Yoga with Southern Style & Spirituality: Q & A with Faith Hunter

Some things just seem to be a bit better when they have a little southern style. Faith Hunter's yoga practice may just be one of these things. Faith got started with yoga back in the early 90s as a way to find balance as she dealt with her brother's terminal illness. Since then she's become one of the most well-known yoga instructors in America and has graced the cover of Yoga Journal.

Faith talks to us about her meditation practice, her southern roots, yoga tips for beginners, favorite books, music, and more.

MindBodyGreen: When/how did you first begin practicing yoga?

Faith Hunter: I started practicing yoga back in the early 90s (not sure what year), but it was the thing I needed at the right time. I started with a few Rodney Yee classes on PBS and video, but soon I ventured to a class. I went with a friend as an alternative to our regular exercise routine and as a way to relax. My older brother, Michael, had been battling a terminal disease for years, so I really needed time to heal during his last year and after his death. Yoga was the freedom I needed from the emotional jail I was in. Yoga helped me find balance and joy again.

MBG: Any tips for someone who wants to get started with yoga? How do they know what style is right for them?

FH: Start slow, take your time, be open to what comes up, and of course BREATHE. I suggest taking a few different styles of classes to see what works for you in this stage of your life. Determine what you seek or need in the practice, and select those options based on your needs. Also spend some time processing how you feel during and after class, and if it helps, journal about your experiences. Who knows what you may discover about the practice of yoga and yourself. Overall, find what feels yummy.

MBG: Have your southern roots influenced your practice? If so, how?

FH: My southern roots have totally influenced my practice. Since I live in a city where I don’t have immediate family, my yoga community, dear friends and my sweetie have become my family. Like most country girls, family is key to staying grounded and rooted in your beliefs. My yoga practice is about maintaining loving and supportive relationships with people that share my values and love of life. The other aspect is the spiritual connection with God. I grew up in the church with my mother, and with a father who was not concerned about organized religion, but more focused on being kind to others and teaching us to appreciate and share the gifts we have been given. I truly believe family was my first guru, and yoga helped me reconnect with that spirit.

MBG: What do you love about yoga?

FH: I love the fact that I can be myself and express my full divinity without apologizing. It is okay to love and hate, laugh and cry, and simply just be Faith with an open heart and giving spirit! Yoga also reminds me that everyone and everything I encounter is a divine teacher, so each day I’m learning and growing. Lastly, I love the fact that everything superficial falls away when I’m on my mat. Man, what would we do without the asana practice?

MBG: Do you meditate? If so, when do you find time? Where do you meditate? Any tips for someone who wants to get started?

FH: I try to meditate every day, some days longer than others. It is hard to find the time, so I try not to beat myself up if I only get in 5 minutes. I have an altar at home which includes personal items (photos of family, old friends, and other random items that have meaning). When I do my home practice, I definitely give myself time; however, sometimes I take a few moments in the car before I teach a yoga class or late at night before I go to bed. Like your asana practice, start slow and be kind to yourself (ahimsa). Start with 3-5 minutes before your get out of bed in the morning, then gradually increase the time. Don’t force it unfold and happen naturally with ease. If it helps, incorporate a mantra or sound, but don’t forget to use the breath to help you stay in the moment. Crazy thoughts will come in, but that’s just our little monkey minds dancing.

MBG: Do you have any favorite gear?

FH: At the moment, I love the bright colors of Lululemon’s spring collection, Prana pants with the lotus on the butt (always a hot item to show off the “junk in the trunk”), and when I go home my mom and I always manage to sew something cute. In January we did a pair of black yoga pants. Yes, I sew a little. I mix, match and wear what feels good, to include multi-colored socks, leg warmers, and tees that I find for $5 in DC "fly girl" shops. It is all about just being me and feeling comfortable.

MBG: Favorite healthy food? 

FH: Green tea, spinach, strawberries, and Granny Smith apples.

MBG: Favorite guilty indulgence?

FH: Vanilla and chocolate gelato, fresh bread with butter, and my mom’s sweet potato and apple pie, à la mode of course.

MBG: What are 5 songs on your yoga playlist?

FH: Hmmm…I have enough yoga music that I can play for 7 days (24 hours a day) without repeating a song, and I’m not a DJ…yet. Maybe my TRUE guilty indulgence is iTunes. Let’s see, here are five songs I enjoy hearing on my yoga playlist:

  1. Radhe Govinda Bhajo - Bhagavan Das (I love Baba)
  2. Every Single Soul – Michael Franti
  3. Grateful – Wyclef Jean
  4. Shimmer and Shine - Ben Harper
  5. Be Natural – Fertile Ground

MBG: Do you have any favorite books? What are your reading?

FH: Favorite Books:

Anything by Rumi or Hafiz (love all those hip Sufi dudes)

Sacred Woman: A Guide to Healing the Feminine Body, Mind, and Spirit by Queen Afua

The City of Women by Ruth Landes

Ayurveda Revolutionized by Edward Tarabilda

The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success by Deepak Chopra (my mom gave me a copy back 1994)

On my nightstand:

The Language of Letting Go by Melody Beattle

Stolen Lives: Twenty Years in a Desert Jail by Malika Oufkar

That Which Awakens Me by Ananda Kiamsha Madelyn Leeke

If You Have To Cry Go Outside by Kelly Cutrone

MBG: Favorite quote?

FH: Live Life to the Fullest, Embrace Life with Passion!

MBG: What's next for you?

FH: Here's where I'll be:

April18 – Free Community Classes at Lululemon Logan Circle, Washington, DC.

April 20-25 – Kansas City presenting a new online wellness video project with the Hemophilia Federation of America. We plan to record 2-3 more videos by the end of the year.

Spring/Summer – Workshops around the Northeast.

September-December – Southern Charm Yoga Tour, Louisiana, Texas & Mississippi.

Winter 2010-2011 – Teacher training at my studio. Hope to head west for a few yogi adventures.

For more on Faith Hunter:

Faith on Facebook, Twitter and her iTunes Podcast

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