Flow States of Consciousness – Steven Kotler – Making Soup

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Steven Kotler is a New York Times bestselling author, award-winning journalist, and co-founder and director of research for the Flow Genome Project. His books include the non-fiction works “The Rise of Superman,” “Abundance,” “A Small Furry Prayer”.

In this Show, You’ll learn:

  • What optimal states of consciousness are.
  • About reward-based happiness generating chemicals.
  • Correct breathing point during sun salutations.
  • How to not destroy cooking oils.

Links & References from the Show

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Yoga students, if you love to learn about yoga, health and wellness, plant-based nutrition, flexibility and mind/body biohacking, you have come to the right place, my friend. Welcome to the Yoga Talk Show with Lucas Rockwood, where my goal is to make your yoga practice just that much easier. Find us online at YogaBodyNaturals.com. We’re also on Facebook and YouTube. Check us out. Now let’s get on with the show.

So hello and welcome, everyone. Lucas Rockwood here, Yoga Talk Show. Thanks so much for tuning in. I have a very special guest this week. It’s Steven Kotler. He’s a New York Times bestselling author and award-winning journalist, and he’s the cofounder and director of research at the Flow Genome Project, which is something I’ve just learned about and I’m really excited about.

His books include The Rise of Superman, which is his newest book; Abundance, which I’m sure if you’ve been listening to me for any period of time you’re familiar with, I’ve been promoting this book crazily for about the past year; another book called The Small Furry Prayer, which I haven’t read this one but I’m excited to learn about it as well.

So The Rise of Superman is just about to be released. It’s in preorders right now. I can’t wait to get it, so I’m excited to pick Steven’s brain to learn more about it. So Steven, thanks so much for joining us.


It’s my pleasure, Lucas.


I’ve just learned you’re a yoga student, too, so I’m excited to ask you about that as well. My first question is, for people listening and they’re hearing about this Flow Genome Project, they’re hearing about The Rise of Superman, your new book, what does flow mean? I’ve certainly heard that in the vernacular before. I’ve used it in my office and with colleagues and things. But are we all talking about the same thing? (01:46) From your research, your book, everything you’re dedicating a lot of your life to, how do you define flow?


It’s a great question, because one of the reasons, honestly, I wrote Rise to help establish common language for this stuff and to bring kind of everybody up to date on all the science, because when we’re talking about flow states you’re looking at something that’s got almost 150 years of really hardcore science backing it up.

(02:16) But flow is technically defined as an optimal state of consciousness. So it’s a state of consciousness where we feel our best and we perform our best. It’s called flow because when Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi did his research on it, and he was a researcher who kind of jumped into this question in the 1960s and 70s, and he came in through a peculiar angle. He was interested in what is the meaning of life, is really what his question was. He had been a concentration camp survivor, and in his time in the camps he realized that once you took away peoples’ status and their place in society and some of their wealth, their lives fell apart. They could not maintain any kind of semblance to what was going on.

So it became a giant quest, he came to America, he studied psychology at the University of Chicago, he ended up running the psychology department at the University of Chicago and he embarked on what we would today call the largest global happiness study ever conducted. But at the time, we didn’t use those terms. There was no such thing as happiness studies. They would have been laughed out of academia if you would have proposed it back then.

(03:20) But he really went around the world and he asked people about the times in their life when they felt their best and they performed their best, and he asked everybody. He started with experts, so he looked at rock climbers, dancers, neuro surgeons, etcetera, etcetera. Then he broadened it out. He talked to elderly Korean women, Japanese teenage motorcycle gang members, Navajo sheep herders, Detroit assembly line workers, on and on and on.

(03:45) And what he discovered is that all of them felt their best and performed their best when they were in the state we now call flow, and he used the term flow because when he was asking people about these experiences there were a number of things that came up, and I’ll talk about them in half a second, but the one thing that was common in everybody’s description was when everything is working perfectly, when I feel my best and I’m at my best, one thought, one action leads directly to the next, like playing jazz. So it feels flowy, and that’s kind of the defining, sensational characteristic.

Other things happened. Time dilates, which is a fancy way of it slows down, so like the freeze frame of a car crash, or it speeds up so five hours will pass by like in five minutes. Concentration deepens intensely, becomes very task-specific. Your ego, your sense of self, your sense of self-consciousness disappears completely. And performance, all aspects, mental, physical, creative go through the roof, they soar. So that’s how we define flow states right now.


Great. I think everyone listening now, they can relate and they can think of a time when they were in flow.


