This is changing the face of yoga and this is episode 105 and I have a really exciting guest today. This is our first yoga student on changing the face of yoga. Her name is Diane Randall and Diane is energized, committed, and passionate about leading wellness conversations around life balance, self-care, plant based nutrition and whole life wellness. Her joy is seeing individuals adapt health and wellness methods that reduce stress and bring harmonious balance to their lives. She excels at equipping business professionals with workable wellness advice and strategies that meet their demanding lifestyle. And she's been a yoga student for 12 years. Welcome Diane. And I'm really glad to have you on the podcast. I think the way you're going to look at it as very different from most of my guests and I'm really excited to talk to you about it. So can you just tell us how you started in Yoga?
I started in yoga many years ago. Probably 15 years ago. I went to a class, I won't say I started, I'll say I went to a class maybe 15 years ago and I went with my brother and, and just to make the story go faster. I did not like the yoga because my mind was running 50 miles a minute. And then here I am in this yoga class trying to relax and be still and it just wasn't happening. So I decided that yoga wasn't for me. It wasn't for me because I'm laying down in Shavasana thinking about all the calls I need to make, all the things I needed to do. So I, I left the class and I didn't go back until about 12 and a half, 13 years ago when what I realized was I wasn't ready, ready for Yoga because my life at that time was so hectic, so stressed. I literally had a monkey mind just going 50 miles a minute. I wasn't sleeping.
And what I realized was when I went back that I was really rattled, ready to settle into the classes just to see what it was all about. Because at that time I had, I had very high blood pressure and a lot of stress. So I was just looking for something to help me to just calm myself down. But what ended up happening, I settled into, I surrendered really into the practice because I didn't know what I did know. But what has happened over the years is I found so much peace, so much a enjoyment in just having a calm mind. It really helped me to settle down over time.
And I didn't even see that coming. Not only did it helped me settle, it has really enriched my life in a way over time that I have developed more patience. My heart has opened up a lot more, you know, just settling into the calmness of the meditation and the Yoga. So what I'd say is it's really, really helped me to change my life over the years. And I've taken some of the practices that I've learned to help, not only to center my clients, my students, whoever I'm with initially, but I help people to just clear any noise or chatter that is in their heads. Before I started class or I started coaching session or start of just consulting. So it's really allowed me to just be present with people in my life as far as my work, in my home life.
As teachers and therapists, we all know this, but it's so exciting to hear that it really worked well for a student. But that you had to be ready to accept it first.
Yes. I had to be ready and I was like, this is too slow for me. I don't want to do this anymore. And I'm like, you know, I don't know what that's about, but I recognize that I wasn't ready. I really wasn't ready at that time.
That's a good thing for teachers to know for somebody that comes to class and never comes back. No, not to put it on ourselves all the time. They're saying, hey, maybe they just weren't ready to do yoga yet. Exactly. Yeah. So you did yoga and how long do you think it took you through learning these tools and stuff to really see that significant emotional and physical difference?
What I can share with you is that I've seen it over time. I've noticed and observed myself over time because you know, it's not like you know that all these different things are going to happen to enrich your life. I would say after a few years I started noticing how much more peaceful I was, how I was engaging and sharing what I learned at my practices. Just not even thinking about it. It just became part of what I do to help to settle and integrate myself into my life as well as sharing with others. And I know how good I feel using some of my yoga techniques that I just shared that with everyone around me.
Those yoga techniques are like grounding and breathing or what ?
It's mainly grounding, it's breathing and sometimes it's just closing our eyes and sometimes I'll say a mantra and have my people close their eyes and, and I'll say a little mantra just to get everybody centered.
So your role is mainly working with people that are really stressed out, is that correct?
Stressed out. And you know when you're running, running, running, and then you meet up, whether it's at a coaching session or a class, most of the time your mind is not in the room yet. So what I do to bring everybody together and just to clear a release, whatever chatter is going on in that moment, just to get everybody in the room and ready for what I'm about to say or do.
Do you give them, what we would call yoga tools but tools of any kind that help them when they're not in the room with you?
No, no, no, I don't do that. It's mainly a tool to get everybody present to what we're about to do as well as get me present and grounded for what I'm about to do with my audience.
I see. Now you actually have expanded this out so that you're looking at wellness on several different levels. , I think you were talking about life balance, self-care, plant based nutrition. Were you doing that before, before you started taking the yoga or ?
I'll say it's been evolving. The more peaceful and the more quiet my mind became, the better I felt because I feel that yoga helped too with the stress. So at that time I just evolved into looking at life balance, helping people with demanding schedules like mine was at the time to just settle into their life and take care of themselves. Not only, mentally, physically, and spiritually, but just to look at the whole, and I feel that the yoga help to settle me down enough so that I could share everything that I was learning, which allows me to show up and just be present in the moment and grounded. That is such an awesome feeling and experience to just be grounded in the moment. And when you're running around all the time, you notice that difference. You notice it is not something you experience all the time.
when you say that you were really stressed in, in your job, have you changed your position? Have you just changed yourself?
