Founders Heather Lilleston and Katelin Sisson share the story behind Yoga For Bad People (YFBP), explaining how their vision to teach and practice beyond the classroom’s of NYC led them to create a hip and chic retreat company that successfully tempts those who would generally turn down a yoga retreat experience. 

Q: Can you tell us a little more about who you are and what you do?

A: Yoga For Bad People is a yoga-based company focused on leading retreats.  We seek out locations around the world that lend themselves to quiet time and reflection as well as a multitude of physical activities, athleticism and nightlife.  Basically, the temptress is the promise of not just yoga, but FUN and yoga. Style and yoga. Freedom and yoga. BEACH and yoga.

Each retreat is meant to offer the space people need to cultivate a positive and unique experience. It is very much in line with the principal of alignment within a yoga practice: through structure comes freedom.

So YFBP sets the scene, 2 strong yoga classes a day to the soundtrack of Outkast, Cat Power, Bob Marley, the XX, Wu-tang and Krishna Das. For us, the beach is always steps away. Time and space for exercise is created and encouraged. Read, journal, meditate, explore, dance, have a drink if you like. Our hope is that we make it all possible for you.

Q: Yoga For Bad People (“YFBP“) is such a cool name for a company! You ascribe a very specific meaning to the word “bad” which is super uplifting and cool. Can you explain what “bad” means in this context? 

A: “Bad” is meant to make anyone and everyone feel included. We think in some way everyone considers themselves “bad” and what that points to is very different for every person. Usually this term is used in a negative sense, but in our case we like to say that it is actually the very “bad” stuff in us that takes us down the path. Sometimes spiritual practices and religions can make us feel terrible about our “bad” qualities; in our case we leave room for everything, so we can use everything to get to where we want to go.

In a classic text on yoga, the “Hatha Yoga Pradipika” it is stated that one of the obstacles to yoga is “adhering too closely to rules”, hence the slang term “bad”. BAD, essentially meaning good, but with a little spice and an element of being unconventional and eccentric. Practitioners of yoga have always been rebels – it’s the only way to have transformation – to rebel against our habits and the old ways that no longer serve us.

Q: Your retreats are all about having fun and being uplifted. Where are some of the places you have held retreats? What was one of your favorite yoga retreats and why?

 A: We have traveled to South Brazil, Nicaragua, Panama, Turkey, Mexico, Vegas, Costa Rica, Montauk, Dominica & Cuba. It is so hard to say what our favorite retreat was. Each retreat follows a similar formula and schedule but they are all different depending on the group that has traveled with us, the place & the weather!

It may be that the defining YFBP trip was our first trip to Praia do Rosa, South Brazil. This was technically our second trip, but the one in which we decided: “This is it. We are officially Yoga For Bad People”.

We had taken a leap of faith on the location and it could not have worked out any better. We really felt, and continue to feel, that we had discovered the most special gem. A tiny little speck on the globe that holds enormous power.  A place so special that we would never hesitate to go back and furthermore would feel that we were missing something very significant if we could not return.

Every year we go back in March. Every year we get the same feeling in the weeks leading up to the trip that it is time to return. Every year the town of Praia do Rosa and it’s people welcome us back as though we have roots there. Never have we experienced this feeling anywhere else. Oh, and our group was epic too! (but they always are).

Q: One of the coolest things about a “YFBP” class is the music element. You can play anything from Outkast to Zeppelin to Ali Kahn. Please explain your philosophy around music and why it is an important element of your classes.

A: Yoga focuses on movement, both blatant and physical, and the less obvious subtle forms of movement. Music has always been a major support system for movement. It has always been a way for us to uplift the energy of a class, to elevate the focus and to feel on a more profound level. Music opens doors for people when their physical and emotional movement is blocked. This eventually leads to the deeper practices of sitting still and listening for the subtler music within.  Most importantly, it keeps the experience fun when so much of the practice can become serious.

Q: In addition to organizing really cool retreats you have an amazing store full of great YFBP gear including a bikini line to die for. What made you branch out into apparel and why did you choose to have bikinis as one of your focal points?

A: We discovered that people are attracted to the name, “Yoga For Bad People” even if they haven’t been on a retreat with us. We wanted to brand some products so that everyone could share in the experience if they feel that they relate to the YFBP brand!

The bikini venture spawned from our second trip to Brazil. We had already surrendered to the Brazilian style bikini and had no intention on going back to a “full coverage bottom” look.  back in The States, people had already been asking us on the beach where our suits came from, so we figured why not “free the bottom” and get this going at home!

Everyone (seriously everyone) looks better in a smaller bikini bottom. Since our focus has mostly been on beach oriented retreats and the tropics, beachwear and yoga wear seemed most appropriate to us.

Q: As yoga instructors and founders of YFBP what would be your advice on how yoga novices can start developing their practices? Can novices attend YFBP retreats?

 A: YFBP retreats are open to all “levels”. That’s what we mean when we say, “all inclusive”.  The most important and valuable aspect to being a yoga practitioner is sincerity and a willingness to try. That is all that any “beginner” or any other level needs. Physical flexibility, mobility and strength are secondary and come in time.

It often seems that those that come on our retreats with little to no experience get the most out of it. They come in empty and leave full and excited to keep it all going. That is the best.

So much of our thought process in starting YFBP was that we wanted to tweak the classic yoga retreat formula a bit. We wanted to create something that our friends would want to attend (friends outside of the existing yoga community).

Many of those friends had/have very little yoga experience. We felt like it was possible to create a formula that would be welcoming to the new comer and still a challenge to those with more time spent in yoga practices.