Sample from the Winter 2004 issue of Integral Yoga Magazine

An Interview with Lilias Folan

Lilias Folan, known as the “First Lady of Yoga” since her groundbreaking 1972 Yoga series, Lilias! Yoga and You, has been regarded as America’s most knowledgeable and respected Yoga teacher. Lilias has spent the past 30 years helping people learn about the benefits of Yoga for the body, mind and spirit through her television shows, book, audiotapes and videotapes. During a recent program in Yogaville, she shared thoughts about her journey and the direction of Yoga today.

Integral Yoga Magazine: Do you have a root tradition, a root teacher?

Lilias Folan:  I was a housewife and mother living in Stanford, Connecticut in the mid-1960s. I started to do Yoga and I loved it. I thought that it was a big adventure. But, then I wanted more. That led me to The Divine Life Society Ashram in Harriman, New York where I first met Swami Chidanandaji [President of the Divine Life Society of Rishikesh]. His first message was “You are Divine Light and you are a pilgrim upon this path. Be up and doing with your life, O Radiant Immortal Self. O, Radiant Immortal Self!” When these words were spoken by this evolved Swami, it cleared away the debris and spoke right to my heart. What I offer my students comes through me from Holy Master Sivananda, whose message was to “love, serve, meditate, realize.”

IYM:  Of course, our Guru, Swami Satchidananda is of the same lineage.

LF:  Yes, I was fortunate to meet Gurudev several times over the years. In the 1980s, Gurudev was part of the Unity in Yoga conferences and it just added so much – so much dignity and so much of our roots – to those wonderful conferences. I look back at that with huge appreciation about who was there and the unity of the roads, of the spirituality paths. Gurudev was very much a part of that.

IYM:  Why did you choose to teach Yoga via television?

LF:  I knew, somewhere inside of me, that I had to bring those four qualities [to love, serve, meditate, realize] to television. I thought of it as a practice – and it was my practice – and television became a great teacher for me.

IYM:  In what way?

LF:  I had to learn. I had to grow. I had to adapt. For one thing, I couldn’t see my students. So, if you can’t see your students, you have to be a very clear teacher. Television continues to be a great teacher for me. That series, which was originally shown in the 80s and 90s, is going to be aired on public broadcasting in January. It’s called “Lilias!” Readers can look under their PBS listings. If they don’t find it there, they can contact their local PBS station to ask that it be shown. PBS is offering the show to local public television stations for free.

IYM:  How did you know how to present Yoga to this “invisible” audience?

LF:  Basically, it started out with sort of a Sivananda approach. I just had to adapt it for the way that I was teaching. I feel that is what our teachers want us to do. They want us to be ourselves. I am not a little clone of anybody. Who am I? Well, that is the journey. And, that is the important investigation.

IYM:  I think that you have touched on such a crucial point. In these times where there is “Yoga on every
corner,” what would your message be to the new teachers who are finding that they have to compete in
the Yoga world?

LF:  It is to remember our roots. Remember our roots. Find teachers – and they are there – who are experienced and who have roots – whatever Yoga tradition it is or wherever their teaching has come from. Find the many levels of Yoga. The athleticism is fun. It is interesting. But, that is the smallest part of what this is all about. The biggest part is actually the smallest. The biggest part for me is the flame in the heart. And, no one can see that. But, I can see this body. And, I have to start somewhere. You can get into a good class that is many-layered and heart-felt. And, there are teachers like that.

Read the rest of this article in the Winter 2004 issue of Integral Yoga Magazine.