Yoga in Everyday Life: With Meta Chaya Hirschl
Meta Chaya Hirschl took her first yoga class in 1978 while working at a stressful job as a manufacturing supervisor. Feeling overwhelmed, she thought yoga might help. Unfortunately, the instructor discouraged her from returning after she fell asleep at the end of the class, telling her that if she couldn’t stay awake, she couldn’t be a yogi. Naturally, she never dreamed that one day she would be a nationally recognized yoga instructor and teacher of instructors.
After many years working in business, teaching at Purdue University and writing software manuals—Hirschl was drawn back to yoga after developing severe asthma, nasal polyps and continual sinus infections. Doctors told her the condition was genetic and recommended taking drugs indefinitely, which caused unpleasant side effects. Determined to regain her health, she began exploring alternative solutions, and yoga once again entered the picture. Though it didn’t eliminate the disease, yoga helped her gain a whole new perspective, and along with other lifestyle changes, she was able to stop taking her medications.
“As a programmer and analyst, I knew what it was like to sit in front of a computer and feel disconnected,” says Hirschl. “Once I began to move, I realized how much the body matters. I understood that the mind and body feed off of each other and that I couldn’t stay healthy by staying at a computer all the time.”
Though she knew she could no longer tolerate working in a career that didn’t feed her soul, she wasn’t sure what else to do. On a yoga retreat in Mexico, she found her answer during a meditative experience: she was supposed to teach yoga. She began taking numerous training courses and earned a Registered Yoga Teacher/Therapist (RYT) 500-hour status. In 2001, she opened YogaNow, a studio in New Mexico, and later established the YogaNow Teacher Training Apprentice Program, a nationally accredited curriculum incorporating a variety of traditions and styles. In January 2010 her book, Vital Yoga: A Sourcebook for Students and Teachers, was published and has since garnered multiple awards.
Hirschl is on a mission to educate and inform practitioners, students and instructors of all levels that there’s more to yoga than downward dog. “Yoga is about choosing what you think. It can help us overcome that feeling of not being enough; to tune out everyday distractions and pressures for us to conform and instead help us focus on the beauty of true self,” she says. “Yoga can absolutely change a person’s life and self-image.”
On November 10 and 11, Hirschl will host the workshop, Yoga and Body: Learning to Love the True Self, at the Ann Katz Festival of Books & Arts. Here, she will offer techniques to train the mind to move toward thoughts of nourishment and support instead of self-criticism. “It’s not just a theoretical discussion,” she says. “Participants will take home tools that they can use in their everyday life.”