Beliefnet
Christy Turlington Those on whom the hot klieg lights of celebrity fall longer than Warhol's 15 minutes often burn out in scandalous or embarrassing ways. Not so for 32-year-old Christy Turlington, whose transition from international supermodel--working and partying with the likes of Naomi Campbell, Elle McPherson, Linda Evangelista, and Claudia Schiffer--to businesswoman and anti-smoking advocate is earning high praise from the press. As "W" wrote, she has "put the fabulousness of modeling behind her with grace, power, and intelligence."

Turlington, who began her modeling career at 13 and gave up the catwalk 11 years later in 1994, credits much of her centeredness to her yoga practice. The ancient spiritual practice, she says, not only nourishes her personally but has also opened up business opportunities. In the past two years, she launched Sundari (which means "beautiful woman" in Hindi), a natural skin-care line based on Ayurvedic principles, and created, in partnership with Puma, a line of "contemplative sport/lifestyle wear." She is also currently writing a book on yoga as a lifestyle.

Turlington spoke with Beliefnet about growing up Catholic, taking up yoga, attending New York University at 29 to earn a BA in comparative religions and philosophy, and working to educate young men and women about the dangers of smoking.


Growing up Catholic Discovering Yoga Selling Ayurveda Battling Cigarette Addiction
Returning to religious roots
Growing Up Catholic

When did you first become interested in spiritual matters?
I think I've always been interested in spiritual things. As a child, the conversations that I liked to have with my friends--or with anyone, for that matter--were always about religion. Other people's interpretations of where they would go after they died, what their real values were, or what the principles they believed in were, always fascinated me--you know, the big questions.

Did you have a strong religious background or upbringing?
I grew up Catholic. My mother is from El Salvador, so my family on her side is Roman Catholic. My father is Protestant, and while he was spiritual, he wasn't much of a churchgoing person. I think it's fairly common for families to be brought up in the mother's religion. We were all--my sisters and I--baptized Catholic, went to catechism classes, received Communion, and went to church fairly regularly until we were 12-ish.

When I lived in Miami, a lot of my friends were either Jewish or Baptist. I would often accompany them to temple or to church. The more I saw, the more fascinated I became. I always looked to the common threads among belief systems rather than to the things that separated them.

Growing up Catholic Discovering Yoga Selling Ayurveda Battling Cigarette Addiction
Returning to religious roots
Discovering Yoga

You mentioned a personal yoga practice. When and how did you start?
I started practicing Yoga at about 18. I had a friend who was doing it and was incredibly disciplined and meditated all the time. I found it really intriguing. I think Yoga was the thing that attracted me to this friend in the first place. It was sort of like, wow, the discipline and the respect and the quietude.

That's what I wanted. I started to do Kundalini Yoga, which is not the Yoga I do now but it's a Yoga that I believe originated with the Sikhs, who combined Islamic and Hindu practices. It's based a little on meditation but there is a physical aspect to the practice, too.

I did it quite regularly. I had a daily meditation practice, and started to go to retreats from time to time. But at the time I was traveling and working a lot as a model. I used some of the tools that I learned through meditation and Yoga to keep me calm and sane through my career. I didn't always have an asana practice but I continued to use things such as meditation, mantra repetition, and breathing exercises to keep me balanced and centered.

Could you briefly describe the type of Yoga that you do?

The Yoga that I do now is Ashtanga Yoga. It means "Eight-Limbed Yoga." It's almost like meditation in motion in that you use Hatha Yoga postures done in a specific sequence. It's all very strategic in the way that it's been created and set up.

You really have to have a teacher, and you can't rush it at all. You have to get into the postures and be there as you are, as opposed to trying to reach some specific goal. It's very much a metaphor for living in that you have to give yourself a bit of a break. It forces you to be very much in the moment. It's always the same sequence, [and] you find that there is a tremendous amount of freedom through very strict routine.

Do you approach Yoga as a fitness regimen or a spiritual practice?
Yoga is a spiritual practice that has incredible physical benefits. I look at it as a lifestyle, a way of living that connects me to me. You know, the word "Yoga" means union. It's like everything in Yoga yokes or unites you to something higher, the highest part of yourself.

What I did for a living for so many years separated who I was from what I did, and Yoga has brought back all the parts of me. Yoga puts me in a place that is a little bit less about doing and more about being, which enables me, in fact, to do more.

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