We're in awe of Tie Simpson—and not just because her yoga practice is particularly beautiful in its openness and grace. Tie is a force, cultivating the life she wants to lead and helping others do the same while building and empowering an incredible community of strong women. She cofounded Sisters of Yoga, a growing wellness collective that tackles the lack of representation, leads yoga retreats and workshops around the world, teaches her children how to live consciously by example and creates captivating, meaningful art, like this striking yoga photo series with her friend DJ Townsel. And yet, she still prioritizes her personal practice, even if it means stealing a few minutes in her car in the carpool line at school. We talked to her about what made her fall for yoga, how the practice helped her shift away from negative thinking and her sound advice to budding yogis.
How did you get into yoga?
Well, for a little while before I started practicing yoga, I began meditating. At the time I didn’t know that what I was doing was actually a form of yoga, Pranava yoga, where I would chant "aum” while focusing on my breathing and channeling my thoughts. I’d never encountered yoga until one day in June of 2013, when I stumbled upon some cool shapes on Instagram. It was an IG yoga challenge hosted by the yoga master Sri Dharma Mittra. I was immediately drawn to asana—it was 10 days into the 30-day challenge, but I insisted on still jumping in, and completing the first 10 days in one day. Talk about being in pain the next day from all that foreign movement! But I was so proud of myself, and after that challenge ended I was hooked.
I’d only done the challenge because it looked challenging and fun, but after it was done I remembered how alive, strong and grounded I felt; I wanted that feeling forever. At the time I was a stay-at-home mom with little to no resources, but I didn’t let that deter me. I studied at home for almost two years before I took my first studio class, so IG yoga challenges, Google, YouTube and my intuition became my best friends.
You co-founded the amazing collective Sisters of Yoga with your friend Phyllicia! What are some of the things you two are working on right now?
Yes! It’s been so beautiful to witness the community and impact being cultivated. Sisters of Yoga (SOY) is a global wellness collective that blossomed out of the necessity for representation. We wanted to create a safe space for women of color to explore self-discovery and healing and have a sisterhood to support them. With Sisters of Yoga growing exponentially in such a short time period, our current focus is creating a solid organizational foundation and team. We will continue to be an online resource for all things yoga and mindful wellness, but we’re also really excited to host more of our highly anticipated in-person social wellness events. As we expand we look forward to diving deeper into our communities and creating opportunities for healing and impact on a global level through events, programs, products and social campaigns.
Tell us about THIS incredible photo series you’re doing with DJ! We’re obsessed…
Thank you! Yes, we’re so grateful that this series has gotten such a beautiful response! DJ and I are very much so art lovers and creatives at heart, so when we were presented with the opportunity to collaborate with the very talented Brian Dwayne, we were ecstatic to combine the two things we love most: yoga and art. At the heart of each image was the desire to show harmony, balance and connection between a powerful man and woman. Not highlighting that they are equals, but instead the natural fact that they are two parts of a whole. There’s so much power in the femininity and masculinity working together, and we wanted to capture that essence through artistic yoga.
What has been the most challenging part of your yoga journey, and how did you overcome it?
There have been many challenges in my yoga journey, but I think the biggest one I’ve had to overcome was allowing my ego and negative mind to have so much power over my thoughts and energy. My ego would tell me, I need to master this pose now, I’m not practicing enough, so-and-so's practice is better than mine, I’m not doing real yoga because…, and so many other unkind things. I overcame it by learning that it was separate from me, and not of me. I learned to simply take notice of its presence in the moment and then choose what to do with it. It’s been extremely transformative in allowing me to take control of and shift my thoughts in order to reach higher levels of awareness, acceptance and overall happiness.
In what ways do you take the consciousness from the mat and apply it to your everyday life?
I’ve brought this consciousness into every aspect of my everyday life. I’m very mindful of the food my family eats, the products I use on my body and household, the energy in my home, the approach I take to parenting, how I communicate with my partners and family, my connection and responsibility to myself, my community, and the universe around me and so much more. Conscious living is definitely how I would describe my overall lifestyle.
What are you focusing on in your practice right now?
Trying to maintain a consistent everyday practice. It was much easier when I didn’t work and travel as much and my children weren’t so busy, but it’s much more difficult to fit it in now. I’ve been remedying that by practicing while cooking dinner, in the carpool line at the school, in the shower at night and pretty much whenever I can. A simple phrase for that would be finding balance, which I think we all struggle with in some form. Giving myself a nudge when I need it or showing myself grace—it’s all necessary in this journey.
What advice would you give to someone who’s just starting out in yoga?
I would share one of my favorite yoga quotes: “yoga is a journey of the self, through the self, to the self.” Which is a reminder that your practice is your practice, and not to compare it to anyone else’s. Challenge yourself, but always listen to your body—it will tell you when you’ve gone too far. Focus more on how your body feels rather than how it looks in a pose. Yoga is truly about connecting the lessons that you learn on the mat—patience, balance, peace, strength, connection, self-awareness—with how you navigate in your daily life. Eyes wide, heart and mind open, and try not to resist the flow of the shifts that will occur. Be like water—practice, and all is coming.