Be Well

The Ladies Leading an Unconventional Yoga Revolution

The founders of Yoga For Bad People advise taking wellness trends with a grain of salt — and a little lime and tequila, if you like.
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It’s no secret that yoga has become more mainstream over the past few years. Companies like Y7 offer athletic flows choreographed to familiar hip-hop songs. This has quickly converted those who were once intimidated by the spiritual pose-fest into full-time yogis. Popular travel destinations, like Tulum, allure travelers promising a commitment to health and wellness between mezcal margaritas. What it comes down to is that between working out and sipping green juice, we still have to live our lives and let loose.

This is the idea behind Heather Lilleston and Katelin Sisson’s Yoga for Bad People, a yoga-based company that leads highly popular retreats around the globe for regular people. For Lilleston and Sisson, balance is key to a healthy lifestyle, “It’s about not overdoing anything. Being disciplined and also willing to be spontaneous,” says Lilleston.

For their retreats, they seek out locations that lend themselves to tranquility and quiet reflection, while also physical activities and nightlife. Because after all, the key ingredient to a healthy, balanced life is “knowing how to have a damn good time.” While avid yoga experience is not necessary, an open mind and a few caipirinhas between flows are welcomed. So... where do we sign up?


Below, Heather and Katelin get real about what a healthy balanced lifestyle really means:

What is the premise of Yoga For Bad People? How is it different from other yoga companies?

YFBP didn't start out during the wellness trend or with any intention to even build a company around wellness or yoga or spirituality. [It] was an organic response to a general feeling of hierarchical elements that made yoga seem intimidating or only for the holier than thou. While balancing being modern women in our 20’s in New York City with being deeply engrossed in focused spiritual practice, we wanted others to know they could too. We wanted people to feel that no matter who they were, however inflexible or busy or neurotic [they may be], they could still practice yoga and meditation.

We wanted people to know they could be normal human beings with all the ups and downs of modern life and benefit from the practice. So we called our retreats Yoga For Bad People, a place for people who weren’t holier than thou but were interested in genuine practice to explore yoga and meditation and maybe get a vacation in at the same time.


Why did you feel there was a need for these types of yoga retreats?

We had grown up in very serious yoga communities but for some reason, it was intimidating to some of our friends. There seemed to be some misconception that everyone who practiced yoga had to be flexible, happy and perfect all the time. [But] believe us when we say many people who gravitate towards spiritual practice are actually far from perfect. We are truth seekers on the spiritual path, so we wanted to encourage honesty and transparency with our humanity, our differences [and] our needs. Balance was our emphasis and we decided it was the magic formula for an honest spiritual life.

Where does the name come from?

We were choosing a name for our retreat in Brazil and wanted people to know that since it was Brazil we would most likely [involve] enjoying nightlife or a caipirinha on the beach at some point, so [that] only people who were down with that [would] sign up [rather than those] who needed a super focused, more traditional retreat where there [are] full days of silence, green juicing, and early bedtimes. 


How do the both of you define a balanced lifestyle?

It's about not overdoing anything, being disciplined. and also willing to be spontaneous. It means working hard on your projects, your work, your heart space, your physical discipline, but also letting go every now and then which may mean sleeping in or dancing late or even carving out a day to skip practice altogether. It means making space for the joy and the grief and letting life pass through us. It means laughing at yourself when you realize you are trying to control everything. It means knowing how to have a damn good time!


Why is travel important for health and wellness?

Yoga offers us a chance to see outside our blind-spots. Travel provides this, [too]. You have to adjust to a new temperature, rhythm, language, currency, and customs. You don't get the normal security of your regular daily comforts and often have to let go of some of the rigid ways we seek safety and comfort to adjust to a new place, which is very freeing. Your horizons widen, you become less fearful of “the other."


Favorite place you’ve visited on a retreat?

We are absolutely in love with Havana, Cuba! We have hosted numerous retreats there and it’s one of the most visually beautiful cities as well as so full of diversity and incredible music and art and smack dab in the middle of the Caribbean. It is absolute magic.

Upcoming retreat you’re most looking forward to?

We are really excited to go to Zanzibar, Tanzania. I (Heather) personally went there in 2001 and promised that gorgeous and complex island I would return someday, and now will be there in a few weeks.


What’s one wellness secret not everyone may know?

All wellness trends may not be actually good for you. When things get trendy, people translate that as “It's good for everyone." But everyone has a different chemistry and composition. Just because kale is popular doesn’t mean you should be drowning in it. Or turmeric. Or spirulina. Or CBD oil. Or any of it! The real wellness skills are honesty and balance. So take these wellness trends with a grain of salt.

It’s great that taking care of yourself, eating well, and exercising is coming back in a new way, but they are still like everything else: an industry. People are trying to sell stuff [and] are trying to make you think you need it. Listen to your own body and its relationship with whatever wellness trend you are engaging in.


What's the one yoga or wellness misconception or stigma most people have that you want to set straight?

That anyone but yourself is gonna solve your problems for you. No yoga teacher, no psychic, no healer, no therapist, no nutritionist or astrologer is gonna solve your shit. You have to do the work [and] take responsibility. Yes, all those people can offer elements to the process, support you, reflect back to you, [and] offer suggestions, but in the end, it is your job to show up. That’s why nothing works for absolutely everyone. Cause nothing can do it for you, but you. Stop thinking something else is gonna solve your problem. Free yourself and then enjoy experimenting with all the amazing modalities to healing and wellness that are out there.

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