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We dissolve stuck and rewrite patterns. We apply radical playfulness to life (when we feel like it!), embarking on internal adventures (credo of Safety First). We have a fake band called Solved By Cake. We build invisible sanctuaries, invent words and worlds, breathe awe and wonder.

We are not impressed by monsters. Except when we are. We explore the connections between internal territories and surrounding environment to learn what marvelously supportive delicious space feels like, and how to take exquisite care of ourselves. We transform things.* We glow wild.**

* For example: Desire, fear, worry, pain-and-trauma, boundaries, that problematic word which rhymes with flaweductivity.

** Fair warning: Self-fluency has been known to lead to extremely subversive behavior, including treasuring yourself unconditionally, unapologetically taking up space, experiencing outrageously improbable levels of self-acceptance, and general rejoicing in aliveness.


Old Turkish Lady yoga. Interior design.

Whenever I mention that there will be optional Old Turkish Lady yoga at one of my events, people invariably want to know what the hell.

The funniest, most delightful variation on that question came from a lovely reader who identified herself as someone who was an old Turkish lady and was dying to know what I was talking about.

And then yesterday, Claire wondered:

I envision two possibilities: creaky stiff old ladies being super mellow and gentle with their yoga OR totally badass little old Turkish ladies one might underestimate at first glance, but who are mighty and flexible: yoga ninjas.

So it’s definitely the first one.

But maybe some explaineyness. Because there are surprising, useful things to be learned from being an Old Turkish Lady.

Flashback to Berlin. Again.

The week after I finally got my international yoga teaching certification, I left Tel Aviv and moved to Berlin.

This was my much fantasized-over ticket out of a loooong ten year stretch of poverty and suckiness, and I was very clear on two things:

1. yoga was the cure to everything.

2. I was never going to work at a bar again for as long as I lived.

Like with most things, I was both right and wrong about both of those.

Anyway, I arrived in Berlin and immediately met up with the ear infection of doom that nearly took me out.

Yoga failed me. But then it saved me again.

Six months later.

I was weak and tired. But at least my hearing was back.

My regular yoga practice now consisted of rolling around on the floor and groaning.

My best friend from Israel dragged me to the Turkish Women’s Center to do yoga with the old Turkish ladies.

We used rugs instead of mats, which was awesome.

We did transcendentally simple poses. Holding. Breathing. Releasing. Resting.

It was yoga whose purpose was pure curiosity and experimentation: huh, what happens when I move my knee this way as opposed to that way?

Until I became an old Turkish lady myself.

The class after us was kickboxing and it was packed with our German lesbian artist friends and neighbors, drag kings and semi-ironic-cabaret kids.

We knew most of them and occasionally we’d get one to join us for Old Turkish Lady yoga first, but they never liked it.

So it was just me and my best friend and the Turkish ladies. Rolling on the floor. Hugging knees to chest. Stretching. Sighing. Laughing.

Slow, loving, intentional interaction with body, thoughts, feelings, muscles, breath, cells.

Women who had clearly never spent a lot of time in their bodies doing things that you don’t generally do in public. Or at all.

And so completely loving every second of it. I loved it too.

And another few months went by.

My body was healed. But I didn’t want to go back to an athletic, fast-paced practice.

I’d gotten used to the massive amounts of deep, internal work that could be done while hanging out in a soft, open pose.

You didn’t need your mental and emotional powers to keep you from falling on your face, so you could use them for other things.

Unlikely, wonderful things.

So when I was teaching Dance of Shiva, I’d throw in some Old Turkish Lady yoga after class. Everyone loved it.

And several years passed.

I moved to San Francisco. Started my business.

And then to Portland.

Became a pirate queen. And promoted myself to Director of Mad Flailing at what was now The Fluent Self, Inc. And opened the coolest studio in the world.

When the fabulous and super-famous Jennifer Louden asked if I’d teach destuckification tricks at her most amazing Writer’s Retreat in the world last year, I said wheeeeeeeee!

And when she asked if I could teach a week of daily yoga classes there too, I enthusiastically agreed, as long as I could teach Old Turkish Lady yoga.

It was crazy fun.

