Sari Shillingford: Kundalini Yoga Teacher, Founder of Stay & Play

Sari Shillingford grew up on farmland in NSW and each morning before school she would gallop horses on Seven Mile Beach. Her mother is one of Bali’s most eminent spiritual teachers, so it’s little surprise Sari’s childhood was spent connected to nature.

From a young age, she travelled the world and lived in many countries, but this model-turned-Kundalini yoga teacher is now based in LA.

Sari has long been inspired by sustainable fashion and in 2014 she launched mindful lifestyle label Stay and Play. The casual-luxe brand is all about integrity, fusing high-quality fabric with sustainability and philanthropy.

Here, the inspiring modern yogi shares her approach to a fashionable, mindful life.

The Inspiration Behind Stay and Play

Stay and Play came about because I wanted to create a quality lifestyle line for women who meditate, practice yoga and live a joy-filled, conscious life. Having run a clothing label before I knew how un-resourceful the clothing industry can be; I wanted Stay and Play to help, not hinder the world, so all of our fabrics are sustainably sourced and our garments are manufactured in Sydney by an incredible team who really love what they do, which shows through in the quality of their work.

Our brand name was inspired by the body’s natural ‘stay and play’ response, which is the opposite of our stress response mode ‘fight or flight’ that comes about when we are fearful or out of sync with nature. Meditation, yoga and other mindfulness-based practices are tools that help us dive into the ‘stay and play’ and restore balance.

With every item of clothing sold, we teach a child to meditate. We named this project, SEED. It’s such a beautiful feeling to give our young companions the gift of inner-peace by teaching them this beautiful and timeless practice.

The Holistic Path

My mum is a huge influence on me, and the holistic approach to life was ever-present in my childhood and I beleive this steered me to the path of yoga in later life. During my travels I’ve found meditation and yoga to be a fantastic pillar – they keep my mind clear, my heart open, and get my creative juices flowing more than anything else

How to Get the Most From Being on the Mat

Firstly I would say, let your inner child come out to play – don’t take your yoga practice or your life, for that matter, too seriously. Secondly, make friends with your body – empowering yourself with positive self talk – what you think you become. And finally, the practice grows with you – take your time, explore all types of yoga and see what fits.

Yoga is different every time you practice, some days the easiest poses are the most difficult. My intention is to do my best with every practice, so that I never stop learning. I do love getting upside down – an inversion has so many benefits on the body but the most importantly it’s just so much fun. I am currently loving my daily headstands, some days are little wobbly though!

“Let your inner child come out to play – don’t take your yoga practice or life too seriously.”

Living in LA

Compared to many other cities I’ve lived in, LA and Sydney share many of the same characteristics: beautiful beaches, gorgeous places to walk my fur baby, wonderful people and plenty of fantastic yoga studios! Many Californians are also tapped into the holistic lifestyle, so it makes meeting people on the same journey as me really easy.

I am now learning to become a Kundalini yoga instructor here in LA as well as continuing to teach private Pilates sessions as it allows me to be hands on with others, helping them to achieve their mind body connection.

Returning to Source

Life is tough! We have so many increasing demands trying to win our attention, taking the time to turn everything off is vitally important – disconnecting the phone as well as the mind to return to source is nourishing.

Over time when meditation and yoga are practiced regularly there’s an abundance of energy and creativity, allowing you to handle the demands of the modern day life with grace.

Asana is only one tiny fraction of the practice, there are so many other facets to explore and incorporate in life. Personally, I have found that journalling has really helped to solidify the lessons I continue to learn on my mat practice. Gratitude is a big one, I’m always grateful to be healthy and able to have the physical – asana – yoga practice.