Samantha Greene Woodruff — novelist, yoga enthusiast

Mind, body, spirit — did one element or another first draw you to yoga? That is, were you seeking to settle your mind? Have greater physical flexibility? Explore your true, spiritual nature?

a little mind and a little body — I was a type-A non-athlete in my early 20s in NYC and someone suggested yoga as “non-exercise” exercise that would also address stress and anxiety — it worked

How about now: does yoga feed your mind or your body or your spirit more, or are those elements more in balance than when you started?

finding “balance” is kind of the holy grail of life in my opinion — yoga keeps me closer to the center and helps reorient me both physically and mentally when I am veering too far in one direction or another

How long have you been practicing yoga, and how frequently do you hit the mat?

I’ve been practicing for 25 years and try to get on the mat at least 3-4 times/week — in an ideal world it would be every day!

How long did you practice before you started teaching, and how long did you teach?

I practiced for almost 15 years before I started teaching — I’d wanted to take teacher training for a long time, but it didn’t work with my full-time corporate job — I taught for about 5 years, stopping when I got serious about novel writing — I love teaching but with two kids I didn’t have time for everything so, for now, I just practice

What are the benefits of classes at a studio vs practicing yoga at home?

in a home practice you have the freedom to explore — I practiced at home a lot more when I was teaching because that was how I refined sequencing — the studio is more escapist — I can get more immersed in the practice (both yoga and meditation) at a studio when I’m not the one deciding what comes next — I also feed off the energy of the room which is kind of magical

Do you have a preferred yoga style?

I like slow vinyasa flow — I’m an alignment nut and I love props, so I always have a little hatha and Iyengar in my head, but I like to move with the breath

When you were starting out, what came easiest and what was more challenging?

nothing about yoga or meditation came easily to me! I had never moved my body (or thought about it for that matter) in the ways that yoga asks you to — I was not flexible, and my mind was always busy — when I tried to think about breathing, I would feel like I was hyperventilating — still, I stuck with it — getting comfortable with discomfort and all that

What have been the greatest benefits of yoga for you?

more mental balance and a greater sense of self-acceptance

Apart from yoga, do you practice other techniques of mindfulness or meditation?

I try to practice mindfulness meditation several times a week — I often fail

Do you regularly do other forms of exercise?

I still hate “exercise,” but I do love to walk and hike — and I work out with a trainer to address aches and pains and hopefully stay strong as I age

Outside of a yoga session, do you ever just strike a pose and stretch? If so, which poses and where?

yes! — my go-tos are janu sirsasana (head-to-knee forward bend) and viparita karani (legs-up-the-wall) which I often do for a few minutes before bed — actually, for me it is “legs-up-the-bed” pose

If I gave you an expenses-paid yoga retreat, where would you go?

I’d go to the mountains — where the mornings and nights were cool and the days warm and I could go on easy hikes in between yoga sessions

—interview © Marshal Zeringue