Dave Tilston on Mindful Movement

Dave Tilston Yoga Health Room

This week I’m excited to bring you an interview with a highly skilled movement practitioner, Dave Tilston.

Dave is someone I’ve been following on Instagram for quite a few months, and I’ve been really inspired by him. Not just because of the impressive physical feats that he’s been able to master, but also because of his holistic approach to movement and life in general.

Just a little bit of background info on Dave:

Dave joined the Royal Marines at aged 18, where he served for over four years, seeing active service in Afghanistan during 2007/8. He then joined Surrey Fire and Rescue as a Firefighter in 2009, where he continues to work full-time.

In his spare time, Dave has been honing his movement skills.

He’s spent the past six years training in the Filipino Kyusho Martial Arts under Grand Master Angelo Baldissone, earning his black belt last year. Dave is also a proponent of primal movement, circular strength training with clubbells, calisthenics, and yoga – practising diligently 6-7 days a week.

All these disciplines help to compliment Dave’s role in the Fire Service, without hindering free movement. He also shares his knowledge with groups and individuals via personal training sessions, both at home in the South of England, and in workshops all across the world.

I decided to reach out to Dave a few weeks ago, to see if he’d like to share his story with the Health Room audience. He was happy to do so, so I asked him a few questions, and had some really insightful responses that I’d like to share with you today.

So, here we go! I hope you enjoy this interview and take something valuable from it.

Let us know what you think in the comments section below, and don’t forget to subscribe if you want more helpful free content delivered straight to your inbox.

1. Thanks for doing this interview Dave. I want to start off by asking you – when did you first become so fascinated with movement? Is it something that you’ve always been passionate about?

Yes, I have been fascinated by movement from a very young age. I used to follow Gladiators from the age of six and started doing press-ups from seven onwards, without the dodgy leotard! I have always seemed to learn better through movement and feeling over reading text.


2. Do you think your time in the Royal Marines helped shaped the way you approach your practice, perhaps from a mental standpoint?

Definitely, it made me realise how much further we are able to push our own bodies with the correct mental attitude. I served alongside some of the country’s finest individuals at home and on operations in Afghanistan and for that I am very grateful.


3. I noticed that alongside your Instagram photos, you often include insightful quotes and words of wisdom. I was wondering, how big of a role do you think mindfulness and spirituality play in mastering these advanced movement patterns, and being able to move your body efficiently?

I think a clear mind is paramount when engaging in anything that requires a large amount of concentration. Everyone goes through times in their lives where things are not quite going to plan. When I read a quote that inspires me I will share it with as many people as possible in the hope it may influence their day and training.

I have been very fortunate to study Filipino Kyusho Martial Arts under Grandmaster Angelo Baldissone for the last 6 years. His vast knowledge of bodily movement, words of wisdom and positive outlook has played a huge part in the way I now perceive correct body mechanics.

The last few years have also seen the introduction of Yoga and because of this I have experienced not only the physical Asanas, but the mindfulness, breathing and words of wisdom that form a large part of the practice.


4. Some people criticize the modern fitness industry, and feel that it’s largely a watered down version of movement, and that using fancy machines and expensive equipment only creates dysfunction. What do you think is the biggest issue with the current state of the fitness industry? And how do you try to do things differently?

I think the modern day industry appeals largely to people that are in a rush and would like to see results quickly. There is a place for all types of fitness providing it helps the individual develop, follow correct body mechanics and allows them to understand why they are doing what they are doing. I have found with my own training that aesthetics can change fairly quickly but functional movement development, increased proprioception, balance, co-ordination, understanding and posture can take far longer to see results. My clients understand that if we work on the latter, that aesthetics naturally improve regardless.


