimes the journey takes us through what Joseph Campbell calls "the dark night of the soul," where you move through suffering and you make bad decisions and you live with the karma of that. And now I came back to this kid. So it felt really like a homecoming, and I knew that that was where I was meant to be, that's where I belonged and that that's what I wanted to start putting all my energy into. Right from that first class, it was like, I just want to come back here.

Jon Pfeiffer: From that first class, how often did you go then?

Travis Eliot: I was going as much as I could, which was probably four to five times a week, because I still had my job at the Ritz-Carlton. I lived up in West Hollywood, so getting from West Hollywood, this downtown Santa Monica, was a little bit of a trek. It was like four or five times a week.

Jon Pfeiffer:  And then I read where you, within four months, were going to a yoga retreat.

Travis Eliot:  Yeah. And the funny thing is, is at that point, I had spent all my money, so I was living paycheck to paycheck. And I couldn't afford the retreat, but there was something inside of me that said, "Travis, you gotta be there. Whatever it takes, get your ass to Kauai---[Laughter]--get your ass to that retreat." So I got a credit card, I signed up for a credit card, had to balance of like two or $3,000 on it and the retreat cost like a thousand. And then I bought my airfare. So I basically maxed out the credit card just so I could get to that retreat.

Jon Pfeiffer: Did something special happen at the retreat?

Travis Eliot: Something very, very--

Jon Pfeiffer: I don't know about special is the right word, but--

Travis Eliot: It was special. I think it's actually the perfect word. The first day on the retreat, we went on a massive hike along the Nepali coast, the whole group of us. And eventually after hiking a couple of hours, we dipped down into this remote cove in the middle of nowhere. And along the trail are all these signs about not going into the ocean because the currents and the riptide was so strong that people would drown, people would die. And as soon as I got to the beach and I just saw how beautiful the ocean was, and it was just... When you think about tropical paradise, this was it.

Travis Eliot: And I'd grown up as a lifeguard, I was a surfer, I was a pretty good swimmer. Not competitive, but pretty good. So, I didn't listen to the signs and I went out to the water and it ended up being a massive mistake, and I had a really big battle and a big fight for my life. I had a near death, near drowning experience. And not only was I drowning, but I also got thrown up against these rocks on the edge of the cove over and over again. My whole body got bloodied and bashed up and my face was bleeding. And I blacked out because it was so intense.

Travis Eliot: And as I was drifting out to sea, I remember very distinctly not questioning that I was going to die. It was, it's not a question of if, it's how now. And in that moment, I had like a... almost like a scene out of a movie where... just a fast replay of all the major highlights of my life. And I remember distinctly not thinking about my stuff. Like, I didn't think about money in the bank account, didn't think about my house, didn't think about my clothes, didn't think about all this stuff that we're so obsessed with in this culture. That did not cross my mind. What crossed my mind was all the people that had loved me and all the people that I had loved and that I wouldn't get to say goodbye to.

Travis Eliot: So, there I was, ready to take my last breath. And as I did and I started to sink underneath the water, this arm, out of nowhere, just reached around and grabbed me. And it ended up being this other guy from the retreat who was a lifeguard up in San Francisco and was a very strong swimmer and he was waiting for me to get dragged away from the rock so that he could rescue me. And if it hadn't have been for him being there, I would have drowned that day. So he saved my life. Eventually, he was able to get both of us back to safety on the beach.

Travis Eliot:  And again, walking back on this trail along the Nepali coast, it was the little things that we never acknowledge, like the light coming through the canopy of the trees and then the wind blowing across your face and people smiling and connecting and talking. All these things that we take for granted, I remember they were so significant on that walk back home.

Jon Pfeiffer: It seems I almost trite to do a transition now but I want to transition. [Laughter] So when you got back, you started teaching. But you did it without teacher training. You just started teaching. How did you do that?

Travis Eliot: So after I got back from Kauai, the way that it went down was I still had one foot in this old paradigm of... I had this vision of making it in the entertainment business, but now I had this foot in this new paradigm, this new path. And I was in no man's land about a year. And then a year after that, I went on another retreat, this time to Thailand. And I was a student on the retreat, same teacher actually: Govendas. And at the end of that retreat, this woman that he did the retreat with that lived there, she invited me to stick around and start teaching yoga.

