Leslie has been exploring movement her entire life. From ballet to boxing, her exploration brought her to yoga 20 years ago. Over that time, she has practiced many different yoga styles and has traveled to India to study with the masters of Ashtanga and Iyengar, Pattabi Jois and BKS Iyengar. She found the practice so transformative that she became a walking billboard for yoga, which inspired her to become a teacher. She did her first teacher training at YogaWorks in 2001 and continues to be a student as well as a teacher, living the questions that life asks. She has studied and practiced therapeutic yoga for years and has witnessed its healing transformation in her own body and life as well as in her students. Certified as a gait therapist by Sherry Brourman and a yoga therapist through Loyola Marymount University, Leslie understands the body's systems beyond structure, what occurs in dis-ease and how yoga can be used safely to effect a greater sense of ease and well being.
Leslie has had the honor of combining the healing art of yoga with the science of medical research, collaborating on the design and implementation of several NIH-funded yoga studies. She is a consultant for the UCLA Department of Geriatrics as well as the Biokinesiology Department of USC in a true East meets West partnership.
Leslie believes the practice of yoga starts with the breath. By connecting to the breath, you connect to your self. By expanding and freeing the breath, you expand movement and create freedom in the body, in your self and in your life. She infuses her teaching with her joy of life and irreverent sense of humor as she guides students along their personal journey, meeting them wherever they are.
If you want happy knees, it's essential to have strong and supple hips - among other things! This session spends a LOT of time standing on your knees. You may find that a blanket under the knees creates enough cushion for you. Or, you may have really tender knees and want to find a different class. (Stay tuned for more!) If you're still with me, you will be amazed by how much strength you build in hips/hamstrings by standing on your knees, and you may also be surprised to sense how much balance is required. The struggle is real! You'll have blocks handy to help you feel safe as you move in unfamiliar ways, and you'll get a nice hip-release series to finish for dessert!
Build yourself a new bridge for stronger hips and hamstrings. We start with a blanket under the hips to traction the low back. Add some leg extensions to open up the front body and prepare you for a bridge with your feet on a chair. This shift of ground will increase your awareness - as all new things do! - and builds more strength in hips and hamstrings than your boring old bridge. With practice, you will feel yourself rising higher and feeling stronger. This boost of strength will have you feeling more light and more stable in your basic bridge. And stronger hips and hamstrings will also translate into better balance and more fun in other poses!
If backbends are not your friend, give them another chance with more support! There is no reason for backbends to hurt when you get the right support and have a clear understanding of how to care for your low back. (read: core support!) We take it really slowly to open the front body and stabilize the core. Then we move into a sphinx pose that feels delightful, with the pelvis over a bolster and a blanket under the knees, creating a sense of lightness and freedom in the chest. This feels fun and free for students of any ability!
If morning stiffness makes getting out of bed a challenge, or if you are under the weather and you don't have energy for a lot of activity, give yourself this gentle, dynamic movement practice while you are still in bed. Give lots of attention to lengthening the breath and sensing the energizing effects of feeling your breath and your body moving into a place of expanded ease. Do what feels good and notice how simple movements can shift how you feel so that you are inspired to be gentle and keep moving throughout your day!
This first session keeps it really simple. You may be surprised by how much strength you can build sitting in a chair and how much that will improve your balance. You will start to feel the sensations of your breath and how linking breath to movement will create a sense of awareness and calmness that help you truly live in your body and help you feel where you are in space. Enjoy the simplicity of moving your spine and strengthening your hips and core. And practice getting in and out of a chair with grace and ease.
We take a big step with balance in this session. We begin in the chair and go to the wall for tree. Notice how much you use the wall and maybe challenge yourself by giving some space between you and the wall. Then we use the wall for a Warrior 2, stepping the feet wide apart to build strength in a wider range of motion. Be curious about using the chair for the warrior pose, especially when you feel ready to take a bigger/wider step. This builds strength, flexibility and best of all confidence!
We stay in the chair and add more challenging movements that will add more strength to your lower and upper body. And all of it will also strengthen your core! We play with moving mindfully and also holding steady to the center. This builds awareness that will help you balance better when we get up to stand. Notice that as movements become more familiar, linking breath and movement starts to feel easier. And how as you continue to practice, you will feel more fluid and graceful.
Let's get up and get our standing balance in gear! We will review some of the seated movements with extra attention to the feet as our base of support for better balance. Then we move to the wall to do some standing one-legged balance. It may look simple but it's definitely not easy! It's a good time to remember that it's a practice and that you will get stronger and more balanced with practice over time. Celebrate your success in sticking with your practice!
Are you ready to play? Let's shift into and out of the chair with some new standing balance poses at the wall. Using the wall to keep us steady and give us feedback, we will play with tree variations that explore shifting our balance side to side. This creates confidence that we can get a little off balance and catch ourselves with our strength, flexibility and awareness. We return to the chair and continue this play of the push and pull of finding balance points and returning to center. Be sure to notice that each pose and each day gives us new insights and opportunities to feel balance.
In this last session, we use the chair for support and strength in chair pose and warrior 1. Notice how squeezing into the chair with your hands connects you to your center and helps you stay steady. And how it builds more strength so that you get a sense of your whole body feeling stronger, steadier and more balanced. As you build confidence, consider stepping into and out of the warrior pose without using the chair. And you may feel ready to move on to the chair vinyasa course. It's a more challenging course with more sessions that use the chair for bigger movements and more variations. Celebrate yourself for taking time to create more balance in your body and more joy in your life!