Leslie Burger Yoga

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Control Freak

This year has been a particularly turbulent year for me. A friend of mine who specializes in Chinese Medicine says that 2016 is the year of the Fire Monkey, which seems so spot-on for what’s been going on for me personally. The new year brought about moving to a new apartment with a new (super awesome) roommate, my boyfriend leaving San Diego to move back to Northern California as he prepares for an exciting journey driving from London to Mongolia while raising money for a charity this summer (People with Penelope), and tackling one of the most challenging nursing prerequisites I’ve taken to date (microbiology, you beast). Feeling spread thin between my job working in a health clinic, teaching yoga, and performing well in my last round of nursing prerequisites, all while trying to squeeze in time to take care of myself.

An incredible amount of changes, worries, uprooting. As a full-blown control freak, these changes have been pretty darn difficult for me to deal with, as most of these situations are completely out of my control.

What I’ve found is when I put myself last after all of my to-do lists, my priorities, my jobs, my relationships, is I have nothing left and I will simply implode.

Keep pushing, don’t slow down, you have to keep going.

About a month ago, I experienced my first panic attack.  To me, this experience was the ultimate loss of control, which terrified me. It started with benign stressors throughout the day that built up and that I gave into; these benign stressors then warped and transformed into stories I was telling myself. This was all exacerbated by the fact that I had not been taking care of myself, and suppressed feelings that had been slowly creeping up—that I perceived I had no control in my life, I was not putting myself first, and things in my life were starting to unravel and spin out of control.

It all started one morning, when a particularly difficult microbiology lecture and lab left me feeling lost, overwhelmed, and hopeless.

Twisted thinking voice: I’m not going to pass this class. I won’t get into a good nursing program now. What will happen if I don’t get into a good nursing program?

My lab partner having to skip our study session

Twisted thinking voice: Oh no! Studying with someone is the most effective way I study. Now I’m really going to do poorly on the next exam

Mixing up the times of my doctor’s appointment, showing up an hour early. Okay, no big deal, I’ll just go home and come back in an hour.

I get in my car and burst into tears. I wasn’t even sure why. As I’m driving home, feelings of inadequacy, shame, and fear started to bubble up to the surface. My crying didn’t cease, and I started hyperventilating, which then turned into a panic attack. Since I had never had one before, I didn’t really know what was happening, but I knew it wasn’t good. It felt like I was going to have a heart attack. I couldn’t control my breathing, my limbs started to get numb; all of which terrified me, so I kept driving so I could get home (if this ever happens to you, don’t do what I did and just pull over until you can breathe normally again).

My first panic attack served as a wakeup call. It was my body’s way of telling me: I’ve had enough of this. I’m at my maximum capacity, and it’s time to slow down and take care of you. SOMETHING has to change because this is not sustainable.  

Something that has made me feel kind of shameful is how challenging it has been for me teaching yoga going through all of this. Some days are a piece of cake and absolutely wonderful, while other days I can feel some resistance, and it’s much more effortful to teach. You would think that because teaching is what brings me the most joy, and yoga is my biggest passion, that would help to reduce my anxiety and stress, right? Teaching yoga, as richly rewarding as it is, can be energetically draining. It takes time, energy, thought, and inspiration into planning classes, and mega presence teaching classes. Yoga teachers are expected to be fully “on” – present, available, and happy. If I haven’t been taking care of myself by replenishing with love, energy, rest, and inspiration, then how can I give?

While I write this sitting in bed, recovering from a gnarly virus that knocked me on my ass, it’s given me an opportunity to 1) rest which I haven’t allowed myself to do very much of and 2) reflect on the amount of stress and anxiety that has been building and building, almost paralyzing me.

Having the opportunity to be on the other side has opened up and provided some clarity. I’ve come to some realizations.

I’ve decided to give myself some advice and gentle reminders that might be helpful and applicable to you if you have any control-freaky, anxious, or other neurotic tendencies. 🙂

  1. I do in fact have control. I can control how I react to situations, to stress. I don’t have to let situations and stress dictate how I feel.


  1. You are not a victim. Things to do not happen to you, they just happen. The choice is always yours how you react to your situations.


  1. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Most of the stuff is small stuff.


  1. Switch perspective and try an attitude of gratitude. Look at all that you have to be grateful for and focus on the positive, not the negative.


  1. Journal and meditate daily. These have helped me to become aware of twisted, negative thought patterns that occupy so much space. Awareness is the first big step. Being able to observe and not attach to those twisted thought patterns is the next (big!) step.


  1. Do things for yourself. Even if you feel like you have ZERO free time, go take a short walk, treat yourself to some restorative yoga, or get a massage (or better yet, do all of the above!). #Treatyoself


  1. Put yourself first. In our society, we’re taught that putting ourselves first is selfish, especially as women. It’s not. It’s absolutely vital, especially if you’re in a position where you are responsible for taking care of others, too.


  1. You have the right to say no. Establish boundaries for yourself and your relationships, whether they be personal or professional.


