There’s so much in Lisa’s story for women of our generation to relate to. Growing up in the ’60s & ’70s, we were taught that we could ‘have it all’ and ‘do it all’ but real life is so different.
Problem is, unlearning all those messages and finding contentment in being is a hard road to walk. Luckily, we’ve got yoga to hold our hand.
Lisa’s an IYTA trained teacher now teaching at the Dunedin Yoga Studio, where she likes to make sure that her students know fitting yoga into daily life is possible.
1. What style of yoga do you practice and where do you teach?
I am currently teaching two classes on a Monday at The Yoga Studio in Dunedin.
My style is holistic in that I incorporate Patanjali’s 8-limbed system of yoga into my life and practice.
My practice is influenced by the strength, alignment and support of the Iyengar tradition, since that is the style I practiced for the first six years. I’ve had loads of other influences in the past three years however, so now my practice has softened considerably and has broadened to include much more playfulness through vinyasa flows, as well as pranayama and meditation, and at least one totally restorative practice per week.
I’ve recently discovered Ashtanga yoga and am really enjoying the dynamic and challenging physical practice that it offers. After three years of practices which explored a lot more of the inner disciplines, I’m relishing taking my physical practice up a few notches!
However, my practice always emanates from my heart space and is led by the breath.
2. How did you come to yoga?
I often say that I wish I’d found yoga in my teens or twenties, but I’m a big believer that things happen as they should… so, yoga found me 9 years ago when I was 30… I was in the middle of being ‘Superwoman’ like so many other women of my generation who were led to believe that we could and should ‘do it all’!
I was running the household almost single-handedly so my husband could devote most of his time to building his business, bringing up two preschoolers with very little family help, president of various volunteer organizations, teaching primary school part-time, and also keeping up an unrelenting daily fitness schedule: running, swimming or walking.
I was too skinny, often resentful, angry and sad; I was just so physically, emotionally and spiritually depleted.
On the surface I had it all: I looked physically good, we had money to burn, a beautiful home, overseas holidays, two gorgeous kids, and careers to boot. On the inside, I had built a wall around my heart to protect myself from really experiencing life (it’s no coincidence that I’ve always struggled with full back bending!)
I totally loved my kids and thought that the emptiness I felt with everything else in life was just me expecting far too much from life. I was on a path to self-destruction which stemmed back to childhood and all sorts of hurts like living with an alcoholic parent, having a working mother, being physically and mentally bullied by older siblings… the list goes on! But, I know my story is nothing out of the ordinary… just similar and different enough to the next! But, yoga really did come along into my life at just the right time.
My sister-in-law and I started going along to an Iyengar class (I bet you are unsurprised at my choice of yoga) once a week when our children were nicely tucked up in bed for the evening and I never looked back. The healing began…
3. When did the yoga bug really get you?
I was a total yoga junkie from day one! If I had have been single with no children, I’d have been at class every day. However, I managed to get by on 2-3 classes a week for the next few years and the sense of wholeness that I felt from connecting with myself and others in a yoga class, sustained me in many ways during some of the darkest and lowest times of my life.
When one of my favourite teachers suddenly announced she was leaving the country, I couldn’t quite believe my reaction. I was mortified! Who could possibly teach me in the way she did: with serenity, grace, skill and great care? Well, I smile now because I can look back and realize that I still had so much to learn… it took me another 18 months or so to realize that this yoga path I’d started on, needed some real commitment from myself… my home practice was non-existent, but I’d been doing lots of reading of yoga magazines and stories of how yoga had transformed people’s lives… and I realized that I was just like most of those people…
I signed up for the IYTA (Yoga Aotearoa Inc NZ) teacher training course and spent the next 18 months totally immersing myself in the world of yoga…
4. How has yoga transformed your life?
Yoga has totally transformed me. I’ve always been a seeker and a philosopher. Being brought up in a very mainstream middle class family and in small town NZ, I always felt torn between my creative ‘let loose’ side, and my analytical, sensible ‘do the right thing’ side.
The short version is that yoga has provided me with a framework for my spiritual, mental, social, emotional and physical being. I am more present, contented, accepting, playful, grounded, loving than I’ve ever felt before… life is ever-changing like the seasons and weather, and although I still feel stress and anger and hurt like before, I have the ‘tools’ to bring about inner-equanimity, and a knowledge of things far bigger than myself, to help me navigate my way through with a smile and a sigh.