Oh my goodness. As I've changed myself over the years, everything changed. Everything changed. I definitely don't have a stressful life anymore. Two things. My kids grew up for one thing. But I evolved so much into this person who loves the quiet when I was younger and stressed out, just be still and quiet. You know, it just didn't feel right at the time. But that's, that's my life. That's who I am. And in my work, a lot of it is helping people to come into balance, whether it's with their food, whether it's with their mindset. It's just been awesome because I feel that all that is in alignment with my life in the work I do. And I still go into corporations to do consulting work. But what I notice is over the years, I've just evolved it into this practice where I go in and I can just share. It's not that stressful energy that I used to just carry everywhere with me.
You really have taken yoga off the mat and, and use it in your life, not just in the class. Is that a fair statement?
That is a correct statement because I use all the tools that I've learned to help me to change from the inside out and be able to quiet your mind just for a second. That is huge. I've wanted people that I encountered that I come into contact with to experience the same thing, just to slow that mind. To the point where for the last five years I go to silent retreats. Well part of the retreat is yoga. I love yoga because it's such a calming. Not only do I get to stretch my bodyand to all the different positions, but when I want to check out and just go somewhere and calm down, yoga is usually involved even on the silent retreats that I've gone to for the past five years.
You say that you help people with self-care and there is a certain level of, shall we say, a burnout among yoga teachers. What would you say to someone to help them with their self-care? What would you give them, some tools or some help or ?
The first thing I would say in, the main thing I would say is I always tell people to check inside. So really close your eyes and explore to really feel what's going on? What is the truth of what I'm experiencing? Because you know when you're burnt out, it's a combination of things that have happened over time and it's being honest and authentic about what may be going on inside. It's really taking an honest look at your life and what's going on to get an indication of where your energy and attention is in the moment around the time that you're feeling burnt out. It's exploring that burnout. What does that mean? What has transpired? Why am I in this? The current situation? It's exploring that, not just looking at it as burnout. How did I arrive here? It's really digging in and exploring that.
As you experienced, you would have to be ready to do that. I'm sure it could be a little off putting, perhaps is the word, that you know to really dig into yourself and see what's happening. Sometimes you just kind of ignore it.
You've really said it because if you're not ready then you're not going to figure it out, but you have to be ready. And if it's off putting, then it's like, okay, what is that off putting about? Why am I feeling that way about it and everything I do, I tell everyone it's about being authentic, being honest about what is really going on here. Just be honest with yourself about it. And you know what? Once you figure it out, you may not be ready to deal with that. And that's okay too. But the changes happen when we're ready to explore. To dig inside and make what I call a mindful change is to dig in, to really figure out what's going on and try to change that from the inside out.
And do you have any tips or tools if somebody is at that point to help them make that change from the inside out?
Well, let me tell you what works for me. And I've had so many years for this. What I do now is I don't start trying to figure things out. I sit, I sit with myself, I sit and I'm still, and I'm quiet and I sit, I'm quiet. And then a lot of times if you quiet your mind down, the answers start coming forward, you know? So if I'm stressed out, maybe if I could just sit down and be quiet for five minutes, you know, maybe even close my eyes. Maybe some truth about what's going on will come forward because you've quieted your mind down enough and you're still enough for something to come in to give you some ideas. At least that is what I do now. I'll say, oh my goodness, I need to do something and I don't know what to do in this moment. So now I say, you know what, I'm just gonna. I'm just gonna sit with this, see what comes up.
I love this aspect of yoga that we've never explored before. To see it from the student's point of view and I think you've just done a great job of explaining how you've embraced yoga and taking it into all parts of your life. But I would like to know if there's anything that either you think we haven't covered in enough depth or that you would like the listeners to know that we haven't covered at all since we're coming to the end of the podcast. But I'd like you to have that opportunity if there's something that you want to say.
No, I would just like to leave the listeners with just taking a minute to just be quiet and be still and see if something comes up. See if something comes forward in terms of something little that you can use to just make your life a little bit better. If you're looking at maybe self-care or making your life more balanced. It's just sitting quiet and seeing what you need in that moment.
Thank you. I do want to mention that Diane has written a book. Diane, the title is
Jumpstart Your Life. Find your motivation and change your life one step at a time.
Yes, I downloaded the book today. I was impressed with all of the really practical tools that you had in there about going through negative self-talk and self care and getting balanced. It was all very well done. I thought.
Thank you very much. It was a workshop that I taught for 10 years that I decided to put into a book because I used those exercises to really help people, not only free their lives up but learning how to focus on the part of your life that needs your attention and energy. And, you know, we have to give ourselves permission because there's so much negative self talk about, why are you doing this? You know, it's just giving ourselves permission to dive into our lives and see what's going on.
For people that are experiencing stress or burnout, um, I thought it was a very usable resource.
I appreciate that.
Well, thank you, Diane. And so glad that you came on. Like I said, I'm so excited we have a yoga student and I think that you really show what Yoga can be to people who do not want to teach it or be a therapist, but just live with it like you do. Thank you so much.
