Lee Downer, Founder, Danglefit® Aerial Back Therapy and Danglefit® Inversion Yoga
1) What is your profession and what are the specific dimensions of your work?
I am the award-winning author of the book on back care, entitled “No Pain, Your Gain” and the E-Book “The Shocking Truth about Back Pain”. I am also the founder and creator of Danglefit® Inversion Yoga which is back care, brain care, fitness, fun, and games. Simply put, I invert my clients, upside down, so as to stretch their spine to decompress it and alleviate their back pain conditions such as herniated disc, degenerative disc disease, sciatica, and scoliosis among other back pain conditions. I am passionate about fitness and health and have spent most my life and career helping and coaching others to become stronger, fitter, and healthier. Now I am committed to creating a global community of certified Danglefit® Inversion Yoga Instructors armed with the knowledge and ability to eliminate human suffering from chronic back pain conditions.
2) How did you come to this type of career?
In my second year of study at York University, the YMCA hired me as a fitness consultant. One day the yoga teacher did not show up to teach his class, so my manager asked me if I would teach it. I said, “No, I can’t, I have never done that before” and she said, “just go and do whatever you can because we really don’t want to cancel the class”. So, I did and from that day until now, I have never stopped teaching yoga. Yoga turned out to be a good temporary solution for my back pain but not the ultimate solution. As the years went by, my yoga knowledge and experience grew and evolved from basic yoga to “Office Yoga Oasis©” and “CorYoga©” (my very own brands of yoga) and now to Danglefit® Inversion Yoga.
3) Tell us something about your process of study and formal and/or informal education and the nature of your degrees and/or training. When, where, and how did you become educated and qualified to do what you do?
After graduating from Centennial College and working as an electronics draftsman, I found myself spending almost every moment of my free time, weight training at the gym and learning from my coach, Ron Eland an Olympic Weight Lifting and Body Building Champion. Soon I was coaching others and helping them become weight training and body building champions. My love and passion for fitness and my desire to solve my chronic back pain, motivated me to enroll in Physical Education and Pure & Applied Sciences at York University. My plan was to graduate from York and get accepted at the Canadian Memorial Chiropractic College. Due to lack of resources, I did not achieve those educational goals, but I did get hired by the YMCA. The Y trained me in many areas of fitness and soon I was creating new programs for the YMCA including Y’s Way to a Healthy Back, and the Youth Certification Program for teaching safe weight training techniques to youths.
I continued to focus on Yoga and began teaching my stress reduction program called “Office Yoga Oasis” to large companies such as Human Resources Development Canada (HRDC), Financial Services Commission of Ontario, Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System (OMERS), NBC Universal Studios, Ministry of Housing and Municipal Affairs, and several others.
When I saw people inverting, upside down, on the internet, I thought, “that should be good for back pain”. I immediately called up the yoga school and registered for the certification program called “Suspension Yoga”. That was in 2013, in Toronto. Right after my suspension training, I went immediately into studying a program called Aerial Yoga certification. During my training, while other students were making notes about suspension and yoga, I wasn’t interested in that. I was making notes on how this could help to fix and alleviate back pain conditions. After my certification, in both programs, I immediately went to work. I took the best from both Suspension Yoga and Aerial Yoga and created my own program specifically to treat back pain conditions. I threw out all the dangerous postures, redesigned the best ones to be super safe and effective and I called it Danglefit® Aerial Back Therapy which I have recently rebranded as “Danglefit® Inversion Yoga”.
4) What were the greatest obstacles that you had to overcome to achieve the success that you now experience? What challenges have your experienced and how have you overcome them? What goals do you have left to accomplish?
My greatest obstacle is still yet to be overcome, but I am chipping away at it. Here it is. Recently I went to a physiotherapist clinic and offered to join the clinic and bring my Danglefit® Inversion Yoga program. I put the owners of the clinic on the sling and they loved it. We created an agreement that we both signed. We had a workshop set up and one person registered. Then the owner came back to me and told me that she spoke with her clients and they are not interested in it and that I should take it to yoga studios. Ok I thought, maybe that was the case, but I can’t help feeling in my gut that of all the therapists in that clinic, I was the only one in the clinic who did not have a university degree. Then I took my Danglefit® Inversion Yoga to a chiropractor. The moment he looked at my “Inches in Seconds” video he became impressed. I took him to my private studio where I put him on my Danglefit® Sling and immediately he came up with many ways in which this would be helpful to elite athletes who perform twisting sports such as baseball, hockey, golf etc. He said, “I want you and this in my clinic.” Now Danglefit® Inversion Yoga is a part of the Sinclair Sports Medical Clinic. We are located at 494 Veterans Dr. Unit 17, Barrie, Ontario. While speaking with the chiropractic clinic owner Dr. James Anderson and the registered massage therapist, Scott Grisewood, Scott asked me this, “did the physiotherapy clinic that you were at not see what we see in your Danglefit Inversion Yoga?”
