Episode 62

Bringing Your Daily Yoga Practice Off the Mat with Alicia Rae Parks

In today's fast-paced world, many of us struggle to find true happiness and balance. Despite our well-being practices, like yoga, we often fail to translate its benefits into our daily lives. Many people practice yoga to relax and find peace. However, they often struggle to keep that calm feeling once they leave their yoga class and return to their busy lives.

In this podcast, Ashish Kothari and Alicia Rae Parks, Manager of Happiness Squad’s REWIRE Yoga Program, talk about how to make the benefits of yoga last longer, even after you leave the yoga mat. They introduce a special program called Rewire Yoga, which helps you use yoga in your everyday life, not just in class. 

Alicia shares her own story about how yoga helped her through tough times. She’s a yoga teacher dedicated to bringing authenticity and a sense of community to her practice. She has transformed her life and teaching approach by shifting from fear to happiness. 

As the Program Manager of the REWIRE YOGA program, Alicia aims to help yoga teachers enhance their skills and deepen their practice, both on and off the mat. Her mission is to empower teachers to thrive in their profession and to make “happiness” a key element in the yoga community.

Things you will learn from this episode:

  • Integrating Yoga into Daily Life
  • Why you should try the Rewire Yoga Program
  • Personal Transformation Through Yoga
  • How Yoga Brings Holistic Well-being 

This is your invitation to shift to a more purposeful and meaningful life! Tune in to this episode now and start making a difference.



Hardwired for Happiness: 9 Proven Practices to Overcome Stress and Live Your Best Life.https://www.amazon.com/Hardwired-Happiness-Proven-Practices-Overcome/dp/1544534655


Ashish Kothari:

Hi, Alicia. It's so exciting to have you on our first video podcast. Welcome!

Alicia Rae Parks:

I feel so honored.

Ashish Kothari:

Oh my God, it's so wonderful. This is the 64th episode. Alicia, we always start our podcasts with this first question, which is what does happiness mean to you? And how has that definition changed from your earlier years?

Alicia Rae Parks:

It's funny listening to the podcast, you'd think I'd have a practiced answer, but intuitively what comes to mind is it's been a journey. When I was younger, it was a quest. I even remember when you first started setting up email passwords and online passwords, one of my very first passwords was “be happy”.

And now it's like I've arrived into this space of knowing it's a state. It's not necessarily a quest anymore. I have the choice. And it's a feeling that embodies more than just your physical sense of self. It's also a reflection. So if I know that happiness is a state I want to fulfill, I need to allow it to be reflected out of me and back to me.

Ashish Kothari:

Yeah. So important. There's so many people who confuse happiness as an emotion. And like emotions, the reality is emotions rise and fall. And the same way as sorrow might be present for us, goes away. So does happiness.

After a while, happiness fades. But this notion of happiness as a state is something that says, no matter what's happening around, I'm going to meet it just with that state of joyfulness. So rather than chasing joy, I'm going to be joyful. And from that more expanded state, navigate what comes.

Alicia Rae Parks:

See, I'm allowing that to reflect back. And as I'm hearing you say that, I'm also thinking about how many times I've relied on happiness to be the responsibility of someone else, or I thought it was my job to make my partner in my previous relationships happy. And that was a losing battle. So it's a great question to ask because it does allow you to really step into what is your truth. And I'm the happiest I've ever been.

Ashish Kothari:

Well, I can see that. I can absolutely see that. And I think our listeners and viewers are going to feel that and see that, that energy that comes. So tell me, on one hand we talk about happiness and kind of you are where you are. But I also know a little bit about your life journey, all the way from young Alicia, to even the most recent. Some of the things that life has thrown at you to where you are now, passionately pursuing the path. In fact, you've joined us to pursue your passion around this work we are doing with happiness and merging it into the yoga community. Share with us a little bit about your life journey and what's gotten you here.

Alicia Rae Parks:

Yeah, wow. It's been a wild ride, a rollercoaster. A journey of playing with opposites from darkness to light. It was my yoga practice that helped me to really start living a life with purpose and knowing who I am and what I want. That really started for me when I was pregnant with my son, Tyler, who's now almost 21.