Travis Eliot: And I had never planned to be a teacher. It wasn't something that I'd ever really considered. But I did know that I loved yoga, I was passionate about it. There was a voice inside of me that felt like this is what really matters, and part of that had to do with the near death experience in Kauai. So I said yes. I was really scared. I hadn't done a teacher training, but I said yes. And the first class that I taught, I just taught from my passion of yoga. It was probably one of the worst classes that's ever been taught in history. I remember--

Jon Pfeiffer: I doubt that. I've taken some bad classes.

Travis Eliot: Well, this was pretty bad! I didn't have the sequencing and I had people in poses for way longer than they should be in the pose. But they felt the passion and I think that says a lot. If somebody's passionate and they embody it, they feel it, then you can look past the things that are trainable about somebody. And then, about two weeks after I started teaching yoga there, the tsunami of 2004 hit this island that we were at, this island called Ko Lanta. So I had another near death experience.

Travis Eliot: At one point, I was in my beachfront bungalow surrounded by the ocean, not sure what to do. And luckily, the water receded and when the water receded, I was able to escape out of my bungalow and get to this little hill and then I watched the tidal waves come in and demolish my whole resort.

Travis Eliot: So I always say in Kauai, the big lesson that I learned was love what matters. It's okay to have a nice car and a nice house, all that stuff is fine, but don't let it possess you, possess it. Those are your possessions. What really matters is what do you bring into your relationships, what's your legacy in the world, what's your gift that you're giving humanity? That's what I mean when I say love what matters.

Travis Eliot: And then the second big lesson that I learned from the tsunami was all things are impermanent. Here I was, another tropical paradise, and I just assumed that this would be permanent, all this would always be there. But we know, we know from the California wildfires that come through, these houses just go in a split second. We know that we have a loved one and in an instant, they have a heart attack and...

Jon Pfeiffer: They're gone.

Travis Eliot: ... and they're gone. Our breath comes and goes and the seasons come and go, even ourselves. In just a few seconds, 50,000 cells in your body disappear and 50,000 cells are created. And it's one thing to read about that in a book or to hear it on this podcast, but to...

Jon Pfeiffer: Right, it's another to live it.

Travis Eliot: But to live it and to experience it as I did viscerally, like literally saw a tidal wave come in and demolish the entire restaurant right in front of my eyes, that was the next big teaching. So, that's how I started teaching yoga. And because the tsunami came, I was forced to go back home to Los Angeles. And otherwise, I may still be in Thailand right now.

Jon Pfeiffer: How much is a class, a yoga class, like a production? There's the sequencing and so much of its... I'll let you answer that then I have a follow up to it.

Travis Eliot: Yeah. It's funny that you asked that because... maybe we'll talk about this more, but now, I film a lot of yoga video programs...

Jon Pfeiffer: We'll talk about that, yeah.

Travis Eliot: ... So that is a production. But as far as the live experience goes, there is a lot of parallels to filmmaking. To me, especially the style of yoga that I teach, which is power yoga, sometimes known as vinyasa yoga... And I also teach a style of yoga called Yin yoga. But power yoga or flow yoga, vinyasa yoga is like music. So there's a cadence and there's a rhythm to it. And the way that I've always been inspired to teach, although the alignment points are there and it's very important to guide people through sequences that are safe and smart, I like to bring in that element of storytelling. So I'll bring in a story.

Jon Pfeiffer: And it's always when you're in down dog and it hurts. [Laughter]

Travis Eliot: Sometimes it is. Especially back in the day, I used to do that. But over the years, I've learned to place the long stories in the poses that don't hurt as much, like a stretch on the floor, because I find people are more receptive to it. So when you mix the storytelling component and you mix the rhythm component and you mix... As teacher, you're using your voice. A lot of what I learned as an actor made me feel comfortable being in front of a group of people. Now I'll go in front of... it doesn't matter how many people it is, I'm comfortable in front of people. And so there is a lot of similarities there.

