Interview by Sebastian Thomas
Dr . Holly Richmond is one of America’ s top Somatic Psychologists and Marriage Therapists who works with some of the biggest celebrities around the world with their relationship issues. Beyond just that, Dr. Richmond is a published author and one of the leading voices on how various forms of activities can help both you and your personal life stay healthy. That is why Dr. Richmond, a mother also, practices yoga weekly and has studied the benefits of various forms of yoga to help her patients she treats.
Dr. Richmond spoke to us exclusively in-depth about the professional aspects of how yoga overall can help each one of us in our lives…
How important is an active, healthy lifestyle to you?
The older I get, the more I realize being healthy and active is everything! Life feels muted if I’m not taking care of myself, and that dull feeling can spread quickly if I don’t start moving. If I’m not exercising, my body will let me know something has to change. Little aches and pains are a clear wakeup call that I’m not prioritizing my health. Luckily, it just takes a few days to feel like myself again, and then I wonder how I let things slip. It’s reassuring to know I can always come back to my body—there’s no substitute.
What types of yoga and fitness activities do you do?
Right now I am into hot flow yoga, barre classes and hiking. We recently moved to the pacific northwest, so I’m drinking in all the new activities that are at my fingertips. I have never lived in such a beautiful place, and the people here are health conscious and like-minded as far as fitness is concerned.
Being a mother, what is your regular fitness routine/ schedule like?
I’ve learned being a mother means there’s rarely a regular routine! Managing my family’s schedule is truly a balancing act many days. So, my go-to plan is to create a fitness schedule each week depending what’s going on. Typically, that’s two days of yoga, two days of barre and a big family hike on the weekend. That’s ideal, but if it doesn’t happen I don’t stress about it and incorporate some yoga at home, outside with the kids if possible.
Being a Somatic Psychologist and a Certified Marriage Therapist , do you ever recommend yoga / fit ness activities to your patients?
Yes, nearly one-hundred percent of the time. Part of my patient intake paperwork assesses overall health, and some of that is how much they move and what kind of movement they do. I’ll look for aspects of physical rigidity and laxity, and of course talk about any pain issues they may be having. If the patient is seeing me for sexual health concerns, I want to know how pain or range of motion issues are affecting their pleasure, individually and relationally. The brain and body are not two separate entities—they must work together for the best and truest expression of wellness.
When was the first time you personally tried yoga and how did it make you feel?
I was a journalist in the late 1990s and was writing about fitness regularly, and one of my editors assigned a piece about yoga. It was 1999 and I was living in Santa Monica, Calif., and I decided to go to a power yoga studio for my first class. I was fit and thought, “How hard can it be?” It was really hard, and I absolutely loved it! No matter how fit you are, yoga has this razor-sharp way of showing us where are edges are, for growth and restoration. For the first time, I realized the whole-body benefits of flexibility, as well as the fear that comes up in new postures, and the bliss at the end of each class. There is always something to practice in yoga, whether it’s active or passive. Yoga, for me, was the great equalizer.
Some people tend to relate yoga to sex. What are your thoughts?
Yoga and tantra share the same circle of thought in many ways, and people associate tantra with sex. Tantra literally means, “the weave.” Of course, being in new, pleasurable positions (postures) with a partner is amazing, but yoga isn’t just about postures any more than tantra is just about sex. Again, it’s a mind/body approach to individual and relational wellness. Yoga has helped many of my patients be more in touch with their bodies, and what they need and want sexually. This directly translates into a more fulfilling life.
Professionally, how can yoga help someone with their bedroom ‘issues’?
Yoga is an ideal medium for learning about your body, or as I often say, dropping into your body. We walk around much of day quite unaware of how our body feels, unless it’s in pain, because our attention is focused on our thoughts. In yoga, our attention must be on our body and breath. So, for patients who are somewhat unaware of being in their body—or another way to say this is that they are constantly in their head—I’ll prescribe yoga two to three times a week. The body awareness they gain creates an immediate link to sexual pleasure. They’ll learn what feels good and what doesn’t, and my job is to help them learn how to communicate that effectively. They start being embodied—mind, body and soul—and that makes for a great sex life.
What is your advice to others that are beginners and want to try getting into hot yoga like yourself?
My husband, Danny, is a beginner and he loves the heat (he’s Australian), and I encourage him to come with me, but I reiterate how hot it is! I even struggle to keep my mind off the heat and stay focused on my breath and the flow, but that’s part of the reason why I love it so much. Yoga creates an internal state of comfort for me, so when my external surroundings are uncomfortable, I feel encouraged to go into myself a little more deeply. Hot yoga makes my muscles feel supple, it makes my body and mind feel cleansed, and it offers an opportunity to dance between what feels comfortable and uncomfortable. I think it’s ideal for beginners and experienced yogis, but you have to be willing to sit in the discomfort of being hot—at least until that becomes your comfort. I’m still working on it.
What are your future dreams and goals both professionally and personally?
I’m currently working on a book about the future of sex and relationships, and the continued integration of technology in those realms, so my goal here is to have the book be well received and helpful to people. Writing books has been a dream for a long time, so after this first book is published, I’d love to write more, particularly something more personal yet still related to sex and pleasure. I’m also eager to do more consulting and public speaking. So far, I have been asked to advise in the areas of sex education, entertainment, technology and pleasure products, and I find the work absolutely exhilarating. Personally, my dreams are pretty simple. I want to raise kind children and continue to feel supported by and be supportive of my family. I’m a late in life mom and this is a later in life family for us, so I think Danny and I are both keenly aware of how quickly life goes and the impact of our decisions. The one trick I know that keeps us on track with our relationship and parenting is to have a once-a-week date night! My goal is to have us make more of a concerted effort around scheduling that.
If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be?
Only use the left-most lane when you’re passing! I’m kidding a little here, but can you imagine how much more efficiently traffic would flow and how easily we’d get around? As someone who lived in and around Los Angeles for 20 years, this is a constant concern. Tangentially, I feel like a lot of our day to day courtesy towards others is diminishing. I’d love that to change. If we can cultivate a society that is considerate and empathetic, we’d make so much progress, and, not to mention, have great sex lives!
What other types of yoga do you hope to learn in the future?
I have done many types of yoga over the past 18 years, from Kundalini to Bikram to Yin and Ashtanga, and I deeply enjoy every one, but always come back to my same edges. I’m uncomfortable being on my head, arm balances scare me, some days my balance is incredibly off, and my mind wanders in and out of presence during my practice. These are all small physical metaphors for bigger pictures in my life. So, for me, it’s not necessarily about seeking out a new type of yoga, but deepening my experience where I am now and growing from it.