It's powerful to think there was this divine message to do prenatal yoga. And that's how my yoga journey started. It's amazing how many times I just turned into a puddle on my mat and had to literally put myself back together again.

At some point in my journey, I realized that I had a lot of healing to do from being a young child and really work through some stuff that, honestly, I feel like I've gotten to the other side of in the last few years. I tell my 21-year-old son, my goodness, you're 20 years ahead of me. I just figured out some of the things that you're figuring out now.

The theme and the message throughout all of the lessons learned and all the experiences I had through myself and through relationships with others has been about purpose and meaning and really trying to understand intentional living.

So for me, at the end of the day, it really is about purpose and being a part of something more. Now that you and I are working together, we can look back and see these stepping stones that were walking our journeys together, but did not know it at the time, obviously, and that's so powerful. It's such a gift to be here today with all of these parts of me and what's ahead together.

Ashish Kothari:

Well, thank you. I'm really joyful and grateful that we met. In the context, you and I got involved when you were helping us get this book launched, working with Amber and her team at NGNG to get the book launched. Then, in the middle of all of that, you went to Hawaii to really pursue your calling as a yoga teacher. Share a little bit about how that adventure went and how we got a chance to meet earlier this year again.

Alicia Rae Parks:

Yeah, because this story really is a reminder that things happen for a reason and to trust the process. Prior to joining the awesome team at NGNG, I had a strong background in marketing. I grew up professionally with Aveda and I loved how much I learned through Aveda, which is a holistic approach to business and lifestyle, and what also allowed me to grow myself into a yoga teacher.

Right around the time that lockdown happened in the pandemic, I was on a journey of exiting one role into another with the Aveda corporation into education and teaching. All of that came to a halt during the pandemic. I was like, what do I do? I've worked since I was 14 and I just rolled out my mat, turned on Instagram live, and started teaching yoga.

Then one thing led to another and I started launching a yoga business with a friend of mine. I was slowly getting back into teaching for Aveda, building my own esthetician practice. You had to say yes to a lot of things at that time because we didn't really know where we were going and where the world was shifting. I said yes to a lot of things.

One of the things I said yes to was a good friend of mine, Haley, who had joined NGNG. She was so lit up about the work they were doing and my marketing background. I was like, okay, I'll say yes to that too. At the time I was like, wait, what am I actually doing? Where am I going? My idea of moving to Hawaii was still there. Things started falling off my plate. Then I took a leap of faith, moved to Maui, and took NGNG with me.

I got to the other side and thought, either I'm going to go this way with NGNG or this way with my yoga. Right before the unfortunate fire disaster happened on Maui, which I was living in Lahaina at the time, three weeks before that, I took the final leap of faith, which was to go all in on my yoga business and said farewell to NGNG. But what was so interesting is right around that time, our paths connected again, Ashish.

One of my final projects there was being able to help update your programs that were launching on your website. You had no idea that I was about to make this big decision. On the other side of all that, obviously that's a whole other story, but I will tell you, and you didn't know this at the time, but I had your book and I was theming to this book as a yoga teacher and practicing the practices on my own.

They had become habits for me and that became a saving grace in so many ways. I'm figuring out how to recover from something that was so transformative, literally, and come back to Colorado and get some roots. So here we are dancing this dance together now.

Ashish Kothari:

Yeah, so let me share a little bit with you around this program and what Alyssia got involved with us on. As now hopefully you've listened to several of our podcasts and you're familiar with the Hard White for Happiness book and the practices.

There are these nine practices in the book that are secular by nature. They're grounded in spirituality, every wisdom tradition has them, but there is a strong science behind them. Every one of them has proven over the last 20-25 years from the field of positive psychology and more recently from the fields of neurosciences that they actually truly help us rewire our brains away from fear and towards joy, from scarcity to abundance, from disconnection and focus on self to love and focus on the other. So truly they are transformative when practiced. The key is when practiced.

We are also living in times where we are drowning in knowledge, but we are parched for practice. We just don't have space. There is too much pulling on us. There is too much to do. And our hardwiring for fear has never been more of a triggered state than ever before, given what we are experiencing around: an inflationary environment, ecological disasters, global unrest, wars in Israel, war in Ukraine, unrest in Asia. So much happening just here within our own country in terms of what's going to be one of the most acrimonious political battles, which literally, has the potential to tear the country apart.