Jon Pfeiffer: Total shift. Your Instagram account; early on... And the lights just went out in here [laughter]. Early on, your posts are all personal. And then about three years ago, there was a transition from business to slash yoga. How much of that was intentional and how much of that was just, that's what was going on in your life?

Travis Eliot:  Well, I think we're always evolving and these platforms are also always evolving and you're always exploring. So I think in the beginning, it was... first of all, I was very late to the game. I'm usually the last one to show up at the social media party. So I was like one of the last ones to get on Facebook, one of the last ones to get on Instagram, because there's a part of me that really just likes simple things. And you start stacking up Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, whatnot, YouTube and it gets a lot to start managing.

Travis Eliot: And so anyways, at the beginning of Instagram, yeah, it was all personal. And then as you go along, you start to realize that you can use this platform to also help promote your business. And so now I'm at a place where it's both personal and also business and just little things: like I'm trying to now alternate between an image that's just an image and then an image that's like a quote "card", so you go back and forth between the two. So I'm always exploring. But it's hard. It's hard to find the rhythm and it's always... It's a work in progress.

Jon Pfeiffer: How much of this do you sequence in advance versus, you're struck by the moment?

Travis Eliot: I don't sequence it and advance. I know, generally, that I want to be on a rhythm where I'm posting twice a day. So an image and then maybe one quote a day on Instagram. And I would like to do a little bit more than that on Facebook. I'd like to do three or four times on Facebook, but it gets to be a lot. So, I don't have things organized where it's all rolling out and automatically like some people do through certain programs, it's more of an organic approach.

Jon Pfeiffer: And then you had mentioned it earlier, but you've done a number of DVDs. And in preparing, I think I found your first DVD, it was a single one-off DVD of you teaching a class. I also found another one, of Bryan Kest, where he looked like Jean Simmons.

Travis Eliot: Or Bon Jovi with the jean pants. [Laughter]

Jon Pfeiffer: Yeah. Exactly. You then came out with a DVD series, The Ultimate Yogi. How did that come about?

Travis Eliot:  The Ultimate Yogi came about from a student of mine at a yoga studio. And the way that relationship started was he had a house up in the Malibu Canyon and he wanted... It was a bad time in the real estate market. The real estate market was plummeting, so he couldn't sell the house. He had built his house and he wanted to sell it. And because he couldn't do that, he was looking to turn it into a yoga retreat center. So he asked me if I would help him do that. So I went out, checked it out, and a beautiful house, salt water pool, and he built a yoga studio, you're overlooking the mountains. So we turned it into a retreat center, which ended up doing very well.

Travis Eliot: And one day at the end of a retreat he said, "What's next?" And I looked at him and I said, "There's this program called P90X that's huge right now."

Jon Pfeiffer: Tony Horton.

Travis Eliot: Tony Horton. And it was all the rage. It was like it was an exercise program with a really...

Jon Pfeiffer: I still do P90X!

Travis Eliot: Do you? Yeah. So you know!

Jon Pfeiffer: It's a great workout.

Travis Eliot: It's a great workout! It works, you get results. Tony Horton's engaging, he's funny, he's passionate. And the way they shot it was different. It wasn't cheesy, it was cool. And I think it really struck a chord with a lot of people. And so I said, nobody's done the yoga version of P90X. And he goes on to tell me that his dad's a big movie producer, a guy named Avi Lerner. And he would talk to his dad and see if he would be open to...

Jon Pfeiffer: I represent Avi.

Travis Eliot: Do you?

Jon Pfeiffer: I do.

Travis Eliot: There you go. So you know him. So he talked to Avi and Avi said yes. So Yariv calls me out to his son, Yariv, and he calls me out the next day and he says, "My dad said it's cool." He said, the only question is we have to decide whether we want to film it in Louisiana where he has a studio or in Bulgaria where he has a studio. And I said, "Well, I've been to New Orleans, but I haven't been to Bulgaria. Let's do it in Bulgaria." And he said, "Done." So, that's how we ended up in Bulgaria. And it happened really fast. It's all happened within the span of six months. So six months later, me and 20 of my favorite students were in Bulgaria on a Hollywood backlot with amazing gear and equipment and we filmed The Ultimate Yogi 108 Day Program in about a week.

