Peter Sterios has an impressive resume. The architect-turned-yoga-teacher practices his own approach to yoga, called LEVITYoGA. He also founded the yoga gear company Manduka, taught yoga at the White House for Michelle Obama’s anti-obesity initiatives, and was invited to the Pentagon to share how yoga can benefit U.S. Marine Corps. And now, he’s published his first book. “Gravity & Grace: How to Awaken Your Subtle Body and the Healing Power of Yoga,” discusses how to transform your yoga practice into an intimate, creative, and healing experience. In this interview, he explains how his relationship with yoga has changed over the years and details how to optimize your at-home practice.
You’ve been doing yoga since the ‘70s. Take us through the evolution of your practice.
My early relationship with yoga was casual and was a form of cross-training for the competitive sports I practiced. Over the years, the physical techniques of yoga became so familiar and routine that my enthusiasm for it stalled. I also experienced a variety of injuries and illnesses that created resistance to what I had learned, which motivated my desire to seek more from my yoga practice. This ultimately helped me build a deeper awareness and sensitivity to the inner workings of what ancient yogis referred to as the “subtle body.” Working more efficiently with gravity, grace, and conscious breathing then became the prime movers of my practice, which was very effective to support my body’s natural healing potential.
You mention that the seed of this book existed in your mind long before you actually started writing it. What compelled you to write it now?
The seeds of my book began as notes I compiled during my practice over a two-year period. Then my daughter was born, and for ten years, the idea of turning the notes into a book were put on the back burner. What brought the book idea back to the forefront was an email from Sounds True, my publisher, asking if I would consider writing a book.
It’s clear from your book that you think everyone can benefit from practicing yoga. What’s your advice to people who have tried it and don’t think yoga is for them?
Give it another try. Seek a teacher that inspires you. Yoga is more than just a good workout. And also realize that the discomfort of doing yoga when starting is a necessary prerequisite all yogis confront initially, until more intimacy is created with the language the body uses to communicate imbalances.
Give us the background to the title of your book. How do the concepts of gravity and grace apply to yoga and to life?
Gravity is the force in the universe that keeps all physical objects connected. Grace is the spiritual equivalent. Both of these elements can be used on and off the mat to show up with more intimacy and softness in a hard world. We learn through gravity and grace how to create a self-healing space for ourselves and those in our lives.
Explain the koshas and how they relate to a personal yoga practice.
Koshas are where the physical parts of our body meet meet the "non-physical” parts of our body, such as the soul, spirit, emotions, thoughts, etc. In very simplistic terms, yoga philosophy defines a human “being” (noun) within five body states of “being” (verb) human.
The book talks about the different “minds” we possess (the brain, gut, heart, and even those at a cellular level)—are there ways beyond yoga to better support them?
Through the practice of yoga, we learn that the mind and body are inseparable, and that the body possesses many minds in different areas throughout the body. How do we take care of our body and the many minds we possess? By learning and understanding the best practices and types of nourishment—physically and mentally—that we can provide for them.
The food we eat should be as pure as possible with minimal processing, and as close to their natural state as they can be, and ideally prepared by you. Supplements should be used sparingly, but when necessary, find trusted sources that provide food-based ingredients that are most easily assimilated. And self-care practices, other than yoga and mindfulness, should include getting into nature as much as possible, being around people you love and who love you as you are, laughing regularly, and showing up for life with as much kindness and empathy as you can.
What are some of your favorite products to supplement your yoga practice?
Thrive Market offers several different “internal cleansers” such as supplements and foods that help with digestion. For example, chia seeds, triphala, and herbal teas. For external cleaning, Thrive Market has bathing salts, exfoliating mitts, and soap and shampoo bars that avoid plastic containers.
How does your yoga practice extend beyond the mat?
My yoga practice cultivates surrender and intimacy towards the places in my body where I feel resistance or discomfort. Through conscious slow breathing and mindfulness, I meet these places with as much softness and patience as I can each day.
If you’d like to read “Grace & Gravity,” use code LEVITY on SoundsTrue.com to get a paperback copy at 50% off.