my friend, jillian.
i feel blessed in that i’ve come to know a lot of truly interesting and inspiring people along my way. i’ve decided to do a series of q & a posts with those people, hoping to share their messages, interests, insights, knowledge, and positive energy with all of you.
the first person i’d like to introduce you to is jillian deuel. jill is a yogi, certified to teach ashtanga yoga, and co-founder of sweetwater yoga. she’s also a press secretary in the new york state senate, an animal lover, a fashionista, a dead head, and lucky for me, one of my very best friends. she was gracious enough to do a q & a with me yesterday (we kept it somewhat yoga focused), which i’m super excited to share with you.
how did you get into yoga?
Well, I dabbled in my late teens (shout out to Rodney Yee’s Yoga Am & Pm VHS tapes!) But, I really got into yoga when I reached a really sad place in my life, my husband and I lost a baby due to medical malpractice, our marriage fell apart and then I got laid off! Three major (unhappy) life changes had me feeling hopeless and lost.
One sad February evening in 2009, I decided I needed to get away. Originally, I just wanted to take a one week yoga vacation alone. I have no idea why “yoga” came to mind, it was just meant to be I suppose. So, through my Google research, I came across Caroline Klebl’s Source of Yoga Website and put down a deposit for a one month long, 200 hour teacher training course in Bali, Indonesia!
I had no idea how I was going to pay for the trip. I had no idea why I booked the trip, because at the time I had little interest in Southeast Asia (other than India) and my lifelong dream of far travels was always Africa. So, booking the trip was completely random!
what type of yoga do you practice? and, can you give a little break down of “types” of yoga for those of us not in the know?
I am certified in Ashtanga Yoga. Ashtanga Yoga was developed by Sri. K. Pattahbi Jois and is considered one of the most intense and vigorous forms of yoga (and, remember I booked this trip on a whim and had no idea what I was getting into!). I am very fortunate to have received my certification from Caroline as she lived with Pattahbi Jois as a student in Mysore for five years, he certified her as one of a select few who can grant Ashtanga Teacher certifications. So close to the source! Sri K. Pattahbi Jois passed away in May of 2009 just two months before I began studying his practice.
Here’s a quick rundown of some of the types of yoga:
Hatha : Hatha yoga is a general type of yoga. If you choose to attend a class advertised as “Hatha” it will most likely be slow paced and gentle – a great choice if you’re a beginner.
Ashtanga: which means “Eight Limbs” in Sanskrit. This is a very face paced; physically demanding practice linking Asanas (poses) with Vinyasas (breath synchronized movement). In Ashtanga, you practice the same exact sequence of poses for the series each time. There are six series of Ashtanga and you must master a series before moving on to the next. For the most part, when looking at classes you’ll see “Primary Series” (which means the first series) offered.
Iyengar:This type of yoga is based on the teachings of B.K.S. Iyengar. This practice is most focused on alignment. Each position is held for long lengths of time to ensure proper alignment, in order to obtain maximum benefits and avoid injury.
Kundalini:Kundalini yoga is a lot different than other types of yoga. Kundalini combines breath (lots of times the breath of fire –which is very difficult to do!) with physical movement. All types of yoga do this, but the purpose and goal in Kundalini is to free energy in the lower pelvic region (where it’s believed energy gets trapped) and allow it to move upwards into your head and chest.
Bikram:Bikram (or Hot) Yoga was developed by Bikram Choudhury. The Bikram method is a set series of 26 postures, practiced in a crowded room at 105 degrees Fahrenheit or greater. The heat allows tight muscles to loosen; and causes profuse sweating which is believed to be cleansing.
Jivamukti:Jivamukti yoga is a style founded by David Life and Sharon Gannon of New York City. This practice is physically intense and Jivamukti teachers incorporate moral and political activism teachings within their classes. Each month a focus is developed by Dave and Sharon, for instance February’s focus was Shelter. All Jivamukti teachers will incorporate lessons on this focus in their classes throughout the month. There are people who attend Jivamukti classes not realizing this style and are offended when they find themselves being educated on politics or encouraged to go vegan. So, if you’d like your downward dog without these teachings – Jivamukti won’t be for you!
