Interview with Marisa Weppner
Who is this book written for? What made you want to create it?
This book is written for the average person who is curious about what yoga is but is afraid to attend a public class. It is for the person who would like to learn more about yoga than how to look good in yoga photos. It is for the person who perhaps has never really cared well for their body but whose health care provider has told them they should start yoga to help with XYZ.
This book is for anyone who would like to begin the lifelong journey of yoga in the privacy and comfort of their own home, who leads a busy life and doesn’t have and hour or more each day to spend on their own self care, who knows that there has got to be more to life than the hustle and grind of modern life, who is seeking a more fulfilling existence by turning inward.
I wanted to create this book as an act of service, to share with the world the deeply profound mental, physical and spiritual healing that can be found through even the most basic and simple yoga practice. My hope is for this book to ignite the fire of yoga within a person, who then has unlimited choices on how to continue stoking the fire, from hundreds of lineages, schools, thousands of teachers and programs, and infinite online resources. This is simply the doorway, wide open and welcoming to everyone.
What first led you on the yoga path?
I started on my spiritual path at the age of 15, after my first experience with psychedelics that can only be described as a shamanic death. Kinda super intense for an unsuspecting teen. I began putting myself back together by finding the books and resources available to me on eastern mysticism, meditation, new age spirituality, native traditions, and western psychology.
In college, I was earning a degree in psychology, while working nights as a waitress. A coworker, Sherry Philips, who was a mentor and dear friend, one day mentioned yoga, and I responded how I hadn’t yet been able to figure out exactly what yoga was, but I was really interested in learning. She said when she was my age, in the 70s, she found yoga through a book called ‘Richard Hittleman’s 28 Day Exercise Plan’ and that I should check it out. The next day I found a used copy (published in 1969) online and had it sent my way. I came to yoga not from the ‘fitness-I-want-to-look-good’ angle, but from my own expanding curiosity into the workings of mind and spirit. The body was something I had given little thought to in my life.
Fortunately for me, Sherry was right. Hittleman’s book was just what I needed to come to an experiential understanding of what yoga is. The home practice was simple and accessible, otherwise there would have been no way I would have been able to stick to it. Over the 28 days not only did I touch my toes for the first time in my life, but I also witnessed how much calmer and clearer my thoughts had become, how I was much more thoughtful than reactive, how bad habits like social smoking and late night tacos had fallen away without effort, and how much more at home I felt in my body.
Soon I began attending free weekly evening classes at the university I was attending. My teachers, Eric and Isabelle, were students at the college who had attended a YTT at the Sivananda Center in the Bahamas. Once I graduated with my BA in Psychology I knew that the degree hadn’t yet set me up to enter the workforce, and that I wanted to earn a graduate degree in Transpersonal Psychology, which I later did through Sophia University (then ITP), but first I wanted to become a yoga teacher, as I knew yoga was the perfect avenue to access whole self-healing of body, mind, and spirit. 6 months after graduation I attended the Nosara Yoga Institute’s 200 HR yoga teacher training in Nosara, Costa Rica. 15 years later I am a Nosara Yoga 1000 HR Master Yoga Educator, I have an MA in Transpersonal Psychology, a Life Coaching certification, lead my own 200 and 300 HR yoga school, run a full service yoga studio, teach at festivals and retreats all over the world, have published my first book on yoga, and live a balanced and fulfilling life. Much of this success I attribute to the gift of finding yoga through Hittleman’s wonderful book.
Were there any other books that helped you along your yoga journey, if so, which ones?
• Autobiography of a Yogi
• The Complete Illustrated Book of Yoga
• The Four Agreements
• Self Awakening Yoga: The Expansion of Consciousness Through the Body’s Own Wisdom
• Yoga Beyond Belief
• The Way of the Peaceful Warrior
• The Mayan Factor
• Return of the Bird Tribes
There are so many styles of yoga, what is a good place to start for a beginner?
With all of the resources out there now for yoga – YouTube and online videos, podcasts, classes at the YMCA and gyms, so many great studios, and with millions of Americans practicing yoga, there are countless avenues for beginners to find their way to yoga. I would recommend a new yogi attend a class with a friend who is already practicing and can recommend a teacher in their area. Most studios, like mine, Sage Yoga & Wellness, offers a Beginner Foundation Series, that is a class dedicated to just beginners, that offers information about what yoga is and how and why it works, in a setting where everyone is a beginner, so it takes the stigma off of ‘not knowing’.
