Yogis Get Literary
(top) Regina Wei at Jingshan Park in Beijing, China, photographed by Christian Kober. (right) Cover of Courtney Seiberling's book, Yoga's Yamas and Niyamas: 10 Principles for Peace and Purpose
By Isabella W. & Gracie S.
November 1, 2018
At 3:10 p.m., students pour out of class, and many walk to soccer practice, theater rehearsal, or other extracurricular activities that occupy their post-school life. Meanwhile, teachers pack up their bags and send their last emails in preparation to head home and grade papers. However, two of our Westridge faculty members’ days don’t stop there: They go home ready to work on their novels.
Regina Wei and Courtney Seiberling have both found a way to incorporate their passion for healing into stories to share with communities on and off campus. With a shared enthusiasm for yoga, both teachers incorporate aspects of their life into books that educate and inspire.
Regina Wei has been a Mandarin teacher at Westridge for four years now, but in the early 2000’s, before Wei joined our community, she traveled to China. “I noticed while living in China that people are still recovering from the many tragic events that occurred since the Communist takeover in 1949. Millions of people lost their lives, and people are still living with the legacy of the loss.” Coming back from China, Wei asks the question, “How are people affected by this trauma, and how are they healing from it?”
This question planted the seed that sprouted the foundation for Ms. Wei’s novel. The novel follows two stories of different women. One woman is forced to kill a great Qigong master, a person who practices a form of martial art/healing system, to please the communist party. “The woman believes passionately in qigong as a healing modality but must prove her loyalty to the Communist party so must make a decision between her beliefs and her duty,” said Wei.
“The second character is a young American yoga teacher trying to navigate her new life in Beijing. The two stories are interwoven throughout the book. When the two characters meet, the older woman is able to help the younger woman because she has healed from her trauma,” said Wei.
Wei’s motivation wasn’t vanity or monetary reward. “I wrote my book because it was very cathartic,” said Wei. “Even while looking back and reading certain scenes, I will still cry because they’re very moving, and I hope other people will feel the same way.” In total, it has taken Wei nine years to write her novel. Her belief in the story sustained her motivation to write, and she used her novel not only for enjoyment but as a tool for healing. “I want readers to feel inspired. If they are hurting, or if they have experienced trauma, I hope that they realize that there may be a way out and that things do get better,” said Wei.
On the other side of campus, unbeknownst to Wei, Courtney Seiberling, Assistant Head of School, was also writing an instructional book inspired by yoga, specifically about the ten principles of yoga. “While I continued to find union with my mind and my body when practicing yoga, I started learning about the Yamas and Niyamas of yoga and felt that there was not enough information representing them. So, I wrote a book that would help other people, especially yoga instructors, understand and apply what I write about to their lives and to the lives of the people they teach. I hope that with the ten principles, someone’s life feels a little bit more meaningful and manageable,” said Seiberling.
By guiding others through her instructional novel, Seiberling said she has also learned discipline, which she considers the most important takeaway she’s gained from her novel-writing endeavor. “Spending a little time each day on the book really amounts to a lot of something at the end of the day; it doesn't just happen. You have to really keep committing to doing a little each day,” said Seiberling.
Similarly to Wei, Seiberling hopes her novel will inspire people to feel at peace with themselves and the world around them. “We’re all learning from each other and each other's experiences,” she said. Seiberling skillfully incorporates her own experiences throughout the book and hopes other people gain the knowledge she did from them.
Seiberling, a prolific writer who has published an essay, short stories and her novel, also created her own web series in which she digitally shares her yoga practices and visually explains the ten principles and moral codes of yoga. Wei’s novel has not yet been published. However, Seiberling, throughout her writing process and journey, has shared her published book with others and receives continual support from the Westridge community. “I have a job, and I’m good at my job, but as an assistant, I can still pursue other things, and Gary Baldwin’s always been incredibly supportive of that,” said Seiberling. She has received a lot of support from fellow staff members and the Westridge community throughout her writing process. “All the teachers have always been supportive. Westridge actually gave me my first yoga teaching job, so they took a chance on me, because I had done my training five or six years prior, and when an opportunity came available in the upper school to teach, they allowed me to.”