Susan Lilly Continues Yoga Leadership at LC

Yoga students go through a routine on a sunny day.

SUSAN LILLY HAS BEEN teaching classes at Lewis & Clark for 18 years and has found her practice to be very beneficial for her health. In 1976, she found her passion of yoga in Los Angeles, California and has been practicing ever since.
“I really liked the approach,” Lilly said. “I really liked more than just the yoga. I liked the philosophy, I liked the chanting, I liked the meditation, so I dived in head first.”
Lilly received her yoga teaching credentials in 1989 in Val-Morin, Canada at the Sivananda Ashram, a yoga community camp. She taught at Willamette University and Oregon State University before finding herself here at LC in 2001.
“The style that I teach is Sivananda yoga… Each person interprets it in their own way,” Lilly said. “I am trying to teach students that if you do this, you will be strong and healthy.”
Sivananda Yoga is a form of traditional hatha yoga founded by Swami Vishnudevananda based on the teachings of his guru Swami Sivananda.Lilly explained the basic principles and steps of Sivananda yoga, such as an asana which encompasses various relaxation positions.
“The basic philosophy of Sivananda yoga is tension release,” Lilly said. “You do an asana for 20 to 30 seconds and then you rest. You do the salutes to the sun and then you have breathing time. You do leg lifts and then you have breathing time. You lift the heartbeat and then you bring it down. So you’re essentially, by that method of repetition, training the body to relax.”
Lilly noted that the most challenging aspect of Sivananda yoga is being able to relax.
“There’s a 10-minute relaxation at the end of each class,” Lilly said. “It’s five minutes of guided meditation to tense and refocus on each set of muscles and then five minutes of listening to the sounds of the building.”
Lilly described practicing yoga not only as a lifestyle but as a healthy alternative to other forms of exercise such as running and weight training.
“General health maintenance is what it’s about,” Lilly said. “It’s not gonna cure cancer. It’s not gonna heal your broken bones, that’s when you go to the doctors. But, it is going to keep you away from the doctors. It’s preventative, it’s alternative medicine.”
For her yoga classes at LC, Lilly explained that she focuses on various aspects of the practice.
“For students here, I focus on relaxation, I focus on loosening up the shoulders, I focus on eyes, we do eye exercises,” Lilly said. “For the past week and a half, we’ve been doing immune system boosting acupressure because people are sick. I don’t like that so I’m making them do that, or rather they are happily doing it.”
Lilly expressed her love for teaching students.
“I love this age group because they are so tightly wound and we’re in a time of great challenge,” Lilly said.
Lilly is the only yoga instructor on campus and teaches two sessions of 20 people every Monday and Wednesday. She explained that for students who are interested in yoga, it is easy to begin.
“Just walk into class, have the right clothes, don’t walk in wearing jeans, take your shoes off and lie down on the floor,” Lilly said. “You listen to your body. You do not push yourself. You’re not competing with anybody and if it starts to hurt you stop.”
As for the consistency of her practice, Lilly shared insight on her own schedule.
“It’s not how much you have to do, it’s how little you can get away with,” Lilly said. “I do probably six hours a week and that’s plenty, that’s a lot. I’m not lifting weights, I’m not running around the block, and I’m not knocking myself out.”
Lilly stressed the importance of stretching along with mentioning that after practicing yoga for some time, you will eventually be able to cater your practice to your own individual needs.
“I tell my students to do 20 minutes a day, I do random stretching for 20 minutes a day, but it’s not structured,” Lilly said. “You know you get the structure, you do the structure, but you use the knowledge of the structure to make up your own what you need.”
Overall, Lilly encourages her students to practice self-care in all aspects of their lives.
“Take care of yourself, eat well, sleep a lot,” Lilly said. “There are five points: proper diet, proper exercise, hang out with good people, keep good thoughts and breathe.”

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