Looking back over my life, I realize that I have been practicing yoga for a very long time, although I didn’t always know it. Years ago, when I was a competitive swimmer, there was tremendous attention paid to the breath – so I was practicing pranayama before I’d ever heard the word.
My introduction to asana practice occurred at a gym, during a time when I was busy lifting weights as hard and as fast as I could. I was working furiously to carve and chisel my body, in an attempt to convince myself that I felt as good on the inside as I looked on the outside. It never worked. Then one day I jumped into a yoga class – and yes, I approached my asana practice with the same vim, vigor and determination that I brought to lifting weights. I understood nothing, forced everything, and fidgeted everywhere.
Thank goodness my teacher that day helped me laugh at myself for putting so much effort into the simple task of backing off and letting go. By the end of class, when I collapsed into Savasana (corpse pose), I felt dead. I remember being a bit embarrassed, yet at the same time finding something quite soothing in the willingness to finally let go of everything, even for only a few moments. I was hooked. Sign me up for the year class pass.
I started practicing a couple of times a week, and then I found Michael Cooper’s class on Fridays at noon. My whole week revolved around that class. Every Friday, I left work early. Thankfully, my boss always worked from home on Fridays. Until, one Friday, he didn’t. He asked me where I was going and I decided to be honest. I let him know how important it was to me and what it was doing for me. Then I did a little headstand for him and he let me go.
Over the years, I have practiced with many, many amazing teachers. I find every teacher, which encompasses just about everyone I meet in life, to be amazing. Some of them guide me to continue studying the Eight Limbs of Yoga. Others inspire me to explore meditation and the Eightfold Path of Buddhism. Others remind me to be humble and grow in compassion for all beings. Still others remind me how I used to wander through this life in fear, and some days, still do. These teachers give me permission to embrace this life, which has been so freely given to me. Every step, and every breath I’ve ever taken, even when I’ve been unable to see the teachings due to my own blindness, has brought me to this moment. These are the things I most want to share with you.
Somewhere around 2003, I got a little pregnant. I began to experience a yearning within my soul and spirit for something deeply loving, something that allowed me to wake up, open up (even in times of fear) and offer everything up, without hesitation. That baby was born in April of 2005, when I left the corporate world. Without being completely certain whether I wanted to teach, I signed up for Ana Forrest’s teacher training with a ‘let’s check it out’ attitude. In a few simple words, Ana woke me up, opened me up, and offered me up. I started teaching immediately.
Since that first training, I have assisted Ana in subsequent teacher trainings and workshops, and – along the way – met Tias Little, who has been another amazing teacher for me. Tias re-introduced me to a gentler, more loving Les, and has provided me with an opportunity to combine the Eightfold Path with the Eight Limbs in a way that feels all-inclusive.
One of the things that is vitally important to me as I continue on this path towards my final Savasana is to remain always a student, and a student teacher, and a teacher. I came to teaching because I was such a passionate student, and I want always to retain that passion and to continue studying with amazing teachers and amazing people. Every single yoga class I’ve ever attended has brought me some new lesson and given me a chance to explore more intuitively how I hold my yoga both on and off the mat.
A final thought. I believe we’re meant to experience everything: joy and frustration, anger and love. I think that the opposites in this world are really the parallels that show us, in times of challenge, the level of appreciation we might cultivate during this incredibly short life. If you have kids, let them remind you how to live without filters and judgments. If you don’t have kids, get some cats and dogs or other pets. If that’s not an option, go get some ice-cream (single scoop – everything in moderation, even yoga).
I truly believe that, at some point, I will meet up with the divine, that I will get to ask many questions and receive true answers, and that I will be able to embrace ever-more-fully the person I am as I move through this life and this yoga. Today, asana is an important limb to me, so I focus a lot of attention there. I hope that, as my life changes and my perspectives shift, I’ll weave in the other limbs and teachings and that you will embrace them with me.
I thank you for your love and your trust and I look forward to a lifetime of learning with you. As a great man sings … stay human.
Les is one of San Francisco’s most beloved yoga teachers, leading workshops, trainings and retreats around the world. Currently living in Ubud, Bali, his vinyasa flow classes and workshops are filled with technique and alignment cues for all levels, including beginners. Variations and longer sequences also challenge and inspire seasoned practitioners. Having completed Ana Forrest's teacher training, then studying and assisting extensively with her, Les’ studies and ceremonies are steeped in the Forrest tradition. Les has also completed several trainings with Tias Little, who continues to deepen and strengthen his appreciation of alignment. In his classes, you will have the opportunity to heal your heart, laugh, cry, dance, sweat and just let go.