Brenda Feuerstein Keeps Traditional Yoga Studies Going
Georg Feuerstein, the widely respected Indologist, originally from Germany, authored and edited over 50 texts of Yoga philosophy and practice. Titles include The Deeper Dimension of Yoga (2003), The Yoga Tradition (2001), Encyclopedic Dictionary of Yoga (1990), and even Yoga for Dummies (1999), co-authored with Larry Payne.
In 1996, he established the Yoga and Reseach Education Center in California, which he ran for 18 years until he moved to southern Saskatchewan with his Canadian wife, Brenda, in 2004. Feuerstein died on August 25, 2012, from complications as a result of diabetes.
Brenda Feuerstein continues the legacy of her husband’s research, taking their Traditional Yoga Studieswork more into the public eye with her teaching and workshops. YogaCity NYC's Joelle Hann spoke to her in her home in Saskatchewan.
Joelle Hann: I know you just passed the 1-year anniversary of Georg’s passing on August 25th. With your research and teaching lives so intertwined, how has the past year been for you?
Brenda Feuerstein: I made conscious decision to write openly about my process of grief so that there was a possibility for others to heal from my raw moments, or the moments filled with joy and memories. I’ve had so many emails thanking me for doing that. It seems to have allowed others can grieve in their own way, too.
JH: It looks like you have a number of new things in the works to help keep Georg’s work alive and to expand the reach of the classes he offered.
BF: After Georg passed, I needed to decide how to move forward. At first, I wanted to go deeper into spiritual practice but after a few months I realized I could also do that by engaging others. In August, I lead the first retreat, gave my first public talk. It’s about being on the right path with the right people at the right time.
JH: Can you tell me about what’s developing at Traditional Yoga Studies?
BF: I’m heavily into working on a course on Tantra – so that people can learn the diversity of it. I’m not approaching it from a neo-Tantra perspective, of course [Ed: neo-Tantra is a contemporary Western movement that focuses on sexuality]. That’s on hold until I have more people on board to help. It will be popular and “big” course. But I’m hopeful that in the next year I will be collaborating with people I greatly respect as well as people who are up and coming.
JH: Can you explain what the Memorial Fund is?
BF: The Georg Feuerstein Memorial Fund is an umbrella name for several projects, the most important of which is a free distance learning course for people who are incarcerated. It will also be available to inmates’ families and prison staff.
I’m getting together a team that’s keen to work on programs of personal transformation—James Cox, for example, comes with many years of experience in prison yoga and has agreed to be on our board of advisors.
The program includes meditation, lots of questions to reflect upon, and journaling. Tutors act as a sounding board to ask additional questions or hold space for students, recommend books, audio, or visuals to get a deeper level of transformation.
We also have a project that’s working with people in addiction recovery, and a youth project that is in development stage and will be launched in 2014. I’m currently working with advisory board to build this project. We will offer skills to help youth better understand and develop creative lifelong ‘marriages’--of family life and community through the teachings of yoga.
I wanted to figure out how to work with people who don’t have the freedom to leave a facility, to help them find inner freedom within a facility. I also wanted to bring something to youth so that they would not end up in facilities.
JH: And you have an advantage there because Traditional Yoga Studies has always offered online courses, right?
BF: We started in early 2003 when nothing was really happening in long distance learning courses. The material doesn’t lend itself to short courses—the “History, Literature, and Philosophy of Yoga” is 800 hours for example. But the tradition is rich and expansive so there’s no way not to give huge amount of material.
As Georg’s health deteriorated, increasingly my role was to serve him and create a lifestyle where we could practice and enjoy each other while we could. He encouraged me to take over the teaching. Essentially Georg and I ran this whole organization as a 2-person show, all the administration and marketing, advertising, teaching, public speaking, and course development.
JH: You are coming to New York soon to try to meet with the Dalai Lama and continue your course in the Contemplative End-of-Life Care program. Will you be giving any workshops?
BF: I made the decision that this trip needs to be about service to people in great need. So, after my 9-day retreat for the Contemplative End-of-Life Care program I will be heading to the streets in various parts of New York State. I will be holding space for homeless people facing death alone and helping bring yoga and meditation to more at risk youth and adults. It’s my Dying with Love Pilgrimage.
Joelle Hann is a writer and blogger who lives in Brooklyn.