00:47 This is Changing the Face of Yoga and this is the hundred and fourth episode. I'm very excited to welcome Stephanie Spence to the podcast and she has a really interesting topic. We're going to talk about how to be environmentally aware as a Yogi.
01:03 Thanks so much for having me.
01:05 Oh, you're welcome. I think this is a great topic. Stephanie has been practicing yoga for almost 40 years, which is pretty incredible in and of its self, she's a yoga educator and author, an inspirational speaker and activist and a creative leader. She's based in Coronado, California, and she's a trail blazer with an inspiring and empowering approach to self inquiry and personal development. Her book, Yoga wisdom: Warrior Tales Inspiring you on an off your Mat is available wherever books are sold. She's committed to helping ignite the desire for others to create a life of health and joy for themselves through a sustainable practice of yoga for a lifetime of transformation. She's on a mission to inspire the whole world to practice yoga. Welcome Stephanie, and is there anything else you'd like to add to that?
02:10 No. Stephanie, thank you so much. I'm just so honored to be here and always thrilled to meet another Stephanie.
02:15 I know there's so few of us in the world now. Stephanie put out a Facebook post, which I thought was really fascinating about how yogis and why Yogis should be environmentally sensitive and look to saving the planet in their own way. Stephanie has agreed to talk about this because I think it's important for all Yogis to kind of get this thought in their brain. Do I, and how do I be better at this? So Stephanie, what I think we were talking before, and you said there was, what, 300,000 yogis?
03:01 No, in fact, I think now the new numbers, 300 million Yogis on the planet. And collectively I really think we have an opportunity to shift either awareness or what would be really incredible is to shift practices around the value set, in the lens through which we're searching for goods and services in the marketplace.
So I think I just started thinking about, okay, I don't know if I've been responsible in figuring out where I'm getting my products, goods and services until I had a personal experience working at a yoga studio where the people that were running the studio were incredibly unethical. And ever since then it really shifted my life and my awareness around the idea of, wow, are we just doing yoga poses or are we actually really trying to live a yogic life? And I think most people would like to really take their practice off the mat. So that's where this idea came from, was working at this studio where the people didn't pay yoga teachers and didn't source the materials and the things that they were selling from respectable and ethical sources. And it really was upsetting to me at the time because I kept on saying, this is so not yoga. And then I thought to myself, well, how, how can I explain that to somebody else?
04:40 I was looking at my stuff that I have and my blocks and my mats and all of that seem to be plastic-based in one way or another. And I have tried mats that were natural fibers and they didn't work very well. So how do we go about being more ethical and yet still be safe in some ways?
05:14 I think that's a really good question. I think the positive ethical qualities that you're talking about are outlined in Hatha Yoga And if you'll allow me, I'd like us to even talk about some of those qualities because you're right, I mean, it's expensive to go out and, and try all these different products and there's so many designations now when you look, and I think people are heavily influenced by a couple of buzz words that they hear all the time.
And a friend of mine works in the green movement in sustainable fashion. And I started to ask him how do people even find these things out? And how many people really are going to take the time to dig really deep and figure out if that mat actually is going to break back down and become less of a carbon footprint or how can we reduce the damage that we're doing to the oceans. Your brain can just explode thinking about all these big questions.
06:28 So I think for me, I try and break it down and use these 10 principles to kind of help me assess for myself how I'm conducting myself in the world.
06:47 For instance, the first one, nonviolence, which is a Ahimsa, it's really about, people always think about, oh, don't kill other beings, but it's really about being peaceful. And the way that I like to look at that as it pertains to this subject is that as I am out in the world, I'm trying to match my sensibilities with the values that I am aspiring to. And I think so the idea that if I can take something as simple a concept as being peaceful with the idea that wow, these things that I'm buying and using does it have that same effect on the world? And then another one is truthfulness, which is Satya. And so it's not only about being honest with yourself, it's about being honest with others and living in truth. So if, if you're honest with yourself and others, I'm also expecting other people to give full disclosure. So you should be able to go on to anybody's site and they should not only have like their ethics or their company code of conduct or their mission statement. They should have something that you should be able to access. And I think that's a really interesting one is truthfulness or the Satya is that it's really not only about being honest with ourselves and others, it's about these companies being honest with us as well. Right. Another one that I like to look at is the third one, it's righteousness, which is a Asteya. And it's really about like non-stealing or non-cheating But more than that it's actually defined as looking at fair trade. So for instance, in exchange for product goods and services, a fair price or a fair way of operating in the world. And I think so many companies now, thank God, have done a really good job of perhaps giving up a portion of their proceeds to a charity or have looked at ways of making things affordable for the masses instead of like organic food, just being accessible to people, to rich people or that kind of principle. I think this falls under that category, meaning that if you feel really good about your exchange with a consumer or a company, I think that's a yoga observance. And I think that my behavior in the world for inspired living from these companies, their products, their services or their professional practices should match what we're trying to do and, and how we're trying to live.
