This is a guest post by Johnie Gall of DirtbagDarling.com.
At first pass, it’s easy to pin Sibyl Buck as a native of her current home in Topanga Canyon, California—with her feathery blonde hair, sun-kissed skin and natural ease, she’s about as West Coast as they come. But her storied past began across the seas in Paris, France, when she made an impulsive decision that would launch her career as an international supermodel.
“My career really took off when I dyed my hair red, which I did thinking it would kill my career,” says Sibyl. “I have found that letting go of my attachment to success or a certain outcome often precedes success in that realm.”
These days, the former model has ditched posing for cameras in favor of posing on the yoga mat—and she’s happier and healthier for it. We caught up with the Cali-based stunner to find out more about how yoga can change a life!
Above image by Carmen Hawk via here.
You’ve worn many hats in your life so far — after you left modeling, where did you career path lead?
I graduated high school young and took a year off [to live] in Boston with friends — waited tables, and dabbled in art classes. That made me realize that I should have gone to college, so I went to SUNY Purchase for painting and photography for two years, before I got offered a go at modeling in Paris. I went, which I had always planned on since I was little, in order to make enough money to fund myself some freedom in choosing what was next. About five years later, I moved back to NY, quit modeling, and started playing in bands. As you can imagine, it was far less lucrative than modeling, but I had made preparations for that — I created a long term way to keep my living costs down, while keeping my quality of life high by leasing a huge loft in Brooklyn and using my savings to build a nine-bedroom home within it.
The space itself is inspiring (it’s still there today with a lively community and my bedroom still in it), but we also built a recording studio, an industrial sewing machine room, and a wood working shop. There’s also lots of space for fun, including a tire swing hanging from the 20-foot ceiling, and a fireman’s pole. By sharing with lots of people, we all enjoyed below market rate rent, and lots of space and light and privacy, and also community meals and gatherings and support. As inspired people moved in, they all helped to shape the culture of the house, which just celebrated its fifteenth anniversary.
So why did you choose to shift gears and become a yoga teacher?
My husband Chris, daughter Puma, and I moved to Topanga Canyon from Brooklyn when she was seven, largely because I wanted her to have access to the outdoors, and to be independent, which kids have a hard time at in the city. When I got to LA, I knew I had to figure out the next chapter of my professional life. I did yoga daily, mostly just to keep sane, and before very long the answer was staring me in the face. I signed right up for teacher training at Yoga Works, and was teaching full time within a year. I love that my practice is my work, because otherwise it’s so easy to let other stuff get in the way of a yoga practice. This way I’m guaranteed to be doing yoga many hours a day.
When did you first try yoga and did you fall in love immediately or was it a growing process?
I first tried yoga in 1996 or 1997 in NYC at Jivamukti, Sharon Gannon and David Life’s little studio on 2nd Avenue in the East Village. It was love at first practice, for sure. I felt like it was what I’m made for! I had always done gymnastics and a little dance and diving as a kid, so I loved movement and being strong and flexible, but the disciplines never seemed to get at exactly what I wanted, and yoga hit the nail on the head. I couldn’t believe how it made my back pain go away, made me feel strong, got me more comfortable in my body, and all of a sudden, the bendy way my body was built had a natural outlet! An added and unexpected bonus was the way it clears my head, and gets me in touch with something reliable and limitless within myself.
What form of yoga do you practice and teach and what do you like most about it?
I teach mostly mellow yoga, like therapeutic and restorative yoga, but I also teach more challenging classes where we are working toward advanced arm balances and people are sore after class. Honestly, the most interesting thing to teach is exciting inner work, and deep understanding of the way the body functions in the poses. I’m a bit of an anatomy buff (totally surprised myself when I found that out, because I hated it in high school), and I love helping people really understand what has to move in order to access the empowering feeling of channeling energy through the body in yoga practice. It’s incredibly revitalizing, and helps me get perspective when everything seems like it sucks. The thing that’s so fascinating about restorative yoga is the brain science around it: if you’re stressed out, there are specific things you will think. They will seem like original ideas, real important thoughts, and they will go something like, “I am not a good person,” “I don’t really like people,” “I am sick,” “I am not safe,” “People don’t like me,” etc. But as real as it all seems, when you clear that stress, the internal monologue changes. We feel happy, healthy, loveable, hopeful, and loving, even though nothing else has changed. All of a sudden your outlook is a lot brighter, and you’re more likely to project great energy into your environment. It’s an upward turning spiral of awesomeness…that just starts with simply relaxing body and mind.
What’s your advice for setting up a home yoga studio?
If you are practicing restorative yoga, you’ll use props to support your body so you can relax. You can improvise with couch pillows and blankets, but if you’re in the market for specified yoga props, I really love the small bolster from Mugger Hugger, two Mexican-style woven blankets, and two cork blocks. My favorite restorative pose is lying with the Pranayama Pillow under my spine, a folded blanket on the floor under my hips, and one on top of the pillow under my head, with my calves each on a block. It’s pretty close to neutral for all the joints, which is great for peace and stress release! If you want to do a more active practice at home, I recommend getting a subscription to yogaglo, which gives you access to really great teachers who are constantly adding new classes. If you don’t already have a strong yoga practice, I recommend having a private lesson with a good teacher before you embark on your own practice, so that they can let you know how to stay safe in your practice.
Since music was such an integral part of your life, how do you incorporate it into your practice? Can you share a list of songs you love right now?
Actually, that has been a surprisingly unsatisfying incorporation. The music I really like to listen to is too distracting for yoga practice! Sometimes I use stuff like Will Oldham (“Bogo” is the perfect mellow yoga song), or some Spacemen or even Nick Drake, the song “Place to Be.” But mostly, I go with stuff I had never heard of before, like Benjy Wertheimer, and Stevin McNamara, who are both good musicians, and who make long, mellow soundscape-style songs. Benjy Wertheimer plays an esraj, a poignant and deliciously expressive 19-stringed bowed instrument from India. The song “Om Namah Shivaya,” the first track on this album, is one of my favorites for class. Stevin McNamara’s music is guitar-based, but very mellow, and I often start class with track two on this record Om Guitar, called “Searching The Inner Sky.”
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Post by Johnie Gall of DirtbagDarling.com.