For Marisa Hall, yoga is linked to moments of stepping outside herself, when she’s craved an uncharacteristic intensity and discipline.
That desire to evolve continues to motivate the Brooklyn-based writer, yoga teacher, herbalist and self-proclaimed introvert, who takes a holistic approach to healing and grounding with her students and clients.
In this challenging time, Hall emphasizes the importance of feeling at home in our bodies, however that looks for each individual.
Here, she shares her vision for a better—more inclusive—tomorrow:
LIVE THE PROCESS: You grew up in Berkeley, a place that’s widely known for being accepting of more alternative practices and ideologies. Do you feel like your upbringing helped to support your self-exploration?
MARISA HALL: I think in hindsight, yes. As I was growing up, I didn’t necessarily think of anything as “alternative.” It wasn’t until I later left the Bay Area that I realized my world was different than some others. It was normal to have my science classes outside, to compost with my neighbors. Mindfulness was always part of my education, in school and at home, so I think when it came time to live on my own, I was apt to find ways to self-guide and self-regulate and realized how challenging that can be!
Growing up, I was always so curious about different ways of expressing myself— through music, writing, dance—without many limits on what was worthwhile to explore. In that way, I was incredibly lucky—to have my existence in the world presented to me as a young person as inherently limitless. There are, of course, the societal and systemic issues that I came to understand along the way, but access to joy and freedom in my body is something that I learned early on and have been able to anchor myself in.
LTP: How did you find yoga? Why do you think you gravitate toward it?
MH: I went to a really small high school in San Francisco where yoga was offered as an option for our version of PE (which was called something like “Mind Body Education”) and I often opted for that as an alternative to something more physically exerting. I actually was not really into it at the time, but I think of it as another moment of anchoring and memory and would return to the practice now and again.
When I was in my second year living in New York, regular yoga classes became the only place where I could quiet my mind and quell my anxiety. I was able to find donation-based and free classes through work as an entry point. I went to my first hot class at Sacred Brooklyn and appreciated the intensity and challenge of having to stay with my breath and listen deeply. I really appreciated an opportunity to lean into that type of intensity, which is not my nature for the most part, but I’ve found that having somewhere to access and channel that energy for me has helped me maintain balance. You can’t unlearn the sensation of equilibrium after you’ve consciously felt it, which I think is a really beautiful thing.
When I was looking for ways to deepen the technical aspects of my practice, I was also in a (rare) moment of craving discipline and started to explore the possibility of teacher training. I really love facilitating and the rush of being in front of people as a relatively introverted person, so the call to teach was something that fell into place when I was ready to step into it.
LTP: Most recently, you added herbalism to your roster of tools. What has been most surprising to you about that exploration?
MH: I’ve been so pleasantly surprised at how truly intuitive it is as a practice. Herbalism and yoga are in really tight conversation for me because they give a bit of knowledge and structure to where I feel most at ease (existing in nature).
Yoga is about conscious connection without judgement or attachment. That is something that is mirrored in nature so perfectly and independently of human existence. The plants exist and thrive with or without us, and I am so humbled by that.
LTP: In these shifting times, why is it so important that we stay physically fit and healthy?
MH: I actually think that the challenge and importance is in the mental aspects of wellness and feeling as at home in your body as is possible right now, even if you’re just thinking about embodiment from one moment to the next. It’s fleeting, especially now.
I also consider accessibility and how many ways having a “strong physical body” can look. So, as we think about wellness, I have a vested interest in placing the physical where it feels most useful for the individual. Fortifying our wellbeing holistically is such a personal journey, and I think that any entry point for learning what is needed for personal wellness can open doors everywhere else. To know what it takes to feel aligned (or reach toward alignment) internally makes misalignment elsewhere so much clearer.
LTP: If you could have it your way, what would the world look like in 2021?
MH: Black Trans Lives Matter—they always have. I would love for that to not feel like a novel idea by the end of 2021. I think that would implicate a lot of overdue systemic change that we all need and deserve in this world.
LTP: What does happiness look like to you?
MH: Happiness looks like being able to exist safely in my body. To have access to simple pleasures that I can share with the people I love.
LTP: What does it mean to you to “Live The Process” and how can we all do that more each day?
MH: Living in the process for me looks like moving with integrity and purpose, which sometimes means slowing down when that feels like the last thing I want to do. It means speaking the truth and being okay with things being messy and remaining open to personal evolution.
Cover and above image Lucie March, center image Isabel Baylor