What I want is for people who have relevant certificates and degrees to see Danglefit® Inversion Yoga for all the great benefits that it has to offer, understand it, and use it to heal their clients. So, my biggest obstacle is yet to be overcome, but as I said, I am chipping away at it. My big, hairy, audacious goal is that one day, people with certificates and degrees will look at Danglefit®Inversion Yoga and finally see what I saw and start using it to benefit all mankind.
5) Did you have any role models or mentors either in your domains of entrepreneurship, work, research, and creation or outside of them? Who were they and how were they instrumental in shaping you as a person and as a professional?
I have had several role models and mentors. Two who stand out for me are Ronald William Eland, Olympian and Raymond Aaron, New York Times Best Selling Author. Ron was a black South African weight lifting champion but could not represent South Africa in the 1948 Olympics because of apartheid. So, he moved to England, competed with and defeated the British champion and represented England in the 1948 Olympic games. Then he moved to Canada where I met him. In the 1980’s and 90’s, together Ron and I took a long-distance runner off the road and trained her in the hopes of making her stronger for her sport of marathon running. It turned out that we converted her into an Ontario and Canadian Weightlifting Champion. I learned a lot from Ron Eland. One of the many things that I learned from him is this saying, “Mr. Lee Downer, Downtowner Man, be careful how you treat people because the people who you are going to pass on your way, going up, are the same people you are going to pass on your way going down”. I will never forget Ron’s words.
Although Ron passed away over 20 years ago, he still lives on in me. My other role model is a white, Jewish man by the name of Raymond Aaron. What a powerhouse this man is! Raymond is not only my business coach and mentor, but he is also my spiritual leader. He is a New York Times Best Selling Author, he is a genius, a quantum physicist and the only person on the planet to author two “Chicken Soup for the Soul Books” and a “For Dummies” Book. He is also the publisher of my book, “No Pain, Your Gain”. He has taught me how to define my Danglefit® target market in detail and how to effectively sell to them. These are two critical things any business must have. He is currently teaching me how to rise out of the sea of sameness and climb up onto the island of individuality, so that I may float effortlessly, for the rest of my life, down the river of relevant differentiation. He is the father I have never had.
6) What does your daily work routine look like? Where is your place of business/production and how do you stay focused and productive?
My daily work routine is fairly simple. I get up in the morning and have coffee with my wife and go to either teach CorYoga at the local YMCA or to Sinclair Sports Medical Clinic in Barrie, Ontario where I invert my clients, upside down for the relief of various back pain conditions. Staying focussed is easy for me, as I am always thinking of ways to promote Danglefit®Inversion Yoga even when I am at the gym.
7) What are your guiding principles? What informs how you do your work and how you engage with your co-workers, clients, customers, or consumers?
When I was teaching hot yoga for Extreme Fitness in Toronto, I had several dedicated students. There was a time when I had not seen one particular student for about 2 years and I had been wondering what happened to her and where she had gone? Then one day she showed up for class and she told me this story. She said, “Lee, I know you haven’t seen me for a while but this is what happened to me. I was in a bad car accident and I was trapped in my mangled car. My leg was broken in several places, ribs were broken, I had punctured lungs and while I was trapped in the car the only thing that kept me alive was the sound of your voice in my head saying, “inhale, exhale, inhale, exhale.”
In every single posture, I teach my students when to breathe. For example, “inhale, reach your arms up, exhale, sweep them out to the side and come to forward bend”. When she told me that story, I realized that I never know what I will say that may change someone’s life. So, one of my guiding principles is, be good to everyone I meet, because I never know when and what I will say or do that may change someone’s life, or in this lady’s case, save her life. That was one of the proudest moments of my career, knowing that I am doing good work without being consciously aware of it.
8) What are you working on now and when and how will it be shared?
I am currently working on “duplicating myself” by completing a Danglefit® Certification Program for training professionals such as Chiropractors, Massage Therapists, Physiotherapists and other health professionals. The idea is to create a global community of Danglefit® Inversion Yoga Therapists.
9) What are you proudest of in your career?
Having saved the life of one of my students, as I described above in #7.
10) What are you proudest of in your life?
One of the proudest moments of my life was the day that my sister came to visit my home and I took her into my back yard vegetable garden. I watched her harvest my fresh, organically-grown vegetables that I grew. Both our father and mother have passed away and are no longer able to provide for us. Now, I am providing for her by growing fresh vegetables to feed her and her family. This was an extremely proud moment in my life and I will continue to do this for her until I leave the planet.
