Thirteen years ago, yoga was not on Emily Stone's to do list. Quite the opposite - the marathon runner and teacher had no desire to set foot in a yoga class.
These days she is a yogic force of nature, not only is not only a highly respected yoga teacher and part of the Laughing Lotus family, she has a passion for bringing yoga and mediation to at risk youth in NYC.
YogaCity NYC’s Dar Dowling recently caught up with her to learn more about the transformative effect yoga has had on her life, and laugh a lot because Emily can be as hilarious as she is honest and heartfelt.
Dar Dowling: How did you get to your first yoga class?
Emily Stone: I was a devoted runner and gym rat who somehow managed to maintain a pretty heavy cigarette smoking habit and I was working a number of injuries when my then roommate Basil asked me to take a beginners class he was teaching. He had just completed a teacher training and was in need of some serious claque.
At the time, I pictured yoga as a bunch of Hare Krishnas sitting around eating gorp while releasing their anal chakras. I told Basil I would go, but only because I loved him and planned to disassociate like Sibyl until it was all over, and I could put on my Walkman and hit the pavement again like a normal person.
The rest, as they say, is a mystery. I fell in love with the entire practice: The hardcore discipline of the asana themselves, the satsang of the yoga center, the dharma of the teachings and how I felt after the class itself: free.
DD: Was it full on after that? Did you take to the yoga lifestyle right away?
ES: Well… yes and no: I was already a vegetarian so I had that part of the ahimsa (non-violence) down. I’m a person that does everything full on, so I immediately ditched my Nike’s for a yoga mat and and started reading as much as I could of the essential yoga texts and mining them for dating guidance.
The major obstacle was the idolatry part; As a Jew, I was extremely uncomfortable chanting, “I bow down to Krisna,” “I bow down to Rama.” I even winced when the teacher would say, “Turn to face the altar.” At times, I imagined a bolt of lightning would come through the window and strike me. Now I see it all as e pluribus unum, and belt out Hare Rama with the best of ‘em.
DD: You were a high school Latin teacher, a creative writing teacher and then a writer, what made you want to become a yoga teacher?
ES: I’ve basically been a teacher since 1991. I took a couple of years off in the middle when I went to grad school and then South East Asia, but for the most part, this is what I have done with my life. I think the yoga teaching grew out of a natural desire not only to share what I love (yoga), but also to communicate how to use yoga as a tool for navigating and weathering the difficulties we encounter along the way. Sometimes I think the purpose of my life is to serve as a warning for others.
DD: You've taken classes all over the city how did you finally land at Laughing Lotus?
ES: I was practicing at Wild Lotus, a studio in New Orleans, when Sean Johnson, the owner and a great yogi, asked me if I’d ever been to Laughing Lotus and I weirdly told him yes though in truth I really hadn’t. Regardless of that pretty sizable blip in the satya continuum, as soon as I entered that joint, I knew I was home. Dana Flynn and Jasmine Tarkeshi have been quintessential teachers, guides and life rafts for me ever since. I never left.
DD: How would you describe one of your classes to someone who has never been?
ES: Life is equal parts pathos and bathos with a heaping helping of crows feet and colitis on the side and nowhere is this more evident than what comes up on the mat. I try to teach, love and live as authentically as possible and help my students do the same, so ultimately my classes are a little bit Jewish New Yorker meets Hindu mythology meets intelligent, fun, sequencing.
Hopefully, everyone deepens their hanuman asana and comes away with an inspiring aphorism to embroider on a pillow or get tattooed on their foot.
DD: Besides teaching yoga, you work closely with the Lineage Project, bringing yoga to at-risk and incarcerated youth in New York City, how did you get involved?
ES: Dana Flynn and I were picking a charity focus for our annual Laughing Lotus Summit (a reunion/weekend of workshops for teachers and dedicated Lotus Yogis) and she suggested Lineage Project. I went to observe one of Bart Van Melik’s classes at Humanities Prep Academy High School, a school for youth who are under credited and have truancy/behavioral problems, and got to witness firsthand the power of these ancient and healing practices.
No joke. Bart is amazing—light itself. The kids were simply transformed. I decided to devote my free time to raising funds for Lineage Project so that as many kids as possible could learn yoga and meditation and get their lives on track. A couple of our kids have gone on to college. That speaks volumes. I just wish I could do more.
ES: I’m in discussion right now with Chronicle, the publishers of Did Jew Know?, about the possibility of doing another non-fiction book with them. While DJK is a cultural history of the Jews from Abraham until this interview, this new book would be in a similar style but obviously on a different yet equally important and divine subject matter.
As I told my mother on the phone just last night, “As the Bible is to the hotel bedside table, perhaps my books will be to the back of the hotel toilet or to the magazine rack by its pedestal.” A Hin-Jew can dream.
DD: Anything coming up we might want to know about?
ES: Aside from my regularly scheduled classes at Lotus, I’m honored to be heading up the Center’s first-ever 50-hour Intensive on Hindu Mythology from April 28th to May 2nd, 2014. The storytelling aspect of the practice has always been a passion of mine, so when Lotus began developing the 50-hour program it just seemed the ideal locus to share the wisdom of these potent myths that shape and enrich the human experience.
To Find Out More About Emily's Schedule or her workshop, click