The lovely Ann Armbrecht, creator of the inspiring film "Numen: The Healing Power of Plants," interviewed me recently about Plant Spirit Yoga. Here's an excerpt from the interview with a link to the rest of it! Enjoy~
Plant Spirit Yoga: A Conversation with Lydia Russell-McDade
I first met Lydia at Sage Mountain. She was an intern and cooked some of the most fantastic meals I’d ever tasted. Since then, our paths cross often: at festivals, at the coop, at herb conferences and, most happily, while dancing! I finally had the chance to take one of Lydia’s plant spirit yoga classes at the recent Village Building Convergence held in central Vermont this past June. I loved it! As we moved through the asanas, she talked about the mycelium beneath us all, the web that connects. She talked about the importance of paying attention and of yoga as a practice of paying attention to the invisible world that sustains us all. I wanted to find out more about how she creates her classes and the themes that weave through them. Thank you, Lydia, for taking the time to share your thoughts!
More information about Lydia’s classes and the ideas that inspire and inform her teachings can be found at Saprema Yoga.
Ann: I love the way you weave plants and nature into your yoga classes. Can you say a bit about how you came to teach classes on what you call plant spirit yoga?? What, for you, is the potency of this particular combination?
Lydia: The plants have always been my primary teachers. Before I was a yoga teacher I was an herbalist and nutritionist, and before that, a gardener and farmer. Before that I was a child who loved to wander in the fields and woods and pay attention. The plants would talk to me and I would talk to them. There was a sense of belonging, of kinship.
To me, yoga is about paying attention and realizing we’re not alone. It’s about remembering that we are all part of a web of life more intricate, elegant, and powerful than we can fully comprehend. I believe that this remembrance is something about which to be reverent, curious, and celebratory. So, that’s how my yoga classes are. Well, except when I’m being irreverent, curious, and celebratory!
When we invite the teachings of a particular plant to be present in our yoga practice (whether asana or meditation), we are simply tapping into a connection that is always there. Some people might take what I do as metaphor or story-telling and that works fine. Other people might understand that the spirit or energy of the plant is actually present. This works, too. What I am trying to get across through my teaching is that we’re not alone. We’re connected; we’re supported; we have been given many gifts and therefore we, too, have something to offer, to contribute, to share.
One of the meanings of the word tantra is “web.” The word “yoga” has to do with connection. It’s from the Sanskrityuj, meaning “to yoke,” as in an ox to a cart. It implies relationship and responsibility. To me, yoga is about remembering that we are already connected to this web of power and vitality that weaves together all things. Recognizing this, we then get to ask the exciting question of, what shall I do with all this power, all this life force, all this possibility that is me?! It is here that the really interesting yoga begins!