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Yoga, road trips, and personal stories that border on TMI—these are all things I enjoy, which might explain why I was drawn to Misadventures of a Garden State Yogi.
In this engaging self-help memoir, author and yoga teacher Brian Leaf shares his experiences healing Colitis and ADD through yoga.
Including anecdotes from a cross-country journey during which he tried many different studios, Brian provides a window into his spiritual journey and shares how he established his own personal formula for happiness.
Honest, entertaining, and insightful, Misadventures of a Garden State Yogi shares how one man healed himself from within and inspires us to access our own personal power.
I’m grateful that Brian took the time to answer some questions about himself and his book, and that he’s provided three copies for Tiny Buddha readers.
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1. What inspired you to write Misadventures of a Garden State Yogi?
A few years ago, I wrote fifteen pages of a meditation manual and showed it to my literary agent. He told me no one would buy it and fired me. So I did exactly what any yogi-meditator-writer would do; I collapsed to the floor and cried. And then I meditated.
During meditation, as my mind cleared and quieted, a funny story bubbled up, so I wrote it down. This went on for a year. Stories would bubble up and I would write them down. Eventually I had a book.
2. Yoga has certainly had a profound impact on your life, helping you heal physically, mentally, and emotionally. Did you initially realize (or did you doubt) that it could help you in the way it has?
I signed up for yoga as a goof when I was preregistering for classes at Georgetown University in 1993. I had no expectations. But after I showed up, I knew almost immediately. I felt like I had found my lost home.
3. You were able to heal your colitis through a disciplined practice involving five twenty-minute sessions per day. I know a lot of us struggle to consistently do the things that are most helpful for us. What helped you maintain that type of regularity?
I understand the struggle to do the things that are most helpful to us. I face this struggle every night as I choose between pranayama and potato chips after a long day of working and parenting. But, for some reason, doing yoga has always come easily to me.
Ever since that first class in college, I just like doing it. I think that’s the key, actually—to let go of expectations of which healing practices we should do, and to notice the healing practices that feel right and come easily for us. For me, this is yoga. For someone else it could be tai chi, meditation, swimming, chanting, psychotherapy, or hiking.
4. In the early pages, you list eight keys to happiness. Which one has been most powerful for you, and why?
When I reread my stories that had bubbled up, I saw patterns and themes and distinct periods in my own life. First I needed to heal my body with yoga. Then I needed to get out of my head and open the door to my heart. Then I needed to calm my mind and energy with Ayurveda and meditation. And, ultimately, I needed to become more fully myself, to live my dharma.
So there is no one key that is most powerful; they are each powerful in their right time.
5. One of your eight keys to happiness is to cultivate and follow your intuition. Why do you think so many of us struggle with this?
We live in a time when we are taught not to follow our intuition. This trend started a few hundred years ago in response to the Church’s abuse of power. Individuals such as John Locke, Isaac Newton, and Voltaire favored reason over faith. They developed the scientific method. This was very useful, but it went too far.
This is the first time in history when people need to see a double blind scientific study before they will believe that breathing deeply feels good. Lately, though, I think we are seeing that the trend is turning back toward honoring intuition and inner wisdom.
6. Another one of your keys to happiness is “become most real,” which you’ve defined as becoming aware of what we are doing and feeling at all times. How does this help us, and how can we start making this a practice?
It helps us because when we are aware of what we are doing and feeling, we are identified not with the actions or with the passing feelings, but with our deeper self. The best way to practice is to ask yourself throughout the day, “What am I really feeling right now?”
7. Much of your book chronicles your adventures traveling, trying different yoga styles. What were the most powerful things you learned on the road—about yourself, about yoga, and about life?
I met a yogi at the Sivananda Yoga Farm in Grass Valley, California who really lived from his heart. Through him, I saw this for the first time as a viable way to live in the world.
8. During your road trip, you lived by the mantra “fearless, honest, relaxed.” Are there are mantras that you use regularly these days?
Yes. Right now, I use “Say ‘Yes’ to Reality.” I use this when I notice that I am tuning out part of reality. I find that when I can allow, rather than repress, the truth of reality, I feel most vibrant and alive.
So if I notice that I am feeling sad or angry and that I am trying to repress these feelings, I say, “Say ‘Yes’ to Reality” and I simply notice the truth. When, with loving kindness, I embrace the truth, I feel grace.
9. What advice would you offer to someone who is dealing with physical or mental illness and is considering trying yoga?
Do it. Definitely. Don’t wait.
(Though be prepared to try a few styles. Finding the right style of yoga is like dating. You might have to try various classes before you find the one for you. There’s a spectrum, from power vinyasa, if you like a vigorous workout, to gentle restorative, if you prefer something much cushier.)
You can learn more about Misadventures of a Garden State Yogi on Amazon.
FTC Disclosure: I receive complimentary books for reviews and interviews on tinybuddha.com, but I am not compensated for writing or obligated to write anything specific. I am an Amazon affiliate, meaning I earn a percentage of all books purchased through the links I provide on this site.