Namaste Desktop Wallpaper Calendar

“We spend January 1st walking through our lives, room by room, drawing up a list of work to be done, cracks to be patched. Maybe this year, to balance the list, we ought to walk through the rooms of our lives…not looking for flaws, but for potential.” Ellen Goodman

Get the New Year started off right with a special treat from all of us here at the studio. Beautify your workspace with our free downloadable desktop wallpaper and take the opportunity to look forward and envision your next three months.

What are you hoping to accomplish in this new year?

What aspects of your life are waiting on the precipice of change?  

How are you going to move forward in this bright and shiny year of 2015?

Download Desktop Wallpaper Full Size [2560 x 1440]

With lots of love and gratitude – we can’t wait to continue on this sacred journey with you,

The faces and hearts of Namaste.

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Namaste Teachers: Meet Cherie Carson

Our Namaste Tribe is a powerhouse of wise, talented, and experienced teachers who have dedicated their lives to sharing the gift of yoga with others. We are constantly in awe of the incredible offerings our teachers bring to this community. We are excited to share a new blog series focused on celebrating our teachers and hopefully giving you all a glimpse into the talented team that makes up Namaste Yoga + Wellness.

Meet Cherie Carson aka Siri Gian Kaur (Cherie’s Spiritual Name)

How long have you been at Namaste?
Since 7th Heaven was integrated into the Namaste family – before that I was with 7th Heaven for over 15 years.

What inspired you to become a yoga instructor?
I love to move. I have always been a dancer and Yoga was part of my practice. I became a teacher because I love to teach.

Your favorite self-care practices?
Water therapy, massage, meditation.


What is your morning routine?
Meditate/chant before breakfast.

What are you involved with outside the studio?
Integrating the practice of yoga in my real estate career. Helping someone find their home is a first chakra experience. Finding a foundation, the temple for the body. I practice being in the neutral mind and being present for my clients. I also am Artistic Director of UpSwing Aerial Dance Company. It is my other passion in life. I teach a yoga based warm up. We have classes for Girls Who Fly and Teens Who Fly and Adults as a way to empower, move through fears and bring out the creative self.

How often do you practice?

What is something you wish all of our students understood better?
How absolutely amazing Kundalini Yoga is!

What is your favorite thing about the Bay Area?
The open-mindedness and diversity

Cherie Carson Namaste Yoga

Cherie Carson (Siri Gian Kaur), certified with the Kundalini Research Institute, has studied Yoga since 1986. Her background includes experience in Hatha, Sivananda, Kripalu, Yin and Kundalini Yoga traditions. Cherie is also a performer and choreographer whose training has included understanding body mechanics through kinesiology, Pilates, Tai Chi, Dance Therapy, Alexander Technique and Sat Nam Rasayan. Cherie has also created a meditative style of Water Yoga. Her meditation practices are influenced by the Kundalini Yoga tradition of Yogi Bhajan as well as her studies in Zen philosophy and creative visualization.

View Cherie’s Weekly Class Schedule

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Yoga for Travel: Quick Tips

Maintaining a steady practice during the holidays can be a challenge to say the least but during this busy time of year, even the simplest form of movement can increase our capacity to handle stress and fatigue by leaps and bounds. Whether you are hoping in a car or jumping on a plane, here are three simple tips for staying limber in both body and mind during the winter festivities.

1. Dolphin Pose 

Travel Yoga

This is a great twist on the standard Downward Dog or Adho Mukha Shvanasana. Dolphin Pose or Makarasana (also called puppy pose) helps to stretch out tight shoulders, hamstrings, and alleviate headaches. It is perfect for combating indigestion,  asthma, insomnia, fatigue, and back pain (especially sciatic). When we are stuck in cars or planes for long periods it is common to not be eating as healthy as possible and often we are unable to stretch out. The combination can lead to a lot of the above problems making the holidays a time of pain rather than joy.