The other thing to know, by the way, is there’s a lot of synonyms, right? In the zone, runner’s high, in the pocket, these are all synonyms for flow states. And one other thing that helps people orientate a little bit here is the thing to know about flow is there are seven, what they call psychological conditions that describe the state, time dilation being one, concentration being another, self-vanishing being a third, on and on.

(05:26) The point is that flow exists on a scale, like any other kind of powerful emotion. So anger, you can be a little bit irked or you can be homicidally enraged. You can be in what is called microflow, so a couple of the conditions are satisfied, your deep concentration, action and awareness can begin to merge, that kind of stuff, or you can be in the full-blown macro-flow, deep flow experience where you have all seven, and these experiences often mistakenly
get — for a long time people thought they were looking at mystical experiences.

William James, who’s one of the first people to study this, said hey these are mystical experiences, and it wasn’t until Abraham Maslow in the 40s, found them basically atheist, very successful atheist. So he decided it was high performers, then it became everybody. But at the macroscopic level, very strange things can happen.


It’s interesting stuff. A lot of people in my world, they’ll call it a Kundalina awakening or something like this. I tend to think too, it’s misappropriating names for a flow state. But speaking of my world, so I hang around with a lot of yoga people, a lot of spiritually-inclined people, you’re probably very familiar with this scene as well, and a lot of people are really obsessed with this idea of finding happiness.

Guys like me, we go hang out in *** (06:46) and we’re doing meditation, and this sort of ambiguous term of happiness gets thrown around a lot. (06:54) And I love the idea of finding happiness, I love this idea that happiness is our natural state, but I wanted to see if you could help me just distinguish between flow and happiness. Are they the same? Are they different?


No, not at all.


Help people understand. Can you be anxious and in flow?


We won’t go into too much of neurobiology of flow, but I do want to tell you, very specific things happen in the brain. (07:20) One of the things that happens is known as transient, meaning temporary, hypofrontality. Hypo is the opposite of hyper, it means you slow down or deactivate. So in flow, one of the things that causes flow is transient hypofrontality. It means the pre-frontal cortex, the part of your brain basically behind your forehead that houses all of your executive functions,, your higher cortical functions, this is where your wheel resides, your sense of self, your sense of morality, all those things, these are all higher cortical functions. Basically where massive amounts of complexity get added to ideas, is a simple way of thinking about it.

(07:59) So during flow, portions of the pre-frontal cortex are shutting down. Why does your sense of self disappear? Because a part of the brain that is known as the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, which is literally where the inner critic lives basically, that nagging voice of fear that’s always in your head, one of the reasons yoga is great, especially if you’re doing something vigorous like Ashtanga, is it shuts up that portion of your brain. So you’re free from yourself for that period of time.

(08:29) So there are differences between flow states and meditative states. So you should know that. In flow states you get shut down on a bunch of stuff in the prefrontal cortex. It also happens in meditative states, but there are different areas of the brain. For example in flow, flow is kind of — one of the reasons you can flow, go from thing to thing to thing is because choices are wide open. It is not a reductive state. It’s not like the fight or flight state where your choices are you can freeze, you can fight or you can flee. This is options wide open.

So as a result, a portion of your prefrontal cortex called the medial prefrontal cortex, which essentially houses your creative personality, your self-expression, that becomes hyper active. It starts working overtime. Now in meditation, it shuts down. It goes away, because you don’t need your hyper-creative, most innovative self when what you’re doing is trying to follow your breath to let go of yourself. So there are very specifically differences between flow and meditation, and more specifically to your question, flow is not the same thing as happiness, and it’s worth pointing that out.

(09:38) What we now know is that flow — we used to say the happiness person on earth have the most flow states. That is sort of true, and I’ll explain what’s not true about it in a second, but what is really true is the people who score off the charts for life satisfaction are the people who have the most flow states. And the difference is this. One of the mistakes people make about flow is they think it’s binary. I’m either in the zone or I’m out of the zone. It’s not. It’s actually a four-stage cycle. So we talk a lot, the Flow Genome Project, about hacking flow. And one of the most effective hacks is understanding that there’s this four-stage cycle. You’re in cycle which is not a flowy state, it’s kind of like the anti-flow state, you are basically overloading the brain with information.

So if we’re talking about yoga, this could be when you’re trying to learn how to do a tricky balancing pose or go up into handstand for the first time or something like that. It takes a really long time to get that down. You’re doing handstands for probably a month before you even figure out the amount of pressure you’re putting at the tip of your middle finger is actually the key to handing a handstand. You need all those little details. That’s what you’re trying to load the brain with.

Then you have what’s called the relaxation response. This happens when you can take your mind off a problem. Then you have the breakthrough into the flow state. And following the flow state, one of the other things that causes flow is a massive dump of neurochemistry, of five of the most potent neurochemicals you get are all *** (11:08) mind into flow. Now these are all reward-based happiness generating chemicals, and you get more access to them.

