One dictionary meaning of yoga is:
a school of Hindu philosophy advocating and prescribing a course of physical and mental disciplines for attaining liberation from the material world and union of the self with the Supreme Being or ultimate principle.
What does yoga mean to you?
In Sanskrit, yoga means the union of spirit, mind, body, and breath. This union occurs when you open your heart and surrender to the present moment. Yoga also means
Your Opportunity to Graciously Accept yourself and life.™
1. How long have you been practicing yoga? What styles of yoga have you practiced?
I have been practicing Hatha yoga since 1995. I received my yoga teacher training certification from Flow Yoga Center (www.flowyogacenter.com) in 2006. I teach kind and gentle yoga.
2. Share with us what you feel are some of the benefits of yoga.
The benefits of yoga include:
· Awareness of your concentration, effort, and mindfulness;
· Articulation of truth in your intention and understanding;
· Authenticity in your speech, actions, and livelihood;
· Increased flexibility and toning of your body's muscles;
· Increased lubrication of your joints, ligaments, and tendons;
· Total massage of your body organs; and
· Complete detoxification of your body through the stretching of muscles and joints as well as the massaging of organs which ensures the optimum blood supply in your body.
3. Please share with us a defining moment for you in your yoga practice?
I knew yoga was one of the best spiritual, emotional, and physical practices I should use to navigate daily life when I was able to manage and reduce panic attacks and stress from unemployment in 1998 with yoga breathing exercises, mantra chanting, and poses.
And when you knew you wanted to teach yoga?
While I was training for the Marine Corps Marathon in 2004, I realized how vital yoga was to my life and running. I also witnessed how I relied on my yoga breathing and mantra chanting to get me through rough patches in my training. On the day of the Marathon, I hit a brick wall several times. My yoga breathing and mantra chanting helped restore my balance. That's when I realized I wanted to share the power of yoga with others.
4. Explain your philosophy of yoga and teaching style?
My yoga philosophy is based on three yogic principles: Iswara Pranidhana (surrender), Sankalpa (intention), and Abyhasa (devoted practice). When you surrender your ego, your heart opens and allows you to live in the present. Living in the present helps you create space in your spirit, mind, and body to set an intention for a devoted practice of self-care. A devoted practice begins with yoga and incorporates self-care tools that address your individual needs.
My yoga instruction is based on Hatha yoga principles that concentrate on the practice of postures and breath control. Hatha is a Sanskrit word that is derived from two roots: 1) ha is the sun which represents action and 2) tha is the moon which represents reflection. Together, they create a union between the ability to act and reflect. In my yoga classes, I offer students an opportunity to experience intention setting, breathing exercises, meditation, mantra chanting with mala beads, chakra tuning, reiki healing touch, aromatherapy, and kind and gentle yoga postures (aspects of eye, laughter, office, and yin yoga are included) that address their individual bodies and health concerns. Students also learn about the Yoga Sutras including the yamas and niyamas as guidelines for conscious living. Wisdom teachings from world religions, sacred traditions, healers, artists, poets, leaders, and philosophers are also included.
5. How do you help students stay interested and motivated in their yoga practice?
I remind students that yoga begins with the breath. So when they are breathing mindfully and deeply, they are practicing yoga. I also suggest students use mantra chanting and mudras in their daily practice. One of my favorite suggestions is to practice one to five poses that can be done in bed or office. Additionally, I share yoga articles, magazines, blogs, online videos, podcasts, DVDs, books, and event notices with students. I also encourage students to practice at local studios and visit yoga studios in cities they travel to.
6. Who inspires you in your craft?
I am inspired by my yoga teachers:
· Gloria (made her transition in the 90s),
· Faith Hunter of Faith Hunter Yoga and co-owner of Shakti Mind Body Studio (appears on the May cover of Yoga Journal),
· Debra Mishalove of Flow Yoga Center,
· Mari Alonso,
· Yael Flusberg of Yelements, and
· Tazima Davis of Compassionate Renegade.
I am also inspired by Caroline Arewa Shola, Jana Long of Power One Yoga, Maya Breuer of Santosha School of Yoga, and Krishna Kaur, the founder of the International Association of Black Yoga Teachers.
Yin yoga teachers Paul Grilley and Sarah Powers, Kemetian yoga teacher Yrser Ra Hotep of Yoga Skills, laughter yoga founder Dr. Madan Kataria, Cyndi Lee of OM Yoga, and Kimberly Wilson of Tranquil Space also inspire me.
7. How do you recommend someone get started with yoga? What style would you suggest for a beginner?
My recommendations begin with writing down the reasons you are interested in yoga. These reasons may shed light on the type of yoga you want to practice. The next step I recommend is to use the Internet to learn more about yoga and the various types. About.com offers information: ttp://yoga.about.com/od/beginningyoga/a/whatisyoga.htm.
