Ever wondered about the inner workings of a yogi’s mind, or wanted to know more about their journey? Prana & Pie’s column, 15 Questions for a Yogi, is dedicated to posing 15 questions to a devout yogi and getting only real answers in return. Think you’ve got the answers, too? We’d love to feature you; contact us here. This week’s yogi is the founder and editor-in-chief of elephant journal, Waylon Lewis (he also happens to be Laura’s boss). This column was originally published on elephantjournal.com.
What was your first experience with yoga?
Well, I grew up in the Buddhist community in Boulder, Colorado, so I’ve been around yogis my whole life. But I often call Buddhists “the Republicans of Eastern Spirituality”—we don’t go in for love’n’light, hippie dippie, new agey, airy fairy, spirituality-as-patchouli-scented lifestyle—so growing up, we tended to (ignorantly) look down upon yoga. We were weird enough, I guess, with our meditation and books and lectures and workshops.
So my personal first yoga class was, I think, at Corepower, with an ex-girlfriend. I loved it. And I pretty much literally crawled out of that class, having left behind the 80% of myself that is water in the studio. After that, I went to the Yoga Workshop, where I’ve practiced ever since, for nine years. I’m not hardcore, but I do looove it, and more importantly need it. Love can be fickle. But my back and neck (and mind) demand yoga if I miss class or personal practice.
How would you describe your personal practice?
Well, guess I touched on it above, so I’d just say that yoga for me is meditation. I think that without coming back to the breath, returning my wandering mind and drishti to here and now, it’s not yoga. It’s also not yoga if there’s not proper alignment—it’s just “like yoga”—and can be really dangerous long-term.
What’s been playing on your iPod lately?
Not much. I don’t like too much music, probably ’cause I’m working all the time and find it distracting. And I don’t love music during yoga, either. I don’t mind it—music can make flow easier, make the class more fun. But…yoga is meditation, not aerobics. To answer your question, though: Adele, Adele, Adele. And this guy. And this girl.
You’re a T-Shirt slogan. What do you say?
“If you want to be happy, think first of others. If you want to be unhappy, think only of yourself.” Buddhist aphorism.
How do you practice yoga off the mat?
If by that you mean how do I practice being present and compassionate? What we call “postmeditation practice” in Buddhism; I’d say my whole life is about that. So is yours. We’re all trying our best to be happy. We just have to remember that my happiness depends on my ability to be kind and patient and think of others, and dedicate my work and play to the benefit of others. It’s a messed up world, full of suffering. It’s also a wonderful world, full of ordinary magic. It’s my joy and duty to try and become more fully present and genuine and hopefully help others to do so, if they wish.
Bikram Choudhury. Discuss.
Awesome. He’s got balls of steel, he could blow up atom bombs! Or whatever. Seriously, love his outrageousness. What I mind is yoga teachers who are all about fame and career and agents and twitter, but “pretend” to be all about “Namaste.” My personal yoga idol is Richard Freeman, who’s famous and popular, without caring about any of that. He cares about yoga. About studying, about teaching. And he’s got a great sense of humor.
The world ends tomorrow. What will you eat tonight?
Nothing. I’ll run around in circles panicking, then call my mom for a long time, then hug my dog, then meditate, then try and have sex.
What’s the last book you read?
You mean, printed stuff on paper? I’m an online guy.
Imagine you’re on the cover of Yoga Journal. What pose would you strike?
Meditation. Yoga people don’t even think of meditation as a yoga pose, really. It’s a little sad: meditation could be the ground of yoga, could make that high, that life-changing aspect yoga folks love, so much more grounded, accessible and easy to get to.
What did you eat for breakfast this morning?
Coffee. And a farmers’ market apple.
If you could roll out your yoga mat anywhere in the world, where would it be?
Wanderlust has it pretty dialed in Lake Tahoe, on the mountaintop. Not that I’ve had the pleasure. Probably inside of The Great Stupa.
There are only three things on your sandwich. What are they?
Go to The Kitchen and order the veggie sandwich. Mmm Mmm. I like beet burgers and fresh mozzarella, and portobello mushrooms… Dijon…there’s so many good veggie sandwiches now. I also love good ol’ fashioned PB&J (organic, of course).
What inspires your practice?
I’m forced to go by all my blogging—back and neck pain from being hunched over a laptop—and I’m magnetized to go by all the beautiful yoga women. It’s been said before, but the smartest straight men in America are the one or two who bother to get their lazy butts to yoga, where they find themselves surrounded by beautiful, caring, empowered, active women.
You’ve got the day off. What do you do?
Work. In the Buddhist tradition we regard work or discipline as fun, as joy, really—again what makes us truly happy is thinking about others, not ourselves, trying to be of some benefit. So from that point of view taking a day off is a bummer. Taking a vacation is a waste of time.
That said, I do need a bit of a rest, and taking care of oneself is important. If I did take a day off, ever, I’d probably sleep a lot, then get down to the beach, surf…there’d be lots of water and sun involved. And a good ol’ fashioned book. And hopefully someone to be in love with and have dinner with.
Complete the sentence: I wear my sunglasses at night, so I can ___.
Niiice. I loved Cory Hart when I was a kid. So I can see the light?
Waylon Lewis, founder of elephantjournal.com & host of Walk the Talk Show with Waylon Lewis, is a 1st generation American Buddhist “Dharma Brat.” Voted #1 in U.S. on twitter for #green content two years running, Changemaker and Eco Ambassador by Treehugger, Green Hero by Discovery’s Planet Green, Best (!) Shameless Self-Promoter at Westword’s Web Awards & Prominent Buddhist by Shambhala Sun, Waylon is a mediocre climber, lazy yogi, 365-day bicycle commuter & best friend to Redford (his rescue hound). His aim: to bring the good news re: “the mindful life” beyond the choir & to all those who didn’t know they gave a care.