So there's a lot going on. And in those moments, how do you feel safe? How do you feel focused on the future when you're so focused on the here and now? So I recognize that these would be some real challenges that our readers, those who we really want to support, are going to be dealing with. And so, what we ended up doing was we created this program called Rewire and in one of my meditations, actually this came to me and I said, you know what, we operate out of our habits 50 to 90 percent of the time. We do things just the way we've done them the day before and the day before and the day before, because that's our habit.

So what if we actually use the science of habit formation to create a program, which we called Rewire, that helps people do things five minutes a day. But because we make them simple, we make them small, and we make them grounded in what people do every day. It's all the key elements that are required for habit formation. Make things small, ground them in what you do every day, and celebrate. And do it, frankly, with others that can support you. That's what we created in REWIRE.

So the REWIRE program has 30 micro practices. They're five minutes or less. Many of them are around what you already do at work. And it is something that you can do in your team or with other family members or communities that you're a part of. Because I really wanted to support individuals to go from knowing to doing, and then from doing to being.

So that's what the REWIRE program is. We've kind of mentioned it here and there on our podcast, but you can learn more about it if you go to our website. And that's what Alicia actually helped us from a website point of view launch and is now helping take that to the yoga community.

So my question, Alicia, that I wanted folks to listen to your own words and voice is, what really attracted you, you're a highly certified, experienced yoga teacher. I mean, you've been doing this for over 20 years. What really attracted you and got you to say yes to joining us and bringing Rewire to the yoga community?

Alicia Rae Parks:

It's hard to put into just a few words. Transformation is so interesting to describe because there's an energy, a livelihood, and an essence to it. I'm going to do my best here as I've been speaking about this program for a while and still wondering if I'm eloquently describing it because I just want people to experience it and then they'll know.

For me, it was an accidental try it on, see how it goes, having no intention to ever be a part of program development or facilitation. I just watched the path through a very challenging time in my life. To go back into teaching and to go back into my practice and be utilizing a lot of these habits and suddenly come out the other side, it was my students that were saying to me, first of all, welcome back, we've missed you, so happy you're back. How are you so happy? How are you so well?

And it was that reflection that made me think, I know I'm still feeling some stuff. I'm not a hundred percent, but if people are seeing, and I don't feel like I'm faking it to make it, I'm showing up and it's hard to show up right now, but I'm doing it because there's meaning and purpose.

To have that come back and have my students say that this is what they were experiencing and seeing, I started to realize and then look back a little bit at the transformation of my teaching. I had one student come up and say, what is happening with your teaching right now? I've never experienced you like this. And I was like, is this a good thing or a bad thing? And he's like, I'm loving it. It's so different. He was speaking about how important breath was in his practice for the first time ever.

I've been teaching them to breathe in their practice for years, but suddenly how I was teaching, how I was showing up, how I was experiencing my own practice, it just had new meaning. It had a new energy. It had a new transformation that was happening.

So the opportunity to somehow get this out into the world and be a part of this journey is truly a privilege and an honor. And I believe in it. And in order for me, being a purpose-driven person, I have to believe in what it is that I'm representing or speaking about or talking to. And so I believe in this so much.

And I really do hope that we'll be able to open up the minds of our yoga community here and see that this is a powerful way to integrate yoga off the mat and transform, in so many ways, what's happening in these studios is amazing, but let's elevate it at a time when it might seem like it's going to be more challenging to do it. This is the time to do it.

Ashish Kothari:

You know, I'm reflecting on our coffee conversation, which was almost two, three months ago now when we were chatting. We had this brainwave and we said, look, yoga, for those, whether you are teachers or whether you are practitioners or whether you are dabblers, there's many of us who do yoga maybe two, three times a week, or just on the weekend, we're weekend warriors. We show up to a class on the weekend. It's okay. Anybody who dips their toe into yoga is fine in whatever shape or form that you do it.

And we were discussing how yoga, the science of yoga, is a very ancient science. It is thousands of years old and it's really a holistic science. It has physical, mental, spiritual, and emotional aspects.