I created my book for the beginner who perhaps does not have access to a public class, or who is timid about joining a class when they don’t really know what yoga is and are afraid of embarrassing themselves. I hear this all the time from people who want to start yoga but are very intimidated about going to a class. Having the ability to practice in the comfort of one’s home, at their own pace, slowly building overtime, is a wonderful way to build the confidence some need to walk into a yoga studio.
Current favorite music to practice to.
• Sol Rising
• East Forest
• Masood Ali Khan
• Sheela Bringi
• Jon Hopkins
For those who occasionally fall off the yoga wagon- how do you get back on? Does this ever happen to you?
I like to remind myself that life is cyclical. Sometimes we are super dedicated to a practice and sometimes the practice falls away, and when we return to it, it’s from a new place, providing for us the space and healing we need at that time. So often my students show up at my studio and have a mini confessional while they are checking in. They say sheepishly, “It’s been 2 months, or 3 weeks, or a year, since my last yoga class.” Like they need to apologize because I am disappointed in them. I could care less how long it has been between classes.
What matters is that they have been able to create the time and space in that moment. I remind them that we are all very busy, productive members of society, with families to care for, careers to grow, communities to be involved in, and that really most of us do not have the 2 hours it really takes to attend a yoga class each day. Nor are we expected to have the luxury of that time at this point in our lives. That comes in the later third of our lifespan. You get back on the wagon by carving out the little time you need to slow down and center. This can be as little as 15 minutes of yoga or meditation or pranayama. Or find a friend who will help keep you accountable by attending a class together. Or reset your habits by committing to a daily practice for a few weeks or more. I definitely go through phases when I am not able to find time for a personal practice. When this happens, the most important thing is to not give my self a shame and guilt trip about it, but to accept that I don’t currently have the time in my life to dedicate to being on the mat, but knowing for sure that the time will come again.
I also remind myself that yoga comes in many forms, not simply mat time, but in being a kind and loving human being, by spending time in nature and playing with my children, by dedicating myself to a service project, or in doing deep personal healing work.
Any tips for yogis that travel a lot (or work a lot, have kids- how to make it work through all the hustle)?
For the busy yogi, be kind to yourself and know that no one is disappointed in you for not already being enlightened. You are not a sadhu in a cave. You are a highly productive member of society who is giving a lot to the world. Do what you can to stay balanced during this most active time in your life by attending a weekend or week long yoga retreat, by listening to a podcast by your favorite teacher while you are traveling, by taking a 5-minute conscious breathing break during the day, by putting down your phone and reaching for your toes, by going for a walk at sunset, by slowing down and enjoying the moment, whatever is happening. Be present. Enjoy the life you have worked so hard to create. Know that you are already enough.
Finally, what has made your dedication to yoga all worth it, how has it shown up in your ‘non-yoga’ life?
I know I can return to my mat, or to a breath practice, whenever I am in need to realign my attitude, to clear my mind to create openness for problem solving, to help me to be a more creative, generous, thoughtful human, and to know that I am more than my body and thoughts. Through my yoga practice I have uncovered more of who I already am – not that I have to strive to be something I am not – but that all I need to do is get clear, tune my frequency, and let my light shine. Yoga has helped me to live a brilliant, peaceful, adventurous life of service, sharing the wisdom I have learned through my teachings and my studio, and now in my book, so that others can also remember who they truly are and why they are here.
All of my life is yoga now, whether I am in downward dog, having a conversation with my children or the barista or homeless man on the corner, when I decide on business practices and on the next new adventure, it is yoga, the truth of my existence and the consciousness that I am channeling- that informs the way the world is perceived and that I am perceived by it. Because of my dedication to yoga and self-discovery, my life is full of joy, abundant in resources and laughter, and radiates a calm, focused attitude that uplifts those around me because I am an example that yes you can have it all, yes you are the master of your mind and in turn your life, and yes, it is possible for all of us to find a connection to our inner world that anchors beauty, grace and light into all you do.