Jon Pfeiffer: How did it do?

Travis Eliot: It's done really well. A lot of people say it's the most successful yoga program of all time.

Jon Pfeiffer: And then just like Tony Horton, who came out with a 30 minute version of P90X, you came out with 30 for 30. Can you tell me about that?

Travis Eliot: Yeah. The funny thing is, is that all this stuff happened because students asked me to create them. So even in the beginning, the very first DVD I did, I had started to travel because I was getting invited to go teach other studios in other places and people said, "Travis, will you put together a DVD so we can practice while you're gone?" And so Yoga 30 for 30 really happened because people said, "The Ultimate Yogi's too long. It's 60 minutes, it's 70 minutes. I wish you had a 30 minute version." So because of that, we went out and Yoga 30 for 30 was something I'm very proud of because Ultimate Yogi was done in coordination with another production company--they're the ones that put forth the investment, so they paid for it. And Yoga 30 for 30 was a stage in my life and my career where I had learned that if you really want to be successful, you got to be the one that's the investor and you got to be the one that's the owner, that the investors and the owners, you have the risks, so if it doesn't do well, it's on you. But if it does well...

Jon Pfeiffer: The upside is yours too.

Travis Eliot: ... you get the upside! And Yoga 30 for 30 was financed by myself and my wife, Lauren. And to be candid, it was actually her money that that she really put into it. So I got to give her the gratitude and the shout out for that. And we invested... it was a good chunk of change, I think $60,000-$70,000 into that project. And I'll never forget the first day we released it was right before a Christmas and we sold like 500 units in the first day and it was $100 a pop. We almost made our investment back in one day.

Travis Eliot: And the significant thing also about Yoga 30 for 30 was we were on the verge of making this a DVD program, because this was a few years ago, people were still using DVDs, but we hadn't really reached critical mass yet. And we decided you know what, the wave of the future is digital. I know people out there still love their DVDs and whatever, but the wave of the future, we're moving in this direction. So we rolled the dice and said, "Let's go all digital." So it was amazing. When we sold those 500 units, we didn't have to go and...

Jon Pfeiffer: Press the DVDs.

Travis Eliot: ... and press the DVDs or packages, stick it into a box and mail it out. It was all instant and people loved it. It was a huge hit right away.

Jon Pfeiffer: And it's still available?

Travis Eliot: It's still available, still doing very well.

Jon Pfeiffer: And you have now followed up with yet another program.

Travis Eliot: Yeah, just came out like...

Jon Pfeiffer: Flexibility and Beyond.

Travis Eliot: Yeah. Flexibility and Beyond. So Flexibility and Beyond is a yin yoga program. And if you're unfamiliar, yin yoga is like the fountain of youth, it's where you hold deep stretches typically on the floor. It's different than a power yoga class. It's really the opposite of that. And the benefits of it is that it's really good for your joints, your connective tissues, your fascia, and it keeps the body young and supple. And I think Bruce Lee said it best when he said that if you really want to be your best, you want to be more like bamboo or willow, because bamboo or willow survives by bending with the wind, as opposed to a tree that's all strength, no flexibility and just gets snapped into two.

Jon Pfeiffer: Now, if you were to do both, power yoga and the yin yoga, how would you mix it up?

Travis Eliot: Well, one thing that you could do... It depends on how much time you have. If you have time to just do one yoga practice a day, you could do power yoga one day, yin yoga the next day, power yoga the next day and just...

Jon Pfeiffer: Keep alternating.

Travis Eliot: ... just alternate. Or if you have more time, you can do a power yoga class in the morning and then you could do the yin Yoga in the evening because the yin yoga, I was talking earlier in the podcast about the importance of the parasympathetic nervous system. Yin yoga along with meditation is one of those things that helps us to switch out of the stress response into the parasympathetic response. So what happens is you do your in yoga at night, you decrease your stress and then you go to sleep and your sleep is much better. You're getting deeper quality sleep and then you're waking up the next day, you feel better-

Jon Pfeiffer: You have more energy.