2. Half Lord of the Fishes 

Travel Yoga

This seated half spinal twist, or Ardha Matsyendrasana, is another way to unwind and give your internal organs some love with a gentle, twisting massage. Generally during the holidays we tend to drink and eat a little more than usually. This pose is great for cleansing and eliminating toxic waste from the body while stabilizing and toning the core. Stimulate the important parts of your body, like your spine and digestive system, while relaxing the mind and shoulders. For more info, check out Namaste teacher Annie Carpenter’s blog post on Yoga Journal.

3. Knees to Chest


This is one of the simpler asana’s but still packs a mighty punch of benefits. Both soothing and activating, Knees to Chest or Apanasana is a great pose for reconnecting with your breath and releasing your gluteus maximus muscles. A quick pose you can do anywhere, sometimes all we need is a few minutes of laying on the floor to feel grounded, strengthened, and calmed.

Happy Holidays!
Check out our Holiday Schedule for regular and canceled classes.

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Winter Solstice Journal Exercise

“Winter Solstice, the longest night of the year, focus on the fertile darkness and your creative power that allows life to emerge from the soil, which will manifest fulfillment and bliss, from all the seeds you wish to plant for this next year.

Clear all the weeds of the past and let go of any disappointments or negative feelings and allow the new to be birthed from the wisdom that has been gained. Moods are like weather ~ rain, wind, snow and Sun ~ feel free in your expression but be informed by your higher nature, how to channel it appropriately into all you wish to create for 2015 and beyond.

Be content with what you have, rather than be sad or frustrated about what is lacking… Send healing love to all those you worry about, rather than take on the stress or worry about their well-being. Trust the Source Love that surrounds you and be aware that all you have created is something your higher self and unconscious self has wished to create for you ~ so that you can step into your highest potential and divinity without holding back. Every loss and failure, all being part of that creation – phoenix always rises.

Don’t be afraid to shine brightly, release any voices of sabotage or learn to not let them control you, celebrate the blessing you are and let Love be your strength to make it through all adversity. Spirit is the greatest wealth, bask in its golden rays and embrace Freedom!

We are more powerful than anything negative ~ it only shows up to remind us to rise above the forces that limit, so that we can develop our highest abilities and have mind over matter, Spirit over form ~ shaping the World around us into Heaven on Earth…”

– Laura Magdalena (via
Winter Sunset

How are you celebrating the Winter Solstice?
As the year comes to an end and days begin to grow longer, we encourage you to take some time to reflect on 2014. Here are few questions to help inspire you:

  • What new things did you learn new things about yourself?
  • What was a favorite trip, local or far away?
  • What inner strengths proved to be most valuable this year?
  • What new people entered your life? Who is no longer here?
  • What, or who, are you most thankful for?

We hope this year was a beautiful one for you in so many ways.

With love and gratitude from all of us at the studio – Happy Winter!
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6 Great Holiday Gifts Under $40

[Branded tee is made locally by organic, fair-trade company Groceries. You can find all our branded gear at all three studios. Black Namaste Long Sleeve Tee $40]

We know that the holidays can be a stressful time and often finding the perfect gift for people only adds to the challenge. At Namaste we have three boutiques, each with their own unique inventory of special, locally made, thoughtful gifts. We wanted to ease some of your stress by offering our favorite suggestions for gifts under $40!

These are perfect for friends, co-workers, and anyone you love who you feel deserves something unique this year for the holidays:

EarthBody Sacred Skincare Travel Oils:

$10 Each (or $50 for 5-Set with travel case)

EarthBody Travel
These travel size versions of our EarthBody dry oils are the perfect gift for the person in your life who loves to indulge in self care. Each petite bottle is crafted with only the finest herbs and organic ingredients made by healers locally in EarthBody’s San Francisco Apothecary.

Pocket-Size Brass Deities: $24 and up

Small Statues
These small deity statues are the perfect stocking stuffer. Choose from a variety of styles and deities (including larger sizes!). Hindu deities are a great addition for a home alter and help to remind us of the yogic principles taught in hindu stories.

