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 have tender knees, the safest and simplest way to build strength is on your back. Then it's time to engage gravity from sitting and standing positions with neutral legs. I am sitting on 2 blocks to start this session, but you can sit in a chair instead and get the same benefits. We'll use the wall to shift weight out of the knees while finding the right amount of movement that builds strength without strain. Root down into your feet and rise up out of your seat to power up your legs. Feel yourself getting stronger, gaining more movement and fluidity as you stick to this practice. It's simple but not easy for any body, but your knees are worth it!
Releasing the hips can relieve low-back tension from extended sitting, tight hips from hiking/biking/running/living, or simply relax the mind/body by shifting the nervous system out of the stress response. This practice includes a lot of rocking movements that also quiet the nervous system, giving the body and mind just enough sensation and activity to focus on a gentle rhythm. Whether you have had a hectic day and need a relaxing practice or you have chronically tight hips that are a friend for life that you need to attend to... this session will leave you feeling relaxed, rested and spacious.
If you are a beginner or feel a little off balance, take your standing practice to the wall. It gives you extra feedback, courage and strength. The wall helps you feel your spinal alignment. Its support gives you the courage to be bold in your balance poses. Pressing into the wall creates a closed chain of leverage that helps build extra strength. It's also sweet for the finishing poses, using your feet on the wall to get just the right amount of release and relaxation after a simple, strong standing practice. Enjoy the balance of working hard and relaxing deeply in this session!
Not up for a standing practice and want to build strength? Bridge pose is a great way to build strength in the hips and entire back body while also creating mobility in the spine and chest. It's easy to control how much you move and that makes it safe for students who don't have a lot of strength or balance in standing poses. Rolling bridges get your abs in gear to control your descent and support your spine. There are lot of modifications for bridge. Note that these are "baby" or half bridges; whereas, in a full/high bridge, you wouldn't want to keep the blanket behind your head and might even want to put a blanket under the shoulders to protect the neck.
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!