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How to find balance with Marcus Franco

This month we spoke to Marcus Franco who is a Paramedic, yoga teacher and breathwork teacher, he also owns his own brand Conduit Wellness.

We asked him to share with us how he finds the time to stay grounded in such a high paced, demanding job and he shared his advice for finding balance...

Read out chat below...

Marcus pictured above at his paramedic job

Describe your job as a paramedic?

Being a HART (Hazardous Area Response Team) Paramedic means that at times I may be in situations that are more physically, mentally, emotionally demanding so it is more important than ever to ensure I keep fit and ensure my wellbeing is nurtured.

My job finds me often performing clinical skills alongside having to climb, run, swim and even fit through tight spaces like tunnels or collapsed buildings to access, treat and extricate patients to definitive care. Working for the HART Team has its benefits, every job we are dispatched to is different, interesting and challenging in its own way.

It also means that often the patients I treat have more severe injuries and the jobs are physically challenging and are quite protracted so it is so important I take time away to ensure I don't burn out.

"I am a big advocate of having a life away and outside of work, I recommend this to everyone no matter your field. "

How do you find the balance of your shift work with life in general?

Shift work can be tough as it messes with your circadian rhythm and switching between day/night shift modes has profound effects on your mood and health. Speak to any night shift worker and they will be very familiar with the feeling of snacking on chocolate at 4am wishing nothing more than to be in bed but having to push through until the sun rises.

Because I am in a specialist unit that is only dispatched to specific jobs that require a HART team it means I do have a lot of downtime on station. So when we aren't checking equipment or doing team training I am able to rest or use the station gym...yes it is a pretty sweet job.

You will often find me doing a little bit of yoga around station when I get the chance especially after long drives. Every shift is 12 hours providing you finish on time so it is draining sometimes but I have to admit I wouldn't trade it for Monday to Friday nine to

five-job, but that may change someday."

What do you do to keep grounded and calm?

Yoga,meditation and breathwork in particular has played a huge role in my ability to remain calm during stressful situations and find balance in my life. Don't get me wrong, people often think because I am a yoga teacher I live my life like a buddhist monk, this is far from the truth. I am like anyone else, I get stressed, eat too much take-out sometimes, spend too much time on my phone and stay up way too late.

"What is important is being able to recognise unhealthy habits forming and trying to change them. I usually begin this process by taking the plunge, rolling out my mat and doing a yoga practice."

The physical aspect of yoga helps me energise my body whereas meditation and breathwork can help me emotionally and mentally sort through my thoughts and reach a more grounded state. It may not happen immediately or after one practice but I believe in the practice so it is important I return to my mat consistently as well as do things I enjoy such as seeing friends and going to my favourite coffee shop in town."

When did you train to be a yoga teacher and what made you decide to do your training?

I started my Yoga Teacher Training September 2020 and qualified April this year and have been teaching weekly ever since. Most people find yoga through a few common avenues, either as a way to help deal with mental health related issues such as anxiety, depression or as a result of a physical injury, or both.

I went through a difficult time in 2018 and was suffering with lower back pain, one day I typed "yoga for men" into youtube hoping that it would help. It didn't take long before I was in love with the practice and delved head first into yoga philosophy. I knew I wanted to be a yoga teacher eventually but being a male it took me eight months of daily practice before I decided to finally invest in my own yoga mat and then a total of 13 months before I mustered up the courage to attend my first ever in person yoga class.

I was worried that even after almost two years of practice I wasn't good enough to do a teacher training, it wasn't until speaking to the first male teacher I came across in Australia named Bobby Hancock that I was encouraged to sign up for my yoga teacher training.

Knowing what I know now I realise how silly and warped my worries were about being a male yogi and how I would be perceived as it is predominantly a female environment.

"My mission is to make a space for yoga in my community that is welcoming to all and hopefully enough so that anyone who was like me back in 2018 would feel safe to attend one of my classes."

Marcus in Crow pose

How is it being a male yoga teacher in a predominantly female environment?

I think it is great! It means I stand out a little in the yoga community which has its benefits and also means I can accomplish my goal of slowly convincing guys that yoga isn't as scary or exclusive as they may think it is.

There are so many amazing male yoga teachers out there so I am definitely not alone and already I have noticed the amount of men trying out yoga for the first time is increasing, which is awesome!

I don't see myself as a very flexible person and like most people have very tight hamstrings and hips, I find this makes me more relatable to guys as my classes include a lot of variations and modifications that make the class super accessible to beginners.

What would you say to other guys who want to get into yoga?

Whatever your preconceptions of yoga are, put them aside and try it out! The image of yoga on social media has heavily misrepresented in my opinion and I feel hides the beauty and essence of what the practice of yoga is truly about.

"No you don't have to be flexible. No it is not only for girls. No you do not need to be able to touch your toes."

Yoga is not easy, it will challenge you both physically and mentally and at times you may sweat or be short of breath depending on the strength of the class. If you're a guy and not interested in the spiritual aspect of yoga do not worry there is still a very physical, somatic element to the practice and the benefits extend far beyond the mat.

When did you become a breathwork coach? and why?

I discovered breathwork shortly after the physical practice of yoga and found the two complimented each other beautifully. The feeling after my first ever hour long breathwork session was probably to this day the most profound experience I have ever had.

I couldn't believe something as simple as breathing, which we all do every second of every day could change my mood and even initiate euphoric and meditative states. I did my breathwork instructor course through the Life Awareness Project alongside my yoga teacher training.

2020 was a very busy year for me doing all this as well as working for the NHS during a pandemic. It also kept me sane having so many great things to focus on during a lockdown.

Can you tell us about what breathwork is and the benefits?

Breathwork involves consciously changing your breathing and breathing pattern using exercises and techniques that help achieve a desired effect or state. The benefits of breathwork are endless, it can help energise, calm, de-stress, build resilience, facilitate meditative states and more.

A breathwork session with me would be really tailored to the students needs and what it is they are looking for. For beginners or those who aren't very spiritual sometimes stronger breathwork techniques can provide really somatic experiences that can in a way demonstrate the power of the breath and how it truly can affect your mood and life in quite a profound way, for others slower more down-regulating practices are more appropriate.

Either way there is an element of mindfulness and connecting the mind to the body and breath.

Tell us about Conduit wellness?

Conduit is an apparel and lifestyle brand that I began in March 2020 in an attempt to create a really neutral brand to help promote self care and creatives in the community. It was a platform I could funnel my yoga classes through as well as use as a creative outlet and collaborate with other yoga teachers, artists, photographers/videographers, skaters, poets and anyone else who wanted to get involved to help release some cool streetwear or put on events.

Conduit is for everyone, or at least I hope for it to be.

We are really open to help promote other small business' and collaborate so if you have any ideas or would like to get involved somehow please contact us through our Instagram or website.

What's the future for Conduit?

Good question... I have a million ideas but fully understand that it may still be a mystery. I am planning to add more yoga classes and maybe even some pilates to the timetable.

We are in the process of putting together some really cool new apparel drops in collaboration with some local artists which is exciting as well as some for community based video projects. The list goes on... Keep your eyes peeled.

What would you say to someone who has never tried yoga or breathwork?

I would say that I can't recommend trying it out enough.

What do you wish you could say to your younger self?

Buy a yoga mat and search 'Yoga with Tim Senesi' on Youtube....OH and don't worry, all things work out in the end, enjoy the process, even if it's hard, it will make your future easier.

Where can people find out about you?

I predominantly operate on Instagram and through my website. You can see my yoga timetable and check out Conduit's apparel and adventures.

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