Sacred Ornate Journals: $12-24

For the writer in your life, these journals are not only beautiful but functional too. The medium sized versions come with beautifully detailed clasps that keep all your secrets locked inside the ornately decorated cover.

Delicate Gold Bracelets: $30 and up

When these bracelets first arrived everyone at the studio was in awe. They are a beautiful, finely crafted accessory that goes with almost anything. Both dainty and industrious feeling they are a great gift to compliment any style!

Colorfully Painted Ornaments: $16-25

Looking for a great gift for a holiday gift exchange or your favorite ornament lover? Check out these amazing, rich, colorful ornaments in all shapes and sizes. Not featured in the picture are also some awesome dreamcatchers to hang on your tree!

Palo Santo Mantra Bundles: $15

Palo Santo
Palo Santo is a wood which burns easily and is often used, much like sage, to clear out energy and harmonize a space. These sweet bundles are each etched with a special intention and come in packs of three in a burlap sack stamped with our signature logo. Trust us, they smell just as sweet as they look!

Ready to shop?

Come visit us or give us a call and we can put some things on hold for you!

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Namaste Teachers: Meet Bethany Hobbs

Our Namaste Tribe is a powerhouse of wise, talented, and experienced teachers who have dedicated their lives to sharing the gift of yoga with others. We are constantly in awe of the incredible offerings our teachers bring to this community. We are excited to share a new blog series focused on celebrating our teachers and hopefully giving you all a glimpse into the talented team that makes up Namaste Yoga + Wellness.

Meet Bethany Hobbs

How long have you been at Namaste?
I have been at Namaste for over 2 years.

What inspired you to become a yoga instructor?
I knew from a very young age that I wanted to be a teacher– I’ve always taught– and yoga changed my life, so I wanted to share that with others. It came about very naturally.

Your favoriteliterature on yoga or meditation?
Anatomy of the Spirit by Caroline Myss, Long Quiet Highway by Natalie Goldberg, The Heart of Yoga by Desikachar, to name a few.

Bethany_IntrotoYogaBest advice you have ever received relating to your practice?
Be at home in yourself.

Your favorite self-care practices?
Sleep, prayer, burning sage and cedar, essential oils, taking walks.

What is your morning routine?
I wake up, make coffee (with real cream), climb back in bed with my coffee, and write. I love the quiet. It helps prepare me to teach.

Absolute favorite asana?
Supta virasana or reclining hero pose.


Bethany Hobbs fell in love with her first savasana in 2003, and her life hasn’t been the same since. She has been committed to her yoga practice for over a decade, first under the tutelage of Rached Malouf in San Diego, and, later, her mentor Alice Joanou in Oakland, along with many other incredible yogis and healers in India and Oakland (including herbalist Atava Garcia Swiecicki and therapeutic yoga teacher trainer Antonia Fokken).

She is currently diving into the depths of tarot card and archetypal healing studies with local artist Guillermo Galindo, and has recently broadened her teaching horizons by offering wheelchair yoga classes to seniors. She weaves her background in holistic and self-empowered healing and wellness into all of her classes, whether restorative or flow.

Bethany’s classes hold space for the wholeness of each individual through breath, alignment, ritual, and joy.

View Bethany’s Class Schedule

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Namaste Teachers: Meet Megan Moreno

Our Namaste Tribe is a powerhouse of wise, talented, and experienced teachers who have dedicated their lives to sharing the gift of yoga with others. We are constantly in awe of the incredible offerings our teachers bring to this community. We are excited to share a new blog series focused on celebrating our teachers and hopefully giving you all a glimpse into the talented team that makes up Namaste Yoga + Wellness.

Meet Megan Moreno

How long have you been at Namaste?
I have been at Namaste for 2 ½ years.