I’m doing it again this year. If you’re a woman and you even occasionally think about writing, you should come.

And then this week.

I was eating biscuits (biscuits!) with Kelly and we were talking about the Playground and how gorgeous and kooky it is.

And I remembered something I hadn’t thought of in nearly twenty-five years.

When I was little, my what-do-you-want-to-be-when-you-grow-up dream was to be an interior designer.

I was fascinated by colors and fabrics and placement of things. I read piles of books at the library. And took notes.

The dream fizzled. I have zero recollection of how. In fact, until the biscuit conversation with Kelly, all of this had been completely forgotten.

Which makes me think that this tiny, sweet thing had died the kind of horrible death that makes you repress the things that are most important to you.

And then.

It’s weird, I mused, that something as hugely important to me as interior design had been forgotten like that. Like I’d just tripped over something again.

“But that’s what you do for a living,” Kelly said.
“What are you talking about?”
“Interior. Design. You do interior design.”

I do interior design.

Very, very interior.

Like the stuff that happens when we do destuckification and talk to monsters and work on sovereignty.

The same deep work that happens when we flail around and generate shivanautical epiphanies. And the stuff we do during Old Turkish Lady yoga.

Very, very interior.

I am an old Turkish lady. And also an interior designer.

It’s good. Because actually we’re all old Turkish ladies.

And we can be interior designers too.

Comment zen for today …

“Yoga” is one of those trigger words. Like “feminism”.

It means a wide variety of different things to different people. So it’s something we can trip over.

Personally? When I say yoga, I’m referring to two things:

1) The art and science of learning about yourself and your stuff so you can meet yourself where you are.

2) A physical practice — that anyone can do* — that involves using movement and stillness to get better at paying attention to your sensations, your body and your surroundings.

* If you can breathe and move your fingers, you can do yoga. Look, you’re doing it right now!

That’s it.

We all have our stuff. We’re all working on our stuff. We try to let people have their own experiences.

44 Responses to Old Turkish Lady yoga. Interior design.

  1. Elana
    Twitter: vuelacara

    Finally, the veil of mystery has been removed from the Old Turkish Lady. Lol. Thank you.

    Interior. Design.

    That’s perfect. Perfect.

    Also, isn’t it nuts when you trip over something like that? I did that recently when I remembered how badly I wanted to be a journalist in elementary school. Yaaar! That was a pirate growl just for you. : )

    Thank you for adding me on Twitteroo.

    I wish you the best day, sunnyside up.


  2. Hiro Boga
    Twitter: HiroBoga

    Oh, I love this! Interior…design. Of course! :-) We’re all interior designers, sometimes more consciously than others.

    As for Old Turkish Lady yoga…it’s the only kind my old Indian lady body will put up with.

    I’m so grateful for you, Havi!

    Love, Hiro
    .-= Hiro Boga´s last post … Bodh Gaya =-.

  3. JoVE
    Twitter: jovanevery

    if someone around here would teach old turkish lady yoga I would definitely sign up. All the resistance and fear that keeps me from going to what is on offer is around needing to be too bendy, energetic, strong, etc.
    .-= JoVE´s last post … Are you really motivated by external rewards? =-.

  4. ThePeachy1
    Twitter: IamThePeachy1

    Ok, so you just did a little interior design at my place. See for me yoga was a trigger word. I tripped over it. Now I am conscious of that fact I can be more open. Nice post, thanks.

  5. Lindsay says:

    Interior Design! Hillarious!

    Is it weird though, that when I think of this I imagine moving organs around, like, “No really, the lungs should go just a little more to the left” and “You’re going to put the spleen there? Seriously?”

    Old Turkish Lady yoga sounds wonderful. I know an instructor that says, before introducing a pose, “Just try it. Maybe today’s your day. Maybe it’s not. No worries.”

    After this I think it should be “Maybe today’s your day. Or maybe it’s Old Turkish Lady day. No worries.”
    I think that applies to a lot of situations, not just yoga!

