The Interview: The Joy (Stone) of Yoga, Philosophy, Psychology & Life.

by Anne Clendening

“Sometimes your Joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your Joy.” ~Thích Nhất Hạnh

Why does this quote remind me of Joy? (Besides the fact that I took the liberty of capitalizing the word ‘Joy.’) If you know her, if you’ve taken her class or if you’ve seen her around , then you know she’s one of the most authentically kind-hearted, sweet natured chicks on campus. She’s the love child of hippie parents, the country music-loving girl next door and the popular, pretty girl you can’t hate because it’s so much more fun being her bestie.

But there’s more. She’s gutsy. She’s grounded. She’s a thinker. She’s brainy. She writes. She’s quick to laugh. There’s something about her and what she has to offer in her class, whether it be the physical practice of yoga on the mat, the philosophy of it or the science behind it. It’ss real, there’s no snake charmer in sight, and I’m pretty sure she not selling anything… Joy lives it, she loves it and it makes her happy to teach it so her students might find what she has found on this journey we’re all on together.

Joy and I sat in the lobby at Black Dog on a Tuesday afternoon, and I asked her questions about her life.

IMG_1356Where are you from?

I was born in Maryland, and grew up in Seattle. My mom and dad were hippies, and they converted an old yellow school bus into a house. They had taken off to have an adventure, but they got pregnant with me along the way and I ended up being born in Maryland.

What nicknames do you/did you have?

My dad used to call me Gertrude, and I have no idea why. And Joy To The World.

You’ve been quite open about your upbringing with two alcoholic parents. In what ways did their behavior affect you?

For years it made me super self conscious, super secretive, socially awkward—all sorts of fun things—nervous. It made me feel different. I had to grow up fast. I had to become very responsible for grown up things, very quickly. But it also made me stronger and more resilient. I’m very empathetic, and sympathetic. It has helped me to see deeper into things. Not everything is at it looks from the outside.

That seems like an”across the board” thing.

Yeah, you do learn to take care of yourself. But you also learn not to trust, so you build a wall around yourself and you don’t let anyone in. That’s been my adult journey, to let people in. And I have learned it is vital to do so.

And you’ve had your own struggles…

I had a big awakening when I was 24. Like many people, up until then, I really didn’t understand alcoholism. I thought my parents were selfish, inconsiderate and didn’t care about me. However, growing up and coming to understand alcoholism through my own experience—in May it will be 18 years since the last time I had a drink—has helped me develop compassion and forgiveness, and to identify with their struggle. They didn’t do anything to me on purpose. Some of their actions were a result of the cunning and baffling nature of alcoholism.

Understanding what alcoholism really is means recognizing it’s not simply a matter of willpower, but rather a mental, physical and spiritual malady. It is not a matter of good and bad or morals and no morals, as some people still believe.

The physical component is that it is an allergy to alcohol. Not everybody experiences this, so it can be very confusing for those that don’t. The mental component, in part, is that you really don’t know it’s an allergy. You look around, and see other people drinking with impunity. They have a glass of wine, and there seems to be no abnormal reaction. This isn’t so with the alcoholic. There is an abnormal reaction. The allergy kicks in and it manifests as a craving. And mentally, with your will, you try and try to control this. But you can’t, because even though you tell yourself that you’ll only have that one glass of wine, your body is having a reaction beyond your mental control, and again, one that not everyone experiences.

Some people are allergic to strawberries. They can’t mind power their way into not having the reaction of say, hives. But with hives you see it. A craving is internal, and you don’t see it. So you just wonder what’s happening. You try harder, try to drink “better.” It’s a hopeless cycle until you surrender, which is opposite of human nature, right? When there is a problem don’t we usually try harder before we let go?

The spiritual part is the same for all of us, alcoholic or not. The human condition means we will struggle at times and feel insecure, not good enough and separate. Eventually though, the alcoholic, just like many people, might seek out a drink to soothe those feelings. But the alcoholic is allergic to it, so it’s potentially deadly, although he or she doesn’t know it yet.

And the cycle begins, sadly for many a huge price is paid, and much damage, pain and loss is experienced before admitting defeat. Recognizing the truth about myself and coming to understand the reality of alcoholism was a huge gift, and one that I never take for granted. I used to be ashamed that I’m an alcoholic. Now I’m grateful. And if I’m honest about it, I end up getting to show up, and help others along the way. It’s a great life.

What came first—the sobriety or the yoga?

Sobriety came before yoga—the asana (postures) didn’t come until ’06 for me. I got into the very beginning of yoga philosophy in ’98 with a great teacher, my therapist I met in Seattle. She changed my life, and I still talk to her from time to time on the phone. We talk about yoga, philosophy, spirituality, the Bhagavad Gita, stories of Krishna and Buddha, Gandhi, Paramahansa Yoganada and all sorts of great teachers. She had me read tons of books. For me, it’s important to really live it in my life. and really make it my own before I share it. I feel like my life experiences and all my challenges, which I used to believe made me “less-than,” have actually given me more to offer.

