Learn more about Mark Dittmar, our student of the month for September!
“I like yoga because I can do it for the next 50 years.” -Mark
Tell me a bit about yourself, Mark and how you got into yoga!
I’m a sound designer, primarily for television shows and that keeps me very busy. I used to do martial arts years ago, but after a few years I realized I wasn’t young enough to be doing that anymore and so I quit and stopped doing any kind of physical activity. I’ve known Marcella forever and she sort of kept saying, “Oh, you should go to yoga. You should do yoga.” And I was like, “I’m not a yoga person. There’s no way I’m doing yoga.” I would see her periodically and she would say, “Hey, you should do yoga”. So I got an app on my phone and started doing yoga. The app had a bunch of 10-minute, 15-minute and 1/2-hour classes. I started doing it a lot and kinda got into it. And Marcella said, “You should take a real class”. I was like, “No way am I going to take a class.”
The stereotypes. I was a wrestler and martial artist…there was just no way I was going to end up in yoga class. One day she said, “Well I’ve signed you up for the 1-week free trial, so now you’re just wasting money.” And I was like, “Waaait a second that’s not cool”. So I took a Sunday vinyasa class with Tom Weston and loved it. LOVED IT. It wasn’t what I was expecting at all. And so I would only take classes with Tom. “Okay. I like this, but I probably don’t like any other class.” And one day I went into a Tom class, but Shawna was standing there and I’m like, “Oh no. a different teacher.” And I absolutely loved her. Now I go anywhere from 2-5 times a week.
Wow! That’s amazing. What a huge transformation. That’s so funny that Marcela played such a big role in your journey. What if she hadn’t kept nudging you?!
Yeah. I think it’s weird because a) I brought a huge amount of stereotypes before I ever got into yoga. You know, it’s all 24 year old women doing aerobics. That was my sideline view of what yoga was. And then I realized that there are radically different styles. It’s been fun. Very, very unexpected. A lot of people I work with look at me very strange, like “What? Yoga?” I’m in the entertainment industry…there are plenty of people that do yoga, but very few of them are sound engineers.
Totally, that makes sense. Sooo… do you mind saying what shows you work on?
I generally design awards shows. I did the grammy awards this year. I also do the Tony awards and the video music awards were just a month ago. So that’s the kind of show I specialize in. It’s a really niche field and I have a blast. The hours around shows are pretty awful.
Incredible. How would you say yoga has impacted your life, physically and mentally?
I think after a long hiatus from anything physical, it’s brought me back in touch with movement and exhaustion (physical and mental). I didn’t realize how much of that was core to who I am. Yoga isn’t competitive externally, but it is competitive internally. I know what it’s supposed to look like and I know whether I’m going 50% or 100%. No one else may, but I absolutely know when I’m having good days or bad days. And I like that. I like going in there and saying, “Ok this is a goal”. I didn’t realize how tightly mental acuity and physical acuity are tied together and how much better I perform at work on days I do yoga versus days I don’t do yoga. I’m still very active and running around and I might walk 12 miles at work up and down stairs, but I’m not doing focused movement. I didn’t realize how much more yoga centers me at work. Instead of being on a million phone calls and a million text messages and just bouncing all over the place, on the weeks that I’m doing yoga heavier I find that I’m actually spending an hour on this and ignoring everything else, and an hour on that…and I’m able to focus more in a world that’s really not conducive to focus.
Definitely. I’ve been thinking a lot about how job advertisements always say a positive attribute in a job candidate is the “ability to multitask”. But actually I really want to put on my resume: “excellent single tasker”. Hahah!
I hire a lot of people in what I do and I often joke that multitasking is doing a lot of things incorrectly at the same time. I would actually way prefer someone who can hit the ignore button on their phone and go back to what they’re doing as opposed to someone who can be on their phone and typing with their other hand. I think doing yoga has brought me back to that, because I used to absolutely be the person who would be on the speaker phone with someone while typing an email to someone else and realizing “Wow, I don’t know what that person just said and I’m pretty sure that was a horrible email”. And realizing, “You know what, I need to just stop. And focus on this. And then focus on that. And get more things done correctly rather than just getting more things done.”
