Do you love yoga? Or have you thought you might love it, but never given it a go? Yoga Is, a global online yoga and wellness festival, starts this Wednesday, April 7, featuring inspiration, workshops and interviews with some of today’s most sought-after yoga teachers. It’s a community of experienced yogis and newcomers alike.
Created and produced by Suzanne Bryant, of the acclaimed documentary film YOGA IS, which captures her profound journey to India after losing her mother to cancer. Due to popular demand, she extended the YOGA IS brand into the bi-annual online festival, to provide access to the world’s leading luminaries and original content designed to support personal health and spiritual transformation at an affordable price.
A certified yoga instructor with an MA in spiritual psychology and nutrition, she is also a meditation teacher and wellness coach. Suzanne has studied with some of the most inspiring and celebrated teachers of our time including Sharon Gannon, Pattabais Jois, Shiva Rea, Seane Corn, Dharma Mittra, Shyam Das and Alan Finger.
With 20 years of yoga exploration, Suzanne enjoys supporting others through personal coaching, yoga and mindfulness training course in addition to her film, online festival and on-going media endeavours. Suzanne has been featured in Forbes, Yoga Journal Magazine, The Huffington Post, Elephant Journal, Fitness plus TEDx.
I caught up with Suzanne to find out more about her life with yoga, her journey to now and what we can all expect from the upcoming online Yoga Is festival.
Tell me a little bit about your journey, including how yoga became such an important part of your life?
I’ve always been fascinated by our own innate ability to transform our perceptions and minds by practices of alchemy such as yoga and mediation. When I was in my 20’s living in NYC I started to get anxiety out of the blue. I had been a fearless person up to that point and then this new lens I was looking through placed me in a new state of being fearful. It was debilitating. I took up a daily practice of yoga and mediation, and over the next two years I found a powerful practice to control my mind, rather than my mind controlling me in fear. It was extremely life transforming and it was empowering. This was the beginning of my journey.
India is the birthplace of yoga, and after 14 years of practicing, I felt it was time to visit the motherland and tap into the deeper magic of the practice.
Do we still have much to learn about yoga from India?
Yes, I believe that we all can learn from one another. In India, yoga and spirituality is a part of their daily lives, not just asana. Interestingly, mediation versus the asana’s ( poses) is actually more mainstream in India, even through the asana’s come from India. What captivated me was that spirituality pervades the air. They have daily practices such as going to a temple devoted to a deity, a god such as Ganseha the elephant god, remover of obstacles – they pray and set intentions. This is a practice that I have actually brought back to my daily life. I have an alter that I set intentions and do my mantra (mediation to a Indian sanskrit chant) each morning. It’s a beautiful way to set intention for the day and get truly present for the day to unfold.
How did yoga transform your life, spiritually, emotionally, mentally and physically?
Yoga and mediation have empowered me in incurable ways. We grow up conditioned by life, society, our parents and our judgements of ourselves. Yoga is a practice of liberation, it allowed me to truly live from my heart, a place of authenticity and when we live from that space, magic happens. I believe the more we tap into our true selves the clearer our path becomes, that is what happened to me. And this practice is my anchor in life, no matter what challenge comes my way, I have a practice that I can turn to and let go of anything that is holding me back in fear or stress as well as a place of solace in any times of transition. It gave me a way of living that I live in gratitude and that is a true gift!
What forms of yoga speak to you the most and why?
I love all the practices from ashtanga for it’s physical aspect to vinyasa flow for the grace of movement, Jivamukti Yoga for it’s connection to the essence of yoga in the full spectrum, Bhakti yoga, the yoga of love and devotion, and Kundalini as I am a big fan of energy and alchemy. I believe we transform our energy by our minds, all these practices allow you to focus on a clear intention and manifest your vision. This is powerful and part of the magic of these practices.
Who have been your biggest mentors and what have they brought to your life?
Some of my biggest mentors have been my mother who raised her five children while working full time as an ER nurse. She showed me strength and determination, devotion and love. My teacher and friend Sharon Gannon the co-founder of Jivamukti yoga; she always comes from a place of grace, kindness, authenticity at the same time a leader. It’s an inspiring combination! I believe that authenticity, kindness and love are the most important qualities that once can possess, as it allows us to connect with one another in the deepest place.
Yoga is a practice of liberation, it allowed me to truly live from my heart, a place of authenticity and when we live from that space, magic happens.
Why did you decide to make Yoga Is, the documentary?
Yoga was my saviour during the nine month time frame of finding out my mother had terminal breast cancer and after the loss of her at 57. Yoga helped me heal. I wanted to create a film that could be something people could watch again and again to support them on their journey of any challenge they face. I was not a filmmaker but I went to NYU for journalism and became a yoga teacher so these two paths collided in making this film. I am so grateful that that film has touched thousand of lives all over the world and that is where the idea for the YOGA IS ONLINE Yoga & Wellness Festival was born.
For someone who hasn’t been introduced to yoga before, what would you tell them?
Try many types and many teachers even of that type of yoga and wait until one truly connects to your heart. When this happens, the magic of the practice unfolds and it’s life transforming. Don’t judge yourself as no one is watching you or judging you, this is something that you are supposed to let go of judgment of others and yourself so start with yourself . And finally, it’s like playing the piano, first you learn the notes and then you play the music. Learn the asana’s and then let go and let yourself open up the transformation.
The Yoga Is Wellness Festival is coming up on April 7. What is it exactly and why is it so important?
This is incredibly exciting! I have gathered the most famous teachers of our time such as Shiva Rea, Sean Corn, Sharon Gannon and Ana Forrest along with famous luminaries such as Deepak Chopra, Musician Michael Franti, Author of the Four Agreements Don Miguel Ruiz, and the Grammy award nominee Krishna Das to all come together for the largest online yoga and wellness conference in the world.
Try many types and many teachers even of that type of yoga and wait until one truly connects to your heart. When this happens, the magic of the practice unfolds and it’s life transforming.
I am so honored to have all this incredible group all in one place. You cannot find any online event or on the ground festival that has all these famous luminaries in one once place, and carefully curated content of classes and interviews – over 70 in all with unlimited access for the price of two yoga studio classes. I wanted to make yoga accessible to everyone with the teachers that have had a huge impact in my life.
How did so many inspiring thinkers and doers become part of the festival?
I truly believe it comes from my desire to help others. All the teachers such as Deepak Chopra, Shiva Rea, Seane Corn and Michael Franti saw this vision and wanted to participate. I believe that when you are authentic and on a mission of uplifting the lives of others then things fall into place. Ultimately we are all just vehicles for information and my karma in this life is to combine yoga and journalism to help others.
If you could impart one piece of advice to someone who might be struggling in some way, what would it be?
Please know that life is showing you a lesson you may not understand now, and know that the universe is here to support you. Think about the challenge or struggle as something your soul is actually needing to grow from. Look to practices such as yoga and mediation and be in nature and around those you love, all these practices will support you.
We all experience struggles – it is part of the human condition, know that you are not alone and you have unlimited love all around you. Sometimes we feel that we are alone in our struggles but reaching out to those that have been your same struggle is very helpful is reminds you that you are not alone, community is a huge support in times of struggle.
What does beauty mean to you?
Beauty means aligning body mind and soul in gratitude and love. When we lead from these energies, we shine and our energy is attractive and magnetic to both ourselves and others.