So when you’re talking about happiness, what you can say is unless you’re doing drugs, and I would argue even if you are doing drugs, flow is the best you can probably feel. It is probably the purest sense of happiness. So that’s also probably true. But struggle, which is the frontend of the flow state, that is not fun and that can stretch on for a really long time and you can be miserable, miserable, miserable in it. And on the backend, neurochemicals take a while to replenish, so you dump all of them into your brain for this period of time, and depending on how long it lasts it can be as short as a couple of hours and there are other flow states, there’s an asterism-based flow state known as *** (11:58) and can last for days. But whatever, once it’s done it takes a while for the neurochemicals to replenish, to get back to the levels they were at.

And during this period, it’s very important, because that’s where memory and consolidation and learning is taking place, which are both massively jacked up in flow because you get so many neurochemicals. All these neurochemicals tag experience and say hey, this is important, move me into long-term storage. So if you learn something in the flow state, you’re going to remember it forever. We like to say it shortens the path to mastery. But the tricky part is you go from being Superman to having absolutely no power and back to feeling worse.

It’s like a hangover. You have all these negative thoughts. You go out drinking, the next day you feel terrible, you have all these negative thoughts, you learn to ignore it. It’s the same thing with this phase in the flow state, because you have to move from this state back into struggle, so you have to go from I’m really depressed, I no longer feel like Superman, into the hard grind of struggle. People get hung up there for a very long time and can’t make it all the way through the cycle.

(13:02) So my point is, you said do the people with the most happiness have the most flow, no, not at all or not at all because there are long stretches in the pursuit of flow, in the center of the world and what you do, where you’re going to be denied the state. Those are not jolly stretches. I always said the people who are best at this have a significant amount of emotional control because you need it.


It’s interesting for me to think about, because I’m a person who’s incredibly productive and I know very, very clearly what a flow state is for me, and I can never sustain one. So I’ll have a day, at the most two or three days, where I’m really just rocking and rolling and then I always have that crash where all I can do is mundane work for days at a time.


Yeah, we get questions at the Flow Genome Project all the time. How can I live in this state all the time? Well you can’t. One of the pitfalls of this work is that it’s very attractive to the bliss junkies. Bliss junkies are basically people who go, oh God this is all so effortless and easy when I’m in flow. That’s how life should be all the time. We see this a lot in the spiritual community, and it’s the reason that people go nowhere.

I live in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and it’s the reason that the detritus of the 60s is everywhere, because it can lead bad places when you kind of are just chasing the high. You have to understand that the low is a necessary part of the cycle, you can’t escape it.

(14:39) The only thing I have discovered, and this is kind of advance *** (14:44) when people who are really great at this build around their life around this state, so they have something creative they do, they have an action sport they do, they probably do yoga as well, they probably play a musical instrument, all these different things that trigger flow states they mix and match so that maybe if they’re not getting flow in their music they’re getting flow through their surfing or vice versa and that kind of thing. So it’s at least coming in one way or another.


Help us understand, so for people who are hearing this and they’re thinking yeah I could easily turn into a bliss junky, I’m somebody who loves flow states, I’d like to at least create a situation where flow states are more likely to occur a regular basis. I’m sure this is a much bigger question than we can dive into here. (15:29) But if you can help people understand, do rhythms help, does it help to have right brain/left brain music?


Let me tell you what Rise of Superman is about, because the answer to your question is what is at the heart of Rise of Superman. (15:45) So the idea at the heart of Rise of Superman is twofold. The first is it starts with today’s action and adventure sport athletes, surfing, skiing, rock climbing, snowboarding, etcetera. If you look at these sports as data sets, what you see in the past 25 years is nearly exponential growth in human performance. So that’s performance when life or limb is on the line. Nothing like this has every happened before. Sports before were slow, steady, governed by the laws of evolution, it does not quintuple in a decade.


But it did.


Yeah. I mean, surfing is the example I like to give. Here’s a sport that’s a thousand years old, from 400 AD to 1996, the biggest wave ever surfed is 25 feet and today it’s pushing over 100. So there’s your example of exponential growth. So the question is of course, why? What the hell is going on? Why is it happening now?

(16:39) And the answer is the danger threshold has gone up so much in action and adventure sports that these guys have by necessity, because they have to do this to survive, have become the best flow hackers on earth. This is great news, because what has happened in the past 20 years, we knew what the psychology of flow was back in the 60s, 70s and 80s, but in the past 20 years we have mapped the neurobiology. So we can take what we’ve learned with the neurobiology and use these action and adventure sport athletes as case studies, and we can figure out exactly what we’re doing and apply this information across all domains in society.