In fact, the physical practice is only two, if not three out of the 180 plus yoga sutras. And yet, as we see yoga practice today in studios, because of the space, because of what people are showing up for, or have historically shown up for, it's predominantly physical practice.

And what we are hungering so much in the world now, and we are struggling with, is this high degree of stress, anxiety, loneliness, lack of meaning, lack of hope, the world appearing darker. There is such a need and such a power in really bringing back those elements of the spiritual, emotional, beyond just physical well-being practices that we practice in studios.

And that's when we were like, wouldn't it be amazing? Because these nine practices, as I mentioned, show up in yoga all over the place. And so there's so many yoga teachers who would know them.

They might not know the science, the Western science and the logic behind them. But what if we upskilled them to know that and to really be able to serve their clients in such a bigger, holistic way. Meeting the needs and meeting them where they are right now, where they're showing up in the studio, but also being able to take it virtually.

Alicia Rae Parks:

Yeah, it's such a beautiful way to still be an influence as a teacher in your students' lives without needing to be in the studio or if you're teaching online in front of a screen with them in that moment, but to hear and feel your teachings echo into the rest of their day where they really need it.

The practice is not ending in Shavasana, it's actually beginning when we're rolling up our mats and going back into that world that we just left behind. That's the gap that we're often overlooking as yoga teachers: how can I still help elevate the lives of my students when they're not in my room or seeing me teach through a screen?

That's been very powerful for me as a teacher to be able to know that I can connect those dots for my students and give them more tools than just asana to experience the benefit of their yoga in so many other ways.

Ashish Kothari:

Yeah. You know, this notion of the yoga practice, if you practice daily, it's an hour out of your 16 awake hours, let's assume you sleep for eight hours. So this notion, it's not just even a gap, but it's actually what you do in the 16 hours when you're not on the mat. So you talk a lot about that, Alicia. So talk to me about what it means for you to live your yoga off the mat and why this is so important.

Alicia Rae Parks:

Well, I'm looking at my students as they're rolling up their mats and leaving the room and picking up their phones and already they're being pulled out of that state of being that they just cultivated and they're losing it in a matter of seconds because life is interrupting that blissful state, if you will.

And so for me, it's about how can you maintain that for longer periods of time? And also recognize that you don't have to spend an hour on your mat to feel the benefits of holistic wellbeing, that you can actually feel this when you're at home, washing the dishes, having a conversation with your children or your partner, spending some time breathing within yourself for a few moments and really being able to take that bliss of being in a flow state and feel that when you're driving home and somebody cuts you off.

And I always think when we get into the studio together and I look around at the room of like 40 students and I'm thinking, how were you all behaving before you got here? Do you think you were at your highest and best because when you made the choice to come to class, that's where your practice started. And then, why do we reserve our best selves for when we get to that moment? Why aren't we at our best selves at all times?

Ashish Kothari:

Exactly. So talk to us a little bit about, you know, so you and I sat down together and we designed this program. The classes, we of course have the videos and others that go with it. So tell us about how in your mind this rewired yoga program is really helping practitioners take their practice off the mat. We talked about the importance of why off the mat matters. It matters a lot. How does Rewire help them take this off the mat?

Alicia Rae Parks:

Well, I'm thinking about who's on my mat, who's in my studio, who's taking classes with me? These are all people who are professionals. They have careers, they have responsibilities, they're moms, dads, partners, children. We all have these roles that we play in these experiences that we're having. And sometimes we're just compartmentalizing. We're a yoga student only when we're on our mat. And so I want to be able to help people see that actually it's a universal experience and it's not necessarily about that time that you're spending on the mat.

So let's take, for example, right now, we're focusing on self-awareness and being able to have people understand that they are not their emotions. They are not that thought that they're experiencing in the moment, but they have the power to separate themselves and create space and create a gap to understand objectively and observe the experience they're having, but not become the experience.

I think that's really powerful for students to understand that that's what they're actually learning to do on the mat for their life off the mat, not just on the mat. It's not about being in chair pose and not getting frustrated that you're in chair pose. It's about, Oh, what did I learn in that moment in chair pose that I can now use in this moment as I'm feeling myself become angry and realizing, Oh, I feel angry. I'm not my anger.

