OM is the new black.
It is now said that there are more yoga teachers than actors in Hollywood, and that seems pretty spot-on: every corner we turn, there is a new studio, a new gym, a new store proudly displaying Manduka mats and Buddhas galore. As the pool of yoga teachers grows larger and larger, we wonder: if yoga is truly a way of life, if yoga is more about purpose than postures – how is this surplus of teachers affecting our world outside of the studio? For the better?
Welcome to Yoga Matters: Yogis who are enriching and enhancing lives both on and off the mat.
This week, we turn our focus to Jennifer Pastiloff, whose sunshine-warm spirit can be summed up by the fact that she prefers the title joyologist over yoga instructor. While Jennifer is not a stickler for rules, she has one she abides by every class: if you fall, you must laugh. This simple standard permeates her existence and is indicative of her world view. Jen is the creator of Manifestation Yoga – the profound use of yoga as a tool to set goals and achieve dreams. In addition, she is the founder of GAME: Gifts and Miracles Everyday, which offers free yoga for kids with special needs. Jennifer truly sees each individual for who they truly are: vehicles for change, joy and miracles.
Jen’s laughter is infectious and her personable candor is a breath of fresh air. Her down-to-earth humor gives you the feeling that you’re hanging with a girlfriend, not simply pounding out Warriors and Down-Dogs. No topic is off-limits with Jen, no issue too personal, no joke too irreverent. Her classes, workshops and retreats all have one common theme: making your life truly happen. She believes that no dream is too small, no goal is unfathomable. As long as you can see it happening – it can happen.
The Chalkboard Mag: Jen, what originally drew you to yoga?
Jennifer Pastiloff: I suffered from depression and yoga saved my life. I struggled with an eating disorder for many many years, so yoga found me and helped me find an exercise where I could ‘forget’ me. Forget my identity, my weight, my depression, the fact that my nephew was diagnosed with Prader Willi Syndrome (a rare genetic disorder).
TCM:Your brand of yoga goes beyond the wonderful yet typical “zenful bliss” of many yoga classes – you actually aid your students in making life decisions, in creating action and traction OFF the mat. What about yoga lends itself to being your chosen vehicle for manifestation?
JP: Great question! I combine all my passions when I teach. Poetry, music, connection, asana. I use yoga as a way to get people in the room and then once there are there, we ‘play’. I often have people bring journals or do things that they wouldn’t normally do in a traditional class. By combining these other things (and yes, other things include singing and having dance parties), oftentimes people are able to have breakthroughs and make self-discoveries. At the very least, they connect to Joy and that is enough for me. More joy in the world! More, more, more! After years of suffering from depression, I am a ‘joy junkie’.
TCM: You are notorious for combining some unique elements into your classes and workshops – such as your Karaoke Yoga class! Your classes are a safe place to laugh, to cry, to grow – together. People walk in to your classes as complete strangers and leave as a family. In a society so starved for connection, you make it seem abundant. How did your classes morph from a 60-90 minute flow into a party/therapy session/sweat-filled extravaganza?
JP: I decided one day a couple years ago that I would be completely self-expressed. 100%. My class started out more traditional, as it were, but the more I got comfortable in my own skin, in who I really was as a person, as a healer, as a connector, then I started getting more creative. Truthfully, it was an organic shift. Everything has become what it is today by not only what I am doing, but because the people who show up to my class.
There is a willingness in the people who show up. A lot of people are indeed starved for connection, as I said when I was interviewed for Karaoke Yoga®. When I provide them with a platform, a safe place to move their bodies without judgement or to sing and laugh and look someone in the eye, oftentimes it becomes addictive. And each class is different. Some of my classes are more alignment based, some are way more free, some are more family-like. It depends on who shows up and what people need. And connection is abundant. My workshops and my retreats are my true pride and joys, my true babies. They are where we really go deep into the well of Connection. Not just to one another, but to ourselves. It’s a beautiful thing to witness.
TCM: You teach multiple classes a week to both public and private clientele. Even so, you’ve made it a priority to bring yoga to a group of individuals who, some may not realize, benefit most of all from it: children with special needs. How did you first become involved with GAME YOGA, and what transformations have you seen since working with them – both within your young students and within yourself?