Travis Eliot: And you have more energy to go do what you want to do in your day.

Jon Pfeiffer: You're also an author. You've done two books, one on holistic yoga and another on yin yoga. You are a musician, you had a chant album, The Meaning of Soul. What instruments do you play?

Travis Eliot: I play guitar and I sing a little bit, and then I play an instrument called the harmonium, which is a... it's like an acoustic organ from India.

Jon Pfeiffer: And then your--one of your latest ventures is your podcast, The Be Ultimate Podcast, which I highly recommend...

Travis Eliot: Thank you.

Jon Pfeiffer: ... how did that come about? How did you decide to do a podcast?

Travis Eliot:   Well, I was looking for a way to expand my reach and I found this gentleman by the name of Brendon Burchard. And Brendan Burchard is a... he's like a young Tony Robbins, motivational coach, speaker, but he also... he has a lot of programs on how to go step by step of really expanding your reach, expanding your brand and your business. And one of the things that he taught me in his online course was to record a video of yourself doing a talk. So whatever your expertise is, you record that. So obviously, my expertise is yoga, meditation and personal growth.

Travis Eliot: But at the same time that you record the video, you also have the audio and you can extrapolate the audio and release the audio as the podcast in addition to releasing the video...

Jon Pfeiffer: On YouTube.

Travis Eliot: ... on platforms like YouTube and your blog. So initially, I got into it because of the video component and then the podcast was just connected to that. And we launched it a few months ago and it's been a really... I'm not making any money off of it right now, but it's kind of a labor of love. I'm having a lot of fun with it. And what feels good is that people are really benefiting from the podcast and the episodes. We released meditations and talks on...

Jon Pfeiffer: And that's why I said earlier, if you're not listening to the podcast, there are meditations that you can listen to.

Travis Eliot: Yes. And it's reaching a lot of people. The podcast medium, as you know, is a powerful medium. And even though it's not the best business decision at this point, maybe down the road it will be, it feels good to be releasing stuff that's helping people.

Jon Pfeiffer: And then not lastly, but again, a new venture is you have Inner Dimension TV, described by some as the Netflix of yoga. What is that?

Travis Eliot: Inner Dimension TV is a monthly subscription service that we launched about a year ago. And it has yoga classes, it has meditation classes, and we're about to release a new category all on daily living, personal growth. How do you take this stuff into your life, off of your yoga mat, off your meditation cushion? And you can stream for as little as 9.95 a month and you get access to a whole library of high quality yoga. So everything we do is... Being a filmmaker, we have fun where we shoot these classes, typically with three cameras. So a very high production value and looks good, feels good.

Travis Eliot: And this is really the platform that I'm most passionate about right now and something that we're going to create an app for later this year. We're actually doing a revamp of the website, making it even better, we're filming more programs this year. Flexibility and Beyond is actually going to be released to stream June 12th. And this is where I'm going to make content and I'm going to put it out through this platform to share with the world.

Jon Pfeiffer: Now you teased it earlier, but you have taught yoga in a maximum security prison. How did you even... Did somebody invite you?

Travis Eliot: Yeah. The way that that went down was I was teaching out of studio in Maine, the state of Maine, and there was this organization-

Jon Pfeiffer: And then somebody said, "Hey, you should come to the prison."

Travis Eliot: Yeah. There was this amazing organization called the Liberation Institute, and they teach a yoga teacher trading inside the state prison, a maximum security prison there. And they knew that we were already coming to Maine. And so they said, "After you teach your workshop, would you come down and teach in the prison?" So we got the invitation and the first... I've been there three times now in a year. And the first time we went there, we taught two days straight. We taught eight hours on the first day, and then nine hours on the second day.

Jon Pfeiffer: Teacher training or just yoga?

Travis Eliot: It was all yoga on that... Every time we go, we do a different subject. So the first visit, we focused on our methodology, which we call holistic yoga flow, and that provides the context to everything that we do. And so we would start the day with a class about an hour and a half long, and then we would go into lectures throughout the rest of the day and then we would finish with a meditation at the very end of the day.