What inspired you to become a yoga instructor?
I fell in love with yoga when I started practicing in college. I wanted to share the way it made me feel with others and thought that becoming a yoga teacher was the best way to do this. Becoming a yoga teacher changed my life for the better and I hope to continue teaching for many decades to come.

Megan Moreno Restorative Yoga

Your favorite literature on yoga or meditation?
“Living Your Yoga” by Judith Lasater. In this book, Lasater offers practical applications for yogis living in modern times. I enjoy referring back to this book regularly and always find something new to appreciate about it.

What are you involved with outside the studio?
I am a mom to an amazing toddler and am pursuing my Master’s degree in Occupational Therapy at San Jose State University. I appreciate the holistic approach of Occupational Therapy and am planning to integrate my background in yoga into my future practice as an occupational therapist.

Megan Moreno Restorative Yoga

Thoughts on where the yoga industry is headed?
I think Restorative Yoga will continue to gain popularity as the medical culture increasingly understands and promotes the benefits of relaxation. Individuals are seeking opportunities to “unplug” from technology and slow down from the rapid pace of life. Practicing restorative yoga is the perfect way to do this and I look forward to meeting new students and welcoming back returning students in my two weekly classes.

SONY DSCMegan began practicing yoga in 1996 and has been teaching hatha and restorative yoga in San Francisco since 2006. She is thrilled to expand her teaching base to Oakland and the Namaste community.

Megan completed her teacher training at Yoga Tree San Francisco, where she apprenticed Karl Erb and Jennifer Morrice. She has studied extensively with Judith Lasater and is a certified “Advanced Relax and Renew” restorative trainer.

Megan is continuously amazed at the power of restorative yoga as a healing modality. She considers it a gift to create a space that honors stillness, rest, and relaxation.

View Megan’s Weekly Class Schedule

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Sacred Skincare: The Beauty of Ritual

By Denmo Ibriham

I began making herbal skincare in 2006 when I started my private practice in bodywork and was confused by what most companies considered natural and organic. I spent hours shopping the bath and body section of Whole Foods comparing ingredients and settling for basics. I’d hop from one product line to the next uninspired and frustrated. Why were so many lines loaded with preservatives, mass-produced and made without a mindbody philosophy. I wanted something fresh, without fillers, made from the whole plant not just the extract, and formulated with integrity and intelligence. I wanted personal care products to serve as a daily reminder to celebrate my health and nurture my body and I knew that cleansing my face was an invitation to purify my mind. I wanted my products to be part of my practice.

This was the seed for Earthbody Sacred Skincare, a line of small-batch organic and natural skincare I designed with whole plant botanicals inspired by Ayurveda and handcrafted in San Francisco. Initially, I made these for my clients and myself. Demand quickly grew by word of mouth and soon people I had never met were asking for these products to relieve muscle tension, ease arthritis, and calm eczema. They wanted a healthier alternative to lotion and soap, to elevate their massage, treat their acne, and ultimately integrate mind and body.


My training in Ayurveda taught me the principles of healing. Opposites balance. Like increase like. Harmony is a relationship with the five elements. These were ancient guidelines for total health.

But I found that the Ayurvedic language was difficult to grasp, somewhat obscure and for those without a working knowledge, alienating. So I found a way to address the dosha but speak to the person. Instead of stressing the constitution of Vata Pitta Kapha – I highlighted the mood and actions associated most with the dosha in need of balance. How do you want to feel, I asked. Do you want to move? Do you want to dream? Do you want to bloom? Do you want to inspire? Do you want to ground?

These became our five therapeutic body oils ~ Move, Dream, Bloom, Inspire, Ground ~ and are the heart of Earthbody Sacred Skincare.


Why body oil? Because according to Ayurveda, when the body falls ill, the very first recommended course of action is warm oil massage. Also known as Abhyanga, warm oil massage stimulates the entire organ system, lubricates the joints, and kindles the lymph to release what no longer serves. It is recommended that self-massage become a daily priority to maintain the health. So as a massage therapist, body oils were an obvious herbal remedy to design for homecare post session.