10:18 I think that's a really great idea. But how do we get that kind of information out there?
10:24 That's a really good question. I think you have to discern for yourself, not only through trusted sources and evaluating, maybe the marketing of how you're receiving information. It's become a really big buzz right now in the United States about what is fake news or what is it. But I think we've always been subjected to subtle forms or call it manipulation or advertising or marketing, but now that we've determined through problems that they've had through social media, for instance, Facebook, but you can actually now be, manipulated into thinking good or bad things or using your own judgment has become, I think, trickier. So you're right, I think it's up to us to live in a spiritual focus, which actually takes me to number four, which is wisdom, which is Brahmacharya. So as I live in this spiritual focus and as I'm cultivating my inner and outer happiness, I think being centered in that is really important. So I don't know about you, but I think this makes me think about the difference between like a habit and a ritual. Like is it just habit to assume that the way that you see this information or this product or whatever if it has that good vibe and a good feeling and you know, peaceful colors and beautiful people or whatever, you're just kind of assuming based on a million different things that they hire really powerful marketing teams to put together for them, that they have your wellbeing in mind.
12:34 But I think we just have to remind ourselves it's a business. I try and live with the spiritual focus. I think sometimes I actually even become a little naive in practicing this, this quality of Brahmacharya which is wisdom. But I don't want to be ignorant to the realities of a purchasing goods because it is a business, right? So I don't know about you, but I think sometimes I've bought things thinking that I was doing the right thing, but you're right. Like I'll bring home a mat and it just falls apart. So I think I have to be very careful of saying, well maybe somebody is trying to do the right thing, but, but unless I am accountable to myself to really do the research, I think it's just, instead of it being a practice, it's more of a habit. It's just, I'm going to kind of default to the idea that, oh, if this major brand said something that it must be really good for me because they're yogis right
13:51 Now that's a great point. Because the marketing can fool us. They look very Yogic, shall we say. But you really have to do some research to confirm that.
14:09 Right, exactly. And it is a sad, but true for me, it's amazing how all of these challenges become these lessons. I mean, we talk about it all the time, but when I worked for this yoga studio, I assumed because they were running a yoga studio, that the people that were running the studio were ethical and very yoga centered and, even I only worked there part time for a short period of time. I talk about this in my book. It was when I was first diving deeper into yoga because you're right, I've practiced for 40 years, but I've only been a yoga teacher now for about 15. But as I was diving deeper into what do I really want to do with this yoga teaching certificate? I actually considered opening a studio. So I thought I should work at one to see what it's really like. And thank God for me encountering this awful experience. I ended up finding out a lot about myself and a lot about how I wanted to move forward in the yoga community. And that's why I ended up writing a book instead. But at the time it was so shocking to me, Stephanie, they reported to the government that I made like thousands of dollars working for them when I actually hadn't.
15:32 So not only did they not pay their teachers, they have these products that were cheap and sourced from bad sources and whatever. And I found that out only because I was working there. And then on top of it, they lied to the government about how much they paid me. I mean, the whole thing just sounds crazy, but I think that's why I'm still talking about it because it left a huge impact on me. And that's why, I think this is kind of an interesting subject. I think we have a choice and, and that's one of the really cool things that yoga teaches, that we are designing our life, that we are accountable for how we move and operate through the world. And obviously everybody wants to do that in a really wonderful, healthy body, mind and spirit.
16:26 We got to Brahmacharya I think the next one is, is simplicity, which is Aparigraha. I never say that correctly. I'm trying to say these slowly because I mispronounce them terribly. And a lot of this is not only being moderate and external in outwardly ways, but also the energy that you use in your actions and how you consume is actually defined in this simplicity principle, which I think is really interesting.
The next one is worship of a spiritual goal. And that's Ishvara Pranidanha and that is, is how we remind ourselves and again and again of our spiritual goal. So in other words as I apply it to this we daily practice, I have to kind of use the energy to force myself to evaluate these things.
17:37 It's so much easier just to have somebody else tell us what to do. I think this idea of worship of a spiritual goal and practicing our spiritual goals is we are accountable is the way I interpret this.
The next one is sacrificing the ego which is Satya, but I think that really to have a purity of mind, speech and body of a clarity of thought. I don't know necessarily how it would really apply it to this, but I think it just means that as, as we clean out our own house and our own body, mind and spirit, you want to take care of, of, of how you maintain that. So again, I think it's about am I constantly living the principles in the way that I want to exist in the world. These observances, but I think we're supposed to follow.
The next one is self-discipline, which is Tapas. A lot of people know that word, but that really just same thing, kind of as a reflection of the last one. It means to live a disciplined life. And I think that it's cool that we're kind of accountable and I love it that people look to us as teachers and how we lead by example more than how we lead. And I think the real integrity comes in when you not only talk these things but if you walk the walk too.
