Interview with Lilias Folan


Yoga for me is a steady connection to the spiritual heart and to a feeling of gratitude. It’s about touching the deep stuff right here and now, whether it is teaching or friendships or connection to the Divine within. Every situation, every person I encounter becomes my teacher. That has become a style of life for me—to see what I can learn from each situation.

Every situation, every person I encounter becomes my teacher.

The most important part of my practice is in the morning—between seven and nine—before the phone starts ringing. I start with about 5 or 10 minutes of bed-top stretches. I do some hip openers like baddha konasana (bound angle pose) and the beginning of pigeon pose. I follow that with about 5 minutes of kapalabhati (skull-shining breath). I visualize energy running up the front of my body and down the back, focusing on each chakra with the breath and sometimes repeating my mantra.

Then I do about half an hour of meditation. I just drop into the stillness and stay there. When thoughts come I let them flow through me, and then drop into the stillness again. I am not this body and I am not my thoughts. I am that stillness. I try to keep that awareness with me as I walk through my day.

I am not this body and I am not my thoughts.

In the afternoon I do a hatha yoga practice, probably an hour before I teach, so I’m sharp. I like to add something new and fresh in my classes, so they don’t get stale. At night, I don’t do too much except try to connect with the Divinity within and give thanks for my day. I read the inspirational words of the great saints and sages, men and women from past and present—things that inspire my soul, that uplift my heart—before I go to sleep.

I’m also trying to be honestly attentive to the attachments in my life—my grandchildren and my sons and my supportive husband of 50 years. I call it “affectionate detachment.” There’s a joy of being with them and a knowledge that it is not going to last forever. So I observe what that feels like and ask myself, what am I hanging on to? That’s my sadhana, my inner work, right now.

I think I have been so intent on connecting with God that I haven’t thought about aging very much. Practice is not about trying to stay young. There are things that go on in my body that are inconvenient. I have a cranky ankle, a few injuries over the years. They’re a pain. The fun is to try to work around them with hatha yoga and ayurvedic tips about what I should eat and drink.

Practice is not about trying to stay young.

Life is constantly new, constantly interesting, always changing, and joyous. Now my destiny is leading me to the joy of teaching other teachers and helping those that are uncomfortable living in their physical body and mental body—people who are suffering from depression and sadness. My teacher, Sri Swami Chidananda of the Sivananda lineage, ingrained in me from the very beginning to love, serve, and meditate. I do a practice where on an inhale I mentally say, “May my practice…,” and then on the exhale, “…serve a greater good.”

My philosophy, as Socrates said it, is to “know thyself.” Find out who you are through observation and practice, and then try to uplift others. It’s looking at a red light on a television camera and thinking, there’s at least one person who is listening and doing this practice with me, and that one person may feel better. It’s putting your hand out and saying to somebody, come on, let me help you.

About the Teacher

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Crystal Ketterhagen
After 5 years as managing editor of Yoga International Crystal Ketterhagen discovered her love of photography... Read more