The Yoga Journal web site is another resource: www.yogajournal.com. My next recommendation is visit yoga classes at the local YMCA, YWCA, gym, and yoga studios. Check out the beginner classes. If the classes are too big, consider hiring a yoga teacher to help you learn one-on-one (that's how I learned and prefer to teach!). Beginning yoga DVDs, online videos, and books are also resources.
8. What advice would you give to someone aspiring to be a yoga teacher?
Treat yoga as a gift. Keep a beginner's mind in your home practice and teaching. Identify a yoga mentor(s). Teach from your heart. Be yourself. Listen to your students. Dress appropriately. Take good care of your feet and personal hygiene. Communicate in basic terms. Take yoga classes and workshops. Stay in student mode when it comes to learning about yoga. If you earn money from yoga teaching, treat your services like a business. Have fun with yoga!
9. What characteristics do you feel are most important for a yoga teacher to develop?
· Open heart
· Willingness to keep learning
· Commitment to service
· Direct and intentional communication
· Knowledge of yoga through study and practice
10. What do you find most rewarding about being a yoga instructor?
Helping people get in touch with their body, mind, spirit, heart, and breath. Watching people discover how yoga helps them release stress and strengthen their bodies.
As a woman of many interest….
11. How do you feel yoga motivates you in your other areas of interest in life?
Yoga is a soul necessity. I start and end my day with yoga, meditation, and Reiki. It opens my heart, grounds my spirit, and prepares my mind and body for whatever happens in life. It gives me space in my spirit and heart for self-love. It also affirms my self-care commitment. When I get off-balanced emotionally, yoga brings me back to my center of calm. It also makes me more aware of my thoughts and actions. That awareness helps me make better choices, forgive myself and others, and release negative energy and situations.
12. One of your other interest is Reiki…tell us what lead you to this practice?
Reiki (pronounced ray-key) is a Japanese word that means universal life energy in the human body. It is a form of healing touch that involves the transfer of energy from practitioner to client to enhance the body's natural ability to heal itself through the balancing of energy.
During the 90s, I explored alternative therapies and learned about Reiki and yoga. My yoga teacher training convinced me that Reiki would compliment my personal yoga practice and business.
13. Why would you suggest someone learn the methods of Reiki?
Reiki can help people relax, become centered, relieve themselves of stress, and manage pain.
14. How would you suggest someone get started with Reiki?
My first suggestion is to do research online and/or visit a local library or bookstore to read about Reiki. The International Center for Reiki Training is a great resource: http://www.reiki.org/faq/WhatIsReiki.html. My favorite Reiki book is Essential Reiki by Diane Stein. I would also recommend contacting natural healing centers, yoga studios, acupuncturists, massage schools, and/or health food stores in your local community to obtain Reiki practitioner recommendations. You can also use the Internet to identify Reiki practitioners in your local community (use google). Here is a great checklist on what to look for in a Reiki practitioner: http://reiki.7gen.com/choices.htm.
Interesting tidbits about Ananda….
15. What is normal day like for you?
I start my day with yoga, Reiki, and meditation. I usually eat oatmeal or granola for breakfast with tea. Monday through Friday involves working nine to five. I also do work for my business and research for my book projects during the week and on weekends. Hanging out with friends and families is also included. Reading books, listening to music, and walking are also included most days. I attend church on Sundays at All Souls Unitarian Church (most weeks). I also participate in a monthly meditation sangha (community) for people of color (most months). Visits to museums, art galleries, and movie theaters are also incorporated from time to time.
16. If you had to suggest one book that you have read in your life that was a vital tool, what would it be?
I love books. So your question is hard for me. I have several books that have been vital tools in my life.
They are Opening to Spirit by Caroline Arewa Shola, You Can Heal Your Life by Louise L. Hay, remembered rapture: the writer at work by Bell Hooks, Belonging: A Culture of Place by Bell Hooks, Communion: The Female Search for Love by Bell Hooks, The Art of Power by Thich Nhat and Hanh, and The Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell.
17. What is currently heavy in rotation in your ipod/mp3 player/cd player?
Alice Coltrane, John Coltrane, Deva Premal, Eric Roberson, Susana Baca, Omar Sosa, Erykah Badu, Jill Scott, Meshell Ndegeocello, India.Arie. Fertile Ground, Amel Larrieux, Sista Shree, Krishna Das, and Nina Simone
18. If your life had a theme song what would it be?
"Strength, Courage, and Wisdom" by India.Arie
19. What story would you like your body to tell to others through your movement?
Be kind and gentle with your body and self. It will allow you to take care of yourself with compassion and acceptance.
20. Are there any encouraging words of wisdom you would like to leave with our readers?
Be love, love light, and live as the spirit of life! Namaste (the light in me salutes the light in you.)
Special Note: Members of the Pearls book club will receive a 10% discount on Ananda's Yoga and Reiki services.
To learn more about Ananda Leeke, visit our website...The Pearls Book Club