It’s funny, because as I told some of my students, this is the year I’m ready to share my voice and really step into who I am. Writer Brene Brown talks a lot about vulnerability in her work. She wrote, “Daring Greatly” and “The Gifts of Imperfection.” She researches shame; we all have it. If I think something is fundamentally wrong with me, I’m going to do everything I can to hide it from you. According to her, that place of vulnerability is a ground where we create a lot of disconnection with people, a lot of anxiety and a lot of fear. Or it can also be a place where we really develop connection and love, because if I can let you see me, then I can move through that shame. So this year, the journey is all about being authentic, and being who I am.

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You study “Positive Psychology.” How would you explain that?

Yes! In fact next month I go back to Massachusetts to finish my year long certificate program. “Positive Psychology” is a fairly new branch of psychology launched in 1998. It’s focus is on what works in life, and it studies those among us who are thriving and flourishing and happy, and what makes that so. It’s really the science of well being. It doesn’t mean we ignore what isn’t working, but we also don’t ignore what is working. I also call it the science of yoga, because it verifies everything the wisdom traditions have told us for thousands of years. I’ll be teaching workshops in April, four consecutive Sundays in a row, where I’ll be combining the teachings of yoga philosophy with the science of Positive Psychology.

Having studied psychology, do you find yourself getting into the heads of your friends/family/people around you in an effort to dissect their behavior?

Yes, I think I’ve done that my whole life though! I have a really big curiosity of people, the mind and the choices we make. I find people come to me more because they think I know stuff, but really I think it’s because I try to share my own struggles, my own experiences.

And now a few words about Joy from the people who love her…

Joy is the most spirited soul I have ever met. She is full of kindness, energy, empathy and wisdom and is constantly willing to share these qualities with anyone who is willing to receive them. ~Joy’s husband, Eric Stone

Joy is one of the smartest people i know. She is a wonderful listener, organized, funny and generous. Whenever we are planning our block party Joy is on top of it all the way. ~Jenny Brill

I was at the desk one day and in walked this woman who proceeded to tell me she wanted to do our teacher training. It was the very first teacher training we did at Black Dog and we were nervous—would anyone sign up?! When I asked Joy how long she had been practicing yoga, she said she had not been practicing, but her plan was to quit her job and become a yoga teacher.

That’s how I met Joy Stone. When she left I called Steve an Shirley (original owners of Black Dog) and we had a good laugh about that. But I’m not laughing anymore. Joy did exactly what she said she was going to do, and more. She is now one of our most popular teachers. She’s gone on to devote her life to studying to become the best yoga teacher she could be, and is now almost done with her degree in Positive Psychology. I’ve loved seeing Joy go for it and get it. And she is an incredible teacher. ~Rose Gresch

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You took the first teacher training Black Dog offered.

Yes, I took my first training with Peter, Matt Schwartz and Greta Hill, and that’s how I got into Anusara. I loved it. And I worked hard to be an Anusara teacher. The same month the whole scandal broke out, I got certified. I had a teacher who used to say, “not everything happens for the best, but some people make the best out of what happens.” It just goes to show you that you can have a plan, but sometimes things don’t turn out the way you thought, and that’s just life.

I read you identify with Marilyn Monroe and the struggles she went through.

I’m just fascinated with how you can look at someone from the outside, like Marilyn who was so beautiful, people loved and adored her and seemed to have everything going for her, at least when you look at her from the outside. We all, no matter what, still have to do that inner work.

What is your favorite part about teaching yoga?

It’s the community we develop here. I really love seeing people grow, advance, change and shift.

If you didn’t teach yoga, what would be your dream job?

I would say, a neuropsychologist. That would be fun!

Are you a Mary Ann or a Ginger?

Oh! A Mary Ann!

Favorite movie?

Anything with Leonardo DiCaprio!

Greatest fear?

Driving over bridges.

Favorite yoga pose?

Trikonasana (Triangle Pose). It just feels like it’s stretching everything, and I feel very open in it. It feels balanced. It’s not so easy that it’s boring, and not too hard that it’s un-doable.

Least favorite?

Pavritta Ardha Chandrasana (Revolved Half Moon Pose). I just find it incredibly hard.

What is your favorite part about Black Dog?

Again, it’s the community, and Peter and Rose are just amazing and let each teacher be themselves. It’s a great place to be and grow.

Do you have a quote you love?

“Be yourself. Everyone else is taken.” ~Oscar Wilde

Whats your favorite Beatles song?

I love “Blackbird.” But I really love old country music—Waylon Jennings, Merle Haggard, Tammy Wynett, or anything by George Jones or Johnny Cash. Loretta Lynn—love “Coal Miner’s Daughter.” I love it.

Thank you Joy! Visit her web site at joystoneyoga.com. Joy’s Black Dog teaching schedule:

Wednesday, 6:15-7:25 Basics/Beginners

Thursday, 10:35-12:05, Intermediate Blend

Saturday, 12:30-1:45, Basics

One thought on “The Interview: The Joy (Stone) of Yoga, Philosophy, Psychology & Life.

  1. Joy is my daughter-in-law, and we are so happy to have her in our family. She is a wonderful woman, and I am so proud of her successes! She has worked very hard to get to where she is. It is heart warming to see that other people recognize how wonderful she is.

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