Yoga Alliance recently interviewed Lilias Folan, the “Julia Child of Yoga,” and we were truly touched by her heartfelt perspective on teaching and inspiring students for over 40 years. We asked Lilias about her personal yoga journey, teaching yoga in a television studio and the best teaching advice she’s ever received.
YA: How did you first discover yoga?
LF: In the mid 1960’s I went to my family physician for a physical because I wasn’t sleeping well, I was out of shape, and my energy level was low. I was hoping for a quick cure — a prescription note and a handshake — because that was often the expectation back then. Instead, he determined that nothing was wrong with me and suggested that I get involved in an exercise program. Around that time I also discovered a book called Yoga, Youth & Reincarnation by Jess Stearn. The inspiring transformation he described in his book touched my heart and fed a spiritual hunger I’d had since I was a child. Soon after reading Stearn’s book I started taking yoga classes at the local Y.W.C.A. and instantly felt better after the first class. Eventually, I was guided to an ashram in upstate New York where I met Swami Chidananda, then president of the Sivananda Divine Light Society. He lit the torch in my heart and inspired me to love, serve, meditate and realize my divine potential.
How has your experience with yoga evolved over the years?
20 years ago I was teaching in a television studio for my show “Lilias! Yoga and You.” At that time, I was literally teaching to a red light — not a living, breathing being. It was difficult since I wasn’t physically connecting with my students, but I never felt alone in the class. Through the power of television I connected with people of all ages and various backgrounds. Teaching on television taught me how to teach to many levels.
Today I am able to connect with students on a more personal and tangible level through in-person classes and teacher training programs at yogahOMe in Cincinnati. This is a very different teaching experience from my days in television! Now I focus more on how to inspire students to take yoga and put it into their lives so they can learn about themselves by connecting with their inner landscape.
What is your hope for the future of yoga in the United States?
My hope is that yogis can continue to soften their hearts, join together, break down the barriers that separate us, and continue to send out love, light and healing to our planet.
What inspired you to speak at the Yoga Alliance Leadership Conference?
If we, as teachers, are not good students, then we cannot be good teachers. I am passionate about the continuing education of yoga teachers and the Leadership Conference will be a wonderful opportunity for learning to unfold. I love teaching teachers and I’m looking forward to creating a warm foundation for our journey together at the conference.
What is the best teaching advice you have ever received?
Teach what you know, but you don’t have to say everything you know.
Lilias Folan and Yoga scholars David Frawley, Philip Goldberg and Mark Singleton will discuss the links between ancient yoga traditions and modern Western practice at the first annual Yoga Alliance Leadership Conference October 31 – November 2nd in Indian Wells, CA.
With thanks to Yoga Alliance for sharing. We’re happy to support as they are an elephantjournal.com sponsor.
Yoga Alliance is the national education and support organization for yoga in the United States. Y.A. works in the public interest to ensure that the teachers of yoga value its history and traditions, and that there is a thorough understanding of the benefits of yoga, so that the public can be confident in the quality and consistency of instruction.