Being Fearless-ish: A Conversation with Jennifer Pastiloff

by Reyna Eisenstark

Those of us who practice yoga pretty much all have a story about how it changed our lives. Maybe it connected you to your body, or allowed you to express yourself in new ways, or calmed you down. Maybe it even led you down some unexpected paths. Over two years ago, I started doing yoga every single day, and I never stopped, not once. It is the one thing I can count on every single day, no matter where I am or what else is going on.

For many people, yoga can be a starting point. For Jennifer Pastiloff, it was definitely a way in.

When she first came to yoga, Jennifer was going through a serious depression. She was anorexic and exercising for hours every day. She felt totally lost. She started doing yoga to help with some injuries she had from abusing her body for years. Yoga led her to yoga teacher training, which led to her first yoga retreat. It was there, and in subsequent yoga workshops, that she started asking people, “What are you manifesting in your life?”

Jennifer is the founder of the popular blog The Manifest-Station, which initially featured her own writing and now includes essays from other writers. The site insists on “gut-wrenching, honest, and brave writing,” which is what Jennifer herself is known for. As her workshops grew more popular, Jennifer got braver, focusing less on the yoga and more on the sharing of stories: “I have taken my pain and grief and turned them into stories. And I ask people to share theirs. It’s an old tradition of storytelling. We’re telling stories and listening to each other.”

Jennifer’s favorite words are “It’s going to be okay,” and that is the place she always wants to come back to: “That’s my mission in life. That’s what I want to get people to feel.” Yoga gives her that feeling—when she practices, she’s able to get calm. Jennifer has tinnitus (a permanent ringing in the ears), but yoga actually quiets the noise in her head.  

Jennifer offers workshops internationally, and describes her offerings as hybrids of yoga, writing, sharing out loud, and the occasional dance party. “I’m really bad at almost everything. But I’m really good at what I do,” she says. “I’m really good at making people feel safe and seen and heard. I’m able to create a safe space, using empathy and humor.”

She also uses the body to get people to open up in her workshops: “We meditate first, then we move our bodies, then we write, then we move again. A lot of it is possible because of the softening that happens in the body.”

According to Jennifer, all you need to be in order to take one of her workshops is to “a human being”—not a writer or a yoga practitioner (though it’s fine if you are, of course). “You need to listen and tell the truth. That’s it.” She subtitles her workshop “On Being Human” because “it has become about the things that connect us, that make us feel like ‘me, too,’ that make us feel less alone.” Some people fear they will be judged when they share their stories, but instead they are embraced, she says. “It’s not about fixing. It’s just—I got you. The workshop is an experience of being gotten. It feels really good to do—to take off your armor and feel safe.” When you do, you become what she calls “fall-in-love-able”— the way you get when you’re really yourself.

It might sound paradoxical, but Jennifer, who has severe hearing loss, has made a career out of her listening skills. As she puts it, “Being deaf makes me hear better. I have to tune in to other things besides words. I read lips and I have to look at your face. I have to tune into body language and I work really hard to hear. I pay really close attention.” And that skill is desperately needed: despite how plugged in we all are, as a culture, we’re extremely disconnected, Jennifer points out; many people never feel as if they’re truly heard.

What does Jennifer want people to take away from her workshops? How to be a better listener (what she refers to as “fierce listening”) and to know that they matter, that they’re enough. “It’s okay to be human,” she says. “Being imperfect and messy is actually perfect. To be afraid and do it anyway. Being fearless-ish. You’re going to have fear, but buy it a cup of coffee and tell it what to do.”

Jennifer is currently working on a book, On Being Human, in which she’ll explain how she got to where she is by telling the truth, and by encouraging others to do the same. “Telling the truth about who you are is what makes you fall-in-lovable,” she says. “When I started telling the truth, people started coming to me in droves. What if we lived our lives from that place?”

Find out about upcoming programs with Jennifer Pastiloff at Kripalu.

Reyna Eisenstark is a freelance writer living in Chatham, New York. You can read her blog, inspired by stories from her life, at

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