Before I get into the meat of this post (which is so delightful) I have a little bit of housekeeping to do. As you may notice this post is a part of a "new" section of the blog: The Self. The Self is actually a combination of two categories- The Office and The Apothecary. The idea behind "The Self" section is it is all about working to become our best selves whether it is through a beauty product/tonic, or inspiring interviews of great people sharing a bit about themselves. I can't think of a better feature to launch this re-vamped section of the blog with than a chat with my dear friend Sheri Delaney.
I have known Sheri since the first day of college and we often laugh that we knew instantly we wanted to be friends. Sheri is an intelligent beauty with gumption to spare. She will always be honest but kind and has ton of energy and enthusiasm for whatever she puts her mind to. Today we are talking some mindfulness techniques and trusting your gut. Oh yeah, and yoga.
Interview Subject: Sheri Delaney - Lives: Santa Monica, CA - Years Practicing Yoga: 10 - Years Teaching Yoga: 5
Favorite Yoga Studios coast to coast
Q: When you graduated college you went from working at Ernst and Young to The NYSE to Yoga. What inspired you to make the jump from working at the NYSE to becoming a full-time yogi?
A: I was a competitive swimmer from a young age. From the years of 1992 to 2005 my fragrance was decidedly La Parfum de Chlorine. I loved swimming, competition and weirdly, practice. Weird because most swimmers love racing and hate practice, but I loved both. When I worked at E & Y, I spent most of my time clocking hours or studying for the CPA exams, neither of which I enjoyed. This type of practice sucked, but the promise of the accomplishment kept me going. When I received the letter that I had passed the final exam, it was lackluster. So, immediately, I had some meetings and found a job at the NYSE that I thought would be sexier and more exciting. It was more of the same.
In college, they made us do yoga for swimming. It was the worst. My body was so tight and stretching was boring. Fast forward to the stressful, sleepless, hungover lifestyle that is 22 living in New York City. I needed something to get me through the Sunday scaries, so reluctantly I went back to yoga. To my surprise, it was quite a workout and the teacher rubbed lavender on my neck! So I kept going and after a couple of years I thought, why not do a training? It was on the weekends, while I was working at the exchange, and I loved it... so I did. When the training ended my now husband encouraged me to quit and pursue teaching, something that I deeply wanted to do but couldn't give myself permission. One day, they were cleaning the bathrooms at work and the smell of (chlorine) bleach reminded me that I should love "practice". I put in my two weeks the next day.
Q: How did your life change as a result?
A: My life looks nothing like it did 5 years ago. I live in a different city, I ride my bike to the yoga classes I teach, I take weekly improv classes, I do a lot of creative writing. It took a while to get here. The first couple of years were very hard. I was dealing with an identity crisis, insecurity regarding my decision, and loneliness. But as my mom says so eloquently, "Shit or get off the pot." So I shit.
Q: How has your practice changed over the years?
A: The first 5 years of my practice were 95% I want Jennifer Aniston triceps, 5% how can I be more grateful, joyful, and connected. When I did my first training, I was taught to meditate. That was life changing and a really big tipping point. The emphasis flipped. The more I teach, the more subtle my practice gets, because I have to listen to my own advice. I can get a lot out of a single pose, with no compulsion to wrap my legs around my head.
Q: Life philosophy?
A: Earn your wrinkles.
Q: Morning or evening routine you would like to share?
A: Every morning I do a mixture of imagery meditation and breath-work. My favorite is a meditation where you imagine yourself sitting on the beach, staring out at the ocean. The inhale is connected with the image of waves breaking and crashing toward you, the exhale is connected to the tide going out, the wave forming. I'll do this for a while, until my brain settles down, then I'll do a mixture of kapalabati and bastrica breathing. About 5 minutes. I'll end with a quick inventory; three good things I've done over the past 24 hours, and three not so good. For the not so good, I imagine how I could have done it differently (this is a personal interpretation of an ancient Tibetan Buddhist practice called "the preliminaries"). For example, today my good was going to sleep early (I have a tendency to stay up doing nothing) and my not so good was the fact that I didn't do anything outwardly thoughtful or kind for someone else... so today I'm going to motivate a specific friend to keep working toward a goal we've discussed. It forces you to reflect on how you are spending your days, and what matters to you on a very specific level.
Q: Spring has officially sprung in Chicago and it has everyone wanting to be outdoors! How should your practice change throughout the seasons?
A: Fall is nostalgic, full of reflection and memories. It feels good, safe, there isn't any uncertainty because we've all been there before. Winter is meditative, you go inward and rest. For those of us that have trouble relaxing, it's a tough season, but if you can allow time to reflect, it is very valuable. Spring is rebirth, for many traditions it's the new year. What happened over winter? What did you learn? Spring is the time to start applying those insights. Summer is party time. Get out, socialize, be active, get hot and sweaty, dance, use the wave of energy that it provides. Be fearless, get out of your comfort zone. Your practice should reflect the seasons, at it's hottest in summer and most restorative in winter.
Chicago in spring is so joyful. Please go outside! Ride your bike! Meet friends for a walk and smell the melting snow and budding flowers. You can do yoga, but don't trade outside time for inside time.