11) What fiction or non-fiction book should be essential reading?
There are so many, and they belong in the same category. I would say…
- Dying To Be Me: My Journey from Cancer, to Near Death, to True Healing (2012) by Anita Moorjani
- Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon’s Journey into the Afterlife (2012) by Eben Alexander M.D.
- Backwards: Returning to Our Source for Answers (2007) by Nanci L. Danison
- Beyond Sight: The True Story of a Near-Death Experience (2014) by Marion Rome
They are all books on Near Death Experiences. We all should read these books because they teach us what happens to us after we die. The reasons we need to learn this is so that we can learn how to live harmoniously with each other today, right now! Based on what I have learned from these books, I can say that when we die, we are all going to have a review of the life that we just finished living. We will experience the consequences of every single action that we have taken. That person who we are currently hurting either with our thoughts, words, or actions, we will become them in the afterlife. If we know that in the afterlife we will experience every pain, hurt, and suffering that we have inflicted on others, we will change the way we live, and the world would be a better place today.
12) What TV show or film should be essential viewing?
There are two TV shows that I believe are essential viewing. They are the Star Trek series and Ted Lasso. The science fiction tells us where we are actually going in the future as humans. Ted Lasso on the other hand teaches us how we could live harmoniously together.
13) How do you relax and take care of yourself?
Now this is going to sound weird and strange, but I relax when my feet are going round and round in circles on a stationary bike in the gym. When I am pulling and pushing weights, picking them up and putting them down with my favorite music playing in my ears. This is very relaxing and meditative for me. At the same time, I am actually taking care of myself.
14) What’s next?
I am continuing the push to get Danglefit® Inversion Yoga to be recognized. There has been some research on Inversion Therapy, but not enough to discern all the wonderful benefits of turning the human body upside down. I know that there are many wonderful benefits because I have experienced some of them. My clients have experience some them as well. One day, maybe when I am long gone, some open-minded people will study the effects of inverting the human body, upside down. Then they will see what I am seeing and currently enjoying with Danglefit® Inversion Yoga.
My ancestors were Maroons. I am a Maroon. The word Maroon comes from the Spanish word cimarrón which means “wild,” as a noun, “runaway slave”. My ancestors who were enslaved runaways, escaped into the highest peaks of the Blue Mountains of Jamaica. To maintain their freedom, they had to fight the British Red coats constantly. They triumphantly fought two wars against the British, settlers, and military in the eighteenth century, both of which ended with treaties affirming the independence of the Maroons. That is where I was born, Top Mountain, Portland, Jamaica.
Since we were Maroons, we did not pay taxes to the government and the government of Jamaica felt no obligation to provide us with proper schools and resources for education. So, in order for us kids to get any manner of education, we had a long way to go to get to a one room schoolhouse, where corporal punishment was more plentiful than learning reading, writing, and arithmetic.
We were a posse of kids, running barefooted, down the mountain for about forty-five minutes to get to a wide river, the Rio Grande, that we had to cross without a bridge or boat. So, to get across the river, we had to draw a piece of vine from the bushes, take off our clothes, fold them neatly and tie them to the top of our heads. Slowly and carefully, each of us would swim across the river to the other side. Once across, we would redress, and continue running for another twenty minutes just to get to school. So, you can understand when I say, “I did not have a strong educational start in life. That followed me but did not hinder me”.
I came to Canada alone in 1974 as a fourteen-year-old kid. A year later, I was playing floor hockey in school when the puck went into the corner of the gym. I thought I heard the referee blow the whistle, to “stop” the game. So, I walked casually into the corner to get the puck, when I was aggressively checked, quite unexpectedly from the side. In that moment, one of my spinal discs got pushed out to the side, resulting in a herniated disc. For the next twenty-seven years I lived with severe low back pain caused by that herniated disc and resultant degenerative disc disease. My back pain was so bad that the simple task of rolling over from my back to my side on my bed would take me 4 to 5 minutes. This would take most people just a few seconds. Ever since then, I have been looking for a way to rid myself of my back pain. I went to Chiropractors, Physiotherapists, Massage Therapists, and Medical Doctors. All the treatments that I had provided some minor temporary relief, but the pain always come back. Until I finally discovered the root cause of most, if not all back pain conditions. That is what I do now, using what I have discovered to help other people alleviate their back pain.
When I discovered Inversion Therapy and created the program that I called Danglefit® Inversion Yoga, little did I know that it would not only be a great treatment for back pain conditions, but it would also help in retraining the brain for some brain conditions, as well as anti-aging benefits.