    Thanks for the post :)

  6. Heidi
    Twitter: HeidiDobbs

    I love this! I too have dreamed of being an interior designer (along with just about every other career possibility ever imagined, but that’s a story all in itself!)… who knew that I’ve been living the dream for all these years, and didn’t even realize it :D

    ‘Cause it seems to me that we’re all designing our interiors every day… the trick is doing it mindfully and consciously, which unfortunately I think most of us don’t :(

    And yes!!! to Old Turkish Lady Yoga! I signed up to participate in @binduwiles’ 21*5*800 challenge, and I LOVE that she included Shavasana as a valid practice for getting your yoga in. Can you imagine if we all spent 5 days a week just quietly being with ourselves? I imagine a much calmer, more peaceful world : )

    Can’t wait to roll on the floor and tap into my own old turkish lady :D
    .-= Heidi´s last post … Taking the space to breathe. =-.

  7. Kathleen Avins
    Twitter: spiralsongkat

    Interior design. I love that! It made me smile, a big goofy grin — and then it made me cry a bit, because I find it deeply moving when words are stretched and turned and held up to the light to reveal new and beautiful meanings.

    Which is probably just one more indicator that I am, indeed, a woman who thinks about writing, and that I totally should go to Jen Louden’s retreat. Sigh. Maybe next year?

    By the way, did you know that that’s where I first discovered you? Last year, I was looking at Jen’s website, reading about the retreat, and I scrolled down to the bottom of the page and went, “Hey, who’s this with the duck?” Followed the link, and found the interior designer of my dreams.
    .-= Kathleen Avins´s last post … The wilderness within =-.

  8. Amy Crook
    Twitter: amysnotdeadyet

    I both love and have total resistance to this idea of designing my own interior, despite having spent the past couple of years doing so — both my space, and my inner space, and letting them come into harmony.

    It’s growing on me, though, I think my monsters like the idea that they can have their own awesome spaces, luxurious little monster lounges where they can chill while waiting to do their monstery things. At least one of them is definitely a Lounge with Monster Karaoke and a lounge singer DJ.

    …My interior is a very strange place. But I like it that way!
    .-= Amy Crook´s last post … Ogdred Weary =-.

  9. Josiane
    Twitter: kimianak

    I’m with JoVE in being afraid of ‘regular’ yoga classes, especially after having done Old Turkish Lady yoga with you – the only place I’d feel comfortable trying is Michelle’s It’s All Yoga; too bad Sacramento is so far from here… And, really, I’m totally addicted to your Old Turkish Lady yoga!
    .-= Josiane´s last post … Movement =-.

  10. Rebecca Prien
    Twitter: cnsl2creativity

    I just fell a little bit more in love with you.
    .-= Rebecca Prien´s last post … What Law Stuff do I need for my Creative Business? =-.

  11. Julie
    Twitter: julieclarenbach

    Sometimes my brain is Just. So. Literal. It’s saying, wait, WHICH poses work for Old Turkish Lady Yoga? The rest of me is rolling its eyes at my brain and saying, um, brain? Probably ANY OF THEM, but starting with yin yoga would not go amiss. Or any sequence designed for relaxation. Or just modifying anything and being present to it.

    I really want an OTLY class, too. It’s about all my sick and tired body can handle.
    .-= Julie´s last post … Book review: Do What You Are =-.

  12. Linda Esposito
    Twitter: talktherapybiz

    This post was so fun!!

    It taught me that I really do identify with a certain ‘German lesbian artist/interior designer’ mentality in the form of a psychotherapist addicted to kickboxing!

    I appreciate that you used the term ‘tigger word’ to describe yoga–I feel like that with the ‘t’ word (therapy). I wonder if I advertised as a “Interior Designer of the Anxious Mind” if less stigma would be attached…? Hmmm…

    In honor of your praises to yoga and the Old Turkish Ladies, I’m going to activate my membership card at the perfectly lovely neighborhood yoga house that I constantly dismiss on the way to the grungy gym.

    Thanks Havi!

  13. Nats
    Twitter: creativesacred

    Old Turkish Lady yoga sounds just about right for me. Especially as I’ve signed up to do Bindu Wiles’s latest project- writing 800 words everyday and doing 5 days a week of yoga for the next 21 days.

