Photo: Rachel Meyer. Art Direction: The Magazine of Yoga.
The Real Life is Real Yoga Practices Index
The biggest and most beautiful gifts of my life have come from the times I said,”Ahh, screw it!” and just went ahead with being bold.
BY RACHEL MEYER
I’m a San Francisco-based yoga teacher and writer. When I’m not chanting in Sanskrit and jumping around in leggings or holed up at my duct-taped laptop cranking out the Next Great American Novel, I bake, I blog and I bartend.
In recent years, I’ve written about bundt cakes for Yoga Journal, studied body theologies and social theory under radical theologian Rosemary Radford Ruether, and performed with a Scottish political theater company. I’m currently at work on two book manuscripts: one, a whimsical manual on the yoga of baking, the other, a down-to-earth melding of yogic philosophy and urban narrative.
You can find my current teaching schedule at www.facebook.com/RachelMeyerYoga, or at rawrach.blogspot.com, my literary “practice mat” of sorts, where I dabble in yoga philosophy, the arts, books, politics, pop culture, vegetarianism, gratuitous photos of my adorable goddaughters, and more.
The Magazine of Yoga 3×5 Interview
What is the task you like to do best in your work?
In writing? I really love to dig into some raw stream-of-consciousness stuff – lots of swearing and run-on sentences and grammar-be-damned style scribbling – and then throw in some legit philosophy and theology to ground it out.
Smart, soulful, intellectual writing doesn’t have to be buffered by footnotes and citations. I really dig that project of crafting something at once fiery and spirited and intelligent and academically legit.
And in teaching? There’s nothing like coming to the mat in ratty sweatpants, solo, quiet, cranking up the tunes, and knocking out a few new sequences. It’s this great intuitive process of choreography, really, following the body from asana to asana, discovering what your muscles are hungry for after a long Parsvottanasana or an intense Urdhva Dhanurasana. I can really get lost there, in the best kind of ways.
What housework or domestic detail is most satisfying to do?
I really love throwing on an apron, getting elbow-deep in flour, churning out a cake or two, and watching this whole new humble creation emerge in the span of just an hour or two.
I don’t have as much time to bake these days as I used to, but in terms of domestic pleasures, I can’t think of anything as satisfying – other than washing that last frosting-caked bowl and wiping down the counter after the whole process is through.
What in light of your experience in life, should we not waste time on or worry about?
Life’s too short to care about what anyone else thinks. We waste so much energy worrying about being too much, too big, too bright, too edgy. The biggest and most beautiful gifts of my life have come from the times I said,”Ahh, screw it!” and just went ahead with being bold. Insecurity is useless; confidence is life-giving. It builds prana. And it lends an ease to our lives that makes people want to be around us.
How do you celebrate?
Simply. I don’t need a big production. Good friends, good food, good wine, a pleasant moment in time. That’s enough.
How do you learn?
Learning’s all about listening, just paying attention. The more we shut our mouths and open our eyes, and just watch, and listen, and soak it up, the better we learn.
Spend time with the people you admire. Watch what they do, how they speak, how they breathe, how they move. And let that inform your own doings.
How do you prepare to do something?
Whether it’s writing an article or sequencing a new class, suddenly there are all these important things that need to be done first: cleaning the house, running to the bank, catching up on phone calls.
I find the less you think about doing something, and the more you just sit down and do it, the better. No bullsh*t.
Do you have a nemesis?
I really, really hate the telephone. Ask any of my beloveds; they’ll confirm.
It’s such an obstacle to really being present, and I hate the pressure to be constantly available. I’d rather save the empty chatter for times when I can really be with someone, present, together, rather than trying to multi-task by catching up on the minutiae of our lives whilst walking or cleaning the house or getting groceries or whatnot.
Do you have a vocation?
After years spent flirting with careers in academia and musical theater, I feel so blessed and humbled and inspired to have, in the realm of teaching yoga, finally stumbled across that rare combination of all the things I love in one place: music, and theology, and spirit, and athleticism, and dance, and irreverence, and meditation, and service, and laughter, and teaching, and community. My life has been so beautifully transformed by the practice. I feel hungry to share even a flash of that revelation with others.
Do you have a plan?
Oh sure; I’ve got twelve. Will any of them come to be? Or do I really want any of them to come to be? We’ll see. Right now, it’s all about just doing what I’m doing, and loving what I’m loving, and trusting that the rest will unfold accordingly, as I’ve already seen it do. We can set great intentions, yeah, but then, it’s really all just about getting out of our own way, isn’t it?
I’ve gotta give a shout-out to the ever-subversive and inspirational Adbusters, but that said, I’m pretty over-the-moon in love with Tricycle: The Buddhist Review these days. Pair those two with Shambhala Sun, a fishbowl of strong coffee, and a languid afternoon at a sunlit cafe, and I can lose a good several hours.
Favorite work beverage?
Whether it’s writing or teaching yoga, without a doubt: black coffee, splash of cold soy. Toward evening, when cranking out a long piece? Belvedere on the rocks, three olives. No messing around.
Favorite relax thing?
I really love a solo walk up and over Nob Hill ’round twilight, after a good productive day of writing and teaching, wearing 3/4 length gloves and a cloche pulled low over my eyes – to protect against the fog rolling in, of course – to meet someone or other for a quiet cocktail in one of the unassuming tucked-away low-lit bars in the sleeping Financial District. Those moments remind this prairie kid how lucky I am to call San Francisco home.
5 things about your workspace that make it good
1. Windows thrown open overlooking my garden
2. Wooden floors empty enough to leave a yoga mat perpetually unrolled
3. Leftover frosting in the fridge
4. The clang of the cable car passing on California St.
5. Years-old Post-Its on the wall reminding me what really matters
5 people you want to collaborate with
1. Matthew B. Crawford, whose incredible book Shop Class as Soulcraft marries so many of my thoughts on sensual labor, theory and the craft of embodied work, be it baking, bartending, or building a house
2. Michael Stone, rockstar yoga teacher, Buddhist philosopher and brilliant writer
3. Hugh Jackman, he of the swoon-inducing baritone. I’d love to front a jazz combo with him, rock a little red lipstick and a sparkly gown, and croon a few Gershwin duets together
4. Chuck Palahniuk, whose sharp, sexy and subversive Fight Club continually inspires me to merge yoga philosophy with body theologies, queer theory, consumerism, and sexuality
5. Joslyn Hamilton and Vanessa Fiola, whose Recovering Yogi website lends a much-needed flash of snark, humor, grit and down-to-earth realism to the increasingly commodified yoga scene
[Related post Conversation: RecoveringYogi]
5 songs from your current playlist
1. Fool’s Work, Inara George (Melancholy, hauntingly beautiful chanteuse)
2. Cry Me A River, Justin Timberlake (Coming out of the closet here, folks; not gonna lie)
3. Fever, A Fine Frenzy (Classic torch song, never gets old)
4. Sharpest Blade, Over the Rhine (Killer slow-burn jazz-blues duo from Ohio)
5. Om Namah Shivaya, MC Yogi (Nicholas is amazing!)
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© 2011, The Magazine of Yoga, LLC.