Lilia Mead has always been a bit of a maverick. She taught her first yoga class while still incollege getting the sequences out of a book because she’d only had few actual classes under her belt. But she had to do something because she knew it was the only way she would keep practicing regularly. Turns out, she was good at it.
That bold move put the dance major on a new course, helping her heal from depression, taking her to Jivamukti, where she studied with Sharon Gannon and David Life, and a whole host of other teachers along the way, including Lama Marut , Rodney Yee, Ana Forrest and Genny Kapular eventually striking out on her own to open Go Yoga in Williamsburg – the first studio in the very unhip neighborhood, back then. Many have followed her.
With a thriving studio developing, Teacher Training was one thing left to do on her list. Not anymore, she recently led her first eight weekend training which took her students deep into the heart of yoga.
Yoga City NYC's Dar Dowling recently caught up with Lilia to find out more about her yoga journey and what is next for this independent soul.
Dar Dowling: What was your first class like?
Lilia Mead: I stumbled into that class when I was 18 or 19, at a health club called the Joy of Movement where Sharon Gannon was teaching. I felt great physically afrterwards, while also getting the mental benefits.
After about half a dozen classes, I got a book with lots of pictures of asanas and breathing techniques, and started teaching an early morning class twice a week at Bennington College where I was a dance major.
Those first classes were so inspirational and transformational that I wanted to share yoga with others. So I did it. Artists and students who were up all night, would come, and then go have breakfast or go back to their room to crash.
DD: Did you keep studying yoga after college?
LM: In 1994 I moved to Williamsburg, and started studying more seriously at the Jivamuti on Second Avenue. It was awesome. Back then it was like the who's who of yoga,Cyndi Lee, Alison West and Leslie Kaminoff were all there. It was great, all about yoga.
I took a Teacher Training at the Sivananda in Canada in 1996. I had visited the ashram in upstate New York and loved the chanting, the morning satsang and 24/7 yoga. I felt really drawn to the yogic lifestyle, and there I could just sink into it.
Then I came back to New York, started massage school and my yoga Teacher Training at Jivamuti. I was in the 2nd graduating class with Dana Flynn, Nikki Costello, and Kelly Morris. Back then Sharon and David taught the year-long training themselves. It was magical, and a major turning point in my life.
DD: Yoga has helped you work through some issues. Tell me about that.
LM: Yoga has been a real journey for me - one that saved my life. Before finding it, I knew a lot of suffering, because I struggled with depression, anxiety and insomnia. It’s been wonderful for lifting up my spirit and helping me be totally present. Yoga gave me a way to end my own suffering naturally, taking me out of those dark spaces, and giving me practices that opened up a doorway to bliss.
DD: Is it true you opened Go Yoga and got married within months of each other?
LM: I was living in Williamsburg and teaching 17 classes a week around town. I was in it and loving it, but my schedule was totally unsustainable. In the back of my mind I had the idea that I wanted to start my own studio. It's really more in tune with my personality to ground and commit to a space.
A space opened up across the street from my apartment, so my husband and I went to check it out, but I didn't really think I was going to take it. When we saw it he said “You have got to do it” I knew he was right, so I did. We got married in November 1999, and then in January 2000, instead of going on a honeymoon, we opened a yoga studio!
DD: You have a new teacher training going on?
LM: I've teamed up with two great teachers Mathew Lombardo and Michael Hewett to create a 200-hour Teacher Training. Over the last 13 years I never rolled out a training because I didn’t have a dream team to help me but now I do. It also had to be the right time and the right training, so sometimes the best things take time to happen.
Our training is very intimate. Our students have really full lives, and we tend to attract people who are mature and established in their careers. In this training we have mothers, artists, musicians, professors and social workers.
Each weekend we do a deep dive in to a limb, and explore all its facets. We also draw from other traditions, including working with the chakras and Tibetan Buddhism. A big part of our training is teaching the inner and outer methods of yoga, which means going beyond the physical.
This is why it’s called Sarva Yoga, meaning whole or complete. There are a lot of yoga teachers, studios, and teacher trainings out there, but only a handful of people actually practicing and teaching yoga in its fullest expression. I want to give my students everything, and that’s why I've waited 13 years to create this training.
DD: What else do you have coming up?
LM: I will be teaching at this years Lama Maruts Summer retreat. There will also be another teacher training coming up in the fall.