    I think I’ll be doing some improvised wiggling fingers whilst deep breathing type yoga if I can’t make it to local classes ;)
    And interior Design – perfecto!
    .-= Nats´s last post … Creativity + Community = Divine buZZy feelings! =-.

  14. Tara
    Twitter: taraswiger

    I’ve always wondered!
    Heck, I did it (in NC!) and still had no stinking idea.
    In honor of your lovely explanation…I will now do some, in the coffeeshop.


    .-= Tara´s last post … Brunch? Don’t you mean Launch? =-.

  15. Elizabeth
    Twitter: elizabethhalt

    Interior design is on my list of things that I think would be just fabulous. At the very least, I can do it in my own home. And now, in my own interior! I love that.

    I love yoga, and Old Turkish Lady yoga. You know, I wonder if I could convince my grandmother to try that kind of yoga.
    .-= Elizabeth´s last post … round and round =-.

  16. chicsinger simone
    Twitter: simonebernhard

    Love! LOVE.

    Havi dearest, you’ve been busy in my own interiors by proxy, mediating a good bit in my first day of #215800.

    @Amy: my monsters want a karaoke lounge too, Amy!
    .-= chicsinger simone´s last post … Money, Cartman, a new color, the F-bomb and a monster who is just learning to type =-.

  17. Sanders says:

    Interior Designer.

    Just perfect. That is soooo you…

    Now, I can’t wait to have design my interior ;-)

  18. helen
    Twitter: SneakyEli

    Funny – I have always imagined something like that when you say Old Turkish Lady yoga but I have never thought that there was a true story behind it. I thought you just named it playing metaphor games again.
    Yes, there are days when it would be nice to do just that – old Turkish lady yoga.

  19. Chris Anthony
    Twitter: delightineer

    Interior Designer is just perfect. ♥
    .-= Chris Anthony´s last post … How Disney Blew It =-.

  20. Wulfie says:

    That is so awesome! An Interior interior decorator! I LOVE that and it’s perfect for what you do.

  21. Kirsty Hall
    Twitter: kirstymhall

    “If you can breathe and move your fingers, you can do yoga. Look, you’re doing it right now!”

    Thank you for that line, Havi. I’ve only done Yoga a couple of times – I signed up for a course but after each class, I would go home and cry hysterically. And because I didn’t like the hysterical crying and feeling that everyone could move better than me, I quickly quit. You just made me feel like maybe the daily stretches I already do might sort-of-kind-of be yoga and I don’t need to be Someone Who Afraid Of Yoga any more.
    .-= Kirsty Hall´s last post … Louise Bourgeois =-.

  22. Liz
    Twitter: lizemmettmattox

    Interior design. But of course.

    That’s all I have to say!

  23. Erin
    Twitter: erinibbertson

    Ahh, so that is what Old Turkish Lady Yoga is…sounds so blissful.

  24. Scraps
    Twitter: scrapsoflife

    Oh, good, my presumptions about what OTLY was/is were correct. And I love that you mentioned they use rugs–I have one of those stripey blankets from Mexico on the floor of my studio that I use as my yoga “mat” as well as general decor and I was only slightly concerned that I was doing something wrong by not using the blue thing that sits in the corner instead.
    .-= Scraps´s last post … New Project Alert! =-.

  25. I always love your posts and generally speaking just feel a lot better when I read them.


    You put a lot of links in them and I’m so prone to going down rabbits holes without the slightest provocation anyway that I’d begun to AVOID your blog because I couldn’t possibly go wandering down all those rabbit holes for hours on end and making no forward momentum in my own ‘real’ life and then years would go by and here I’d still be sitting at my desk with nothing at all to show for it, except some really sweet mental imagery.


    I decided I can read your blog and NOT CLICK ON A SINGLE LINK and then it seems manageable. Of course, I’ll never know what’s down some/all/most of those rabbit holes, but I WILL KNOW something and that’s more than nothing.


    Why won’t someone help/guide/mentor me in the craft/art/obsession of making/creating polymer clay dolls?
    .-= Deborah Wolfe´s last post … Why We Love Designing Websites for Lawyers =-.

