Living the Sutras - Review & Author Interview
A few years ago, I met Kelly DiNardo at a writing conference in Madison, Wisconsin. Kelly was an instructor that year, and we struck up a conversation where I learned that she had recently relocated to Madison from the East Coast. I have to admit I was fascinated by her freelance writing career, which included publication in well-known national magazines. Later, Kelly was the visiting author at our Books & Beer Book Club in Columbus, Wisconsin when we read her biography of the striptease artist, Lili St. Cyr. Kelly has been practicing yoga for years and, even after her move to the Midwest, she has maintained her co-ownership of the Past Tense yoga studio in Washington DC. You can learn more about Kelly on her website: http://kellydinardo.com/
I was intrigued to learn she was co-authoring a book about yoga with Amy Pearce-Hayden. As a recognized International Yoga teacher, Amy is sought out for her expertise in linking classical yoga with modern living. She opened her first yoga school in 2003 in New York, and her practice has included co-hosting the Times Square Summer Solstice “Mind Over Matter” event in 2013 and 2014 with 10,000 yogis practicing in the heart of NYC. After returning to the Midwest, she opened TANTRA Wellness Studio in Madison. You can learn more about Amy and TANTRA at this website: https://www.tantramadison.com/
Let me begin by saying, I have very little experience with yoga. The bit of yoga I have practiced has been what I call gym-style yoga, where a class or two are included in the schedule between spin, strength training, and Zumba. I have never stepped into a yoga studio . . .
But with Kelly & Amy’s book, I anticipate that will change.
FROM THE BACK COVER:
Bring the wisdom of ancient Yoga philosophy into your life in a fresh, accessible, and relevant way.
In its highest form, yoga is a practice for your body and your mind. Living the Sutras brings the wisdom of classical yoga philosophy into your life in an accessible and relevant way. The Yoga Sutras, a foundational text of yoga philosophy and practice, written by the guru Patanjali over two thousand years ago, are made up of 196 aphorisms that offer potent teachings on how to deal with loss and pain, and guidance on how to lead a healthy and fulfilling life. Kelly DiNardo and Amy Pearce-Hayden offer an entrée to this yoga training for the mind and spirit by introducing a sutra or group of sutras on a related theme, providing a brief commentary, and writing prompts to allow you to reflect on and apply the meaning of the sutras to your life. The book is at once an introduction to the classical philosophy, a quick guide for students and teachers, and an active self-study that helps you to engage with yoga wisdom in a deeply personal way.
Living the Sutras: A Guide to Yoga Wisdom Beyond the Mat makes the tenets of yoga accessible to people like me (and like you.) For those of you who are a bit further along in your yoga journey, this book is for you, too. As you can tell from the title, the message of this book is about greater understanding, not about your ability to hold the perfect scorpion pose.
(But someday, I’d really, really like to be able to do this!)
In the meantime, I’m starting with the lessons in this book (the ones off the mat). This book takes an ancient philosophy and makes it applicable to the stress and frustration of our daily lives. Through written exercises, the reader explores the teachings of the sutras and their relevance to shape our personal reactions and actions. We all strive for a greater inner peace and balance, and the authors know how elusive this can be in our modern world. I highly recommend this book to use as a tool on your path to greater enlightenment and living a fuller, more present life.
I’m so grateful that Kelly and Amy have stopped by today to tell us a little more about themselves and this wonderful book. Congratulations on your book’s launch today!!
Q. What was the spark that made you decide this was a project you would pursue?
A. Kelly: As a journalist, I do a lot of health and wellness writing. I had received a handful of books to consider as sources. I realized two of them were essentially the same book, but the word yoga had been added to the title. I flipped through it and the book had nothing to do with yoga. I was so annoyed and stomped off to class totally peeved. Amy gave a beautiful talk at the start of class and I thought this should be a yoga book. We talked about it later over coffee and she agreed.
The sutras, the philosophy our book is based on, are often seen as dense and esoteric. That’s certainly the way I felt about them. Amy made them modern, relevant and personal for me and that’s what we wanted to do for readers.
A. Amy: For me, the spark was the connection with Kelly. After leading my own teacher trainings for a decade without being able to find the right Yoga Sutra companion for my trainees, I had always had an idea for something like Living the Sutras, but it didn’t become a clear concept until Kelly and I began the brainstorming and conversations around the idea.
Q. Understanding that every reader is different, what would you like to see this book accomplish for the reader?
A. Kelly: I hope it expands readers understanding of what yoga is. I hope it makes this ancient wisdom accessible and personal. And through that, I hope it helps people live a joyful, purposeful life. It’s a pretty lofty goal!
A. Amy: My greatest hope is that the reader really gets to know themselves on a deeper and clearer level that brings them to experience their life happier and with more ease by using the incredible wisdom of the Yoga Sutras, that can often seem untouchable and dense at first.