The next one we have a couple more is a reading, which is Svadhyaya. And that's really just like a mantra or a meditation. And I think sometimes keeping us on the spiritual path. It connects us in a way that makes us like spiritual victors. I feel like the sense of community that I'm talking about, that if all of us came together and just even try to couple of these things that we're talking about today that we could really effect change on a global scale. I think that's just really amazing.
The last one is a contentment or Santosha. And really that's just being satisfied with one has and of course in a state of gratitude, I think you operate from a place of, wow, do I really need more? Do I need more yoga pants? Do I need more stuff? Do I need more products? Now I've found that sometimes I'll dedicate the idea that instead of going out and buying something else, I'll spend that money to invest on either, I don't know, like a online class on yoga philosophy or something. Now this just applies to yoga, but I don't know about you, but the number one thing that people ask me all the time is, how can I take what I'm doing on my mat off the mat? So I think that it's really just about how are we conducting ourselves in the world in a way that really feels like it's part of a bigger yoga community. So that's one of the reasons I think it's cool. You and I are even talking, it is a global conversation now and I just love that.
21:05 I think I'm going to divert a little bit here, but it is a question that keeps coming up, which is obviously yoga has a real basis in philosophy. It's not just an exercise, but how do you recommend or do you yourself bring that philosophy onto the mat other than how we act and how we model. I certainly think that's important, but I'm wondering, a lot of people kind of want to share it and yet it seems to be a rather difficult thing in some ways.
21:41 No, I think that's a really good question. For me. I think it's so easy to cut to the chase when I just asked myself, how you do yoga is how you do life. So as I'm so grateful that I've been able to practice yoga now for 40 years. I've obviously gone through a lot of different phases, this is my healthiest lifelong companion and my buddy and my teacher and my go to because I have been able to develop self-awareness and trust my intuition. But more than that I am constantly still unfolding in a really cool organic way. So for instance, the other day I went to a yoga class and I was frustrated because I felt like the teacher was doing dangerous sequencing. So I had to ask myself, okay, first off, am I frustrated in the rest of my life and where's that coming from? Or more than that, it's sometimes really challenging for me to speak up and I had to ask myself is it, do I want to try and talk to this person or do I just do my deal and leave or, so I think there's so much investigation of the philosophy that while you're on your mat, you can, if you want to use it as a tool for self-awareness and to reveal to you aspects of your life. Sometimes it's just a matter of asking myself, well, am I getting what I need? I've recently discovered that I was actually doing yoga that wasn't as physically easy or as physically challenging as I needed because I had dropped into too much of the philosophy or the other yummy aspects. And I had to ask myself, wow, if you want to practice yoga forever, even if it's just yin or, something on the physical side, I can be able to move and do what I want and move through the world in a way that I feel good. and without the physical practice it is a body, mind and spirit. So I like all three components. Some people, especially in the west, it's super-fitness oriented right now. You can easily fall into an imbalance of even the things that you're trying to do.
24:35 I think it is. I think it is an interesting concept that teachers have to get across that yes, I am your guide, but you are in charge of your yoga on the mat and you really have to go in deep and think, is this what I want and should I do this this way or can I do it another way ? I think that is important because I think sometimes people aren't used to that gentle way of guiding. They're used to you do this now and do four push-ups or whatever.
25:15 I think you're so right, it's so much easier just to have somebody else tell you what to do. And sometimes I actually want to go to a class because of that. I just don't want to think today, I just want somebody else to tell me what to do. But what I've found is that there's kind of no escaping it as you're just there by yourself. You're right. A good teacher will present what they have to share that day. And it's really up to you to whether or not you take something with you. Right.
25:50 I have one question at the end: , is there anything that we have talked about or that you want to go into more depth with that you want the listeners to know or something that we haven't covered at all?
26:07 I think what you're saying about this idea of the responsibility of teachers is kind of interesting and as you just said it, I thought we do sometimes too, I think Yoga teachers are set to a yummy, lovey, huggy bear kind of group of really nice people. And I think sometimes too, we need to challenge ourselves that people really are listening to us. And perhaps maybe talk about something like this in a class or you know, if you have a website or blog or you send out a newsletter, I just think it would be interesting. You don't have to support or discourage somebody from any certain company or product or whatever. But I think until something personally happened to me, I didn't start thinking about this. And because I also have a friend of mine who is an ethical fashion, he's really at the forefront of this.
27:09 And I said to them all, of course I'd like to buy clothes that are ethically sourced and the people aren't in a sweatshop somewhere and they're treated well and whatever. I said, but my God, we're so busy and there's so much information out there. How do I find those things out? He said, well, there's a lot of really good people that are trying to do that. Same with Yoga teachers. I think there's a lot of really good people on the planet that are serving others by doing this. So maybe this is just something else that you would introduce.
27:40 Thank you so much; it's really been fascinating. I've never thought of applying those 10 principles to environmental good. They are so all encompassing, aren't they? That we can really use them to think our way through almost any problem that we might have.