Ashish Kothari:

Yeah. And this notion of what we've tried to do is really make things simple, make them integrated into what you do outside in your day-to-day life. And our hope is, dear friends, that as you practice over 12 weeks, every week, building one rung of the ladder with repetition, you build a set of habits. That you don't have to consciously go there.

So this notion of awareness and recognizing that there is a bigger space between my thought, my feeling and emotion, you become it. You live in that expansive space, at least a little bit more expansive than you were before.

The journey of expansion is a lifelong journey. Even the most dedicated people, like I was listening to this audiobook by Pema Chodron earlier today, and she says, I'm in my 80s and I still lose and get frustrated or I have this habit of worrying and I go, “Oh my God, Pema, you might not be alive next year. Don't you want to worry less?”

So there is always this journey of ever expansion, but I bet Pema now is more expansive, has bigger space to play than the Pema when she was 20 or 30. And that's the invitation, and that's what we hope that you all will experience, that every week, five minutes a day, one rung at a time, you end up building habits that truly allow you to not just experience that calm, that peace, that love, that openness, that kindness that we feel on the mat in that class, but you actually walk your life that way.

That's really what Alicia and I are excited about and we are really bringing two very different kinds of expertise and ways of being and energy into a program. It's an experiment, like all things, and so, we truly hope that all of you who are listening or watching this really get a chance to actually experience it, reach out to us, experience the program.

We really feel our yoga teachers and yoga students are much further on the journey and really in a place that can help join this revolution to help humanity rewire away from fear. Because friends, unless we, who are already on the path, don't take that next step and consciously work on mastering our inner worlds and through that starting to bring more people into the fold, we are never going to rise to the challenge of what the external world is calling us to do. We just won't be there.

So that's my call to action for everyone. But Alicia, as a yoga teacher, as somebody who has been a long-time member of the yoga community, has practiced yoga around the globe, what would be your invitation to yoga practitioners, students, teachers? What would be your invitation?

Alicia Rae Parks:

My invitation is for you to realize or understand that this program is a way for you to benefit twofold as a teacher, as a student. We teach to learn in so many areas of our life and experiences of what allows us to draw from that wisdom.

For teachers, it's often said that yoga teachers are of great service to the world. And if you really believe in that, like I do, this is a way to elevate your teaching in a lighter way and to extend your reach into your community and help give your students a more well-rounded practice or experience on and off the mat through this journey.

For students, this is an opportunity for your practice to finally start showing up for you. Let it do the heavy lifting for you. Really allow yourself to see that you have been building some habits. But where we get stuck is that we think it's just when we're in that yoga studio or on the mat and realize that you can open that door or that pathway to let your practice start doing that work for you in all areas of your life.

And really find that whole complete holistic well-being approach to all things within your life and your relationships. Furthermore, for students and teachers, take this as a gift for yourself, make it for you, fill up your cup and you'll see things open up. You have no way of knowing. You can't set expectations.

You have to come in with an open mind, of course, and trust your process, but go in with this idea that you're going to open your mind and your heart for yourself first, and then that's going to allow you to be more whole and centered in our ability to be of service to others.

Ashish Kothari:

Beautiful. So just some quick fire questions, Alicia, as we wrap up this podcast. Thank you for sharing your thoughts here with all of us. I'm really excited about where this whole thing goes. I think it's going to be a really important pillar and platform to helping a billion people live with more joy, health, love, and meaning, and really a call out to the beautiful yoga community to come join in, in whatever shape or form, with us, come be a teacher, get certified in this, or even just experience it for yourself. And by changing yourself, you already start to change those who interact with you. Or maybe just help us spread the word. If what we are talking about resonates with you and you might not have space in your life right now, we all have those moments and we completely get it. So some quick fire questions for you, Alicia. Number one, what's your favorite yoga pose and why?

Alicia Rae Parks:

Well, my all-time favorite is Dancer's Pose, Natarajasana. I love just that feeling of balancing and opening up and being playful. But what I love about it more than anything is what it symbolizes, which is the balance between two opposing forces and this idea of creation and destruction. Destruction often comes across as a negative word, but until things are destroyed, we cannot create. And so more recently, going through something that was very destructive in my life, I've seen so many good things be created from it. So I feel that more than ever now in my Dancer's Pose.