Q. What was the most important thing you learned about/from the sutras as you crafted each chapter?
A. Kelly: I’m not sure it’s the most important thing I learned, but one thing that consistently struck me is how ahead of their time the yogis were. They’re talking a lot about things science is now proving – the importance of gratitude, the happiness advantage. It’s pretty remarkable.
A. Amy: The process of crafting the chapters confirmed for me how lost the origins of classical yoga really are. During the process of translating each sutra, I would “free-talk” to Kelly about the key concepts. By talking each one through with her, it was so clear how important this book for those wanting to do more than yoga on the mat. It was exciting to watch her practice of yoga change as we co-wrote together.
Q. Did anything about the sutras or the process of writing about the sutras surprise you?
A. Amy: I am surprised that writing has improved my teaching. I’ve been teaching for more than a decade and a half, yet still my language has deepened due to the depth of extra study for this project. It taught me how to be very clear and concise with my words to be most effective while keeping this ancient work fresh and relevant. It certainly confirmed for me how much easier lecturing for me is than writing!
Q. You have both practiced yoga for years. Does this feel like a natural extension of your personal in-studio teaching?
A. Kelly: It felt more like an extension of my work as a health and wellness writer. A lot of what I do is try to translate medical studies and academic research into something easily understood to the general public. While our book is not a literal translation of the sutras, we were trying to make the concepts much more approachable and understandable.
A. Amy: Absolutely. The investigation that we ask of our readers is something that I do in all of my classes. Self-study and curiosity is such a big part of how I teach. This is like having a little coach with you when you are off the mat. It’s a year’s worth of questions that I might drop in class, rolled into one little book.
Q. Co-authoring a book has to be an interesting endeavor. Can you tell us a little bit about how you organized the work flow?
A. Kelly: We started by reading through the sutras together. We would read one of the many translations we each have and then Amy, who is incredibly well-versed in the philosophy, would talk through what it meant. I took handwritten notes and asked a ton of questions. Then we read through all of our notes and teased out the important thread or theme for each sutra. We talked very specifically about what we wanted to say and the idea we wanted to get across. Often, I’d say something like well that sounds like the happiness advantage or that’s kind of like one of Aesop’s fables. Or we’d share a personal story that was relevant to what we were talking about. From there, I’d write the first draft of the commentary. Amy would translate the sutra and add to and edit the commentary. Once we had written the commentary for each sutra, we read through each one and brainstormed journal prompts so readers could make it really personal to their lives. Then, we read through the whole thing out loud several times, brainstormed chapter titles and made lots of edits and changes.
Q. From initial idea to completion, how long did it take you to complete the initial draft? Were there any challenges along the way that you care to share?
A. Kelly: It was really fast, actually. Amy and I started talking about this in the spring of 2016. We had a book deal by October, started writing in January of 2017 and turned it in June 1. We spent the fall working on edits with Shambhala, our publisher. The spring was largely focused on art work, events, publicity and waiting. There’s a lot of hurry-up-and-wait in publishing.
A. Amy: One of the good challenges is learning to surrender total creative control and gain the power of collaboration. I couldn’t have done this work without Kelly’s skill and experience as a writer, and she without my years of Sutra study. I had made a promise to myself about 4 years ago when I made a big move not to take on projects without partners or collaboration. This experience was such a great affirmation for how true the saying that “two heads are better than one” is.
Q. Tell us a little bit about your publisher.
A. Kelly: Shambhala is our publisher. They’re an independent publishing company known for some of the best yoga, meditation and philosophy books on the market. They’re really the preeminent publishing house for this field and topic. And they have a great partnership with Penguin Random House. So we lucked out and got the best of both worlds.
Q. What special events do you have planned to celebrate the book launch?
A. Kelly: Amy is teaching several workshops in the New York area next weekend. She’s leading one of the free yoga classes Times Square hosts for the Summer Solstice. I’m giving a talk at Politics and Prose in Washington, DC on June 23. We’ll be giving a joint talk at A Room of One’s Own on Tuesday, July 17. I’ll be at Bard’s Alley in Virginia on September 30. And we’ll be together at the Wisconsin Book Festival in October. We’re still sorting out the details of that one.
A. Amy: I’m excited after I return from NY to begin a book club at my studio in Madison with my students. There’s been such excitement around the book in the studio. It will be fun to go through the work with students who are regulars and in community together. I think it will be great for them to share the process and be inspired by each other.
Q. Is there anything else you’d like readers to know about you or your book?
A. Kelly: You really don’t have to practice yoga or ever want to practice yoga to find something in this book. It really is about stilling the crazy chatter in our minds, and I think that’s something all of us need.
A. Amy: That the yogis of 2000 years ago understood the connection of happiness to balanced living. By following a systematic approach, we too can life a satisfying and full life.
Thank you for letting me pepper you both with questions! I am so glad you wrote this book!