  26. Michelle Marlahan
    Twitter: lovewastingtime

    Old Turkish is the only way to do it! Interior designing… YES!

    And Josiane, a special trip to Sac might someday be in order. xo

    Thanks, Havi. Doing some sighing and rolling around with you in spirit!

  27. Jamey says:

    Excellent description of yoga. I have always said that if you can breathe, you can do yoga.

  28. Kelly Parkinson
    Twitter: copylicious

    Now whenever someone asks me what they should call themselves, I’m going to ask them what they wanted to be when they grew up. There’s bound to be a metaphor in there somewhere! For the record, I wanted to be a detective. One with strawberry-blonde hair and a convertible. And yes, I think I AM a detective. Still working on the hair and the convertible.
    .-= Kelly Parkinson´s last post … In memory of your birthday, which I forgot =-.

  29. claire
    Twitter: claireofRA

    Excellent! Thank you very much for the detailed explanation/origin story of Old Turkish Lady yoga. Definitely my speed since I’m not particularly flexible.

    It actually encourages me to look more favorably upon the gentle yoga book I checked out yesterday that only has photos of old people in it. Or rather, it’s more accurate to say, I look more favorably upon myself trying out the same exercises as the old folk.

    As for interior design: perfect. :)
    .-= claire´s last post … 20 Minute Yoga Workouts =-.

  30. Havi Brooks
    Twitter: havi

    Hey you guys!

    Man, I have to say, I am so so so sorry to hear all the incredibly painful yoga-fascists stories. Ugh. Sorry that so many people in my life have had encounters with yoga that have not been loving. That sucks.


    @Kelly – oh you are so completely Nancy Drew, looking for clues and being glamorous. Though Nancy wouldn’t have won a spontaneous dance contest so you win there.

    @Michelle – kiss to you, my love! Everyone in California: go take a class from Michelle right this second. Heaven.

    @Deborah – permission to avoid the rabbit holes granted! :)

    @Scraps – awesome. Also I love that you called it OTLY. Now I want to pronounce it like that. Like, let’s go do some Otly, people!


    @Kirsty – oh I’m sorry sweetheart. That sounds awful.

    @Linda – wheeee! Nice.

    @Amy – I adore your interior. Monster Lounge with Monster Karaoke = hooray.

    hugs all around.

  31. Kristen
    Twitter: write_spirit

    Having missed the subtlety at first, I thought, “Well of course Havi’s an interior designer. She just created the Playground in all of its wacky, spirit-full beauty.” (Having a degree in interior design does that to a person.)

    But, oh. *That* interior. So maybe I need to give myself permission to call myself an interior designer again (got the degree – hated the job environment – never used the degree)using a different interior.

    Thanks for the inspiration!

  32. Katy
    Twitter: katytafoya

    Beautifully written. I always wondered, and now I get it. I wish we had some Old Turkish Lady yoga in these parts. I’d be all over that.
    .-= Katy´s last post … 8 Ways Entrepreneurs Can Use Feng Shui for More Business – and More Money =-.

  33. Andrew Lightheart
    Twitter: alightheart


  34. Andrew Lightheart
    Twitter: alightheart

    Ok, I have more.

    I’ve been experimenting with Paul Grilley’s DVD this week (I’m doing Bindu’s 21.5.800 too) and loving it.

    The permission to explore and see what my body feels like and go s l o w and really there’s no end.


    Makes me want to become an OTLY teacher.

    And ‘Interior. Very Interior.’ I imagine you saying this with a dark, sultry smirk from under your eyebrows. With maybe an East European ‘r’.

    Or is that just me.

    Just me. Ok.
    .-= Andrew Lightheart´s last post … What if anger isn’t anger =-.

  35. Juliet
    Twitter: julietk

    I have massive love for the idea of Jen’s retreat but also have Wrong Continent Error. Perhaps someday there will be something similar in the UK…). (I am actually pondering constructing my very own retreat sometime this year, just by myself… but anyway.)

    I like the idea of Old Turkish Lady yoga, too. And yoga as being-with-your-stuff. That resonates. And I *love* the Interior Design thing!
    .-= Juliet´s last post … iPad! =-.