5. What are some the most common issues you see with the clients you work with?

I tend to see a lot of postural imbalances in people, mainly through a lack of flexibility and sedentary desk jobs. One of my main aims is to strengthen the core and protect the spine through improving mechanics. For example, squatting whilst maintaining a natural upright posture when picking anything up from the floor. These sound like basic drills but we tend to lean forward and lose our balance more than we realise, when we add weight to the equation it can amplify the problem and potentially cause injury. If we concentrate on the basics we strengthen the foundations and therefore see great results.


6. Some people believe that injuries are inevitable when it comes to any form of regular exercise or movement practice. If you had to give one general tip for injury prevention, what would it be?

Take it slow and listen to your own body! We are one of the most amazing things on this planet due to the fact we have managed to adapt over thousands of years. Adaption and progression takes time. If you push yourself hard one day make sure that you complete the relevant mobility exercises to compensate for this immediately after or the following day.

Injuries tend to affect us when we either rush, give in to our ego, use incorrect form or negate flexibility training. I like to strengthen all joints through their full range of motion, using rotational strength training and employing the use of regular mobility as much as possible.


7. Is there one movement or exercise in particular that you enjoy the most, and if so, why?

I would have to say one-handed handstands, as I see these as a challenge with many progressions available. I find inversions great for focusing on breathing as we negate breathing so much in daily life and take it for granted. For whatever reason I find that this brings me focus and a true mind to body connection. I like to challenge myself constantly, as I believe we should learn until the day we are no longer here. If we can bring calm to postures and exercises that cause stress on the body through breath, then it allows us to deal with situations far easier in our day-to-day lives.

 Dave Tilston Yoga Health Room

8. Who or what inspires you to move, and to keep improving? Are there any role models you look up to with regards to movement or life in general?

My Grandmaster and friend Angelo as well as Scott Sonnon have had a huge influence on my perceptions on movement and desire to continue to develop. I also see people like Dylan Werner and Kino McGregor as something to aspire towards for their level of expertise and dedicated Yoga practice.

My partner Ellie (on Instagram at @elliegraceyoga), family and close friends continue to inspire me through their support and faith that I will be able to inspire and get my message across to as many people as possible in the future. My family are huge influences on the man I am today and for this I couldn’t be more proud or grateful to have them in my life. My clients’ developments and progressions constantly push me forward through their hard work and make me proud to be doing the job I am.


9. If there’s someone out there who’s perhaps feeling a little stuck (maybe they want to start exercising regularly to lose some weight or get a bit stronger, but they have no idea where to start) – what advice would you give to that person?

Decide what you want to achieve and understand that you can achieve far more than you think. Things may get tough but never give up on a dream or goal; there are many options or paths that lead there. Avoid listening to negative comments and surround yourself with people that allow you to develop through a constructive and positive outlook.


10. What’s next for Dave Tilston? Any seminars or workshops coming up, or new projects in the works?

I will be spending May in Koh Samui, Thailand furthering my yoga practice and looking to gain a teaching certification with my girlfriend, Ellie. The rest of 2015 will include joining GM Angelo and good friend Dan Bartlett in Germany instructing martial arts, as well as instructing yoga and bodyweight calisthenics’ around the UK including venues like U-FIT in Cardiff, Wales.


11. Is there anything else you’d like to share with the readers before we wrap up?

I would just like to say thank you for your time and this opportunity, and share a quote that inspires me daily:

“The strongest trees in the forest, grow the slowest.”


BDave Tilston ig thanks to Dave for taking the time to do this, much appreciated! I know that I learned a lot from this interview, and it’s definitely given me the inspiration to take my movement practice further. I hope you guys took something away from it too.

If you want to find out more about Dave or perhaps book in for a personal training session, head on over to f-fit.co.uk.

Dave is also on Instagram at @davetilstonyoga, Facebook at Dave Tilston Yoga and Calisthenics, and Twitter at @dtyogaandcali


Luke Jones
Luke Jones is a mover, blogger and wellness enthusiast. He spends his time exploring and sharing ideas in mindful movement, healthy living and adventure.

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