May 10, 2012
|Erica Boucher ’99HH.|
Erica Boucher ’99HH began teaching yoga nearly a decade ago. “Yoga is a powerful tool to help us not only release tension in the body and quiet the mind, but to also soften and open the heart,” she said. “I believe yoga can help people to move through stuck emotions, transform limiting beliefs, and open our minds.”
It’s a belief that inspired her to create Empath Yoga, a unique combination of yoga and meditation with elements of hypnosis (including guided imagery and visualizations) and empathic listening that she delivers through classes, teacher trainings, and retreats all over the world.
What is Empath Yoga?
Empath Yoga is a unique combination of personal development and yoga. There is a strong emphasis on gaining more awareness of ourselves, of our bodies, of our self-talk, of the places where we've been stuck. It is a powerful personal journey toward self-awareness and self-discovery designed to support the healing process on all levels—physical, mental, and emotional.
Why do you think yoga’s popularity has gained so much traction?
Over the years, I have come across some startling statistics: According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, anti-depressants are the most prescribed drug in America today. One in five adults suffer from anxiety. Insomnia affects more than half of the U.S. population, with as may as 58 percent of adults complaining of sleepless nights at least a few times a week. Over 64 percent of Americans are overweight or obese. And there are still 14 million alcoholics in this country.
All of this points to the fact that people are overwhelmed and don't know what to do about it. With our stress levels at an all time high, yoga and meditation are powerful ways to release some of the pressure that so many seem to be feeling. The physical, mental, and emotional benefits of yoga and meditation seem to be catching on, as so many yoga clients are now looking to yoga for support in quitting smoking, losing weight, and dealing with issues of insomnia, anxiety, and depression.
Do you think that as yoga has become more popular, its essence and central purpose have been diluted?
I think in some cases it has. In some ways, yoga has become the trendy thing to do. And while the benefits of nearly any safe yoga practice are great, when yoga is reduced to a purely physical exercise, it may serve as yet another distraction— another way of keeping ourselves really busy and physically active, while the deeper underlying issues remain unexplored and unresolved.
But I've found over the years that even for those people who found their way to yoga purely for its physical benefits, it often does, eventually, cause them to start asking deeper questions. Eventually, if they keep practicing, they are going to want to start going deeper.
What inspired you to write your book Showing Up Naked, and what do you hope readers gain from it?
I was inspired to write this book when I was working with the homeless over 12 years ago. There, I created and delivered a comprehensive rehabilitation program for homeless adults. The focus was on raising self awareness and self esteem, and we started asking ourselves questions like: Who Am I? Why do I do the things I do? What are my unconscious patterns of behavior? Why am I here? What is my purpose on this earth? I spent four weeks with each group, a total of 120 hours, and it was a powerful, transformational experience for everyone involved, including me.
Since then, I've worked with abused women, recovering addicts, troubled teens, doctors, lawyers, CEOs, housewives... just about every population you can imagine, and what I found is that, ultimately, regardless of who we are and where we come from, at some point in life we start to ask the same questions. People were really moved be these realizations. Essentially I felt like I had a responsibility to write the book.
It’s my hope that reading this book inspires people to start asking the right questions in their lives, and to start living conscious, awake, aware lives.
How can the average person add a little peace to their every day life?
I believe the average person can add a little peace by simplifying their lives and getting clear on their priorities. We often say that our priorities are certain things, but then put our energy and attention into something else. Also, the more space we can create in our lives, the more room there is for us to experience some peace: space in our bodies, by practicing yoga or some other type of conscious movement that helps us to open up our bodies; space in our minds, by meditating and engaging in creative activities; and space in our hearts, by practicing acceptance, compassion, and forgiveness. The idea is to focus less and less on what we do and what we have, and focus, instead, on who we are being. This becomes much more organic once we have a sense of who we are and what we really want.