28:10 I think so. And I think everybody will have their own interpretation of these. You know, as I, as I talked through them, you'll have a different interpretation too, which I think is actually a really beautiful aspect of this. So that's awesome. Thank you so much for having me.
28:26 You're welcome. I really enjoyed this. It was a really different way to think about yoga and what are our responsibilities might be. There is quite a responsibility to being a teacher I think, and introducing yoga to people.
28:42 I feel really lucky I've been able to do this. I hope that your listeners will check out my book and if you want to find me for more information or if you want to send me a question or are you hate what I say or you want to connect I am on Stephanie spence.com.
29:46 So thank you so much Stephanie. I just, I thought it was a really interesting podcast that is a really new way to look at philosophy. For some reason philosophy seems to be coming up a lot with the podcast guests these days and I think that's probably a good thing.
30:00 Thank you so much. Have a super rest of your day.
Instagram: Stephanie Yogini
Facebook: Spence yoga wisdom.
Book: Yoga wisdom: Warrior tails inspiring you on and off your mat. It is also a 2018 Nautilus book award winner. And you can get it at Amazon and all those places that we usually go to get our books.
00:47 Welcome Sierra. I asked you on, because I saw that you had a post on Facebook about your online course Yoga for aging gracefully system and I'd like to talk about that because, of all the podcasts out of over a hundred, only two of them have been about yoga for mature adults and they're very, very popular ones. I ask you some questions about your online course and we'll start with why did you decide to do an online course?
03:30 Well, I wanted to reach people who weren't going to be coming to in- person class or were not going to yoga studios and weren't in my area. I have also seen that there's not a lot of conversation in the media about yoga for aging gracefully. I went and did my own research looking for online programs and really had a hard time finding anything. since that was a population I'd already spent years and years working with, I felt like I could really contribute, being of service not only as I have been for years in person but also online.
04:31 But how do you get that personal connection?
04:36 Yeah. I also think that's really important because otherwise you're just interacting with a computer. But, besides all the videos that are a part of the program where you get to see me and hear me and just be connected that way, I also found it to be really important to incorporate more community. So one of the ways that the program incorporates community is by having a Facebook group. I've used Facebook groups and at many times and feel like they're a great resource. I can meet like-minded people who have same sort of questions and concerns I do. So I facilitate that group. I offer an optional weekly coaching call for everybody in this six week program and where we can actually talk on the phone and you can hear other people and their stories.
05:39 You can hear my story, you can ask about what, what you're needing and discuss that. And I just wanted to make sure there was also some real human contact involved. so those are ways that I make that accessible. And of course people can come to the live workshops that I do as well. I teach this same six week program live, in person, multiple times a year.
06:20 As we age we do need to look at some physical modifications and, and in Yoga there's, that's also true, but what's your thinking on the proportion of things that should be about the physical part of aging, but also about the mental and spiritual part of aging?
06:45 I think it depends on what the person is open to. and if I'm working one on one, then of course there's going to be this shared communication around where the most value is being had in the moment.
07:05 With the online program. What I did was really have each module of the six modules, each one of those addresses, one of the Koshas, which are these layers, sheets, dimensions of ourselves, humans. It starts with the physical layer, like building strength and flexibility and balance and all those very important things we need. and then it starts to get more subtle and address things like your energy, which I know a lot of older adults talk to me about. They feel less energetic. So we do Pranayama and restorative yoga and different practices that can really shift the energy level so people can go out and do things they love and get in the garden and get in nature and socialize and do those things that really matter to them. and then from that energy body, we continue to go into more and more layers.
08:07 Like the Monomaya Kosha, the mind, and really considering the practices. Not only yoga, but I bring in Tai Chi and other more science based movements that have been proven through studies to actually help cognitive function. So there's a module all about the mind and stimulating and keeping that active through movement of the body as well as other meditation and mindfulness practices. and of course I don't think it would be complete without addressing spirits. And, so one of the modules is all about uplifting the spirit because we go through so much as we age, there is, a lot more natural, occurrences of loss and grief and, it's really important to honor those parts of ourselves that are experiencing that. And so, bringing in loving kindness practice and being conscious about the way that we care for ourselves, is definitely a big part of all of what I teach as well.
09:31 I've taught seniors for several years and after doing a podcast and talking to a few of you people that do also teach seniors, I realize I may have been a little too focused on the physical. And I think that's true of society in general is that we're focusing on the loss of the physical and age. Whereas that may not be the biggest thing that we need to really think about as we age or do you not agree with that?
10:03 I would say it depends. If I'm teaching a group Yoga for seniors class where it's a drop in and people are coming expecting the majority of the class to be yoga postures and wanting that, that's their motivation for coming. Then I will definitely focus on more of the physical practices including Pranayama, not just Asana, but as I was saying, the more that we can refine the group. By having designated programs that are designed for certain areas of life, like yoga for grief or yoga to help energy levels and improve energy, then people will, , you could do group programs that have more focused on those other Koshas. and one on one it's like, I feel like that's the opportunity to, it's mostly on what that person needs the most and maybe it is the physical body. Maybe they are doing quite well mentally and spiritually, but maybe it's not so much the physical body. So I was trying to create a balance in this program. So there's really all, all the options there and it takes, , six weeks and 12 videos to, to do that, which could really, could last a lifetime. You have access to those for the entire lifetime.