Wow. How would you say your practice has evolved over time, from the beginning until now.
In the beginning it was realizing what bad of shape I was in. My brain somehow froze me at 26 years old. I was in amazing shape at 26 and I am not 26 anymore, but when I do things my brain is like, “oh I can do that”. And the answer is…no, I can’t do that. You know, in yoga you’re doing things that on the surface appear relatively simple and shouldn’t be a challenge and yet holding that for 8, 10, 15 seconds correctly is completely exhausting. Or it’s mentally exhausting. Half moon was a giant stumbling block for me in two ways. It was a physical exhaustion — my leg and back just didn’t want to do that. But I also couldn’t do anything but look down. The second my eyes went to the left, I fell over. And I got really angry at myself. I was like, “This is ridiculous! It’s a balance exercise and I should be able to slowly move my eyes….It shouldn’t be that the second I move, I fall.” It was about a year ago that I forgot I fell over. I hadn’t done half moon in a long time and I think I was in one of Tom’s classes and we just did it and I was simply relaxed. I’m staring over at the side wall and I sort of laughed at myself. There’s no strength there. It’s just relaxing. And I think a lot of it was about feeling self conscious in the beginning and feeling frustrated that I didn’t have the strength for what should be relatively simple motions. I’ve also lost a huge amount of weight from doing yoga, about 30 pounds. I went through Marcela’s cleanse also.
Oh yes, Marcela’s cleanse! I want to do the next one.
Well, that probably had an even bigger change on my life. You know, I go running, I go to the gym, I do yoga…Why am I not losing weight? Oh yeah, because I had an entire pizza. I don’t think I realized how tightly food interacts with your brain. For me the big thing is that wheat and grain just makes me eat more. I went on the cleanse and basically just stayed at day 10 for the next four months and weight just fell off me. And I was like, “You mean that was available the whole time? I can just eat healthier food and all that weight would fall off also?”
Yeah. I think the nutrition piece is harder, because it’s emotionally triggering.
Yeah I think it’s made my yoga that much better, too. I’m doing moves I couldn’t do before, partially because I’m not carrying as much weight around, but I think now that I’m eating different my brain is allowing me to focus a LOT better.
That’s just so awesome. What you’re favorite yoga pose?
I’d probably say forearm stand. It’s something that 2 years ago I never could have done. A while ago I started being able to do it near a wall, but then the place I really feel an improvement is actually being able to go very slowly into it and very slowly back out. I was very much a speed, athletic person so my gut reaction was to kick into and flop out of it. I think it was Jackie’s class…she had us go up very slowly into it and it’s monstrously tough, but it felt so awesome to actually have that control.
How has all this impacted your work life?
I had a very funny conversation with my boss and I know that what I was trying to say is not what he heard. I said, “When I’m working from home, if I take an hour and a half out of my 8-hour day to take a yoga class, those 6 1/2 hours left are infinitely more productive than the 8 hours would have been on their own. Now my joke is that all he hears is, “You worked 6 1/2 hours?” But the reality is it’s that quality of work. In the past I was working incredible hours, but I might have been only doing 30 hours worth of work — It just took me 50 hours to do it. It’s a very interesting change in the American mindset of work harder, work harder, work harder and now I’m sort of resetting all of that to “why don’t I work better and see how long that takes?”
Incredible. Those are such great insights. How do you stay balanced and joyful living in New York?
I think New York has some of the friendliest people on the planet. From the outside everyone thinks New Yorkers are cold. I think they’re honest. If you’re an asshole, they’re more likely to say, “you’re an asshole”. But I feel like people are very genuine and I absolute love that. I love the work ethic of people in this town. If it’s time to do something, it’s not time to talk about it or have another meeting, it’s time to get it done. It’s fast paced place.
The work pressure doesn’t bother me too much, but I get stressed transitioning into downtime. That’s where I’m trying to use yoga as a leveler. When I’m doing a show and I can keep doing classes through it, it makes it easier for me to go back to real life, to regular hours. A lot of the guys I work with are like, “Wow you’re way more laid back”. I’m able to turn back off.
Thanks Mark, I absolutely loved hearing about your story! 🙂