I know this is a yoga podcast, but I just have to point out that this is applicable everywhere, and the best example is McKinsey, the hardcore business analysis group, did a 10-year study of top executives from flow states, and they found that top executives in flow are 5 times more productive than out of flow. Think about that. That’s 500 percent more productive in a flow state in business environments, and businessmen are not getting very deep into flow.

(17:45) And the reason I can tell you that is what we’ve learned from these action and adventure sport athletes is that flow has 15, we know if, there’s probably more, but as of right now we know that flow has 15 different triggers. These are pre-conditions that lead to more flow. So what action/adventure sport athletes have literally done, is when I say they built their lives around this state, what they’ve done is they have packed their lives with these 15 flow triggers so they’re everywhere. So their chances of bumping into flow are much easier.


So you’ve got this powerful executive and you’ve got this surfer bum, and basically what you’re saying is that a lot of these surfer guys have the ability to be five times more productive at their activity of choice than this powerful executive. Where’s the disparity. (18:37) Where are people falling out? How has that surfer found that ability to excel?


(18:43) Flow had environmental triggers, it’s got psychological triggers, it’s got social triggers and it’s got creative triggers. I would argue that, first of all, little stuff, let’s talk about simple things. Flow follows focus. So long periods of uninterrupted concentration are critical for generating flow. So for example, when they look at education, the most flow-prone education systems out there are Montessori and Warldorf schools.

(19:12) Why do you get such massive production in students there and why do they out-pace students from every place else on whatever metric you want to give them? It’s because these education are built around flow, and at the core of them one of the things that’s important is long periods of uninterrupted concentration. Montessori schools are broken into 90-minute periods of uninterrupted concentration.

So take a typical businessman. First of all, the biggest disaster and a lot of people have written about — Csikszentmihalyi wrote about this in the New York Times. Open office plans, where you have cubicles where you don’t have doors that you can close and you actually can’t focus for 90 minutes at a time is an absolute disaster for this. So businessmen versus surfers, a surfer’s got 90 minutes in the ocean of uninterrupted, I am here to surf, I am focused on it and that is what I’m doing, and if you spent a lot of time surfing, I don’t know if you surf or not, but you have conversations in the waves for sure, but people are there to surf. It’s much less talking than you would ever possibly imagine, and far less than what goes on in a typical office.

So that’s a simple. The work that we’ve done at the Flow Genome Project has really been with the action sport athletes at the center, and we talk about three different environmental triggers that action sport athletes can tap that business people have a harder time tapping. For example, risk is a phenomenal flow trigger, it’s great, it’s tremendous. But the thing is, physical risk is great, it’s really, really good, and action sport athletes have an amazing advantage here, but you can hack the physical risk with creative risk, with emotional risk.

For the shy guy, all you’ve got to do is walk across the room and start up a conversation with a pretty woman to possibly trigger the state. It’s totally proportional to who you are and what environment you live in and whatever, but you need the risk.

(21:13) Another one, and this is going to make a tremendous amount of sense to you with the yoga background, is what we call deep embodiment. Deep embodiment is a really fancy way of saying all of your different sensory systems are firing up and running at once. So you’re not only taking in information from all five of your senses, you’re using proprioception, kinesthetic awareness, you’ve got balance working and all these things, and this is exactly, especially Ashtanga yoga I think more than anything else because it’s the constant breathing and focusing on what you’re feeling in your body, this is a great way of training up the deep embodiment trigger. The more time you spend doing yoga, paying attention to all these information streams and trying to get in your body and feel that way, firing up kinesthetic awareness, the easier it is going to be to pull this trigger.

In action sports, you’re obviously deeply, deeply, deeply embodied. You’re using all of your senses. Action sports have another advantage, because big, deep embodiment triggers are gravity forces. So zero Gs, multiple Gs, polyaxial rotation which is rotation around one’s middle, you have to just remember that we’re earthbound creatures and we’re not normally doing these things, so when you start doing those things you start paying massive amounts of attention.

Get upside down in a yoga class. Just think about what your brain is going to do when you’re in Downward Dog versus what your brain is going to do in Crow, for example. It’s an easy balancing pose. Your brain is so much more shut off in Crow, because there’s so many more things you have to pay attention to, to balance on your hands.


Talk to me about the Flow Genome Project. I’m really, really excited to read your new book. (23:03) Tell me about this project and what your plans and your hopes are, in terms of the future and the work and how does it all tie together?