11:54 The way that you teach is integrative lifestyle medicine too. Foster greater confidence and contentment and that one can age with wisdom and grace. As you said on your blog, it's rather hard to define wisdom, but,older people seem to have a higher proportion of that then others. And so what are you doing? How are you putting your yoga classes and workshops and courses together to kind of invite people to think about their own wisdom and, and what it's doing for them?
12:48 Well, I like to include introspection. , centering practice at the beginning of a class of meditation and practice, , at the end. and also with programs or where we can just dive a little deeper. Sometimes I invite people to journal what they're thinking. I have different logs that I use so that we can, start to just be more inquisitive and notice our own behaviors outside of the classroom, as well as inside of the classroom. And the best thing I think is to give people time and space to share. And that's what the community aspect is about for me is that, we all learned from each other and you never hopefully stopped learning. That's being alive is, is growing and learning. So we, I give space in group programs for people to talk and share their wisdom with each other, to ask questions of not just me but each other. And I think that fosters community that is really able to learn and grow together.
14:19 One of the things that we've been talking about is that you are thinking of offering your course to nonprofits. So could you talk a little bit about your thinking on that?
14:35 Absolutely. Well, I created this product and I really want to share it, not just for my own profit, for reaching underserved populations that can't necessarily afford to buy an online program. So in partnering with nonprofits, I hope to be able to distribute either some or all of the videos, to populations that those nonprofits reach . it could be specifically people who are seniors, those later in life or it could be other groups. As I mentioned, my work is trauma informed, so people who have gone through traumatic situations, which are many, many of us, if not all of us at some point, but those who really have a higher degree, of trauma history in their life, I feel like this program could be appropriate for them. I'm just interested in collaboration so that I can give back to those people who, , in those nonprofits who are doing such great work and help me reach out to more people and make this accessible to everyone who needs it.
16:10 Have you actually approached any of nonprofits and found out how they react to this?
16:17 I've just begun this part of my search. I mostly am trying to find the right ones. It's not so easy to find the best fit. I think it'd be great if it could be, an organization that I resonate with a lot and they're so busy doing the work. I think that I'm just getting my foot in the door with a couple places, but nothing has come to fruition yet because I am in the early stages of this process.
17:16 If you were going to say the most important thing about teaching seniors or mature adults is, (we could talk about whether people like to be called seniors or not) what would you say it is?
17:36 Wow. The most important thing, to teaching, that's a hard one. There's so many important things to teaching. Well, one of the that I like to do is really meet the student where they're at and listen. I, for the online program, I try to have, I have a whole page devoted to describing it and, and helping people understand if it's right for them. They can choose whether it's a good fit and and in person, , listening to the person, talk about what they're needing when they do the coaching call and helping them, with just discovering more of the fabulous schools of yoga that are out there, that I've spent so many years learning about and getting in and getting messy and immersed in. and also if I'm in a classroom asking people how they're feeling that day, what are they needing?
18:47 And then adapting the practice to fit the person. that's a very important thing to me. is that there's modifications that are available and I give a lot of options in the workshops, live workshops and in the program, online program for a lot of variations to all of the practices so that people feel like they can win, that this is for them and they can get all the benefits without trying to fit themselves into a specific shape or, trying to understand how to do something without enough information and guidance and help. I try to really give a lot of information and modifications to help it work for everybody, whether they're experiencing persistent pain, illness, injury, all those things that do tend to increase as we get older. That's the thing I feel like is the most important is that it's more specialized and specific to the people in the room.
19:59 As a yoga therapist, my training was all about how to address special populations and I really tried to do that and focus my work on and cause bedroom. You can get the most benefit out of it when you're not necessarily not going to a generalized class, which might not really fit your needs, but if you're going to a class for older adults or a chair yoga or a gentle class or a therapeutic yoga class, those are all classes that can fit your needs better than just a basic Hatha yoga or Hatha flow or some other class might do.
20:48 I always think that seniors are actually much more diverse in their bodies and in their minds than 23 year olds who, are pretty healthy, usually in a good shape. And I think that it is important too, be diverse in your teaching also.
21:20 I think it's important that people understand that someone who has all of your experience, what you really feel is important in your interactions with your students because it can be slightly different because they're coming with slightly different goals often. I read your blog and there was one about, and I thought it was interesting, That positive psychological attitudes in women over 45 was correlated strongly with the number of hours that they had done yoga. Why did you choose that particular research study that was on pub med. Because I thought it was really interesting that you looked at t psychological benefits, when, so much of yoga these days appears to be physical.
