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No BlackBerrys Near the Yoga Mat and Other Life Lessons from Trudie Styler
Trudie Styler is an actress, a dedicated yogi and a passionate human rights activist. Plus, she has one of those rare showbiz marriages that has actually lasted. She opens up about staying fit, making a difference and why no one makes her laugh like Sting.
Ashley Hamilton: How did you first discover yoga?
Trudie Styler: After the birth of our third child, Coco, I was looking for a way to get back into shape. A friend suggested Sting and I go to a yoga demonstration by a great teacher, Donny Paradise, who has since become a friend. We were both so impressed by his fitness and strength and flexibility, as well as all the hidden health benefits, that we had to give it a go, and it’s been 20 years now.
Did you see a major physical change when you first started?
Yes, I was trying to get back in shape, so wanted to combine physical practice with reducing calories. Obviously, yoga does great things for the body if you commit to the practice three or four times a week.
I think consistency is the problem that most women run into when it comes to working out. How have you been able to commit — and stay committed — to yoga for so long?
It doesn’t take long before that’s your routine, that’s what [your body] likes and that’s what it’s asking for. And it’s worth it. People spend a lot of time and effort on their cars — and our bodies are the most precious vehicle that we’ve been given. It has to take us through the journey of life. Our body is the only one we’ve been given, so we need to maintain it; we need to give it the best nutrition. I advocate an organic diet where possible (certainly a whole food diet). I think having a good yoga practice and a spiritual practice is a recipe for living well and, hopefully, living longer.
What is your spiritual practice?
For me, it’s combining yoga with meditation. Meditation is really letting go of all the thought processes or “mind traffic” that gets in the way of just whatever is between you and space and consciousness. So often what happens when we meditate is we can kind of get the mind traffic that comes in and says, “Oh I wonder what we’re going to have for dinner tonight” or “I must remember to do this” or “I just want to turn my BlackBerry on for a moment.” Well, first of all, I advocate no BlackBerrys anywhere near the yoga mat! And then there’s the BlackBerry in our head — all those things on the to-do list for the day. So meditation is stilling the mind of all that hurly-burly that comes into it. When you start watching those thoughts, you’re no longer involved in them. With that, we get space in our thoughts, we get calmness and, ultimately, we get peace.
Do you feel differently mentally if you skip a day? Or maybe you never skip a day!
Sure I do. I don’t think people should be too hard on themselves. People have very busy lives, and meditation, if you’ve never done it, is not something you can just say, “Oh, I’m going to commit to doing an hour of it every day.” If you could commit to doing five minutes every day, you’d very quickly become better at meditation. Over 20 years, I’ve felt the benefits of yoga and meditation practice. I feel fit, I feel happy and I feel young.
How do you stay so fit as you age? Do you have any anti-aging secrets?
I would say don’t drink too much alcohol, don’t eat too much sugar, avoid processed foods and keep as active as you can. Also, try to stay young mentally. Keep looking for new challenges in life, keep learning, stay curious. Inform yourself about the world and engage in it. We women, we’re always being invited to change our hairstyle, change our clothes, change our wardrobes. It’s also important for us to remember as we age to keep changing the way we think of the world. I’m not saying to be flaky at all; but rather than being rigid about something, stay open and available.
You’ve taken a lot of action in your life for causes that you believe in — like getting clean water to the people in Ecuador, which was documented in the movie Crude. How did you get so involved in that issue?
I was in Ecuador as my role as ambassador for UNICEF, working on the child exploitation campaign, and I had been confronted by the environmental damage caused by the oil industry in the Ecuador rainforest. I took the opportunity to go and see for myself. When talking to the people there and witnessing directly what they were suffering because they’re ancestral land had been exploited was very compelling. Thirty-thousand people are affected by oil pollution there, so it’s a daunting problem. When I asked a woman there what I could do to help, she was very straight-forward with her response. She said, “Lady, get us some clean water.” In this day and age, it seems outrageous to me that we couldn’t fulfill that basic human need for safe, clean drinking water! That woman’s statement was the impetus, the lightbulb on top of my head that said, “Yes, I can do that!”