JP: My nephew, as I said above, was diagnosed with a rare genetic disorder called Prader Willi Syndrome. It was a devastating time in our family three years ago when we found out. Shortly after his diagnosis, I decided I would give free yoga to kids with special needs to help the kids and the parents. I saw the stress, emotional and physical and financial, that my sister was under and I realized that I had to do this.
The work I do with special needs children is one of the most rewarding things I have done. The kids love it and are so free and fearless. We need to hang out with them more. My favorite story is about Jeannie, a girl who is blind and has severe Austism. I asked the kids what they loved about themselves and she yelled; ‘My life!!’
TCM: What is the most incredible manifestation you have seen in someone as a result of your classes? The most amazing thing YOU have manifested for yourself thus far?
JP: There are so many things I have seen. I get emails daily. I have seen people overcome eating disorders. I have seen people finish their books and get them published by huge publishing houses. I have seen people let go of destructive patterns and books, TV shows and films. I have seen people finally get out of abusive relationships. There are so many and it is why I keep staying as authentic as I possibly can. Eventually I will teach less, just a couple classes a week if that, and focus on my writing and the inspirational living stuff. As my beloved soul sister Karen Salmansohn says, we are spiritual-logical. She’s a genius to have coined that.
The most incredible thing I have manifested? Getting on Good Morning America was huge for me… The fact that I have only been teaching three years and I lead sold out workshops around the world is so amazing that I pinch myself daily. I do. I will show you my bruises. My marriage is pretty amazing. Oh, there are many things that I am proud of and grateful for. I am also happy to acknowledge them as I don’t think we honor ourselves enough. I want people to know I was miserable and waited tables at the same West Hollywood restaurant for over 13 years, so people can see what is possible. And for the record, I define manifesting as Making S**t Happen.
TCM: What is the biggest lesson yoga has taught you?
JP: To laugh when I fall. It is my greatest ‘rule’ in my class. I fall a lot, on and off the mat, and I am still learning how brush myself off, have a laugh and get up again.
TCM: What is the biggest lesson you hope to teach through yoga?
JP: That we can change our thoughts. That we can finish the sentence ‘I am ____’ with something powerful. And that having a sense of humor is the greatest thing you can have next to your health.
TCM: What has been your most rewarding yoga-related experience?
JP: Such a hard one to answer – I have been blessed with so many rewarding yoga-related experiences! One was definitely when I got married at the yoga studio I was currently teaching at. I cancelled my class and had everyone come and bring donations. The Red Cross and ONEHOPE Wine sponsored it, and we gave all the money to Haiti as it was right after the earthquake. There was a cello player and singers and poets and everyone was barefoot. It was spectacular.
Yesterday I had two dates with young girls struggling with eating disorders who have found me through my blogs and teachings. They said that I was helping them heal. There are no words to describe what that feels like to help others after struggling for so many years myself with anorexia.
Creating Karaoke Yoga and having it go viral has been so rewarding simply because it is such an expression of joy. To see people responding so well is a sign from the Universe for me to keep going. Like a little high five!
Working with the little kids with special needs stops my heart and feeds my soul.
Can I say one more? Leading sold out retreats around the world. My Maui one in February is being assisted by my beloved teacher Wayne Dyer’s daughter Sommer. This fills me with pride. And goosebumps. And a big fat YES.
TCM: What are 5 things on your Bucket List, personal or professional?
JP: 1.) Start a family with Robert Taleghany, my husband.
2.) Become a best-selling author (on my way!).
3.) Work with Wayne Dyer and Oprah. (Oprah, are you reading this? Wayne?)
4.) Help find a cure for the hunger experience in Prader Willi Syndrome through my fundraisers, workshops, etc. (Google it, folks. Prader Willi Syndrome.)
5.) Be on The Ellen DeGeneres Show with my Karaoke Yoga! (Ellen, I love you, woman.)
TCM: What advice would you give to your 16-year-old self?
JP: I LOVE this… I do this exercise in my workshops and retreats and it is so fascinating. I would say: ‘Stop hating yourself. You are awesome and one day you will realize that and share it with the world so stop thinking you are fat and sitting in your room and crying and pretending to smoke cigarettes without inhaling. Go do things that make you come alive!‘
TCM: What is your personal mantra?
JP: Have a sense of humor especially when it comes to yourself, have more dance parties, let your joy be contagious so if you forget it you can catch it from someone else, have that glass of wine if you want it and be nice, dammit!