Interview – Andrea Marcum
Andrea Marcum is releasing her new book, Close to Om on December 26th, available for pre-order here.
– Your book, Close to Om, seems to be about making that connection from who you are in your practice to the person you are in your day-to-day. Was there a particular moment in your yogi journey where you made that connection?
I stumbled into my first class at Crunch gym pretty convinced it wasn’t going to burn enough calories to be worthwhile. But even in that initial downward dog, I could feel yoga introducing me to a part of me I’d not yet met.
Yoga was confrontational and honest in the most uncomfortable and incredible ways. It made me stop and take an internal look around… something I was going to great lengths to avoid in my life off my mat.
The tactile experience of how tangled up I was in my body and mind on my mat was immediately impactful. I went back to class the very next day… and the next, and as I did I could see that my tendencies and habits on my mat were a mirror of what I was doing off my mat. From day one I sensed that how we do our yoga is how we do our life.
– As a yogi, I find that I have moments where I either get bored in my practice or otherwise lose track of it. Do you have moments like this, and when you do, what brings you back? What keeps you engaged in your practice?
I think we have to decide what we mean by “yoga.” Is it simply a routine of postures that has you bored and losing track?
I see postures as the gateway drug… they’re what bring us TO the yoga. Limiting yoga to a series of poses would for sure get a bit dull, but allowing those poses to be an integral part of a deeper dive into who we really are and what we’re doing here is inspiring in an ongoing way.
Infusing our practice with the philosophical and psychological tenets yoga has to offer turns routine choreography into a living laboratory and repetition into ritual. Yoga informs EVERYTHING once we start to appreciate it through a wider lens. Like I said, “how we do our yoga is how we do our life.”
– Sharing your experiences obviously becomes a part of the journey as a yoga instructor. What pressed you to write this book in particular?
When I was working on the proposal for this book, my agent said to me “Andy, this is not a book about you.” I felt like she was my guru handing me the most important mantra ever! What she meant is that the stories I tell in the book, though personal, are ultimately universal.
What pressed me to write this book is the same thing that inspires me to lead retreats, to have opened a studio and run it for nine years, and to teach for past seventeen years.
I love that it’s “not a book about me.”
My studio was named U Studio for the Unity and commUnity that built it and when we closed I knew in my gut that Close to OM was our next step. In essence my book brings you to U – it blows the walls off the studio and invites us all to the party. I believe passionately that yoga’s Uniting force is our collective compass. You might say Close to OM is a book about U.
– I like to ask everyone- are there any particular teachers right now that are really inspiring you? Any music? Art, or non-yoga-specific things that are inspiring your yoga practice?
Wow – this is a tall order. I am blessed with such incredible teachers. There are those who have actually been instructors and mentors, and then there are those who are students, friends, family, animals, challenging encounters, things I wished weren’t happening, injuries, fantastic surprises, museums, poems, photographs, nature, beauty… you name it.
I’m particularly drawn to opportunities for learning, adventuring and finding ways to create positive impact. I like to say that our yoga mats are magic carpets to look into our lives and to see the world. Living into that is what 100% lights me up.
– What can we expect from you this coming year? Any events you’re excited about as a teacher, or student?
The launch of Close to OM: Stretching Yoga From Your Mat to Your Life is pretty top of the list for me for the year to come. I have book-related classes and workshops throughout the year and more and more developing. You can find out more about them at www.andreamarcum.com/events/. I absolutely cannot wait to be in Bulgaria with Udaya this August. And I’m figuring out my retreat schedule for 2018 as we speak.
– As a yoga student, what books influenced your practice?
Beryl Bender Birch had a HUGE influence on me from the very beginning of my yoga journey. I loved that she was such a pioneer in the early days of rigorous, male-dominated yoga. I actually flew across the country to a conference she was teaching at right after reading her book Power Yoga for the first time almost twenty years ago just so that I could meet her.
Judith Lasater is another groundbreaker who has had on effect me. I’ve owned more copies of her Relax Deeply book than I can even count. It’s a bit of a Bible to me.
More recently Steven Cope’s The Best Work Of Your Life: The Yoga of the Bhagavad Gita and Yoga Body by Mark Singleton have been books I return to again and again.
I think it’s important to visit the canon regularly, as well as step outside of it. Certainly Patanjali’s Sutras the Bhagavad Gita, Siddhartha, Hatha Yoga Pradipika, Iyengar’s books and others are important (all of em). But so is reading really amazing prose, learning about new discoveries in anatomy, biomechanics, kinesiology, psychology, trauma, personal development, world studies – I mean it’s endless and fascinating, and to me it is all yoga.