Restorative: Restorative yoga is a form of yoga that uses props; blocks, blankets, bolsters, etc. so that you can hold poses longer. There is a lot of passive stretching in restorative yoga, it may feel very relaxing and some may feel there aren’t any benefits – but, in fact this is an essential practice for anyone who’d like to become more flexible – hip openers galore!
There are various other forms – but this could go on forever!
what’s the deal with this hot yoga that i keep hearing about?!
Hot (Bikram) yoga has been getting a lot of press and studios are popping up all over the place. I, personally have never tried the practice. I agree that the hot temperature will aid your flexibility, but I believe that practicing hot yoga more than once or twice a week could be dangerous. Losing all of those electrolytes isn’t healthy or ideal.
I also, personally feel uncomfortable with Bikram Choudhury.
tell me a little bit about your time in bali getting your certification to teach yoga — what were your favorite things about bali and your training?
My trip to Bali continues to change my life and teach me almost two years later. My number one favorite part of the trip, of course was: Sara Pak. It’s incredible to me that we both lived in NY (different parts), but met in Bali, Indonesia. We still speak daily, she is one of my very best friends and the other half of Sweetwater Yoga!
Second, the Balinese. They’re some of the friendliest, most beautiful people on Earth. I loved watching their daily rituals, rice blessings, offerings, etc. And, they all seem so happy and content in spite of their poverty. It really makes you think about how EASY we have it, even when things go wrong, we have it so much easier than most of the world. It makes you feel a lot more appreciative.
My favorite example of this; one day we went on a hike (trek as the Europeans call it) to see a waterfall. In the beginning, we were walking past some homes that seemed a little more expensive than the ones we’d seen thus far. One of the people in our group asked our guide “Are the people who live in these homes, rich?” Our guide said quite simply “In Bali, there is no rich. If we eat in the morning and eat at night, we are rich. We are happy.” I almost started crying right then and there. That moment and that sweet answer will never leave me.
The men and women who worked at the resort we stayed at had impeccable work ethic. Each and every one of them were there every single day/night that we were – not a single day off… and at the end of my trip – I learned they made 30 cents a day. Incredible.
It’s funny, but while I was in Bali, my teacher training was somewhat secondary to me. It was extraordinary – and to spend your early mornings engaging in sunrise meditation and then two hours of yoga practice for 30 days straight is heaven. To have the opportunity and time to spend 30 days straight focusing on just “me” is such a rare opportunity and I didn’t take it for granted for one moment. Enjoying yoga and getting to know 29 other people from ALL over the world, that experience is indescribable. I can’t even put into words what a blessing it was and is.
And, having no PHONE!? If you know me and how I hate the phone – I was in heaven on earth!
what are some of the benefits you’ve noticed since you began practicing yoga?
Yoga provides various external and internal benefits many are hard to describe! I have an all around feeling of well being most of the time. You’ll hear yogis use words and terms like “bliss”, “life is good”, “blessed”, etc. And, yes, it sounds cheesy – but, it’s something magical – moving your body in this way on a regular basis gives you this feeling of joy and you WANT to share it! As someone who has a tendency towards depression, I haven’t felt legitimately depressed in a very, very long time. I naturally desire healthier elements in my life. From food to friends to music, even television. I’m just more drawn to positive forces and more aware of the negative.
I have lost weight. Not drastically or quickly. Very slowly and my body has changed… I don’t have that “everyday” stomach bloat that I always used to have. This isn’t the goal of yoga, but I think this is a healthy result. I believe the practice makes you more aware of your own body and more mindful of what you put into it. You become more aware of how junk food makes you feel because you’re more in tune with your body. That’s not to say you’ll never have a chocolate binge, again! But, I think they’ll become fewer and further between.