  36. Shannon
    Twitter: clover

    This might be my favorite description of yoga ever.

    Ugh, I hear you guys on the yoga fascists too. There’s a yoga school on my block that is apparently world-famous or something, but I refuse to study with the owner because he’s kind of a jerk in person. I don’t like jerky yoga. They have a slow/gentle class there that I’m now going to think of as the Old Turkish Lady session because that might make me want to go back :D

    I’m glad you’re an interior designer after all, Havi. When I was a kid I wanted to be an astronaut, and then an astronomer. I hated college physics, but it turns out I get to spend my days with my nose in an ephemeris, writing about planetary cycles after all! Who’da thunk it.

    *high five*
    .-= Shannon´s last post … The Fall of Helen Thomas =-.

  37. Meg
    Twitter: MegBoone

    I think I like pirates.
    Especially OTL pirates doing yoga.
    I feel softer and opener just reading about it.
    And if you want to you can say Grrr arrgg in any pose, if it is not quite soft or open enough for you.
    Wishing you all a opener and softer day
    .-= Meg´s last post … Fried Snickers, Family, Firings and Fripperies =-.

  38. Tracy
    Twitter: verdissage

    This is wonderful. And after reading this post, I am having an epiphany about why I loved my Nia dance class so much last year. Having been a dancer (a Dancer!) when I was little, I instinctively recognized Nia as the Old-Turkish-Lady-Yoga version of a dance class. It was fun and connecting and inspiring and great exercise but without all the internal freakout about getting the steps wrong or looking goofy. It was just about being in my body and in the music and in the community of dancers in that room in that moment.

    Sometimes when I’m at home, on impulse, I stop whatever I’m doing and go lie/stretch/roll on the floor, just because it feels good. Inevitably one or more of my cats stop whatever they’re doing to come help me lie/stretch/roll. Apparently I am a practitioner of Old Turkish Cat Lady Yoga.
    .-= Tracy´s last post … To-day I Am On Bird Time. =-.

  39. Kirsty Hall
    Twitter: kirstymhall

    Well, to be fair to the yoga, I don’t think it was anyone’s fault. At the time, I was a single mother with post-natal depression and I think the yoga just stirred things up. It gave my body a chance to say, ‘you know what, everything is hard right now and you’re very, very sad’ and I *really* wasn’t in a space where I could deal with hearing that.

    But if I ever try yoga again, I totally want to do Old Turkish Lady yoga.
    .-= Kirsty Hall´s last post … Louise Bourgeois =-.

  40. […] beginning to feel better, because I begin to practice what the wonderful Havi Brooks calls Very Interior Design. Among other things, I start focusing on all the little day-to-day things that I like, all the […]

  41. andream says:


  42. […] Pandora and dance full tilt boogie through at least one number. When I’m done I roll right into Old Turkish Yoga as practiced by the Pirate […]

  43. Sandra
    Twitter: yoginisandra

    Dear Havi,


    After three injuries last year, I was looking for a yoga, that doesn’t hurt. Of course, it was not the yoga that did hurt, but my ATTITUDE that got me into the injuries.

    So practicing and teaching an old Turkish yoga style yoga without feeling pressured is just a good thing for me now, too :-)

    Thank you so much, I just LOVE your post, i was just not as courageous as you until now, admitting, that my favorite yoga style at the moment is just this, Turkish yoga style :-) doesn’t have to stay like this forever though, but at least doing any other practice with an old turkish lady mindset will re-design any other practice as well. some interior design also here ;-)

    Love, Sandra

  44. Christine
    Twitter: Ouchi

    Thank you for this post. As always, I found just the right post just when I need it most. I’ve been using my practice to (gently) heal my body and my spirit by letting go of everything high intensity and high impact. I thought that maybe I was bein lazy, but when I read the sentence quoted below I KNEW that I was doing the completely true thing for me, right now. I don’t need the resistance and the hard part of an intense practice. I need acceptance and “yes, this feels good” type of practice.
    “You didn’t need your mental and emotional powers to keep you from falling on your face, so you could use them for other things.”

    Sending love to you!

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