Meredith R. Lyons — writer, actor, yogi

Yoga is a holistic experience for many — mind, body, spirit. But did one element or another first draw you to the practice? That is, were you seeking to settle your mind? Have greater physical flexibility? Explore your true, spiritual nature?

I was trying to give my body a break after intense martial arts training — I fought competitively for years and I was uncomfortable “resting” and never made time to stretch, so I started yoga

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?

it’s difficult to separate — I’m no longer teaching, so it’s very nice to be a student again — less pressure and I can just accept what’s being given to me in the class — I often feel rushed and like I’m “fitting it in,” but I always feel better after class — mentally and physically

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

somewhere between ten and fifteen years — I don’t remember when I started doing it regularly — I try to take a class once a week, but I do a short stretch with breath on my own before bed most nights

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

that’s also difficult as I started teaching in stages — we’ll say I practiced five to ten years before teaching full time — I taught fitness for a decade, but adding yoga in was a gradual thing as I got various certifications

For you, what are the benefits of classes at a studio vs practicing yoga at home?

accountability and distractions — I live in a small house with my husband and two enormous cats — to get any peace I’d have to practice outside — and then I’d feel like I’m performing for the neighborhood — I like classes because there is a set time to be there — I can feel anonymous among the other students, but the instructor is there if I have a question — I don’t have to create my own sequence, I can follow and let my mind go

Do you have a preferred yoga style?

I got my 200 hour with an Ashtanga school, so I’ll always have a fondness for Ashtanga — I prefer a Vinyasa style over a Hatha — I need to move in order to get my mind to still — the meditation at the end is always best for me if I’m worn out

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

I’ve always had good body awareness, so as long as I had a teacher good at cuing, I could get the posture correct — blocking out distractions is probably the most difficult — that’s one thing I like about the Ashtanga primary, all those vinyasas at the beginning are good for settling in

What have been the greatest benefits of yoga for you?

it’s a yin to my yang — stillness without stagnation — it settles my mind and my body always feels better afterward — I have thoracic scoliosis, so it’s good for that as well

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

I like guided meditation, especially when I’m having trouble sleeping, but there are so many different kinds — there’s an app called Insight Timer where you can pick everything from the type of meditation you’re looking for to the time you have to meditate — I like it because, although the goal is to be able to meditate for a decent length of time, five minutes of meditation is better than no minutes, and the app allows for that if that’s what you need

You fought in the Chicago Golden Gloves, ran the Chicago Marathon, and competed for team U.S.A. in the savate world championships. Was your yoga practice particularly valuable as a supplement to one of those activities?

for the marathon for sure — I’ve mentioned that I’m terrible at stretching, and running is such a solo activity for me, no on is around who’s going to make me cool down and stretch — with the fighting, I always had teammates and coaches — I was doing yoga two to three times a week when I was training for the marathon

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

I will if I’m feeling tight (which seems to increase in frequency as I age) — I stretch my hips a lot — I’ll do baddha konasana while sitting at my desk

You have a choice: take part in a yoga class (1) outdoors on a beautiful day, overlooking the ocean, or (2) in a well-designed, very comfortable minimalist indoor space. Which do you pick?

overlooking the ocean — I did a retreat in St. Lucia once and we had a view of the ocean — the sound of the waves is a great addition

—interview © Marshal Zeringue