Telling the Truth, and Living It, Too: A Q&A with Lauren Handel Zander

Kripalu presenter Lauren Handel Zander is known for her no-holds-barred life-coaching style that challenges clients to dream, to tell the truth, and to embrace their deepest sense of self. Her method is taught at prestigious schools across the United States, including Stanford and NYU, and her clients include executives at Martha Stewart, Sony Music, the New York Times, and Vogue, as well as yoga teacher Elena Brower and award-winning actor Forest Whitaker. In this Q&A, Lauren discusses the elements of The Handel Method®, and how her approach to life coaching revolutionizes the field.

You are known for your irreverence and skillfulness in shining a light on the ways in which we often buy into untruths or deceive ourselves. Why do you think this is such a strong part of your approach?

If I were going to radically change the world, I’d eradicate lying.  

Everyone has a list of lies. Over 20 years and 22,000 clients later, I have seen your lists. We are constantly maintaining that list, doing damage control or preemptive strikes to protect it. The problem is that most of us aren’t even conscious of our lying or the negative impact is has on our self-esteem, confidence, health, career, and each and every one of our relationships.

Except, what if the very reason so many of us don’t sleep so soundly, grind our teeth, need that cookie, drink, or pill is from the anxiety that comes with managing everything we need to lie about and hide? I think telling the whole truth and nothing but your truth is the ultimate taking care of yourself, making the age-old saying—the truth shall set you free—age-old for good reason!

If someone is really struggling to articulate their dream or purpose, what are some ways we can get in touch with this deeper knowing?

Even if you have dabbled in dreaming before, I promise that many of us are still not really dreaming. In fact, most of us have a somewhat limited vision. In other words, we cowardly dream what we think we can accomplish.

You know why we’re not dreaming big, scary, world-impacting dreams? Because, if we admit to having a huge dream, we’d have to do something about it. If, for example, your dream was to write a novel, go to grad school, or run the New York marathon, then that big dream instantly obligates you. And, as you go “but, but, but” … just think about it. Most of these dreams, if not all of them, already have a pretty straightforward road map for how to get there. Right? Anywhere you had success in your life, whether you got that degree, lost that weight, beat cancer, I promise––you had a dream. You saw into the future, took the right actions, and made it happen. Whether you sat down, wrote it, and were clear about it or not.

So, if you’re struggling to articulate your dream, you’d have to first be willing to see that 1, you’ve made a dream (or several) happen in your life before and have a blueprint, and 2, admitting and attaching yourself to a dream obligates you to it. In other words, you’d have to see that your struggle with figuring out your purpose is sneakier than it is an articulation issue.

Because if you stay unsure of your dream, you don’t have to do anything about it. You don’t have to put the “cookie” down. Whatever your cookie may be.  

Your book Maybe It's You and its companion class encourage people to own self-perception and figure out how to love life. How do you teach people to learn how to honor themselves? How do you teach personal integrity?

Turns out, most people have been dying for someone to start fighting for their dreams, but they don’t even know where or how to begin. They have no idea how much their inner dialogue is limiting everything that’s possible in their lives. It’s my job as a life coach to fight for you––to help you break into your own life. To make uncommon knowledge common. To eradicate lying from your life, and teach you personal integrity, which means keeping a promise to yourself. When people follow The Handel Method—the step-by-step process I created—they not only see the change they desire, they are now accountable for making it happen.

The body plays such a significant role in how we feel on a daily basis. How do you factor body awareness into your approach?

Health—the state of your body during your time on the planet—is one of the first areas of life, of the 12 we deal with, that I tackle with a client.  

People walk around like they don't have power over their body. Granted, there are instances you don't—hereditary illnesses, accidents, circumstances (and in these cases it's crucial that you act in accordance with your needs!) but for the large part, when it comes to your personal health, there are instances you do have power: your food, your exercise, your sleep, your daily rituals. And maximizing those areas in your life will ignite other areas to follow suit.

We all know people who are walking success stories of a major health change. And although they’ll tell you it was the best decision they ever made for themselves, they’ll all agree that it was also the biggest challenge they faced. Why? There’s an inner brat running your diet. There’s a “weather reporter” telling you that “healthy” is too expensive and complicated. There’s an inner “chicken” who’s afraid to fail again, afraid to go to the gym, afraid to face the fact that you’re your life’s biggest obstacle and solution.

Breaking habits, especially ones as socially, emotionally, and physiologically ingrained in us as food and diet, often takes a fair amount kicking and screaming to get the point across. When I talk clients through this process, I swear they sound like a tantrumming kid. “I don’t wanna!” “It’s too hard!” “It sounds scary!” But I don’t give into that temper tantrum, and I don’t give up, so neither do they.

How do you use an individual's ancestry when you help clients dig into their inner voice/inner dialogue?

I draw from the science of epigenetics and lineage in my coaching. From my perspective, I see most of us as still having to work through the very same issues as our parents and our grandparents, but we don’t tend to realize our plight or understand how special and vital it is to intervene on its behalf, and our own behalf.

No matter how much we love our parents or even how far we’ve run from them, they provided our basic building blocks. And, though we all at some point in our lives giggle (or choke) at how we’re inevitably turning into or sounding like our parents, do we really understand the magnitude of it? Answer: way less than even the most self-aware of us are aware.

In some way, shape or form, who you are today, even if it’s the polar opposite of who your parents are or were, is still a reaction to them, not wholly and freely designed by you. The Handel Method helps you connect the dots and study your history, not just to avoid your family’s foreseen pitfalls, but so you can fully understand and honor your lineage by evolving it.

Truth can be scary for many of us. How do you help clients face the fear?

Learning to tell the truth is an art. If you can start to see and feel the difference between who you are being when you are honest and who you are being when you are not, you can bridge the gap. In order to have true love, intimacy, and real connections, we must not only lighten up about our dark side (our liar), but also have honest conversations about the hard stuff.

Transparency, what we all aim for, is sharing the real you. Unfiltered and unrehearsed. When you are being fully transparent, everyone in your life gets the real, unedited you. You feel totally alive, honest, current, and are dealing in your life fully.

Learn to dream big and tell the truth in the Design Your Life Workshop at Kripalu with Lauren Handel Zander and Laurie Gerber.

© Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health. All rights reserved. To request permission to reprint, please email