Heather Lilleston has been teaching yoga for nearly 15 years, ever since moving from Cali to NYC to attend NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. She trained at Jivamukti Yoga School NYC, intent on instructing as a side gig while she pursued acting. But before she knew it, she had found her calling as a yoga teacher.
Yoga For Bad People was born from the idea of balancing a disciplined, spiritual practice with a sense of fun and spontaneity. Lilleston teamed up with fellow teacher and now business partner Katelin Sisson, who shared this point of view, and the name resulted from a 2012 yoga retreat the duo organized. “We called it Yoga For Bad People because we wanted our students to know that it wouldn’t be silence and green juice the whole time, and that things could get a little wild and that was okay,” she recalls. The group used the hashtag #yogaforbadpeople throughout the trip, and as soon as the pair were back, they landed the Instagram handle. “It’s is the perfect balance of real practice—we don’t dumb anything down—and a sense of lightheartedness. It’s also about being inviting rather than exclusive.”
Since then, Yoga For Bad People has evolved to include 12 international retreats a year to places like Costa Rica, Portugal, and Bali, as well as tons of collaborations. This means Lilleston is catching over 50 flights a year. Her lifestyle has forced her to create a wellness routine that can cross oceans along with her. “The right routine can make you feel at home wherever you are in the world. The point is not to force anything, but to work with your body as it is—whether it be straight off a plane, sunburned, or just overworked—not to push some routine on yourself,” explains Lilleston. Below, she shares some of her favorite ways to stay balanced, however crazy her schedule gets.
BALANCE STARTS FROM WITHIN
“When I’m traveling, I take a daily combination of apple cider vinegar mixed with water, kombucha (if I can find it), and chlorella manna tablets. The apple cider vinegar has tons of health benefits, like helping to balance pH levels, aiding in digestion, and supporting the immune system. Chlorella manna is freshwater algae that removes chemicals and heavy metals from your system, which you can absorb going through many airports and X-ray machines. It boosts the immune system and has a high content of chlorophyll, which provide the same nutrients you’d get from rich leafy greens, which we all know are hard to find on the road. Kombucha has many of these same benefits, namely lowering inflammation in the body. They all bring me a certain balance that can be hard to achieve away from home. Part of traveling is eating different things, and it can be hard to have regular digestion when your routine is off. These three things have proven to help the process of regularity in my body.”
QUICK RUN & STRETCH
“I’ve found that I need to do cardio to get better results from my yoga practice, and it’s necessary for a specific kind of circulation your body needs. Luckily, running is super easy to do—all I need is my music and shoes, and I can run anywhere. Afterward, I tend to do some yoga poses and stretching, which I can do against anything—a kitchen island, a windowsill, or an odd corner of a hotel room. If I need to catch up on phone calls, I’ll often do so while I’m stretching—oddly, I find that it can make me a better listener. After cardio, it is much easier for me to find a patient yogic breath. I need my heart rate to go up before I appreciate taking it down. The combo is perfection.”
“The habit of circulation is really key, and I especially enjoy reversing the blood flow by going upside down. It’s so helpful to do when feet get swollen on a flight or just to undo the constant motion of city life. It can also help reset the low back/sacral region that often gets out of whack sitting in chairs, on airplanes, or carrying luggage. My preferred version is headstand, but sometimes my arms and neck need more rest, so legs up the side of the bed or ottoman works too. Shoulder stands have many of the same benefits—basically the goal is just to have your feet over your heart.”
“Meditation is a big part of our retreats. It teaches people about internal awareness and the ability to respond to and actually look directly at whatever is arising at any given moment. There are so many benefits to just sitting still, and you can really feel the positive effects in your nervous system and brain. Meditation is, of course, more than sitting still (that’s just the prerequisite), but sometimes sitting still is all you can do one day, and that’s enough. I’ve been into 30-minute iTunes mediations that have brain wave therapy background sounds designed to settle the nervous system. Often, I’ll use the time to also do a face mask, not just because of the beauty benefits, but because it relaxes my face muscles, which supports a calm nervous system, therein making any meditation more accessible. Any kind of stillness will give you access to your own inner state of kindness and compassion as well, so the benefits of meditation end up flowing into the rest of your day and to the people you encounter. It’s such a key part of the healing process both on a micro or macro level.”