A Master’s degree in Art and Consciousness Studies, Jennifer was an associate professor for eight years at Cogswell College where she taught storytelling, mythology and creativity.
Jennifer began practicing yoga in 1989, and teaching yoga since 1999. After the death from cancer of her greatest mentor, her father, Jennifer left higher education to teach yoga exclusively, in the words of Joseph Campbell.
It requires to pay attention to my mind, breath and body. When I do that, the quality of my attention changes from being a little mind on a stick with various thoughts about what is and isn’t possible to having an experience of, for lack of a better term, being boundless! It’s the whole package!
How do you come back to inner peace?
I breathe, I feel my body, I observe my mind, how thoughts rise and pass, how everything I’m experiencing is rising and passing, and wallah! What a gift! Back to inner peace!
Your top wellness tip?
Practice Yoga! It will make everything seemingly unendurable endurable. It will make what seemed impossible, likely quite possible. It will support every relationship you have with anyone, and most importantly, yourself. You’ll be the kind of happy that doesn’t rely on circumstances being a certain way. Yoga changes lives. End of story!
Jennifer Prugh is currently writing her first book and is also kept busy with her yoga videos at Yoga Anytime. Despite the busy life that she has, the Oneworld Retreats team managed to catch up with her about her projects and upcoming retreat in Bali early next year.
With your immense experience in teaching and leading yoga retreats worldwide, what valuable lessons have you learnt? How have the challenges shaped you on a personal level?
Many trips I lead are designed to support the travellers in caring for their well-being, like the exquisite Bali retreat. Everything is taken care of, so people generally are elated to be there. But some of my retreats are really “yoga adventures.” The trips to India, Nepal, Africa, this upcoming trip to Tibet are sometimes met with weather challenges, bad roads or economic or political instability. The travellers have a lot to contend with internally because most come from regions of the world that are stable, where life is predictable. My work is to “hold space,” and open to whatever moment we’re being given. The practice of yoga is all about creating stability and ease, so we do that in every step we take through a yoga adventure. Letting go, having one’s sense of humour as a close companion, trust in whatever may happen, treating the experience like a moving meditation of sorts, these things are important.
What kind of advice would you give to beginner yogis?
Be patient, be kind to one’s self, don’t get attached to the way postures are supposed to look on the outside, because yoga is an inside job. Enjoy the experience, and really learn how to listen. Take your practice one breath at a time. We’re all learning how to be present which is generally very difficult for adults. But we don’t miss a moment of our incredible lives, so the practice of yoga is worth every bit of the effort.
You are currently writing a book. What is it about?
I’m writing a photography book about my adventures up and down the Ganges River, one of the longest and most sacred rivers in the world. These trips started in 2007. I was trying to learn more about the origins of my yoga practice. What began as an innocent “yogic pilgrimage” to India turned into one adventure after another, to the Kumbh Mela, the largest gathering of (100 million) people in the world, shooting the cremations at the Manikarnika Ghat in Varanasi, sitting with the young men who have polio in Haridwar, and getting stuck in a monsoon high up in the Himalayas. All of these adventures have certainly deepened my understanding of yoga, but not in the way I thought. I’ll save the punchline for when the book comes out. If you want to know when, find me on Facebook and I’m sure I’ll let you know.
You are also producing a yoga video. Who is it intended to?
I’m doing a series of yoga classes or “shows” through a great online yoga site called “Yoga Anytime.” The company has some really wonderful innovative “real” teachers and I was asked to be part of it. I prefer to be behind the camera instead of in front of it, but I’m really glad I did it. Many of my students live all over the world and now I can guide them from the comfort of their own homes.
We have heard that you had met Dalai Lama and Ram Dass before. How were the experiences and what lessons did you obtain from those encounters?
Well, the Dalai Lama and I do not know each other on a first name basis. We only held hands. But it was lovely and no hands I’ve ever held were as soft as his except maybe my son’s hands when he was a little boy. I was leading a teacher training in Dharamsala and was very fortunate to have met him.
As for Ram Dass, I was very lucky to have five days of private retreat with him at his home. That experience was no less than life changing. I was able to see all the yogic work I’ve cared in another person, a person who has worked much longer and harder than I do. He has found his way into BEING love, a state we all aspire towards. He’s done it and he is my living example of what is possible. He’s also brilliant and funny and that helps too.
You have been to Tibet a few times so we guess that you must really love the place. What are the most magical elements of Tibet that keep drawing you back there?
Actually, this trip to Tibet beginning July 6th is my first visit to Tibet. I have spent a great deal of time supporting the education of Tibetan refugee children who live in India through the Tibetan Children’s Education Foundation. One reason I’m going to Tibet is because I care so much about Tibetans. And I care about the Tibetans because they embody kindness and compassion. They are the sweetest people. And my heritage is from Western Europe (England, France, Wales, Ireland primarily). We don’t have kindness built into our genetic code in the way in which Tibetans do. When I began spending time with them, I came to the conclusion that if I spent enough time around them, perhaps some of that would rub off on me. So now I’m finally going to Tibet. Unfortunately that culture is being rather rapidly eradicated and that is very saddening. I’m grateful that His Holiness was able to disseminate so many of the Buddhist teachings. Although he was born from great tragedy, the teachings he spread throughout the world has been a great gift.
But now you are leading a retreat in Bali. There must also something that attracts you here. What is it or perhaps what are they?
Well, I’m coming to Bali to do a retreat for the fourth time, actually because I LOVE it there. I love Claude’s vision, his staff are sweet and impeccable, the body treatments are the best I’ve found anywhere in the world, and historically everyone who has come with me has loved this trip.
Who should join your retreat in Bali?
Well, there are only two dozen or so spaces, and I believe far less than that now because people are signing up, but my answer to that is everyone should come! It is a beautiful experience in every way.
The program offers you an amazing opportunity to practice yoga twice a day, eat delicious healthy food, pamper yourself with spa treatments and immerse in the culture of Bali. This retreat is all about your physical, emotional, mental and spiritual well-being and is dedicated to self-care and loving kindness towards yourself.