Ashish Kothari:

Oh my God. That's so beautiful. And such a wonderful reminder. There is nothing as good and bad. In fact, darkness and light. If there was no darkness, how would there be light? How would we know the difference without suffering? How would we know joy without pain? How would we know pleasure? So they're so united.

Next time you're over, you have to help me. Maybe I'm going to need three more people to help me hold me in a Dancer Pose. We gotcha. But I started, friends, I started, I have a, every day in my own way, try and practice yoga, 30 minutes a day. It's something new that I've started over the last two weeks. So maybe one of these days, Alicia has her, every Wednesday, Alicia, you do a live stream with your yoga practice, maybe in three or four months you get, I do a live stream for all those who feel I don't look perfect. You'll have somebody else to follow who is in his own imperfect way, trying to do the yoga poses.

Alicia Rae Parks:

Please, we need more of that energy.

Ashish Kothari:

My second question is what's your most challenging yoga pose right now? And why?

Alicia Rae Parks:

Well, any type of arm balance inversion is challenging for me. I love being upside down, but as soon as I am losing a limb or two, the one that's been most challenging for me for most of my practice is the forearm stand. It's such a symbol of immortality and love. It's a peacock pose. It's interesting how I can nail it and then the ego gets in the way and then I fall to pieces. But it is one that I teach often because I keep telling my students that if I just keep showing up and teaching this to you, one day I will learn how to do this pose too. So show up and face your fears. That's, you know, some people can bust a move and really get on their head and on their hands and that's lovely, but that's only just a small part of yoga. It's a journey in each pose.

Ashish Kothari:

Truly beautiful. What's your favorite book or show that you're watching or reading right now?

Alicia Rae Parks:

Well, I obviously love Hardwired for Happiness. I'm also rereading for the third time, BKSI Iyengar's Light on Yoga. It's more like a guidebook for yoga students and yoga teachers. But every time I pick it up, I always find something new that has always been there, but like it's brand new information. So I'm peeling back the layers on that one right now. And then my partner and I have been watching Indian Matchmaking on Netflix.

Ashish Kothari:

Oh my God. Something, huh?

Alicia Rae Parks:

It's so cute. It's so lovely. Just the idea of how people meet and fall in love or the struggles of people finding a partner in life. It's like a warm, fuzzy, lovely show.

Ashish Kothari:

Beautiful. I love that book, Light on Yoga. I have it. I've read it. I think I should read it again because you're right, every time you read it, there is something new, something new that you notice. And that's really magical. Last question, what's your favorite song that turns your frown?

Alicia Rae Parks:

I love this song called Float by Hip Abduction. It's got a surfy vibe. I was listening to a lot of Stick Figure and Hip Abduction and Bob Marley when I was living on Maui, a very island, beachy feel. But I literally, it was on my top list for Spotify for last year, but I don't think a day goes by that I don't listen to it intentionally. It just makes me feel like I'm floating. I'm happy. The sunrise, the sunset.

Ashish Kothari:

with you. I'm so grateful in:

Alicia Rae Parks:

Thank you so much. It's an honor.

Ashish Kothari:

Take care, guys. And really looking forward, please let us know how you like our video format and the questions you want us to cover more of as we go forward on this. I'll see you next week.

About the Podcast

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The Happiness Squad Podcast with Ashish Kothari
Unlock your full potential with the Happiness Squad podcast! Host Ashish Kothari, Founder & CEO, brings leading experts to help you live with more joy, health, love, and meaning. Discover the art and science of happiness to live and operate at your best.

About your host

Profile picture for Ashish Kothari

Ashish Kothari

Ashish Kothari is the Founder and CEO of Happiness Squad, a company focused on democratizing happiness and touching a billion+ lives over the next 20 years and helping them live with more joy, health, love, and meaning.

Prior to founding Happiness Squad and writing his best-selling book “Hardwired for happiness”, Ashish spent 25 years in consulting, including the last 17 at McKinsey and Co, a premier management consulting firm, helping thousands of clients and their organizations achieve breakthrough performance by building new mindsets and capabilities.

Ashish is a trained ontological coach and a lifelong student of human thriving.