Unpacking Rebecca Pacheco… and Her Bestselling Book
As a yoga teacher I make it part of my practice to digest as much material as I’m able about my career and lifestyle often hunting online for those titles we don’t find on bookshelves. I have a knack for signing up for new classes and teacher trainings just so I’ll get more homework and the opportunity to read more often. While I was creating my own teacher training this year I came across Rebecca Pachecho’s book Do Your Om Thing (Harper Wave 2015), and thirteen pages in I knew the book would become a staple in my 200 hour teacher training curriculum. I’ve been practicing yoga for almost a decade and have never read a book quite like it. It’s full of highlights that I reference frequently and chapters that radiate with real life experiences.
In love doesn’t come close to describing how I feel about this book. I brought it to the beach this summer to read for fun and discover which sections were most pertinent to teacher training. Unlike so many yoga books that remain on my shelves years later, this one is covered in salt water, coffee stains and lots of loving vibes – a testament to its relevance.
I had the wonderful opportunity to interview Rebecca and dig into her mind on all things yoga, marriage and her journey as both a writer and yoga teacher in Boston. Meeting with her reminded me that we all come across the same obstacles and how we integrate our yoga off that mat is deeply individual and beautiful.
While creating my yoga teacher training, I decided to use your book as one of their required reading assignments. It really resonated with me as a book I could equally read for pleasure or reference. How did you come to create this balanced book?
First of all: THANK YOU. I am completely humbled, honored, and indebted whenever teachers use Do Your Om Thing (DYOT) in Teacher Training. It’s the book I wish I had when I was a new teacher.
That balance of information and inspiration or reference and pleasure, as you say, was always the impetus for the book itself. I didn’t think the world needed another yoga reference book that people skim or shelve but never become immersed in (though those are helpful in their own way). DYOT is not like many yoga books out there, which are often written by ghostwriters on behalf of a yoga celebrity. I’m a writer who happens to love writing about yoga. I hope that comes through on the page. (side note: It does!)
I was at an event for another author last night, and the room was filled with many writers and people who work in publishing. We were all talking about what we read for pleasure, and the novelist Aidan Donnelly Rowley said, “In order to write well you must have beautiful sentences in your ears,” referring to reading. I think that’s the alchemy of what authors try to do – evoke beautiful sentences in someone’s ears, and a big part of how that’s done is through a lifetime of reading, writing, and practicing our craft.
In your book you discuss ahimsa. Many translate the aspect of “non-violence” in relation to vegetarianism, but you remind readers that even the Dali Lama eats meat and that it is an even deeper concept. Can you explain a little bit about what ahimsa means to you personally?
I feel very uneasy when people keep a yoga scorecard, especially if it relates to dieting in the yoga community, which is still predominantly female. It’s too fraught. I’ve seen people use well-meaning diets, such as veganism or eating raw, as a way to camouflage eating disorders and ultimately cause harm to themselves. I’ve known people who were saintly to animals but extremely cruel to the humans around them. I know plenty of meat-eaters who are pillars of compassion and personal heroes of mine. Even though I haven’t eaten red meat since age nine and am generally vegetarian, I don’t like labeling myself. I see life as cumulative (and karmic, of course). If we’re lucky, it’s long and we have plenty of opportunities to ask ourselves how we can put more kindness and less harm into the world. That may mean being vegetarian/vegan for some of us, but not everyone. Hopefully, we each see the big picture and aim to do our best wherever we can.
Right now, that big picture needs to include our political landscape, which includes so much vitriol, harmful language, and dangerous ideology. Our understanding of ahimsa must extend into how we participate as citizens. I think of voting as the “asana” of democracy: a powerful practice, privilege, civic duty, and form of justice– also known as “what love looks like in public,” according to Dr. Cornel West. Let’s aim to practice proudly, consistently, and with love for our country and the work that needs to be done to move forward (not backward).
Let’s be very broad here,why do you practice yoga? And, why do you write?
Both are more who I am, at this point, than things I “do.” Writing and yoga are ways that I make sense of the world, and I think of them both as creative expressions. I always wanted to be a writer. I majored in English Literature in college, and I was already a yogi by then. But I never fathomed how the two passions would merge. If I had to differentiate between the two, I’d say that yoga helps me to become internally quiet, while writing is the best way for me to have a voice and share it outwardly.
What’s your favorite part of the practice?
It changes. If you had asked me a decade ago, I would have shared my favorite demanding poses. There was a period when I couldn’t get through a day without standing on my head. On the other hand, when I’ve been in training for a marathon, for example, all I want to do is Viparita Karani (legs up-the-wall) or some other restorative pose utilizing every prop, block, blanket, and bolster imaginable. I basically want to build a fort like something you’d find at Burning Man out of yoga props and take a nap in the middle. This is as close as I’m willing to get to actually going to Burning Man. Today, the thing that most anchors my life and inspires my work is my meditation practice. I meditate daily (usually in the morning), and it has greatly enhanced how I manage stress, maintain focus, and experience life. Safe to say I can make it through the day without headstand now but not without “getting my head right” in meditation.
