Janet Stone On Hanuman, Inspiration, And Arriving More Fully
Janet Stone, a luminary yoga instructor based in Bali and San Francisco, began studying meditation at age 17 with Prem Rawat. In 1996, she traveled to India, the birthplace of her grandfather, and she became dedicated to the path of yoga. SF Yoga Magazine was excited to catch up with her between travels to talk about her inspiration.
We're excited that you're on the lineup of the Hanuman Yoga Festival in Boulder, Colorado this summer. How is it to teach in your home town?
I’ve been graced to live in many amazing places and yet, Boulder feels like a root deep in my body…so, it’s wonderful to return. Last year, during a packed class in the Boulder High School gym, I looked out and simply smiled at the fact that I was teaching a yoga class in my high school rival’s gym (Go Knights!) Life is so beautiful in its twists and turns.
What are your favorite parts of the story of Hanuman? (I love what you recently wrote about Hanuman on your blog)
Each story of Hanuman holds within it a whisper of truth for my day-to-day struggle to remain devoted to the dharma and not get dragged off by my monkey mind and all of the longings to prop up the ego. In one story Hanuman has his super powers hidden from him until the time he is in service to dharma/Ram, and I relate to feeling my own super powers of enormous strength to endure the many fluctations of life with a steady heart. And then there is the Hanuman story of doubting my ability to make the great leap in each moment to confront the (my) demons on the island of Lanka/my mind. And there is the time Hanuman is speaking to Ram and Hanuman says, “When I forget who I am, I call your name: Ram Ram Ram Sita Ram Ram Ram. But when I remember who I am, I am you and you are me.”
Your students are always inspired by your dedication, flying in from places like Bali and teaching in San Francisco right away. What inspires you about your travels and what inspires you about coming home?
I have traveled the world since I could fly off on my own, in wonder at landing in new spaces and paying close attention to all of the variations of this life and all of the similarities. And to coming home…well, I held a home sangha in the same space at Yoga Tree for nearly 15 years and this is the temple. I return home and the river is still flowing and students still breathing and at this point, I simply slide back into its grace. When I land from India and go directly to the studio to lead a class, well, this sounds so generous, but in all honesty, it helps me land and arrive at the many ways we hold each other in all of life’s transitions.
You beautifully address the challenges and joys of motherhood in your writing and teaching - can you tell us a little about how yoga has impacted you as a mother (and/or how motherhood has impacted your yoga)?
These things are inextricably wound together, as practice was already at the forefront of my life when I had my children. I had already had the time to explore the deep and infinite inquiry through the body, the pranayamas, through two decades of meditation -- and then they arrived. I will not say it all flew out the window, but to watch what one assumes is the practice become something completely different, was in and of itself the practice. Meaning, after children, any of my hidden samskaras came to the forefront, any notion I had about what practice looks like changed and I was brought to my knees with the power of love that was suddenly exploding out of every cell and yet also on my knees at the vast undertaking of ushering beings into this world. So, yes, yoga changed how I mother and mothering changed how I yoga. And to this day, as my children grow, I use this practice not as a tool to get somewhere, but to arrive HERE more fully.
What is your favorite part about teaching at festivals?
My favorite part is the vitality and eclectic nature of so many beings, both there to participate and to offer their skills and talents. It feels like a reunion of so many of my near and dear fellow teachers and musicians. Not to mention that festivals are the opportunity to bring my full self and the knowledge, practice, and love that has been offered to me over my long and wonderful yoga journey. And then to bring alignment of the body, the alignment with our heart and an openness to the source of dynamic and powerful movements of yoga brought to life by the breath.
Catch Janet Stone at the Hanuman Festival in Boulder, Colorado this summer, June 9-12, 2016: www.hanumanfestival.com.
Photo: Mario Covic