Absolutely. On an honest to God level, when we first built the Flow Genome Project, the original goal was simply we wanted to do — we were an international consortium of people from neuroscientists to artists to athletes to every kind of walk of life you could possibly imagine, and we wanted to help advance flow research. That was the goal.

(23:34) We very quickly realized, and I kind of knew this going in but we got a really good look at it, we had a very early symposium where we had six of the top world’s expert at this, we all met for a dinner and structured evening of conversation and we took everything we possibly could to bound the evening and care for the conversations, and within 10 minutes people were everywhere from DMT experiences to alien abductions. It was like, okay this is exactly what I didn’t want to happen. This is about neurobiology and this is not. It’s like no, I’m not having those conversations.

(24:06) So we realized that Rise of Superman was kind of the necessary first step. So the book — we had to get everybody on the same page and establish a common language. So that was what Rise of Superman was about, and what the Flow Genome Project has been about up to now, is just like going out, spreading the word, trying to establish a common language so we can all join together to advance flow research.

(24:29) Our feeling is, and flow research has been kind of the greatest DIY science project of the 20th century. So many people were trying to hack performance throughout the 20th century, in all kinds of whack doodle ways. All we’re trying to do is bring it all together, take all that energy, give it a common language and a common focus and a platform for this research to kind of be a funnel through.

So we’re teaming up with various people to start various research initiatives and doing things that way. We’re also building what we’re calling the Flow Dojo, which is the first dedicated flow training and research facility, and the idea here is to take all of the quantified self gear that is kind of spitting out of the neurobiology revolution and is allowing us to gather metrics where never before we could, and combine it with a place where the best can come to train their game.

(25:28) And the idea is we can create environments that basically harness the same flow triggers as action/adventure sports, without any of the actual physical danger. So that’s part of what we’re doing, is we’re creating an environment that is going to be able to basically get anybody into flow more quickly, which is important because — because of neuroplasticity, the more flow you have the more flow you have. You’re training your brain how to get into this state easily from lots of different access points. That’s what’s going on. That’s what’s important.

So by training people to get into flow really quickly, and we’re going to be using neuro feedback, we’re going to be using all kinds of very high-tech to do this alongside the equipment, people will start getting into flow much more regularly. More importantly, we find, and this is sort of the difference, this is where action/adventure sports athletes have had the greatest leverage, is because they’re getting in the state so regularly, for a lot of us you get into flow, time slows down, all these things start happening and it’s really strange, it’s like a moon walk, right? And you’re like oh my God what’s going on, I’m having a mystical experience, this is so cool, you’re not doing what you should be doing which is saying, oh my God it’s all coming together. How do I use this state properly, to accelerate performance? You’ve been given a gift, and you should be leveraging that gift, not kind of like going off into, oh wow dude, it’s so cool here. There’s plenty of that.

But what we want to do is give people experience frequently enough that they can become familiar enough with it that they can start figuring out how to do what you want to do, which is extend the time you’re in the state and get better performance, acceleration out of this state. So that’s a lot of what we’re doing.


And so when you look at quantified self and you look at sensor technology and you look at food research and exercise research, is there one thing that gets you most excited, in terms of hacking flow? (27:31) Or do you think it’s going to be a combination of those things or something new altogether?


(27:37) It’s a fair point, and there’s a lot of people out there who have various technologies that they claim are hacking flow, and I just want to tell you, I’m excited about all of it but not anything singularly. And the problem is, when you want to talk about flow, you are talking about psychological reactions, you are talking about neurochemical, neuro-electrical and neuro-anatomical reaction and you are talking about physiological reactions.

So there’s a lot of stuff out there that says, oh we have found that heart rate variability, which is when heart rates and brain waves sync up is a flow indicator. Well absolutely it’s one, but they’ve built huge apps to drive people and they’re claiming it’s flow and it’s not. We are just at the fringe of being able to measure neurochemicals in the brain, so as lab on a chip moves forward I’m very excited about what that is going to mean for flow research.

There’s really neat stuff coming out of transcranial stimulation that is artificially inducing transient hypofrontality, that’s interesting. There’s a device called The Brain Sport, it was developed by a friend of ours and a guy who’s on our board, Dr. Leslie Sherlin. It’s the most cutting-edge device today. Only Navy Seals and Red Bull athletes have access to it, and us. But it will be commercially available next year, and it is the first wireless dry sensor EEG that filters out the noise of movement, and that’s the big deal.