Jon Pfeiffer: How was that the first time you walked into prison, just being in that atmosphere?

Travis Eliot:   It was terrifying. [Laughter]

Jon Pfeiffer: For cases, I've had to be there and it is! It's...

Travis Eliot: Yeah. Anytime you go into an environment that is new and you've seen on TV, you hear a lot about it, you see it in movies, it brings up a lot of stuff. And so on the way... we had the drive like almost two hours to go to the prison and the whole way there, my insides are shaking and turning. And eventually we got to the prison and I remember walking into the lobby of the prison and the warden was standing there to greet me and I didn't know he was the warden, but he just goes, "Travis Elliott!" And I was like, "How does this guy in the middle of Maine know who I am in this prison?"

Travis Eliot: And I didn't know this before we got invited, but what I later learned was that the inmates had been doing my yoga videos. They had been doing The Ultimate Yogi program.

Jon Pfeiffer: So they were primed.

Travis Eliot: So they were primed. And he told me, he said, "The guys are so excited for you. They're all revved up for you." And that made me even more nervous. And I didn't know what to expect. We went through security, we go through door, after door, after door, then they hand us these man down buttons, which is like the size of a pager or a tape measure box with a big red button on it. And in an emergency, you can press that and then they'd come and rescue you out of a dangerous situation.

Travis Eliot: And then eventually, I was led into this room. My wife Lauren was with me, and we got led into this big, open room. And I remember walking into the room, and I had like 20 plus inmates just all bee-lining it straight at me. Because I think in my head, I expected them to be behind...

Jon Pfeiffer: Stand-offish?

Travis Eliot: ... or just to be behind a protective barrier or to have handcuffs. It was like the first time I went to yoga, what I thought I was going to be ended up being different. Prison was the same thing.

Travis Eliot:   And so I got quickly surrounded by these 20 guys. And initially, my stress response was like in red alert mode. But very, very quickly, I saw the biggest smiles on these guys' faces. And I also saw tears in their eyes. And one by one, they were giving me gratitude and introducing themselves and whatever apprehension that I had quickly eroded and I was like, "This is about to be the most rewarding experience of my career." And it ended up being that way.

Jon Pfeiffer: Now you've been back twice more?

Travis Eliot: Twice more. Yeah. I was just there actually a few weeks ago. And so now we have a relationship with these guys and a lot of them send us letters and we write them back. And now we have a whole rapport. And it's beautiful because the yoga is in there, in the prison, and it's saving their lives. Some of these guys are suicidal, they're trying to slice their throat with razorblades and they're thrown in solitary confinement and they have the yoga on, behind this bulletproof glass on the wall of their cell, and they get led to the yoga and then it changes their lives.

Travis Eliot: Because a lot of these men, they've grown up in an environment that was violent and abusive, their parents were on drugs, they were adopted. And they didn't know... They didn't know that there was another way of living, they didn't know that there was messaging out there that you could put inside your head that was benevolence instead of malevolent. And now, as the warden describes it, this yoga has really sent a ripple throughout the whole population of the whole thousand men.

Jon Pfeiffer: I would think it's calmed them down a lot.

Travis Eliot: It's helped out tremendously, and now they're not offending, when they get let out, they're not re-offending and coming back to prison. The warden said it costs $40,000 a year per inmate in the state of Maine to house these guys. So they know it's not sustainable to keep throwing people into prison. And anything that can break the cycle, whether it's yoga or meditation or hospice care, whatever it is, they're starting to allocate resources towards those programs so that they can break the cycle and really rehabilitate these men.

Travis Eliot: So, one guy was the most misbehaved inmate in the whole prison. This guy with war tattooed across his throat, the As and anarchy sign, and he, through the yoga, went from being the worst inmate in the prison, stabbing people, dealing drugs, suicidal, to now being the best inmate in the prison. And now he's teaching yoga to other people all because he got access to The Ultimate Yogi. And then when the Liberation Institute came in there and they said, "We're going to start reaching out to other yoga teachers that come in to come see you guys, who would you want?" Well, they naturally wanted the guy that they had been doing the yoga with...