Can we expect another book from you in the future?
Absolutely. My literary agent, publisher, and I are currently in talks about it. I have conceptualized several ideas. They won’t all become full-fledged books, but the point is that I have many more I’d like to write. It’s a question of what readers want to read next and how the next book will align with other aspects of my business. I’m not the type of writer who can disappear into a cabin in the woods for a year and strictly write. My students would kill me.
What was it like publishing and promoting a book the same year you got married?
Oh my. It was completely thrilling… and totally stressful. In a single year, I got engaged, moved, ccreated and released a Yoga for Runners DVD with Runner’s World, published my first book, promoted the book, and planned a wedding. It was exhilarating and I wouldn’t have given up any of those blessings or opportunities. But, good lord, I do not recommend it to any sane person.
It was challenging in every way: logistically, emotionally, financially, physically… The only thing that didn’t take a hit was our relationship, and I think that’s the only reason it all worked out. Even when I was completely overwhelmed, my greatest solace and joy was that I was marrying the right person, who gets me, loves me, and has my back no matter what.
For a while I kept waiting for the moment when life would slow down. My husband also owns his own business (he’s a running coach and co-owner of two, soon-to-be three, independent running stores), and at a certain point, he helped me accept that maybe this was our new normal. It may sound odd, but the realization that things weren’t going to slow down was actually liberating. I stopped fighting the reality of what our life is like and rolled with things a bit better. I admit that I have a fierce perfectionist streak that, while sometimes useful, can also stifle growth, taking risks, and true creativity. Sometimes my mantra had to be “Done is better than perfect.” Or, better yet, “Avoiding a mental breakdown is better than perfect.”
What would you say is the thing you hear most often from those who are just about to embark upon their journey of yoga (the most common fears), and what do you say to ease their minds?
I think it’s the same with anything new. We’re scared of doing it wrong or looking foolish. I work very hard to meet people where they’re at, make sure they feel appropriately challenged but ultimately successful, and make sure they’re having fun. When I was a young yoga teacher I used to get criticized for making too many jokes. Now I joke that I am an old yoga teacher and I just don’t give a shit anymore. See… you laughed!
What is your favorite quote of late?
You have me thinking about our wedding, so a favorite by Toni Morrison that we quoted in our ceremony comes to mind, which is “Love is or it ain’t. Thin love ain’t love at all.” For me, it applies to so much. There are so many forms and kinds of love. But the kind you need for the really big, important stuff of life must be rock solid. I find that thin love can sometimes be worse than none.
My favorite chapter was on the eight limbs of yoga. I loved how accessible you made the concepts and really enjoyed your personal insight. What was your favorite chapter to write and create?
The accessibility of those (often) heady concepts was so important. I have watched teachers, aspiring teachers, and students struggle with those yoga lessons for years. I’ve been reading yoga books for 20 years, and I knew that people might be buying and shelving them as resources, but they weren’t reading them cover to cover. Few were honestly taking a yoga book to the beach or curling up in bed with it. And these readers represent only the most devoted of the yoga set. I hadn’t seen too many books that touched a broad cross-section of yogis the way actual yoga practice does. That was my goal.
I love the question of my favorite chapter while writing. It gives me a sweet kind of retrospective I hadn’t considered. As an author, you write alone for a long time with little confirmation of what will sing for people. I would sometimes have a feeling that something was going to work – make someone chuckle or get a bit teary – and that was such a shot in the arm. I remember the day I completely overhauled the first few pages to become what it is, now, in publication. It’s cheeky and really comes out swinging at the perceived yoga façade. I actually gave myself a giggle writing about Deepak Chopra showing up in a dream, only you have to book him two years in advance, and knew I had found the book’s voice once and for all. I also loved writing about meditation and plan to do more of that. Finally, I am probably most proud of the ending. For years, I wasn’t sure where the end would lead, until it became inevitable that the last chapter should be about love. I know it’s corny because I fell deeply in love while finishing the book, but the broader theme felt inarguable. Like, what is the point of doing all this yoga if you don’t love it and it doesn’t make you more present and able to love your life? If yoga is a spiritual practice, shouldn’t love get the final say, and, in this case, chapter?
And what a beautiful ending it was! Rebecca is a true wizard with words and a beautiful yogi inside and out. Grab a copy of Do Your Om Thing, and read it on the beach or devour it while you’re lounging in bed. It will inspire you and lift your vibrations while helping you dig deep into ancient yoga concepts in a modern yogis world.
Lear more about Rebecca through her website.
Review written by Jenny Ravikumar. Jenny is a 500 hr RYT who owns Barefoot Yoga Shala in the northshore of Massachusetts. She’s a new mom who teaches yoga, keeps her family healthy, runs her own yoga teacher training and writes a blog at jennyravikumar.com. She lives, loves & breathes all things yoga.