22:37 I have done a lot of my research and training on understanding the connection between the mind and the body and how we perceive the world, how we judge what's happening.. It has a huge impact on our physical health. And so if we perceive ourselves to be under a lot of stress that is correlated with higher instances of illness and pain and, problems in life physically. So I think it's really important to address the mental and emotional aspects of, and I've spent a lot of time studying Buddhism as well as the Hindu yogis kind of philosophies and think that working with the mind is just, is so important, just as important really because the mind can change the body in ways we don't understand in positive and negative ways. But, that study I chose also because it did pertain to women, which are the majority of the people who do yoga.
23:54 So I knew that my population reading it would be, interested because they're mostly women. I also chose it because it's looking at a slightly older group of people. Over 45. Not that that's an elderly population, but it's still somebody who is past their youthful years. And so I do think that's also more relevant to the people that I'm really focusing my work on. I also thought it has a scientific basis. There are a lot of yoga studies that just because of funding have been quite small and that the more that we can bring it out and use the data we got and put that all together and build bigger studies, the more solid the data.
26:19 I use this yoga jargon and I just want to make sure people feel like they understand that because part of what I value is making yoga approachable. So it's not an esoteric thing with a lot of words people don't understand and concepts that are very foreign that I bring it to be more, a little bit more relatable. And I know I use this idea of the Kosha model without really going into much detail. But if you've got listeners who already are familiar with that, I wouldn't need to, but for the people who aren't, I just gave the tiniest little synopsis of these layers of our being, and how they can relate to different aspects of our life. The Poncha Maya Kosha is the system if people do want to look that up. I just have found it very valuable as a tool to understand better the human experience. and there's many of these more subtle energy anatomy models in the yogic system that I use and I appreciate. So, that's like in the final workshop in module of the workshop online program. One of the things we do in one of those classes is to go through also the Chakra system and just be more aware of that, that way of looking at ourselves.
Contact details for Sierra.
email is: firstname.lastname@example.org
website is www.sierralaurelyoga.com.
Facebook is Sierra Laurel Yoga as is her Instagram.
2:26 Ann offers one on one yoga therapy to clients: telehealth yoga therapy. Which is location independent and offered worldwide.
3:30 Science nerd and heart-based nerd. Has a masters of science in yoga therapy: research based course on yoga therapy. Rich in yoga philosophy as well. Yoga research does not have to be cold, clinical but also has a rich tradition of yoga philosophy. Research is now looking at the outcomes of a well-rounded yoga class, including practices like chanting, yamas and niyamas. Science and spiritual are not incompatible.
5:55 Dr. Stephany Moonas conducted a 7 year clinical trial at John Hopkins University on yoga for people with arthritis. Studied the outcomes of a well-rounded yoga practice for those with both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Measured quality of life (psycho/social/physical well-being) as well as more specific measures (e.g., does yoga increase swelling in arthritic joints). Drs want to know this kind of information. Results: yoga as a practice improved quality of life but what parts of yoga produced these different outcomes couldn’t be measured. Rather that the whole practice of yoga had a positive benefit on quality of life.
9:21 Ann’s book: The Science of Yoga looks at the research/physiology behind common cues in yoga classes. It also includes research-based information on how yoga affects the different systems of the body: i.e., cardio/pulmonary, hormonal). As yoga teachers leave yoga teacher training, they often are unsure that they have sufficient training in anatomy/physiology. Ann felt the same way after training and took a pre-med course to learn more anatomy/physiology as well as other types of science. The result of that study as well as her Master’s degree are the basis for the book: The Science of Yoga. Yogis are usually visual learners and secondly kinesthetic. The illustrations are gorgeous and Ann invites yogis to do the poses she is discussing to see if their experience is the same. How does it feel in their bodies? The Science of Yoga is available on line and in bookstores.
16:30 Ann is making wellness non-intimidating. Works with many people who have 5 or more chronic conditions. Getting differing guidance of different wellness sources, very confusing and hard to know what to do. Ann makes it less intimidating and more sustainable. Works one on one with people on zoom for 5-10 times, and at the end gives them a routine including all of the tools of yoga to help them maintain their health.
21:48 Combine science and heart. Recommends that people continually study as yoga research increases in number and sophistication. Feel it in your body and always ask why? For example, do twists improve organ function and get rid of toxins? Questions: Does pressure on organs make them work better? Does pressure on organs get rid of toxins? In the body, the liver gets rid of toxins. Does presshappure on the liver make it get rid of toxins? No – pressure would not affect the liver. But pressure does help with digestion, maintaining or increasing joint mobility, etc. What are toxins? Do we do yoga as a punishment for having drank too much the night before. So wouldn’t say that twisting gets rid of toxins, but would say twisting helps digestion through increasing peristalsis and maintain range of motion, etc.
26:05 ? keeping up with yoga research and spirituality in yoga. New research on loving kindness:
Three groups: one group looked at people and noticed what color their clothes were, second group sent loving kindness (‘may you have peace, may you have freedom”) to people they saw, the third group told themselves that they were better than the people that they saw. On a happiness measure, the second group were the happiest and the third group was the most unhappy. Can take this research and apply it to change negative self-talk to loving kindness to others.