(29:11) It used to be you want to train neuro feedback, you had to sit absolutely still and not move, because even if you yawned or blinked you were screwing up the device. So already we’ve got data on like baseball players in batting cages and golfers putting. Travis Pastrana is putting one through a test in rally car racing right now, I believe, and so we’re getting to the point that you’re going to be able to use these devices to use neuro feedback while you’re on the ski slopes. Or we’ve incorporated it with some of our equipment, where for example at the Flow Dojo we have a 20-foot high looping swing. So you’re standing on a surfboard with your foot in foot straps and you basically can be upside down 20 feet off the deck and pulling 3 ½ Gs at the bottom, so you’ve got those high-risk triggers and the g-force is at the bottom of the arch, but it’s totally safe.

(30:03) But here’s what’s cool about it. We’ve wired the entire thing, so the whole thing is in LED lights and we can put Brain Sport on top of you while you use it. So the LED lights, and this is very shorthand there’s a lot more information here and I urge you to read the book and not take everything I’m saying right now as the whole truth, but we know that alpha theta waves, when you’re on the borderline between alpha which is kind of relaxed, daydreaming, and theta which is deep meditation or when you’re falling asleep, the borderline between that is the signature baseline wave state for flow.

So when you’re in that state on our device everything glows blue. So you can essentially use neuro feedback, real-time neuro feedback. You don’t have to look at a screen, you don’t have to do anything, you can literally be doing giant, giant loops on this thing using all these kind of deep embodiment, high-risk, all the other triggers that we’ve got, and using neuro feedback at the same time. So what I’m excited about is the possibilities where you start putting these things together.

(31:12) I’m also excited from a research perspective, for example, there’s a bunch of eye tracking stuff that’s really cool because there seems to be some correlation between retinal pupil dilation and flow, and we are now going to be able to start poking more deeply at that. We’re working with a super bike team, hopefully over the next year, and we’re going to put eye-tracking cameras inside of their helmets watching their eyes and have them kind of narrate their advice using Csikszentmihalyi’s experimental sampling method which was pioneered 30 years ago, to kind of test flow, and at the same time we’re going to be tracking eye dilation. So we’re going to be able to map, these are the seven categories of flow I’m feeling now while I’m riding my super bike, and we’re going to be able to say and this is exactly what his pupils are doing at that point.

So those kinds of things are really getting interesting, and what I’m excited about is that a lot of cool partnerships are showing up for the Flow Genome Project. A lot of people are just saying, hey we’re doing this cool stuff and it fits into your stuff here, and let’s team up and run some experiments. And that’s what I wanted to do with the Flow Genome Project, is I wanted to get as many peoples’ brains on this problem as possible. And the good news is everybody’s obsessed with flow, and why wouldn’t you be obsessed with flow.

I always say on a certain level, this is crack cocaine for the soul. We have no marketing problems, because it’s so fundamental. It’s the source code of intrinsic motivation. Do you need more motivation here? So people keep coming to us and saying, oh my God I’m a total flow junkie. This is what I do, this is my population and this is what I want to study. How can I help? And we’re saying absolutely, let’s work on this.


Yeah, I mean, I’m buzzing just thinking about this. (33:02) So with flow hacking, with this technology, with this research, is your thought that you’ll be able to get people in flow states longer, get people in flow states more frequently or just know and better understand the phenomenon?


(33:13) Well, I’d say all of the above, all of the above. Let me be totally honest with you about this question, because it’s a funny answer. What I care about is that I want more flow in my life. I’m totally selfish, but I want more flow for me and my friends. I also run an animal sanctuary and we work with very sick animals and we use flow as part of our healing methodology. So I’m more interested personally in flow for these categories of people and the big questions. Everybody else wants more flow for the world. I think that’s great, I’m so glad everybody’s altruistic about it, I like animals more than people as a rule, so I want more flow for the animals and I’ll let everybody else worry about everybody else, and I’m honestly in it for the big questions.

(34:00) But the truth of the matter is Rise of Superman, just reading the book should arm everybody with more than enough information to start getting more flow in their lives. What we’re hoping to do at the Flow Genome Project is thoroughly map the psychology onto the neurobiology onto the physiology, to create what we think is going to be a heat map of flow. That will give us kind of a surround sound look at all the different onramps of flow, because we know of a bunch: Yoga, helper’s high, high-risk activity, creative, all this stuff we know about, but there’s a whole bunch of stuff we don’t know about. So hopefully by mapping this all out, what it really will mean is sort of instant access for everybody to these states, and obviously that’s the big goal. But that’s also the big goal of the Flow Genome Project. It’s a giant science project to kind of open source the code of flow. And so we want everybody involved, because everybody benefits.


Steven, this has definitely been one of the more interesting sessions we’ve ever had. (35:03) For people listening who want to learn about all of your books and all of your work, how is the best way for them to get a hold of you?