Jon Pfeiffer: Right. Yeah, absolutely.

Travis Eliot: ... Travis Elliot. And they didn't think that they would get me there. But as fate would had it the stars were aligned...

Jon Pfeiffer: You were there.

Travis Eliot: ...and then I ended up going there.

Jon Pfeiffer: So we're kind of on the downhill side of this interview. I want to ask you a couple of personal questions, not that these others haven't been personal, but what's your guilty pleasure?

Travis Eliot: My guilty pleasure right now is caffeine. It used to be alcohol and girls and then it shifted to cigarettes and drugs and then it was sugar. And just over the years, I've refined and refined and refined, and now it's been caffeine.

Jon Pfeiffer: Caffeine isn't the worst thing for you.

Travis Eliot: It's not. You know, it's not. But I have an addictive personality and so my problem is, is that it's not just one serving of caffeine, it can quickly turn into a hundred servings.

Jon Pfeiffer: What is the one piece of entertainment that you wish you could erase from your mind so you could experience it again for the first time?

Travis Eliot: That's a great question. Great question. I think about some of the amazing movies that just rocked my world. And I think about a movie like Legends of The Fall and for whatever reason, that that movie just... it just really captured a soul and an essence for me. Another movie around that same time was Last of the Mohicans. So I've been drawn... Even back in the day with the film making, I've always been drawn to stories that have a message that's correlated to spirit and soul and stuff beyond just our limitations of physicality. And if I could go back and watch either of those movies for the first time, that would be amazing.

Jon Pfeiffer: Have you ever been starstruck by one of your students?

Travis Eliot: I have been starstruck. Nowadays, because of the digital medium, I hear about some of these celebrities that do my yoga videos that I don't get to meet unfortunately, but I find out through their trainers or whatever that they're doing it. But I remember having Hilary Swank in a yoga class. And also, I question whether it's really the celebrity or not. I'm not even sure if it's them, but... And then another one was Rick Fox, who at that time was playing for the Los Angeles Lakers. I really have a lot of reverence and respect for many of the athletes out there. And so Rick Fox, being six foot six and also being a guy and being pretty graceful in his yoga practice, was pretty amazing.

Jon Pfeiffer: Do you consider yourself to be an influencer?

Travis Eliot: You know, it's funny because this word "influencers" has got a lot of buzz right now. And of course, the name of this podcast has influencer in it. I think that, to be honest, I had a little resistance towards the word influencer because what initially, what I thought influencer meant and what it seemed to mean to a lot of people was that you are this big personality on social media and through that, you get these brand deals and sponsorships.

Jon Pfeiffer: That is one definition.

Travis Eliot: It's one, yeah. And what I learned is that that's just a little slice of what it is to be an influencer. There's colleagues that I know that are yoga influencers that have thousands, 100,000 plus followers on social media platforms, but they can't fill a yoga retreat, or they can't sustain a local yoga class. And so I had a little bit of a negative perspective on it because to me, it was like this illusionary surface-level thing that I didn't want to be a part of.

Travis Eliot: But as I had to do with the business aspect of what I do and the marketing aspect of what I do, and now when I'm just now learning with the word influencer, is to align with it in a different kind of a way, that the word influencer is a tool and you can use that tool in a very powerful, constructive way, or you can use it in a dark and destructive way. And I would like to be a person that inspires and motivates and influences people to be their best and to want to be their best and to give their best in whatever it is that they do in their life.

Jon Pfeiffer: So last question, where can people find you on the internet?

Travis Eliot: TravisEliott.com, and Eliot is one L, one T just like the poet, T.S. Eliot.

Jon Pfeiffer: Thank you.

Travis Eliot: Thank you.

Jon Pfeiffer: Namaste.

Travis Eliot: Namaste.


The Creative Influencer is a weekly podcast where we discuss all things creative with an emphasis on Influencers. It is hosted by Jon Pfeiffer, an entertainment attorney in Santa Monica, California. Jon interviews influencers, creatives and the professionals who work with them.

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