The beautiful, loving, wonderful me that felt trapped inside for so long, has found her way out, and I’m loving it! It’s been a roller-coaster of a journey so far, and I expect that it always will be, but I’ve learned to open up to that ride, and enjoy the highs and cope better with the lows. I know I’m not alone and I am much less egocentric than I once was.
5. What is your home practice like?
For someone who is super-organised and planned in her life, developing and sustaining a home practice hasn’t been quite so forthcoming! It was really strong when I was training to be a teacher because it had to be! But, in all honesty, I still find it incredibly difficult to fit in a daily practice at home. Because I teach however, I am committed to a daily practice or I could never live with myself or face my students!
At the moment I go to an Ashtanga class once a week, a mysore class once a week, one other gentler yoga class once a week, two 5.30am practices from home, and 1-2 other practices usually squeezed into a Saturday afternoon and perhaps before tea one night. My yoga mat and props have been sitting smack bang in the middle of the lounge or my bedroom for the past 3 years and I’m afraid that is where they have to stay in order for me to commit!
I’m a lot more forgiving of myself these days however, so that if my practice only consists of vrksasana while I’m waiting for the jug to boil, or dharana while I’m brushing my teeth, or karma yoga in giving up a yoga practice to help out on my kids school trips, then so be it!
6. When people ask you, “What is Yoga?”, what do you say?
I usually tell them that it means different things to different people, but that one of the translations is ‘union’ …union of physical, emotional, mental, social and spiritual self.
I tell them that they will find in yoga what they need at the time, and that that may change from day to day, week to week, month to month and so on. I came to yoga thinking it may help develop more physical flexibility as I was already very fit and strong. But I got so much more and learned more about myself than I ever thought possible.
Yoga to me is about finding a balance between being and doing, movement and stillness, strength and fluidity, discipline and freedom. It is so much more than that of course… yoga has been the best ‘gift’ I’ve ever been blessed to receive.
7. What can people expect from one of your classes?
Quite frankly, at this stage, I feel that I hold the yoga flag for busy Mums with school age children… I am passionate about yoga and how it encompasses my whole being, but extremely realistic about what yoga is to most people… usually they want to come and be looked after for a change… to escape their busy lives, and to get a bit stronger and more flexible.
I am a natural born learner and teacher… and so I try to teach more than just asana, pranayama and meditation… I want students to take a little piece of their yoga back out into their day, even if in just some small way.
I know how most of us have great intentions of taking that wonderful blissful ‘yoga high’ back to work or home to our kids and families… but probably don’t often succeed. Without making it all about me, I try to show the students how yoga fits into my everyday and very ordinary life (because I know how students can see their teachers as extraordinary beings!)… I hope that I can motivate and facilitate growth in their yoga and also at the end of the day, to smile and have a laugh at life
8. What do you love most about teaching yoga?
To be honest, I’m still so amazed that I became a yoga teacher… something I said I’d never do!! But, it seems to me to be a natural transition for many of us who become passionate and devoted yogis. How could I not pass on this wonderful gift? How could I possibly keep it all for myself?
The best thing for me hands down, is that I learn so much about yoga and life through teaching others… the more I learn, the more I know I have to learn… I love being there when students have an ‘aha’ moment and I have met so many wonderful people through yoga. I am so lucky to be a part of a beautiful yoga community.
9. What do you wish everybody knew about yoga?
That you don’t have to be physically flexible to do yoga! If you have a body, then you can do yoga. That there are so many different styles and teachers of yoga… keep trying until you find one or two or three that you connect with!
10. What role do you see yoga playing in our world?
Well, in Dunedin, yoga seems to be going from strength to strength. The sense of community is growing among yoga circles and within the city and surrounds. I am heartened by this and hopeful that it will keep growing. The World Wide Web has opened things up so that we are now much more of a global community of yogis.
I truly believe that with more people exposed to yoga, the potential for world peace could actually be realized.
11. Anything else you’d like to say?
Namaste…the divine in me recognizes/salutes the divine in you
12. And finally, how do people find you?
You can contact me through the Dunedin Yoga Studio.