Steven: (35:10) StevenKotler.com is a great place, or RiseOfSuperman.com, it will give you everything about Rise, and there’s also the website for the Flow Genome Project which is FlowGenomeProject.co. Any of those three portals will get you to me and all our work.

Well perfect, well great. I’m really, really excited for your book. Thanks so much for sharing your work and your knowledge, and everybody listening, please do check out his book and thanks so much, Steven, and we’ll talk to everyone very soon.

You’ve got questions? We’ve got answers. Welcome to the FAQ round. If you’ve got something you’d like to ask, please send it into [email protected]. Now let’s hear what’s going on with our listeners.

(36:13) My shoulders hunch forward and are very tense. In light of my shoulder issues mentioned, would you suggest any alternatives or additions to what I’m currently doing?

So people with hunched over shoulders, very common, especially in jobs where you work at a keyboard or service industry jobs, for example flight staff often have major, major shoulder problems, hairstylists often have major shoulder problems because all day long they’re carrying things in their arms. Also, sometimes construction workers and laborers can end up with very, very tough shoulders.

You want to be very careful with your shoulders, just like all of your joints. You want to be very, very cautious. Some of the shoulder openers we teach are very aggressive, like Hangman pose, for example, is a very, very strong pose. You want to do that really carefully, especially if you have any kind of impinged movement or anything like that. But you can always lighten up these poses just by not going as deep and by propping up. So use props like pillows and blocks and straps and things like this.

(37:16) When I breathe in, it seems that the cells in my shoulders tense up against the breath, as if the breath will harm it. I consciously focus on asking my body to relax and telling it that it’s safe. This seems to work with other parts of my body, however, my shoulder and upper back seem to maintain their position of not letting air in. These body parts seem to be in the position that the somatic reflex shock and nothing I do seems to help me move from this position.

This is a pretty insightful question, actually. A lot of people don’t realize this, but when you look at your heart rate, let’s say your heart’s beating at 65 or 70 beats per minute right now — let’s just say it’s 60. A lot of people would say that your heart is beating once per second, but that’s not actually the case. On the inhale your heart rate speeds up, a healthy heart rate, and on the exhale your heart rate slows down. Every single breath, every single time, especially when you’re in a really conscious state, especially when you’re practicing yoga. You get this massive heart rate variability. That’s why our inhale breaths are always extending, lifting, strengthening and our exhale breaths are always relaxing and deep stretching.

So what you’ve notice here is very, very real, in terms of what’s happening with your breath. And if you’re feeling blocked in a specific area, not being able to breathe into it is a very clear sign. Your mind/body connection, there’s lots of different things that connect our mind and our body, but the breath is the one thing that we can take conscious control over if we want to. What I would suggest is keep going. I would also focus on lengthening that exhale, so exhaling longer than you’re inhaling. I also wouldn’t get too worried about it. It sounds like you’re really conscious in your practice. You’re doing the right thing. Keep practicing and be careful.

(39:11) (Here’s a question about Sun Salutations.) Just after doing Downward Dog, we move onto our toes and look forward. I get confused about what happens with the breath at this point. It seems to me that the natural thing to do would be to breathe in, but the move following that, when I step to the front of the mat extending my spine long, requires breathing in.

Great question. Sun Salutations, moving from Down Dog to a Forward Bend at the front of your mat, you usually jump or walk your feet. There’s two different ways to do this. One way is you do it with no breath at all, and as soon as you land you take an inhale. I like to practice that way. Other people just begin their breath right there. So you would bend your knees, stick your bum in the air and then look forward and you’d inhale, step or jump your feet to the front of your mat, come to a long back and then exhale, fold down into your legs.

So there’s no right or wrong way, but it’s generally either a zero breath or an inhale breath movement, and it flows right into that back extension. That was a little bit technical. Hope that makes sense on audio. It would be a heck of a lot easier to show on video. Maybe I’ll do a video follow up here, too.

(40:13) (Here’s a question about the Blaster pose. Blaster pose is one of our gravity yoga poses. It’s one of the more powerful poses for opening your hips that I know of.) I find I have a lot of tension in my shoulders. Any thoughts or suggestions?

Yes. If you’re finding tension in your shoulders you’re doing something wrong. All of the tension should be down into your hips in Blaster pose. It’s a big, extended lunge, and you have your fingertips, your hands or your elbows on the floor. If you’re feeling tension in your shoulders you’re putting too much weight on them. I’d suggest using a pillow or some blocks to prop yourself up.

(40:48) (Lightening Bolt pose, another gravity yoga pose. Lightning Bolt pose is where you’re sitting on your knees Japanese style, except you separate your heels and put your bum down on the floor. This is a really intense pose. It’s one of the more powerful back-bending poses you can do. It opens up the tops of your legs, specifically your iliopsoas muscles.)