The big picture here however isn’t about daily self-massage or natural skincare or even a non-toxic green lifestyle. It’s about aligning your life with your practice so that all divides dissolve. When I take the time to draw a bath or make a facial mask or condition my hair or massage my body, my breath changes, time stands still and I remember the truth ~ I am whole and all is one. This is the inner temple for which all practice is a path toward. This is the beauty of ritual.


Namaste is proud partner of Earthbody Sacred Skincare.
All Namaste Signature Treatments include organic, cold-pressed, locally made botanical infusions by Earthbody. Inspired by Ayurveda and handcrafted in San Francisco, choose from five organic body oils designed for the mind and body to for your next massage.

Denmo in The KitchenAbout Denmo Ibrahim | Founder & CEO
Denmo is the founder & CEO of Earthbody, an award winning day spa in San Francisco and Earthbody Sacred Skincare, a botanical line of organic vegan skincare handcrafted by healers and inspired by Ayurveda. She integrates wellness, business coaching and spiritual mentorship in all of her work to inspire an inner path of mindfulness, leadership, and personal transformation.

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Namaste Teachers: Meet Kameko Shibata

[Above and below photo by Lindsay Isola]

Our Namaste Tribe is a powerhouse of wise, talented, and experienced teachers who have dedicated their lives to sharing the gift of yoga with others. We are constantly in awe of the incredible offerings our teachers bring to this community. We are excited to share a new blog series focused on celebrating our teachers and hopefully giving you all a glimpse into the talented team that makes up Namaste Yoga + Wellness.

Meet Kameko Shibata

Kameko 2How long have you been at Namaste?
I have been at Namaste for 3 years as an instructor and bodyworker. However I did trade front desk staff in college (at Namaste Rockridge) circa 2005.

What inspired you to become a yoga instructor?
The love of breath. The vastness of it all.

Your favorite literature on yoga or meditation?
Heart of Yoga by TKV Desikachar , is SO accessible for all levels, and really breaks things down. I recommend it to students all the time, use it in my courses and also read and re-read it anytime I need inspiration. I just open to any page and start reading! It has his translation of the Yoga Stutras in the back. Brilliantly simple! Dr. Vasant Lad is my go to for all ayurvedic literature, from laymen’s self-care books to his Ayurvedic textbooks and professional papers.

Your favorite self-care practices?
Involves a lot of oil! As a pitta- vata Ayurvedic practioner I am consistently using oil on everything! Oil (usually sesame or sunflower) on the skin daily in the form of Abhyanga, sometimes in the ears and nose as Nasya, mouth pulling with sesame oil in the morning, massaging the feet with oil in the evening, eating lots of ghee, olive oil and taking evening primose oil capsules. Making my nadi girl ayurveda salt scrubs with oils. And then mopping all the oil off my floor from my clients oily feet.

What is your morning routine?
As I mentioned,  it involves a lot oil and my daily yoga practice.

What are you involved with outside the studio?
I dance around on a rope 25 feet in the air, and hang from one arm (part of my aerial arts practice).  I also love to play around with spices and succulents.


How often do you practice?
I practice daily in the morning. I usually do asana/pranayama/chanting 4 days per week and often just surya namaskaras and meditation when I teach early. I also love an afternoon meditation and restorative practice which I manage a few days per week! Sometimes on Sundays I don’t do any yoga. My yogi partner and I sleep in, eat bacon, drink hot chocolate, and blast funk music. Gotta keep it real.

Absolute favorite asana?
Viparti Karani or legs-up-the-wall.

What is your favorite thing about the Bay Area?
Oakland and the racial and sexual diversity here.


Kameko’s love affair with yoga has spanned ten years and five continents! And her teaching reflects her love, curiosity and dedication to yoga and the exploration of breath. Her delicious vinyasa classes invite you to come deeply into your breath and body through safe and challenging sequences combined with sound, breath, and core work.

