Episode 31: Barrie Risman

Evolving Your Yoga

“Whatever happened before, now we’re beginning again.”

“It’s easier, in a certain way, to follow a charismatic, beautiful body that’s up on a stage rather than inquire into one’s self.”

“I think the most important thing we need to do as teachers is stay inspired by our own practice.”

She’s Back!

Today’s episode features the show’s first-ever return guest: Barrie Risman! Barrie joined me to discuss her new book, “Evolving Your Yoga: Ten Principles For Enlightened Practice.”

Barrie is a senior yoga instructor, entrepreneur, and author. She is one of the forces behind the World Spine Care Yoga Project, and runs the online resource for continuing education, “The Skillful Yogi.

Writing A Book On Yoga

What can I say other than I was very excited to record this episode, and not just because it was the first of 2019 (we recorded all the way back on January 11th). I was eager to ask Barrie questions about both the process of writing a book and the material contained within.

A few weeks before recording, Barrie sent me a copy of her manuscript. If you’ve ever visited my yoga room, you might notice I have a TON of yoga books (amazon addiction). I was curious about what my impressions would be of ‘Evolving Your Yoga.’ I mean, what more can be said about a subject so deeply scrutinized, studied, and mass marketed such as yoga?

Inspired Content

Turns out, a lot! I was immediately drawn in by Barrie’s writing. She is skillful at presenting complex ideas and practices in a simple way, without robbing them of their potential depth. Also, and most importantly for me, she is a storyteller. The book is filled with vivid examples that beautifully illustrate and complement the yogic (and life) principles it presents.

A Fresh Voice

Barrie incarnates the teacher archetype I admire. She’s been involved in yoga for over two decades, but approaches the practice with the same awe, curiosity, and gusto one has for a newly found passion. Her voice is refreshing both through its humility and its penchant for questions over answers.

When reading the book, you get the feeling the knowledge within has been earned. It definitely is not the preaching of someone more comfortable on the stage than the meditation cushion (a phenomenon modern yoga has yet to come to grips with and that permeates many a new yoga book).

Empowering Students

Frankly, we need voices like hers today more than ever. Voices that are able to ask about the effects of body image and self-esteem on a yoga practice. Voices that empower students in their own discovery of yoga rather than promise that they will find the answers to all their questions, if only they sign up for the next workshop.

I won’t lie, I’m a fan!

This is Barrie Risman on the SpiritBros Podcast!

Key Links!



  • [3:13] Barrie graciously helps Peter out in remembering the title to her new book.

  • [4:03] How does it feel to have the book finally out there?

  • [5:23] Barrie on the where and when the drive to write a book came from.

  • [7:03] On maintaining a daily blog. “I didn’t love them all, but I did think I had something worthwhile to share every day.”

  • [10:13] What audience did Barrie have in mind when she began imagining the book?

  • [11:43] “I think there is a big group out there, who have been doing yoga for some time, they know it works, they know it benefits them, they don’t exactly know how. They sense that what they are doing in their class is just the tip of the iceberg, and that there is just so much more. But there is no way to access that understanding short of a teacher training. That was really the big thing, how can we serve these people who want to understand more what the tradition has to offer without doing a teacher training.”

  • [12:03] “I think the most important thing we need to do as teachers is stay inspired by our own practice.”

  • [16:43] Barrie on learning how to learn.

  • [17:33] On the step-by-step process of writing her book.

  • [19:43] Did Barrie have any inspirations or templates to base her book upon?

  • [20:33] On her “yoga council,” the 25 people she interviewed for the book.

  • [22:43] Barrie on the biggest hurdles she met in writing, and did she ever feel like giving up?

  • [24:13] “Once you’re a couple of years in, it’s kind of like: I can’t stop now!”

  • [26:13] On the great advice she got from Richard Rosen.

  • [27:08] On her breakthrough moment in writing and on working with an editor.

  • [29:43] Diving into the content of the book.

  • [33:13] On being willing to start again and how necessary this is in the study of yoga.

  • [35:13] On how sometimes the hardest part of practice is identifying with what we used to be able to do.

  • [37:03] On form and action with yoga asana (postural yoga), and how Barrie chose to present postural practice within the book. “Within the form, there’s action.”

  • [39:13] “I think that every yoga book should be interactive.” On adding practical components through sequences and audio to supplement the book’s material.

  • [42:43] Was it challenging to come up with new sequences for the book?

  • [44:33] Does Barrie have a favorite sequence in the book?

  • [45:13] Why is journaling something she recommends?

  • [47:43] On how asking questions as a form of teaching was integrated into the book. “I want to invite students into the process of inquiry. That’s for me what evolution in yoga is about, it’s about continuing to ask questions.”

  • [53:43] Barrie’s ski story and how skiing taught her about her yoga practice. “If we’re always just following an instructor and being told what to do, we never really unlock the real depth of how this practice can empower us to know ourselves and empower ourselves.”

  • [57:28] On taking the time to feel the practice as it is, and when it’s OK not to strive as much.

  • [1:02:28] On the evolving aspects of her personal practice.

  • [1:06:28] What role does the Yoga Sutra play both in Barrie’s practice and the book?

  • [1:09:23] On the very first sutra of the Yoga Sutra. “Whatever happened before, now we’re beginning again.”

  • [1:11:53] Barrie on self-esteem and body image, and why she found it important to include these subjects in the book.

  • [1:16:33] On the feeling that sometimes pops up in practice that, whatever we achieve, it will never be enough.

  • [1:18:33] “It’s easier, in a certain way, to follow a charismatic, beautiful body that’s up on a stage rather than inquire into one’s self.”

  • [1:21:43] On the phenomenon of how some of the best yoga teachers seem to have little to no presence in mainstream yoga.

  • [1:26:28] What has it been like promoting the book?

  • [1:27:23] On the online component of the book, and what her vision is for it in the years to come, including the importance of creating a supportive community around the material.

  • [1:30:18] What is Barrie’s vision for ten years down the line?

  • [1:32:03] Peter asks Barrie questions from her book.

  • [1:33:53] En-Lightning round.

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