I think a lot of us want to make a difference in the world, but we don’t know where to start. What advice do you have?
I’d say jump in, get involved and get off the sofa and out of your comfort zone. Each and every one of us is capable of making the world a better place for the people who we come into contact with every day. If you find yourself personally engaged with someone’s problems, use that energy and emotional connection to do what you can do to help. There’s no qualifications necessarily — just empathy, energy and a little bit of self-belief. When people reach out to ask for help, try to connect with it. With this water story, I felt that very connection. I couldn’t bear the idea that clean water was not available to the beautiful faces that were staring out at me.
There are just so many causes out there. How do you pick one to get involved in?
I think that people shouldn’t be guilt-tripped into something that they just don’t feel very passionate about. You can be much more effective when you feel like “this issue is for me.” God knows there are a lot of issues around that need addressing. But find one that you connect with and do it with passion, do it with verve, do it with all of yourself. That’s the way we make changes. Transformation comes from us first.
You and your husband [rock star Sting] have been together for almost 30 years now. How have you been able to make your marriage last when so many other showbiz marriages fall apart?
I don’t want to jinx it! I guess I don’t take it for granted. I don’t think either of us do, which means we still make an effort for each other. One of the upsides of being married to someone who’s away from home a lot is we have lots of reunions, and the romance that’s inherent in that. We have meeting places all over the world, and if we haven’t seen each other in a few weeks, we make a date and we get excited about seeing each other.
How have you seen your marriage change over the years?
Like most people, it’s more settled and less stormy than it was at the beginning of our relationship, 28 years ago. Our mutual understanding of each other has grown over the years. The kids are growing up, so that gives us more time for one another and with one another. And our needs are pretty simple ... we’re just a couple happy to hang out, socialize with friends, go to the movies, go out dancing sometimes. We’re best friends, so that’s very important too. And he makes me laugh a lot. No one makes me laugh like Sting.
What do you want your children to know about love and commitment?
I think I want them to know that honesty and openness are the keys to happiness between two people. Those are the ingredients needed for both intimacy and independence. Also, not being afraid to have hard discussions. Even if it feels difficult, they’re always worth doing, because through those honest and open discussions comes the solution of whatever problem is going on. If it gets left, if it gets into the body’s system and resentments build up. I think that’s where problems can arise. I sometimes see couples who are unhappy in long-term relationships, and it’s almost like they’re afraid of each other. I can see a couple who are just on their mutual islands ... they’re waving politely at each other; they’re not engaged with each other. I’ve seen other couples who are having the time of their lives and they’re fully engaged. I bet one of the secrets to that is they’re not afraid to have the hard talks.
Do you have any other secrets to a happy marriage?
I would say change. It’s very important that your partner is changing at the same rate as you, that you’re going in similar directions. That doesn’t mean that you’re living on top of each other and suffocating each other; it means that you have a true sense of where you are with each other and what each of you wants and likes. That needs to be constantly updated, that needs constant dialog. And that’s where the honest discussions come in.
So what do you know for sure?
I know that, in life, change is inevitable. To be happy, you have to be able to embrace change.
Work out with Trudie Styler on GaiamTV.com!
Trudie Styler is an actress, film producer, director, human rights activist, environmentalist, organic farmer and UNICEF Ambassador. Styler’s most recent projects include the release of a series of five mind-body fitness DVDs with Gaiam, shot on location at hers and Sting’s Tuscan villa with celebrity trainer James D’Silva. Styler also recently appeared in the Joe Berlinger–directed documentary Crude, which follows the story of 30,000 Ecuadorian indigenous rainforest dwellers in their fight against the U.S. oil giant Chevron. In 1988, along with her husband, Sting, Styler started the Rainforest Foundation, an organization devoted to protecting rainforests and their indigenous peoples. Styler’s production company Xingu Films focuses on social issues through its documentaries while also building a reputation as a nurturing home for talented first-time feature filmmakers.