If there were ever a girl to get me moving and grooving, it’s workout/meditation/spiritual guru, Heather Lilleston. Heather is a force! Her energy and spirit is so positive, welcoming, and infectious. She is an all-around lifestyle coach if you ask me, and wherever she goes she spreads love and good vibes. Heather is best known for the Yoga for Bad People retreats, however if you get her on the dance floor, watch out. Girl’s got moves! Her newest venture is Magic Hour, at the chic, airy, Knockout LA studio space. She teaches a combination of dance, yoga, and meditation that will get your body and mind ready for Summer.
How many years have you been in business in LA?
I have lived here since 2015, but most of my “business” exists around the world in various locations we choose to host yoga retreats. And my real “career” still exists in NYC - after teaching there for 14 years - but with the internet and social media, I am realizing that everyone of us is starting to feel “worldwide” as they say.
How did you get your start and what was your initial inspiration?
I went to NYU for acting and was somewhat of a lost California girl in the cold winters of NYC. I was not used to city life or east coast weather. I stumbled into Jivamukti Yoga School - which was at 404 Lafayette and my acting studio was at 440 Lafayette - and felt for the first time, at home. The founders created such a powerful community there and had this huge alter with Bob Marley and Bob Dylan on it, and the room was dramatic and full of colors, and yoga was hard at first, but the teachers there wove philosophy into every class and how it connected to the physical practice, to politics and to the environment, that I was willing to “hold the poses” for indefinite amounts of time, and eventually progress in the practice. It was such a complete experience there and struck a chord in me. I think it gave me the feeling of being in nature that I had been so used to having access to being someone from a small surf town in northern California.
What do you feel differentiates you from others in your field?
I think the fact that I started so young (teaching at 20 years old to a room full of successful, older NYers) in a time when yoga was NOT COOL, and all my friends thought I was weird being vegan and having an alter and chanting and whatnot. Because I started then, I am waking up now, 15 years later, with a lot of practice and study under my belt. A lot of mistakes and heartaches (like when you discover your teachers are human beings) and various other trials and tribulations that come with a spiritual practice. It’s not an easy road, looking at yourself in the mirror constantly and re-examining who you are and what you are up to. Especially during your twenties in NYC when you also want to go out and dance and wear crazy clothes and talk about the boys you have crushes on and how you are gonna change the world. But it all goes hand in hand with being honest about your humanness, and I got lucky and got into that work early. So in some ways I feel like a young old woman. I have a ton of experience teaching and yet, I have so so much to learn. I can relate to the younger yoga crowd and also feel super connected to the older yoga crowd. I am somewhere in the middle. I also studied in a time where wellness wasn’t cool - it was the end of a different era of yoga practice. And I feel so grateful to have that time imprinted in my heart.
What do you feel gives you longevity in this big city with so many options?
That’s a good question. I honestly just decided to finally make my home here, after 2 years living here, I wasn't completely ready to give up NYC. It takes time to give yourself to a new city, a new landscape and rhythm. But I think it is the people here that kept me. And on top of that, I am way more relaxed. California is my original home after all.
How do you positively impact your clientele?
Maybe thats a question for them, but when I moved from NYC to LA, I did ask my students why they came to my class and many people said it was:
- For the spiritual teaching I gave (my little sermons in the beginning of class, or sometimes the end) and
- For my chanting. and finally
- For my realness, that I am not afraid to be human and don't try to be some holier than thou yoga person. So thats the feedback I have gotten.
What is your favorite part of your job?
Yoga has allowed me to express such a wide variety of creative mediums, especially running my own company. I think the fact that what I offer in and of itself is good for everyone on some level is also very fulfilling. I am not trying to “sell” something to sell it and make money. I am selling only something that is beneficial, so I have never really worried about that. Even if I just sat there and called out poses, everyone would get something out of it. Now, I don't do that, cause thats boring for me, and there is so much more to bring to the table, but yoga really is that powerful. You can get a lot from very little.
Most importantly, yoga is about being real, honest and authentic. I have to constantly work on myself in those ways. To check myself, to follow my own recipes that I am prescribing or advising to others. And because of that, I am in constant self inquiry and growth, and even though I want to run from that sometimes, I am grateful for it.
What is your favorite secret LA spot?
I don't know if I have been here long enough to know about anything secret yet. I have been taking these walks through the streets in Venice and just admiring all the cute and odd and extreme varieties of homes in that neighborhood, and I love wandering around there. People are so eccentric with how they have chosen to build their homes, and because the weather is so temperate here, I think they have a lot of leeway. That’s been my secret fun activity recently. Otherwise, I haven't spent enough time on this coast yet.
How do you benefit mamas?
Oh goodness, I hope I do! I mean, when moms can actually get to my class, yes that is great for them, but the first thing that comes to my mind is that I have made a strong concerted effort to stay close to my friends that have recently become moms. I know that time can be a little lonely and overwhelming at first, and I really make sure to stay in touch and do my best to see them on their terms with the kids.
What is the most memorable feedback a client has given you?
When I moved from NYC to LA and left my classes behind, a lot of students wrote me heartfelt letters and really poured their hearts out to me. Statements like “I was the one in the back right hand corner every Monday night, and you helped me through the loss of my Mother, or a divorce or cancer or ….” well the list was long because life is full of challenges, and most people who are coming to yoga are feeling some of that. That is why they are there. You just never know how much showing up again and again can benefit people. You never know who you are touching with your words and your honesty and your efforts, even if you are in your own funk. You never know. And I think getting all those emails and letters when I was leaving, really surprised me.
Pay it forward and name your top colleagues in the same field or related field.
These names are definitely my elders but they are incredible: Colleen Saidman, Rodney Yee, Sharon Gannon, David Life, Jules Febre, Rima Rabbath, and Ruth Lauer Manenti.
What is the best advice anyone has ever given you? Or what is your "mantra" / words to live by?
That the story is always unfolding and never over. You never know whats around the bend.
The mantra I live by…well, someone said recently that honesty is more important than kindness, and I have to say I agree. Honesty, shared kindly, always sets things free.
As moms, the day can escape us, what is your best time-saving trick?
Just keep doing what needs to be done. I think if we overthink things, they don't get done. When we just get to work, they get done. And never tell yourself you can’t. There is always a way, and when you do honestly do your best, you will know when to sleep and rest. It wont be hard.