Being a Yogi in this Age
Sujantra: I read in an interview with Rodney Yee, the famous teacher and he said if he only had ten minutes a day for his practice he would do his pranayama. I think we all find the element of yoga that most quickly and convincingly takes us into that deeper space.
Brian: Yeah, absolutely.
Sujantra: You’ve written two books from the perspective of a yogi. One of them is the misadventures book (Misadventures of a Garden State Yogi) and then the parenting book (Misadventures of a Parenting Yogi), both from the perspective of a yogi and in today’s world, becoming a yogi has become, in my mind, a really positive lifestyle choice and so not only in choosing that but also expressing that into the culture, I am wondering if you could talk a little bit about how it feels to be playing that role.
Brian: It feels great. You mean, do I value and do I feel good about writing the books? About being a yogi in the culture?
Sujantra: Yes, and being a yogi and offering that into society. Your children are going to grow up with the possibility of being a yogi and really focus their life in that, whereas fifty years ago, people didn’t have the option of that type of reality.
Brian: True. My son knows that intuition is really important to me. Guidance, following prana and energy flowing guidance is really a big part of me. Another big part of Kripalu, to go back to your earlier question about what I love about it, it’s funny because he knows that I really value that and I think he does too. Sometimes he will say to me, “Didi,” (that’s what my son calls me), “my intuition tells me that we really should…” you know, whatever it is he really wants or wants to do.
A Rebirth or Re-invigoration
Sujantra: (Laughs.) That’s great. How old is he?
Brian: I have two kids; one is nine and the younger, Benji, is six. To go back to your question, I love it and feel it’s a real process for me to find my passion so to speak or to find my bliss. It’s great because it’s something that we all really need to do, I think, the happiness is really implicit on right livelihood and finding work that inspires us and allows us to express our ideals in the world so the process for me was that the other work I have, as you mentioned, is running a tutoring center. I do a holistic tutoring with kids working on math and other things and over the years I was doing test prep with kids. A bunch of kids said to me, “You should write a book because this is really cool stuff.” So I wrote a book and it got published and then I wrote a bunch of books and one thing led to another and suddenly I was writing books based on pop culture and there’s nothing wrong with that, you know, it’s okay, but it’s not exactly aligned with my values. I felt like a bit of a fraud. For example, I didn’t even want to meet my editor because I just felt like I didn’t know who to be. I don’t really value pop culture that much. I was almost ashamed in a way and that kind of thing takes its toll on me. I didn’t see it coming but one day I suddenly realized I was depressed and I was not being authentic and it took a real toll. It got worse and worse and worse and I kind of just bottomed out and was really depressed and I was meditating one day asking, “What’s happening here?” and I realized that my work was not in alignment with what I believe. I wasn’t living a right livelihood and I just scrapped it and just prayed and asked “what do I need to do?” and little by little my energy started building and little by little this new book started coming to me which was to write the truest book to who I am. The pop culture books were pretty far from who I am. The truest expression of that and myself was Misadventures of a Garden State Yogi, my first yoga book. It was really a rebirth or reinvigoration and I was experiencing loving my work and felt like rainbows were popping out of my head as I wrote. (Laughs.) I just enjoyed it and was in a state of bliss and grace so that’s my aim now in every interaction in my life and in my work as well, to have that be an expression of my truer self, of my dharma.
Sujantra: I think that’s a great inspiration to really find out what is authentic within ourselves and then have the courage to make the change. I believe meditation and yoga gives us that inner space where we have the courage to let go of something even though we aren’t sure of what’s coming our way.
Brian: Exactly. That’s my new book that I am working on right now. That is, that right now, that it truly, I don’t know if it’s a story I want to tell, you know I think it’s something people need to hear and that people can benefit from to free them up to really pursue that more and more.
Sujantra: One of our teachers here at the studio, she’s Kripalu trained and she led a workshop for us on finding your dharma. Now, in your book (Misdaventures of the Parenting Yogi) two themes I found throughout were the term ‘conscious parenting’ and as you’ve illustrated in the Benjamin Spock part, developing your intuition. I am really curious how you talk about your child crying and trying to figure out what exactly is going on and needing to learn to trust your intuition. I was wondering if you could just talk about that ability and how your intuition can help you distinguish to what that little child might need or is looking for?
Brian: I think in parenting and all parts of life it’s the same thing. There’s a wisdom and an inner knowing that we all have that we can all tap into. Perhaps it’s in no place stronger than it is in parenting, right, because it’s obviously so innate. I think it could be relative to all parts though. Instead of watching the news and seeing the latest study on whether pomegranate seeds are or are not good for us, I think we’d be a lot better served by doing something like yoga, tai chi, playing basketball, or whatever clears our mind or calms our mind. Then we can hear and see more clearly whether pomegranate or spinach or meat or whatever is good for us. Similarly in parenting I think we can certainly get some advice on logistics from our parents and other folks, but deep in our heart I think we already know what we need to know. So I would say the way to intuition is knocking on the door. I don’t think we need to cultivate the intuition. What we really need to do is quiet the noise, quiet the busy mind, quiet the cultural messages that may be overriding. Quiet the fear that causes us to not follow our intuition and of course, the way to do that is meditation, yoga or whatever practices a person is drawn to. I think that the innate knowledge of how to care for our loved ones is there already.
ABOUT BRIAN LEAF
Brian Leaf, MA, is director of The New Leaf Learning Center, a holistic tutoring center in Massachusetts. In his work helping students manage ADD and overcome standardized-test and math phobias, Brian draws upon twenty-one years of intensive study, practice, and teaching of yoga, meditation, and holistic health. He is certified by The New England Institute of Ayurvedic Medicine and holds licenses or certifications as a Yoga Teacher, Massage Therapist, Energyworker, and Holistic Educator. He also incorporates Bach Flower Essences, Cranio-Sacral Therapy, Reiki, Shiatsu, and Tai Chi into his work.
Brian is the author of eleven books, including Misadventures of a Garden State Yogi, Name That Movie!, and McGraw-Hill’s Top 50 Skills for a Top Score. His books have been featured on The CW, MTV.com, Fox News, and Kripalu.org.
Brian lives in western Massachusetts with his wife and two sons.