She weaves her passion for the traditional yoga & ayurvedic practices of India with sweaty evolutionary movement, chanting and the occasional swear word for a refreshingly honest experience. Kameko strives to see her students– always offering individual attention and safe adjustments.

Her creative sequencing is inspired by studying the “vinyasa krama” system at the Krishnamaycharya Yoga Mandariam in India. As well as her 650 hours of Yoga Alliance training, from the Ashrams of India, to studying with Mary Paffard, Alice Jaunou and Ana Forest.

WELLNESS TREATMENTS WITH KAMEKO: Kameko Shibata combines her passion for ayurvedic medicine, bodywork and yoga into a comprehensive healing modality that empowers people to heal themselves. She received her Ayurvedic Practioner certification from the Dhyana Center of Health Sciences, where she went on to complete over 1,000 hours in a 2-year internship under her teacher, DeAnna Batdorff.

View Kameko’s Class Schedule

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Spiritual Maturity

[Spiritual Pioneer Jill Satterfield interviewed by Geertje Couwenbergh. This originally appeared in Happinez]

‘Deep inside I knew: there is always hope’ Her chronic pain was incurable, American Jill Sattersfield was told by doctors. But Jill’s intuition said something different, which led her onto the path of yoga and meditation. Now she travels the world to share her self-healing techniques.

The morning is still young when I meet 56-year-old Jill Sattersfield. Her cheerful face, framed by a white mane of hair, radiates a kind of wild wisdom.

Jill has something I’ve seen in many people who meditate: a kind of naughty youthfulness, wrapped in an experienced body. The hope to grow old in way she has, is motivating me to meditate.

1tJu4ifMg7pW_Llo_S2WM1LSZpUnrxcMz1gHTvcXX9YI have studied under Jill for a few years now. She helped me to trust my intuition and to integrate my yoga and meditation exercises. This is because I have had one foot in the world of yoga and the other in the world of Buddhism, and quite a few times they have slipped apart like Bambi’s legs on the ice. The yogis, with their mala chains and stories about bliss, love and light did not seem to me to be representatives of a Proper Spiritual Path. My Buddhist meditation tradition did, but it would often drive me spare with its emphasis on sitting, sitting and more sitting.

Enter Jill. I got hooked during her first workshop, when she talked about the difference between being in a yoga position and being the yoga position. When during yoga we also did my favourite Buddhist guided meditation (about loving kindness), I was officially ecstatic. Because although yoga and meditation are often spoken of in the same breath, they tend to be done separately. First you move for a bit, then you sit, or the other way around. And Jill said there is no need for that.

What is the biggest misconception about meditation?

‘That you have to stop your thoughts when you’re meditating. You don’t. You may have fewer thoughts, and you may allow the thoughts you have to move, rather than freeze them or hold on to them. Another big misconception about meditation is that you can only do it in a formal sitting position. Formal meditation of that kind is very important to train your mind. But we can be mindful in many different positions, and that is indeed how you translate it into yoga. With intention and attention, you can approach a yoga position as a different form in which you can be aware.’

I often hear people say that they feel sitting down during meditation is unnecessary, because they can also meditate when they are cycling or doing the washing-up. ‘Although I feel it’s laudable and I’m all for it, I think that what you are doing then probably isn’t meditation, unless you are very well trained (laughs). You train your mind in a formal sitting position because it is harder to be present and silent when you are moving, even in walking meditation. Once you are more experienced, you can build up some movement in which you continue that silence. It takes a bit of time to get to that level. After all, you don’t go to secondary school right out of playgroup.

Do you feel that many modern types of yoga in fact detract from a meditative consciousness?

