Yoga instructor and co-creator of Prana Flow Yoga Shiva Rea on yoga trends and diet staples.
Spry: Why did you decide to focus your latest yoga DVD on the core?
Shiva Rea: The funny thing is that it’s really a compilation of all the core work I’ve been doing over the last 7 years. I have a couple titles. I created this technology I call the yoga matrix for my DVDs. It allows you to create your own practice – use your cursor or your remote. So this is the best of the best of core work.
My approach is to have an effective core practice that’s based upon a deep inner connection to what’s happening in the whole region in the core. As you’re moving, keep cultivating that strength and that sensation. It really teaches people to be much more engaged on an embodiment level. 5-10 rounds of what we’re doing, if you’re really engaging, is intense. It’s fewer repetitions, and more about the effectiveness of creating a long-term connection. It’s creative and it’s fun and diverse, which has become much more valuable.
Spry: What is the philosophy behind the “yoga matrix”?
SR: I give people a lot more material than some exercise DVDs. It allows you basically to choose what you’re going to start with, how long your program is, to work with where you are in your life. Rather than plop this DVD in and it’s the same every time, this allows you to combine a lot of programs. People love it. I think a lot of people are getting used to customizing—think of Starbucks, and being able to create whatever drink they want.
Spry: Do you prefer one type of yoga—like the more energetic vinyasa—over another?
SR: For me, yoga is not ever exercise. From teaching for 20 years, I understand what I need to do for myself, whether it’s a more calming, grounding practice, or a more energizing practice.
My practice is really a whole spectrum of an approach so that we’re not always in one mode. I help people who hate exercise come to love their practice, and I bring people who are a gym Nazis into a more balanced routine. We all need everything —just like with food. We need the full spectrum.
Spry: What do you think of all the variations of yoga that have sprung up: aerial yoga, hot yoga, stand-up paddleboard yoga? Are you a yoga purist?
SR: No. To me it’s about the fact that yoga can happen anywhere. I don’t think it’s diluting the tradition if people create styles. It’s natural. When I’m on my surfboard, I also do yoga, which is like stand-up paddleboard yoga. I think it’s awesome. I think it’s important to emphasize that you can do yoga anywhere.
Spry: How do you recommend that someone who’s new to yoga get started?
SR: Know yourself. If you’re already athletic, and not injured, any of my DVDs are great. You don’t even necessarily have to be in great shape. But if someone has health problems or is coming back from an injury, I really think it’s important to go to a live teacher. They can give live feedback and make sure you’re connected and really know what you’re doing. Start with the intro class.
Spry: There was a little bit of controversy a few years ago when you gave an interview and said you’re not a strict vegetarian.
SR: I’m not ashamed of anything. I’m really sensitive to the vegetarian aspect that can be connected to yoga. I was a vegan for 16 years. I will eat fish, and even eat some lamb near my cycle to build blood. But I really believe my main commitment is to organic food, not just for the health of my family, but also for the planet and the local community.
Spry: What are some of your diet staples?
SR:I’m really into healthy fats and whole grains and tons of colorful vegetables. I believe in putting raw olive oil on everything. I think I’m a “goat-atarian.” I have the constitution—my body loves goat milk, goat yogurt, goat cheese. That’s kind of my protein staple. That’s not something I recommend for everyone, but it works for me.
I’m also into easy. I have so many recipes I can make in 10 minutes. Now that it’s the end of summer, I made myself a papaya organic blackberry shake. I believe in putting avocados on everything!
Spry: What’s next for you?
SR: I’m writing a book called Tending the Heart Fire, about living in rhythm with the pulse of life. It’s really about the power of the heart, and the gist is that people literally start to feel the living presence of their hearts, and tap into that internal guidance. Tending our heart fire is really about tending our life.