Jennifer Pastiloff is a yogi, a writer and the creator of The Manifestation Workshop: On Being Human, which beautifully merges her two passions. Through her often sold-out workshops, she’s empowering people worldwide to be open, creative, and most importantly, to be themselves. I recently caught up with Jen to chat about yoga, her one-of-a-kind workshops and the importance of embracing our humanness.
What inspired you to create The Manifestation Workshop: On Being Human?
It was after I led my first retreat. I have always been a writer. I started writing and sharing what I had written and developed a following for my personal essays. I knew I wanted to do something, “beyond yoga”- not that what I do isn’t yoga – it is – just not in the way most people tend to think of it automatically.
What inspired the name?
I got the idea of “manifestation” from my late mentor, teacher, and finally friend, Wayne Dyer. He truly changed my life. But beyond the manifesting part, what I am most concerned with is our humanness. What makes us hurt, what makes us shine, what makes us feel shame, what connects us. That’s yoga to me.
How much yoga is involved in your workshops?
My workshops are “yoga” workshops in that they take place (usually) in a yoga studio and on a yoga mat, but really, that’s just to give them context. I have found it is easier to get people to open up once they have really connected to being in their body. There is yoga, in the sense that I encourage you to move your body, but I am not attached to what that looks like.
Beyond yoga, what else happens in the workshop?
The workshop allows people to feel seen and heard by giving them a safe space. At the core of what I am doing, or facilitating, is a place of storytelling and listening. Fierce listening. There’s this quote I say a lot by Freud (people often misquote it and say it’s mine but alas, it isn’t). The quote is: How bold one gets when one is sure of being loved. I think maybe that’s it. That’s how such magic (since a good deal of what transpires in my workshops is magic) can flourish. It’s not about being a good writer or yoga pretzel. It’s about listening and allowing for room to mess up and to get messy and to make noise and to be seen, in all our imperfections and perceived flaws.
What is your favorite part about the workshop?
The bravery of the people in the room. The way everyone is so willing to be open and to be silly. You can’t take yourself seriously in my workshop and people really react to that. They let go and it’s so wonderful to witness.
Who should be attending?
Anyone who feels stuck, anyone that wants to share their story or listen to other stories of humanity. Someone looking to find their voice. Someone afraid. Someone too caught up in what others think. Someone who likes to sing out loud. Yes, we do that. It’s for everyone.
What can one expect when attending for the first time?
I always say that we let the snot fly. We laugh and cry and listen and sweat. Beyond that, no expectations. And that is hard for most of us. But the beauty, at least I believe, is in the not knowing. But, they can expect to be delighted and to connect – to themselves, to others in the room, to the world at large.
Does one need yoga experience before attending?
Nope. Most people that come are not expert “yogis.” I have people who have never done yoga, people who are in wheelchairs, or dealing with cancer and can hardly move. It doesn’t matter. It’s about being in the body.
How does dance play a role in the workshop?
It’s a way we get out of our heads. It’s a way to not care what anyone else is thinking (I am a terrible dancer and yet, there I am, dancing away.) It frees up any “sad” energy, as well. The tears, the heavy stuff. The laughter and the dancing really lets us shake that off.
Explain the importance vulnerability and openness.
When I started really sharing who I was, about the fact that I was on anti-depressant meds, about my profound hearing loss or struggles with an eating disorder or my ectopic pregnancy, I think it opened up a whole world for people waiting for someone to create a space or a place where they too could share without any stigmas. I was terrified when I made a video talking about my depression last year but I got about seven-hundred thank you emails. No joke. Can you imagine? That many people feeling less ashamed about who they are because someone talked about it?
That’s why I emphasize the part of my workshop that is called On Being Human. That is what I am most concerned with. Nothing else. And to experience that, within ourselves and with one another, I do believe we have to be willing to be vulnerable and share our stories. So many people are taught to stuff everything they feel inside or to swallow it. What I am proposing is exactly the opposite.
What is your advice for someone who feels down or ‘stuck in a rut’?
Create. Make something. Art. A poem. A pizza. Just make art. Or – use your body. And – well duh, come to my workshop.
What role does self-love play in your workshop?
It’s at the core of all I do and believe me, for most people, it is not easy. It all starts there, though. With that core belief of: I am enough.
What advice do you have for someone who feels negatively about their body image?
One of my lines from a poem I wrote is: Take a picture of your face. Remember that in ten years time you will be amazed at how gorgeous you WERE. Be amazed Now.
What can we do in our daily life to embrace the concepts learned in your workshop?
Share. Listen. Ask yourself, “now what?” Now what I am going to do about it? Do a “now what” every single day.
In your opinion, what makes a woman beautiful?
Her compassion. The way she listens. Her willingness to share who she is – unapologetically.
Who inspires you?
Lena Dunham, Christy Turlington, Cheryl Strayed, Lidia Yuknavitch, Oprah, Malala Yousafzai, Amy Poehler and Meredith Walker of Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls, the teens who come to my workshops for girls, the women who show up to my workshops, my sister.
What are you most afraid of?
Dying with my music still in me, as Wayne Dyer would say.
More women should:
Stop shoulding on themselves. Hee hee. But for real, more women should be who they want in this world, they should take up space, make noise, create a ruckus, without worrying about what anyone else thinks.