Katelin Sisson and Heather Lilleston started Yoga for Bad People to create a space free of the bad vibes that sometimes plague yoga communities. With a focus on retreats, good times, and loose vibes, YFBP is adding a dash of mischief to the world of yoga.
CONVICTS caught up with Katelin and Heather on their recent retreat to Miami to get their word on ancient tradition, competitive spirituality, and the fact that even aspiring yogis like hot chicks on the beach.
How’s it going ladies? To start, can you tell us how you two met?
We met through yoga. We were kind of both studying in these two separate communities that merged together, but then we both peaked out of those two communities as friends I guess. then we were like let’s teach a retreat together cause nobody else was doing what we wanted to do.
Talk about yoga in a place like New York, versus a place like California?
California is just a little bit more mellow, it’s more temperate, the grind isn’t there like it is in New York. Yoga is really popular in really packed cities. There’s more of a need to strive or to reach to your soul, to reach into your heart, to really master something with your mind. On the East Coast, you’re pushed even just with the intensity of seasons, so what comes out of that pressure cooker can be really good yoga practice.
How do you incorporate yoga into the hecticness of city life?
If you can really commit to some sort of schedule, like every Monday, Wednesday, Friday, if you rope that into your schedule it will ground you. Wear clothes you can breathe in. You shouldn’t wear tight sports bras where you can’t breathe, or things that push on your belly where you have gas.
No gas in the yoga studio, that’s for sure. What does the big city vibe do for the communal aspect of yoga?
There are many, many studios in New York City with really strong communities. That reprieve from hardcore city living doesn’t come easy, so it creates that little retreat for people.
How did Yoga for Bad People move from classes to retreats?
Even if you’re going to a class every single day, it’s really only one hour a day. That’s your habit, but you get in there and you’re just going: inhale, exhale, inhale, exhale. It’s just easy to fall into this really mundane rhythm. It’s hard to really, truly get something out of yoga when it’s just like another part of your day. So the retreat is about taking you out of your element a little bit and getting you out of your habitual everyday thing. Including what you do in a yoga class every single day.
So what’s Yoga for Bad People in your words?
There is a time and a place for really intense spiritual practice, but we also saw the downfalls of that. Anything you go extreme on will have some downfalls. Some of those downfalls were competitiveness or feeling like you had to have the mala beads from Barney’s or you had to go to India or you had to put your foot behind your head or count how many hours you were you meditating or wonder how many spiritual people’s feet you’ve kissed. That all seemed actually irrelevant to success in yoga. So what we wanted to do was return a state of balance to the general flavor and feeling about yoga.
What’s the story behind the name?
We wanted people to come on this retreat who weren’t going to be mad if the yoga teachers enjoy a little bit of Brazil, and we were kind of playing til we were like well ‘What about just Yoga for Bad People?’ And we took it and we ran. We made a little card that had a really pixelated picture of two really hot chicks walking down the beach with really small bathing suits on and it said ‘Yoga for Bad People Brazil.’ We bought the domain in Brazil at dinner. The crew there was getting into trouble, like good trouble, so people were riffing off the name and everybody was showing up for yoga.
Talk about the important of fun to Yoga for Bad People?
Part of leading a retreat is leading fun. It’s something that we look for with teachers that we bring into Yoga for Bad People as well. It’s not enough to just be a good yoga teacher for a retreat. You’re creating an experience. You’re facilitating an experience.
Does the name itself facilitate that experience?
There’s a certain understanding amongst everyone that signs up for something called Yoga for Bad People that there’s this lack of judgement, there’s a sort of spontaneity in everybody, there’s a sort of independence, there’s a sense of self confidence. In a way it funneled out anybody who would show up and be really judgy or annoying. We haven’t had much of that. A lot of people travel by themselves. It’s a solo trip for them and they’re interested in meeting new people, so you really have to help them feel included.
So YFBP is unusually fun, but it’s still yoga. Talk about how the yogic tradition plays into the company?
One thing to remember is that in order for something to be yoga, or be yogic…it doesn’t have to be defined by boundaries like that. Yoga isn’t a religion because it doesn’t land in one place. These are ancient practices, though, and respect is the most important part. First comes actually studying and having enough respect for the the tradition to not offer it to someone else until you truly have some sort of understanding. You have to learn the keys first before you can create your own song.
To follow that then, what do you think the future of yoga and contemporary culture is?
In some ways it’s been really amazing that yoga has become really commercialized and embraced, because we believe even if you don’t do the philosophy and don’t say the Sanskrit names of poses and would never chant Hare Krishna, if you just practice yoga a little bit you will benefit from it.
Right on. Thanks ladies, and best of luck with everything.