When I first started doing this position, I was not aware of any knee pain. However, I found that laying flat on the floor was not possible. I have found a halfway point. So my head and shoulders touch the floor, but my back curves upward. I was initially able to sit upright without any pain, however, over the last week I’ve started experiencing pain in my right knee. Until I started doing these poses, I’ve never experienced pain in my knees. Today I started to experience pain in my knee after sitting in the upright position for less than a minute. What should I do?

First of all, Lightening Bolt is a very intense pose and it can potentially be dangerous on your knees. You need to be very careful. It’s normal to start feeling some twinging in your knees. The mistake is to ignore the pain. In joint pain you’ve got to pay a lot of attention. So if you feel some twinging in your knee, you need to back way off. So rather than sitting your bum all the way flat to the floor in Lightening Bolt, put a prop like a pillow or a block or a book underneath your bum and stay seated up, but stay away from the floor and take it really slowly. You’ll be able to move through it, but you need to take your time.

In terms of lying back, what you did is you lied back too quickly. Now your lower back will always be arched up off the floor. That’s the natural curvature of the spine. That will always happen. But what happens is a lot of people go back too soon, their knees open up like a letter V, their shoulders are on the ground, their head’s on the ground but their back is in this big, massive arch because the tops of their legs are still too tight. This is not great for your back, and it’s also not great for your knees. There’s no reason to go back. If you’re feeling a big stretch sitting up, stay seated up. That’s a great place to be.

Hope that’s helpful. If you have questions, email them into [email protected].

The food you eat affects your body and mind every day. Welcome to the nutritional tip of the week, where we explore plant-based diets, super food nutrition, edible insects and new tropics. The goal here is mind/body biohacking for a better you and a better planet. So hey, let’s talk nutrition.

(43:14) Today’s nutritional tip is about how to make soup, without destroying your cooking oils. So we talk a lot about oils in YOGABODY land, and the reason we talk about them is because most of the oils and most of the fats people use are really, really unhealthy. They’re really bad for your health, they’re highly processed, they’re denatured fats. These would be things like sunflower, safflower, canola, soybean oil, corn oil. All the beautiful yellow and orange oils you see in the clear bottles that cost about $1 a liter when you walk down the grocery store aisles. All of those are very unhealthy for you because they’ve been highly processed and denatured.

(43:51) So now I want to talk about soup. Soup is a really, really healthy food, but it needs fat to taste good. A soup without fat is really, really boring. That’s what we call like celery-flavored tea. And so you need to put fat in your soup, but you don’t want to cook the hell out of your soup. If you cook the hell out of your fat in your soup you’ll do the same thing as that processing. You’ll denature the fat in your soup.

(44:13) So how do you do it? Well, first thing you want to do is just boil the vegetables by themselves. If you’re using animal stalk, you want to use a very slow cooker and you want to do it by itself. The reason I like to do vegetables is they have very, very little fat and the fibers and the sugars that they have, they take heat much, much better than the fats do. So let’s say we have a big soup pot and we have cabbage and we have maybe a sweet potato and we have celery and garlic and some ginger and some turmeric, and for maybe an hour we cook that down into a really nice vegetable stalk. Now this is going to be really, really boring and tasteless and bland if we don’t add some nice fat to that.

(44:55) So what do we do now? Instead of cooking that fat for a full hour, we haven’t cooked the fat at all. We have some nice raw coconut oil, another option would be an olive oil, another option if you’re into animal butters and things might be ghee or a grass-fed butte would be a good option. What you do is you add that in last. If you want to cook it for a little bit that’s okay, with the saturated fats, you don’t necessarily need to at all. If you need to get that oil suspended in the soup, put it in a blender really quickly and it will catch with all the vegetables and it will make a really nice, creamy soup. But this is a way for you to make a really, really healthy, fatty soup. Fat is fantastic for you, but if you cook the snot out of your fats you don’t want to eat them anymore. They’re denatured, they become inflammatory and all the wonderful things we love about healthy fats kind of go away when you cook them for an hour on the stove. So this is a really simple way to make healthy soups and to still make them hearty and creamy and delicious.

Hope that’s helpful, and we’ll talk to you soon. You’ve been listening to the Yoga Talk Show with Lucas Rockwood. If you like this show, I always appreciate reviews and ratings on the iTunes Store. It helps other listeners find out about what we’re doing, and it keeps me motivated to dig around and find new and diverse topics to share with you. For complete show notes, links to everything discussed in the show, along with a ton of other free yoga videos and online resources, please head over to YogaBodyNaturals.com. Thanks so much for listening, and we’ll talk to you very soon.