by Lucinda Staniland
Meet Leslie Kaminoff, a Yoga educator with forty years experience in the study of Yoga and the breath. Leslie studied with T.K.V Desikachar, a teacher renowned for his emphasis on the therapeutic aspects of yoga, and he is the co-author of the bestselling book Yoga Anatomy.
In Leslie’s conversation with Kara-Leah Grant, I was struck by his particular brand of what I would call respectful realism.
This is a man with a deep belief in the power of the work that he does—leading students into a space of inquiry and exploration, and moving beyond abstract concepts of ‘perfect’ alignment—and yet, he’s too grounded in reality and straight-up common sense to ever become a purist or a pedant.
Leslie has certainly run into a few controversies during his time as a prominent figure in the yoga world—Matthew Remski called him out for his stance on the Jivamukti sexual harassment case, and Leslie braved criticism when he publicly mourned the way Desikachar’s dementia and death was handled by his family—but there’s a solidity and a deeply felt integrity to Leslie, that seems to carry him through the sometimes confusing and challenging negotiations of the modern yoga community.
Tune into the conversation to hear why asanas don’t exist, what it’s like to study with T.K.V Desikachar, how to work with the breath to release suppressed emotion, and all about Leslie’s upcoming 2018 workshop, Journey to the Center of the Breath, and Teacher Training:Anatomy of The Breath at OM Yoga Studio in Auckland, New Zealand.
EDITOR’S NOTE: From 16:24 to 18:24 the audio and visual quality of the video is a bit blurry but still audible. Don’t panic! After this 2 minute blip, it goes right back to normal.
Teaching the Breath: The 3-D Diaphragm
Friday 2nd March 2018 at OM Yoga Studio, Auckland, NZ.
This is a 6 hour teacher immersion designed especially for yoga educators, this session will clarify many misconceptions that surround the subject of healthy breathing. Participants can expect to come away with more accurate concepts and language pertaining to:
- Basic breath anatomy
- Diaphragmatic breathing
- Belly breathing
- Chest breathing
- Shallow breathing
- Basic breath physiology
- Breathing and the nervous system
Journey to the Center of the Breath: Asana, Vinyasa, Bandha, Pranayama, and Meditation
Saturday 3rd – Sunday 4th March 2018, OM Yoga Studio, Auckland, NZ.
This weekend workshop will delve into the core principles of yoga practice from the perspective of the body’s anatomy, physiology and neurology. Viewing the principles of yoga through the lenses of breath anatomy, spinal release/support, and bandha (both dynamic and static) in highly interactive sessions. Participants will be invited to bring their interests, questions and reactions into the practice and ensuing dialogue. Come prepared both to have some of your deepest insights anatomically validated and your assumptions challenged.
Leslie on the power of inquiry:
“What I’ve learned over the years… is that it’s far more powerful to engage a student in an inquiry than to simply give them an answer.”
“It’s taken a while to be comfortable with just sitting inside a question, and letting students sit inside a space of questioning and exploration… but what I found is that the answers people come up with in that situation are much more powerful; because it’s their answer, not anyone else’s.”
Leslie on the importance of the breath:
“On a purely structural level, the mechanics of breathing are fascinating because of their relationship to posture and support.”
“The process of breathing is intimately connected with how we define yoga, as a practice… When we’re wrestling with breathing exercises…we’re right up into the conversation of, “What’s the relationship between that which I can control and that which I must surrender to?”
Leslie on bandhas:
“My definition of bandha is so broad and so integral to how we function in this world that it includes a lot of the things that we’re already doing. I don’t see it as an advanced practice or a new practice that people need to be taught. It’s something that is built into the simple act of moving and breathing at the same time: when you can get that to happen smoothly and evenly it’s because you’ve discovered something like bandhas in your system.”
Leslie on why asanas don’t exist:
“Asanas don’t exist. What I mean is that there is no such thing as an asana. What exists is a person, who has a body that gets put in a shape and then you say, “Oh, that’s that asana.”… You can’t take the downward dog out of your body and look at it as if it’s an entity devoid of context.”
“Asanas don’t have alignment, people have alignment. Everyone’s body is a little bit different; everyone’s body is unique and what works for one person will create harm for somebody else. Engaging someone in an inquiry to discover their own uniqueness is one of the great benefits of an asana practice.”
Leslie on the challenge of teaching group classes safely:
“It doesn’t matter whether it’s a small or a large group because the intent is for each person in the group to connect with what’s going on for them, not to just follow the leader or do what the teacher is doing.”
Leslie on T.K.V Desikachar:
“This was a man who was, in my estimation, the keenest observer of human beings that I’d ever met. There was no way I could be in front of him and not feel absolutely completely naked.”