What I like so much about yoga, is that it is one of the most versatile types of exercise. You can do it as fitness, you can do yoga as flow, and you can zoom in, deep into the individual positions. That’s all fine. The intention you do it with, determines your yoga practice. If you do mindless yoga, you will not change fundamentally. If you do anything at all in a mindful way, it will cause an inherent, brilliant change. It all depends on how you work with your mind. How can you explore yoga positions in a mindful way? That is what interests me.

Jill is rooted in both the hatha yoga and the Buddhist theravada traditions. Her initial motivation for her spiritual quest, she tells me, was despair. She fell ill when she was twenty. She suffered chronic pain almost all day round for thirteen years before nh6SFqm6Gq8NqJrpCxwoeDuvnEZQc3WCa_NPkIj1Qekdoctors found out what was wrong. A large part of her large intestine had come loose and had penetrated her diaphragm. The intestine was replaced and attached to the abdominal wall, but the pain remained. Worse, her bowels had lost peristalsis.

Jill: ‘I’ve seen every doctor in the land. Eventually I ended up in a pain clinic, where I was told that the only thing they could do to stop the pain was to paralyse my nerves. I hit a wall. I had just a couple of options: either turn into a junkie, get deeply depressed, or try to help myself. After being utterly desperate, I decided that I wouldn’t go down the path of depression and drugs. I put a proverbial finger up to the world and said: Fine, if you can’t help me, I’ll help myself.’

And that’s what I did. It took more than seven years, but against all the medical odds Jill cured herself. Inspired by stories of old yogis who could transform body and mind, she launched into a strict regimen of yoga and meditation.

‘I started with the intention to totally rearrange my cells.’

She went on countless meditation retreats, meditated for 45 minutes twice a day, and did yoga for at least two hours every day. Her own brand of yoga, because the positions she was taught were not always right for her specific needs. It took you seven years to cure something that doctors said couldn’t be cured.

Was there a time in all those years that you became sure that what you were doing was working?

‘Yoga opened up my body and gave my mind access to the specific parts that hurt. The turning point came when, with my full attention, I found the centre point of the main, which turned out to be far smaller than I had thought! It was a small spot, as small as the tip of a needle, which radiated pain out to a wider area. That realization dismantled the fear. I no longer felt I was at the mercy of the pain. My mind remained separate from it, that was maybe the greatest discovery I made. Another high point was when I could finally feel sympathy for my body. Because in the beginning I was incredibly critical about myself, I hated my body and wondered why this had to happen to me. When the fear of the pain lost its hold on me, I felt much freer. And then things started to change.’

Jill says that because of her illness, she explored the interaction between mind and body ‘as an alchemist’. Using that experience, she started to give yoga lessons at meditation retreats, which was unique at the time. In these lessons, she tried to build on the theme Ajahn Amaro, her Buddhist teacher, had spoken about earlier that day.

‘My approach, and I’ve done a lot of work on this, was to ensure that my yoga lessons did not interrupt the meditation retreat. Imagine that on those retreats you meditate, walk and sit for about ten hours in complete silence. You don’t even look at the others. When there’s a yoga lesson, everybody goes: ‘Yay! Give me a break! Give me something to do!’ But I was determined that my lesson wasn’t going to be entertainment.’


How did you do that?

‘I profoundly felt that I wanted to offer people something that I hoped would benefit them in some way. I got a lot of positive feedback and they kept asking me back. This reinforced my confidence in this method, and that fed back into itself. But at the end of the day it was a real experiment, because there was no one to tell me what to do or how to do it. Which incidentally is a recurring theme in my life; I like that. In fact, I thrive on it.’

Jill is undeniably self-willed. After the Happinez Festival last year, where she gave workshops, we had a meal together, and I got to know a very different side to her. Casually, she told me where she’d met her ex-husband: at an illegal street race. I was in hysterics. She asked: ‘Do you know what “playing chicken” is?’Her eyes twinkle behind her mineral water with lemon, and she explains it’s a game in which you challenge the driver of the car next to you to a race. The first one to get scared and pull out is the proverbial chicken, and loses. I forgot to ask who won that race, but in any case it led to a wedding. This is Jill’s other side.

