Meet the Innovators: Lilias Folan

Americans know yoga because of Lilias Folan. Her PBS-TV series and videos may have enabled her to introduce the practice to more people than any other teacher. Her gentle, open-hearted manner conveyed the true spirit of yoga to viewers across the country, beginning in 1970, dispelling prejudices and demonstrating that yoga is for everyone. Her 11 videos have sold nearly 700,000 copies. In 1998 Goswami Kriyananda acknowledged Folan’s contribution to yoga by bestowing upon her the title Swami Kavitananda, “one who knows bliss through energy, movement, and poetry.”

Folan studied in the Sivananda tradition with Swami Chidananda, and with T.K.V. Desikachar and B.K.S. Iyengar. Inspired to teach yoga on TV after watching Richard Hittleman’s popular shows, she added a spiritual component, meditative silence, and her own light, cheerful ambiance.

Folan makes these observations about the current state of yoga: “A petrified dinosaur’s heart was recently found. The mystics tell us ‘as it is above, it is below’ and ‘on Earth, as it is in Heaven.’ You and I are in the process of finding and giving life to our own spiritual hearts, so long petrified. Sustained yoga practice thins the boundaries that separate us from who we really are. That which water cannot drown and fire cannot burn: that I am.”