When it comes to her job as Editor-in-Chief at LA Yoga Magazine, Felicia Tomasko is a self-proclaimed jack of all trades. She’s in charge of everything from the publication’s overarching editorial content, to making sure the magazine’s Facebook page is up to date. A yoga practitioner for the past 25 years, Felicia knows the importance of a regular practice, though there are times when foreboding late nights at LA Yoga Magazine could potentially get the better of her. It’s the power of the ‘positive peer pressure team,’ aka her close group of yoga practice buddies, who ensure she gets in her daily dose of yoga.
We chatted on the phone while she was running errands for one of her writers. So happy to share her knowledge, this is what Felicia had to say:
How do you achieve balance on your toughest work days?
I find that I really focus on doing my personal practice first thing in the morning; before my day gets busy with the phone ringing, emails, or what I have to edit. My personal practice is really important to me. Sometimes it is very simple, sometimes it is more elaborate. I’ve worked with a few different meditation traditions and I’ll usually pick a practice to do for a period of time and commit to that. Right now, I have a specific mantra meditation practice I’m working on.
I also do asana practice. I find that my own personal practice in terms of asana varies quite a bit… Because of long hours sitting at a computer, I do need to do something really active to balance that out. Sometimes I’ll go for a walk or a run in addition to my yoga practice. Our offices are located in Santa Monica so whenever I can, I try to arrange out of the office meetings to which I am able to bike. It’s amazing when I am able to do that because I can combine being outside, getting a workout, and getting to where I need to go. Multi-tasking is important!
I have a small group of yoga practice buddies and this is something that is extremely helpful to me. We’ll meditate together, we’ll run together, we’ll go to yoga class together. We even schedule yoga car pools to make sure we’re getting to class – we’ve got that part down! One of friend’s cars even has my yoga mat in it. It’s important in my life to have that positive support system and positive peer pressure to help get my practice in. It can be a temptation to look at my to do list, or to open my email, and think, “I can’t get to practice today, I have too much to do.” That’s a real trap because by the end of the day you’re cranky, your back hurts, you’ve been sitting at a computer, and thinking, “Wait, where did my practice go? I’m writing about yoga but how am I actually practicing it?”
What does your personal home practice consist of?
I love standing sequences – I’ll do some modified Sun Salutations, I love Downward Facing Dog, and I love standing balancing poses. I’ve been doing lots of sequences that involve Warrior poses and am creative in linking them together in different kinds of ways. And, I really do love Yin practice – I’ll usually do a full Yin practice once a week, and at one other time during the week – a partial Yin practice. I find if I don’t, I get stiff from being at the computer.
A lot of my practice is dictated by the fact I am an editor and the reality of that means a lot of hours at the computer keyboard. This is why I am not crazy about Chaturanga. In terms of my hands, wrists and shoulders, I have to really think about not overusing them but making sure I am doing things to stretch and open them up.
Which studios do you practice at?
I make the rounds of studios in Santa Monica. Sometimes I’ll go to one studio all the time and then rotate to another studio. With what I do at LA Yoga, I really like to stay connected to people in my home yoga community; I do that through going to class. It’s such a rich yoga community, with different teachers, different traditions, and different paths of yoga, so I’ll mix up my own practice.
One of the great things about yoga in general, is that there’s so much variety. We don’t get bored.
What would you recommend to the yoga beginner, faced with a varied selection of yoga styles, in choosing a practice right for them?
In this point in time, there are more people who practice yoga than probably at any other time in history. It’s a great thing, I think, that there’s this democratization of the practice because there are very few things that provide us a sense of: how do we get more in touch with our bodies, how do we develop this relationship that we have with ourselves, how do we become more skilful in our lives, how do we find a sense of ease and sweetness. All these things are what the philosophy of yoga purports to offers us, to teach us.
So how do you find the practice that is right for you? The advice I usually give to people is that a lot of it has to do with our personal relationship, or personal chemistry. If someone walks into a class and thinks, “this isn’t for me,” then it’s probably not yoga but the specific style, or the specific teacher. Even within different styles of yoga, teachers can have different approaches to the practice. So I usually advise that people try out a few different things before ordering the entrée.
It’s also important for us to keep in mind when practicing is how the practice supports our body: are we being pushed past out limits; are we in a situation where we’re able to do something that feels good and has a sense of ease to it; do we have a level of challenge that is appropriate; and, does the teacher support that process of us doing the practice in the body that we have right now?
Why do you think yoga is so popular these days, especially in this techie age?
I think that’s one of the reasons why yoga is so popular. Even though we are so techie, our bodies work best with movement. Many of the movements in yoga, even if they start off somewhat awkward, actually help us to have a better experience with our body. If we’re thinking about the performance of our car, or defragmenting the hard drive on our computers, well, yoga is doing the same thing for our biomechanics. Our own body is practiced in such a way that it is allowing for that.
Tell me about the role education plays in maintaining a yoga practice and general health.
In Yoga Sutras, Patanjali mentions Kleshas, which are obstacles, and one of the obstacles is Avidya – or ignorance. Sometimes we can’t get too mad about it (lack of education) because there is a lot of ignorance in the world. When we think about education, we have to think about how we receive it: it could be through formal schools, the things we read, through email, the things we say or do or write about, or the magazines we read. Whether we’re educated through movies, or through Twitter; when we look at what’s going on in the world today, as much as we can say there’s obesity, for example, at the same time, there are movements to bring yoga to more schools.
There are a lot of training programs that train yoga teachers how to work with school systems and kids. What it takes is not waiting for someone else to do it, but it’s that small part that we can do: how do we educate ourselves, how do we educate each other, how are we role models, and how do we encourage more in our school systems, and also more for people of any age.
I think this is also a time in history where people of different ages are practicing yoga and there is a greater understanding of some of the medical benefits of a yoga practice.
It’s important to be good advocates: for our children, our parents, for how we take care of ourselves, and being part of a positive peer pressure system; and then advocates on a larger level, whether it is in our town, in our school system, or health club.