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Meet Sesa O’Connor & Her Bhakti Yoga-Informed Lifestyle

Los Angeles-based teacher Sesa O'Connor talks to YJ about her spiritual upbringing, raising a little yogi solo, and the booming yoga industry.

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Brought Up on Bhakti Yoga

I grew up around the spiritual philosophy of yoga. My parents got into bhakti yoga back in the ’60s, and my godparents made their house like an ashram, so that anyone who was searching could come and live for free as long as they partook in chores. I can probably count on two hands the number of times I did asana growing up, because they’re not required to progress one’s spiritual life—they’re there to keep the temple of the body healthy as a means to continue to live out service.

See also 6 Destination Ashrams for an Authentic Yoga Experience

How She Started Practicing Asana

I got pregnant unexpectedly at 21, and I started practicing asana to keep my body fit and ready for the labor process. That’s when I realized that even though asana have nothing to do with the grand scheme of yoga, they can still be used as stepping stones, and a lot of people who come to yoga are searching, or at least open-minded. So after I had my son, I decided to go through teacher training, and now I end every class by planting a philosophical seed. Even if only one or two people hear me out of a class of 50, I’ve done my job.

How Yoga Informs Her Single Parenting

My son’s biological father wasn’t ready to be a father. So I said that’s fine, I’ll do it on my own—this child was given to me for a reason. Nakula was born and raised vegetarian, and we practice ahimsa (nonviolence), mindfulness, asana, and being present to whatever shows up. As a result, he’s a very kind and sweet boy, and I feel his practice helps him deal with frustration and other feelings that come up.

O’Connor’s Take on Yoga’s Popularity

Watching the popularity of yoga grow has been very bittersweet. The more popular it becomes, the more diluted it gets. I find some teacher trainings can be more of a moneymaking scheme; there are a few programs I know of where teachers who come out on the other end shouldn’t be certified to teach because they could be hurting people. They don’t know, for instance, what proper breathing is. Breath is the key to the physical practice.

See also The Science of Breathing

What Keeps Her Practicing

The driving force behind my practice is the idea of yolking with God at the end of life. Within our material form, that’s not something we can do. But if we can really identify as being a spirit, then we understand the body is just temporary, a shell, a tool we’re given to reach yoga’s end goal of uniting with God.