1. There are so many types of yoga. How do you define "True Yoga?"
True Yoga is the full spectrum of practices and philosophies outlined in Patanjali's Yoga Sutras. It includes ethical lifestyle practices, physical movement, energy control, introspection, meditation, selfless service, and devotion. This is called Raja (Royal) Yoga, or what I call True Yoga. The Yoga Sutras are the outline to these practices, and I focus on a section of the Sutras called the "Eight Limbs of Yoga." I teach these on some level in every class and client session. I am a Yoga Therapist, so when physical yoga (Asana) is needed, I teach a mixture of traditions, including Astaanga, Vinyasa, Kundalini, Kripalu, Yin, and Restorative, depending on the capabilities and goals of the student.
2. How has practicing True Yoga improved your life?
Yoga didn't just improve my life—it saved my life. The whole reason I delved so deeply into the yoga teachings was because I have had an inordinate amount of loss and grief with which to deal—deaths of loved ones, two divorces, abuse, suicide, depression, single parenthood, and financial hardship. In the teachings of True Yoga I found inspiration and actual strategies for overcoming these challenges, ways to improve my thought, balance my emotions, and connect to Spirit. Of course I still have down days when I feel frustrated and sad. But I have a big toolbox to reach into and find my way back to strength and positivity. The inner practices of the Eight Limbs of Yoga enabled me to find authentic happiness and to retain this joy even when life delivers difficulty. In my Yoga Therapy sessions with clients, I have taught these principles and have seen again and again how powerfully transformative they are.
3. Can anyone can benefit from True Yoga?
Absolutely! In my Yoga Therapy practice, I have worked with people of varying ages and health conditions, from the optimally fit to the terminally ill. All of them have benefited from the practice of True Yoga. It is a science of living that has both inner and outer components to help us with every problem we face. On a physical level, Yoga is both an alternative and complementary form of medicine. Studies have shown that a regular yoga practice can positively affect stress levels, pain management, high blood pressure, diabetes, constipation, insomnia, PMS, depression, anxiety, and more. It can be used in conjunction with traditional treatments or exclusively depending on the patient. Additionally, it is a spiritual practice, and because we are spiritual beings as well as physical ones, we need ways to integrate spirituality with our pragmatic, daily life. True Yoga gives us the ways to do this.
4. What are some common misconceptions about yoga?
Many people in the West assume that yoga is simply a form of exercise, because all they have seen or experienced are the yoga postures. And then they suppose that you have to be flexible or in shape to practice yoga. This couldn't be further from the truth! Although there is a physical portion to yoga, it is a tiny fraction of the full practice. The physical postures are meant to bring stability and ease into the body. Greater fitness and flexibility is often a by-product of this postural practice. But, the greater intent is that when the body is in balance, we are able to enter meditation comfortably and access the quiet place where we perceive our true nature, beyond the fluctuations of human life in any given moment. We become less emotionally reactive and thrown about by our thoughts and feelings. We learn to recognize unproductive or unhealthy patterns and tendencies. And we acquire the strength to overcome them and move toward a healthier lifestyle as well as a deeper understanding of the purpose of life.
5. Why does the ancient text of the Yoga Sutras matter today?
Although yoga is very much in the public eye these days, through glamorous images of people doing beautiful postures in exotic locations, the average yoga class attendee does not know much about the Yoga Sutras. We are attracted to things physically first, but like any relationship, for it to last there must be more than physical attraction. The text of the Yoga Sutras holds the greater relational information for those who want to practice True Yoga and create meaningful connection to their authentic Self. This vast and ancient philosophy gives us a rich experience of life in each moment and a deep capacity to love and be loved. In my book, True Yoga, I focus on the section of the Yoga Sutras called the Eight Limbs because they are a concise guide to this inner freedom and joy.
6. What do you hope people take away from True Yoga?
At this time when far too much pop-culture emphasis has been placed on the physical aspect of yoga, I hope that this book will educate people on the classical purpose and universal spiritual benefits of True Yoga. It is in fact so much more than exercise. It is a proven science for transforming challenges, embracing peace, and expanding consciousness. The amazing and ancient teachings of the Eight Limbs are pragmatic and interactive, so I hope that readers will engage in a personal way with the Daily Practices, Questions for Reflection, and Affirmations. If they do, I know they will experience positive change. As readers integrate this wisdom into daily life, I hope True Yoga inspires them to believe in their capacity to heal no matter what, and to never ever give up on joy.