‘People tend to be shocked to find that I do more than meditate in silence,’ she laughs when I meet her this time. When she was young, she worked as a visual artist in New York City. ‘That was the punk era, the late 70s, early 80s. It was a pretty dangerous place, with a lot of drugs and crime. But there was still a kind of Wild West feel about the place; it was an incredible time to be an artist there.’

It was the first spot where Jill really felt at home, at the art academy. ‘I had finally found my tribe.’ It was a world away from her childhood in North Connecticut, where she’d been raised as a ‘proper girl’, but always felt she was the black sheep of the family. ‘I had other interests than the other school children. I was always breaking the rules: smoking, skipping school. I was even expelled for that.’ She quickly adds that there were plenty of others, but that she was the only one who didn’t try to hide it.


So you were always a maverick?

‘I guess so. When I was five or six, I visited my grandparents in Ohio, and I went along to Sunday school, where we sang church songs. I used to change the words of the songs (laughs). I had never met
Jesus and we hadn’t been introduced, and I didn’t believe that he loved me. So I sang: ‘I don’t love Jesus and he doesn’t love me.’ I kept getting into trouble. Later, as a teenager, I avoided having to go to church with my parents by teaching little children in Sunday school. I would tell them to draw God. They were puzzled, and asked me what God looked like: was he a man with a long white beard? And I
would tell them: ‘No, he can look any way you want.’ We made beautiful drawings with lots of colours and abstract shapes, and then I’d say: ‘Yes! That is exactly how God looks for you.’

How does your Wild West side manifest itself these days?

‘Well, it has pros and cons. I don’t like people telling me what to do. Or what to think. That was reinforced by the medical system, because in the beginning I was constantly being told that the pain was all inside my head. It works as fuel to the fire for my radical part, the cowgirl who wants to go where no girl has gone before. I think that ultimately, every tradition starts this way; someone has to discover something…’

JillYou mean like the Buddha wasn’t a Buddhist, as people say.

‘Exactly. What did the Buddha do? He explored various techniques. Some he found too extreme, others worked. He used what worked, found enlightenment and taught others. I don’t consider myself as a Buddha, but I always keep at the back of my mind that something isn’t necessarily true just because somebody says so. I can now say that I mostly trust my intuition. I’ve developed it mainly through the experience of not trusting my first instinct, and then often finding I was right all along. Especially when I was ill, I came to a point that I just couldn’t blindly trust other people’s advice any more, because they said there was no more hope. And I knew, deep inside, that there is always hope. That’s when I started to follow my own radically different sense of direction.’

In 2004 you founded the School for Compassionate Action, which offers yoga lessons for people with chronic pain and all kinds of psychological problems, traumas and addictions. What did that originate

‘From the experience of healing my own body. And also that I saw that at the time yoga was only available for people who could afford it, not for people who had cancer or who couldn’t get out of bed or had serious psychological issues. I felt a great need to take these techniques out of the studio and into the community. I was immediately struck by how hungry people were after something they could do themselves, because they had been so disenfranchised by the medical system – just as I had been. So I offered them things they could do at home. And they did them. These were mainly attention techniques, because doing yoga was hard for people in hospital or who were overweight. Also, it’s a very sensitive matter for people with emotional or physical traumas to work with their bodies. So I had to be careful. But I was surprised how quickly these people took to my techniques. And they really did help. So I stopped teaching yoga in studios for thirteen years in order to this work.’

She’s now teaching again, with lots of street cred. The respected American Shambhala Sun magazine even called her one of the four best meditation teachers in the country. However, she never attained yogi star status, as some of her colleagues did, her good friend Sarah Powers among them. Jill: ‘I’m such an anti-guru that it’s hard to market myself in a particular way. I want to be invisible to the student so that he can find his own way, not my way.”

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