But, above all the mental and emotional benefits far exceed the external.
are there any specific things that you’ve unexpectedly experienced as a result of practicing yoga?
Sometimes, in a certain pose, you will unexpectedly experience an extremely strong emotion. The belief behind this, is that we hold our emotions in different parts of our bodies, (Western medicine has started to believe this – you’ve noticed that “low back pain” is an official symptom of depression, right?) certain poses will begin to release these emotions sometimes anger, sometimes sorrow, etc. and therefore you may feel them intensely in a certain pose.
My favorite quote on this topic is from Ina Marx’s, Yoga and Common Sense: A Realistic and Practical Guide, “Yoga tries to locate the anxiety in the body instead of the mind, because it is a much less complex mechanism to work with. Instead of forcing the mind to solve all the riddles of life, we turn to the body because it is much more accommodating and flexible.”
And, also addiction! On a Friday after work – I’d rather get on my mat for a Happy Hour Yoga class than have a glass of wine! I still enjoy wine – but, my wine colored mat is much more appealing! I constantly look forward to the next class I’ll attend and/or the next class I’ll teach.
I currently teach at Alpin Haus Fitness, you can find their schedule on the website – it changes monthly.
I also offer a class at the Johnstown Family Moose Center on Sundays at 1:00 p.m.
And, exciting news for the Fall: Sweetwater Yoga will be holding its very first Yoga Retreat in the beautiful Adirondacks! Sara and I have are in the planning process and are VERY excited about this amazing retreat…stay tuned…
what can people expect when they come to one of your classes?
First, they can expect to laugh that at 31 years old, I still can’t tell my left from right. Seriously.
Second, they can expect to feel at ease! It’s not scary! No one is there to judge anyone. Yoga is a personal practice, it’s not a competition. Each student will be challenged and work at their own pace. I offer various modifications for each pose, so everyone is able to practice comfortable – yoga is NOT supposed to hurt!
GREAT tunes! It’s a challenge, but I try to be sure there’s something in my mixes for everyone! From a Tribe Called Quest, Led Zeppelin, Billie Holiday to Blake Shelton – and then, of course neat, fun “Yoga” music!
if you could practice yoga anywhere in the world with anyone (living or not), where and who would you practice with?
The Himalayan Mountains with the Nepalese orphans.
when you’re not practicing yoga, where can we find you and what are you doing?
Reading, writing, researching, Eating out! Enjoying live music! Being a yoga traveler!
what’s on your iPod playlist right now?
40 Day Dream – Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros
I Am – Guru Singh, Seal and friends
Dirty Work – Steely Dan
Bliss Like This – Ani Difranco
Stay Strong – Check out the Stay Strong Project
Ain’t Gonna Lose You – Brett Dennen
Shelter – Xavier Rudd
Basshead – Bassnectar
All Night Long – Lionel Richie
In a Rainbow – Sweetwater
Tales of Brave Ulysses – Cream
Pretty Girl Rock – Keri Hilson
Sunshine Dub – Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad
Whip My Hair – Willow Smith
Who Are You When I’m Not Looking – Blake Shelton
We Speak No Americano – Yolanda Be Cool & Dcup
Let my soul smile through my heart and my heart smile through my eyes, that I may scatter rich smiles in sad hearts.
- Paramahansa Yogananda
any parting thoughts?
Another quote – this one resonated with me so much when I felt like I had nothing left and nothing to look forward to anymore:
“If you have a broken heart or a battered soul,
Find something to hold on to or to let go,
To help you through the hard nights like a flask filled with hope,
Darlin’ do not fear what you don’t really know. – Brett Dennen
if you’re interested in getting in touch with jill, shoot her an e-mail at email@example.com.
THANKS for the awesome interview, jill!
(all photos courtesy of jillian deuel.)