Lots of love,


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Teacher of the Month – Buddhi Yoga, La Jolla

DSC00242Buddhi Yoga Logo

In March, I had the honor of being chosen as teacher of the month at Buddhi Yoga in La Jolla! The lovely Amanda McCarroll, co-owner of Buddhi Yoga interviewed me, and I got to share some deets about my Happy Back training, how I try to stay mostly grounded with a busy schedule, and more. You can find the direct link to the interview here


March Yoga Teacher Highlight – Buddhi Yoga

When Buddhi yoga teacher Leslie walks in the door she is always wearing an ear-to-ear smile and exudes positivity. We have watched her blossom into an amazing yoga teacher and we feel lucky to have her as a part of our Buddhi family. Recently she began teaching Happy Back classes after studying Iyengar Yoga in addition to a few other healing modalities that makes her teaching style unique and beyond compare. We got together with Leslie to find out more about her studies and how she brings such a healing presence to her classes.


A: You’re a very busy woman. Tell us about some of your training and other things you are studying and how it has made you such a unique yoga teacher.

L: I’ve done a Healing Touch certification, mindfulness self-compassion training, Yoga for a Happy Back 100 hour training, and a holistic nursing certification program. My nursing prerequisite courses (e.g. physiology and anatomy) are super relevant, too. It’s really helpful to have a detailed understanding of the human body and how it works. The trainings I’ve done have all built on each other, they’re all so connected! Healing touch is energy healing; it’s very similar to reiki, but it’s taught from a medical standpoint with very specific guidelines. Because of the specificity of the training it’s acceptable and welcome in hospitals and other clinical settings (but I totally use it in my yoga classes!). The mindfulness self-compassion training was a deeply profound personal experience for me. The tools I learned from that training have been really wonderful and I love sharing them with students. I take continuing education classes for nurses at UCSD—they have a holistic nursing certification program that I’m going through right now. It doesn’t count for anything because I’m not even a nurse yet, but I love to learn and I think it’s so important to have a holistic and integrative background if you’re going into the medical field.

A: You’ve studied with one of my favorite Iyengar yoga teachers Rachel Krentzman. Explain one of the most important things you have learned from her from a therapeutic perspective.

L: I learned SO many important things from Rachel, it’s hard to choose just one! I think something that really hit home for me was truly evaluating the intention of yoga. Being able to take a step back from yourself or your students and ask: What is the intention behind this? What am I trying to accomplish here? Is this really benefiting my students?

Seeing each person (or yourself) as they are, and trying your best to offer them what you think might benefit them. For example, someone who is hypermobile would certainly benefit from focusing more on stabilizing their muscles and joints—they already have mobility, so they don’t need to emphasize it more. We would want to create as much balance as possible, physically, psychologically, and energetically.

Everything is so connected and we embody everything we go through. Through yoga therapy, we can start to peel away physical and psychological layers to get to the root of suffering and begin to heal. Sorry, that was more than one thing—I could go on forever!

A: What made you want to start teaching happy back classes and how are they different from your other classes?

L: I’m currently going back to school to become a nurse! I believe that yoga and medicine complement each other so well, and I hope to incorporate yoga therapy into my nursing practice. I wanted to start teaching happy back classes because so many people experience chronic back pain; I wanted to learn how to empower and educate my students to heal themselves.

Each pose in the happy back classes has a purpose, which makes the whole class very intentional (I now make sure that this is reflected in my Vinyasa classes, too!). It’s not a flowy, super creative style of yoga, but I love it because it gives you an opportunity to fully experience the postures in the best way possible. Poses are held for longer periods of time with very fine-tuned alignment so we can experience the full benefits of the postures.The poses build strength, stability, mobility, and length in the spine. It’s potent, and it works!

A: If you could go study with any yoga teacher in the world for an advanced training who would it be?

L: Annie Carpenter. She totally blows me away with her knowledge of body mechanics; she has the ability to see such subtleties in each person’s body. It wasn’t until I took a workshop with her that I finally learned how to not hyperextend my knees while engaging my quadriceps in yoga. I think each time I have the privilege of taking a class or workshop with her, I have a major “a-ha!” moment. I love the details and fine-tuned alignment that she teaches so well (and she makes you WORK!).

A: Besides yoga, do you have any practices that you do consistently to keep you grounded and sane?

L: A consistent meditation practice is a must for me! I wake up early in the mornings so I can have some time to sit and check in before I go dashing off into my day. My meditation practice doesn’t always look the same—sometimes I listen to guided meditations (Tara Brach’s free meditations on her website are phenomenal), sit in silence focusing on a mantra, or use creative visualization. If I didn’t meditate every day I would probably explode. Another thing that keeps me sane and happy is nourishing my social relationships, whether that means grabbing a coffee with a friend, talking to my sister on the phone, anything to stay connected. For me, it’s really easy to become isolated because I’m so busy running from place to place, but carving out those little chunks of time for social connection makes a huge difference.


Join me for my Happy Back Yoga classes at Buddhi Yoga in La Jolla!

Mondays 9:30-10:45 am

Wednesdays 6:00-7:00 pm

Buddhi Yoga La Jolla

7843 Girard Ave, La Jolla, CA 92037

Ph: 858-886-7580

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Meditation for Beginners (or for those who avoid it like the Plague!)

One of my goals for the new year is to create a consistent meditation practice.

For me, meditation has been one of the most challenging practices; doing “nothing” can be really difficult!
Mornings are the best time for me to meditate because it’s a quiet time of day and my head hasn’t filled up with thoughts, to-do lists, or other junk.

When I wake up in the mornings, I dive straight into my day, usually with a pretty sweaty workout (and spend a couple of minutes mindlessly perusing social media platforms…a habit I am determined to nix!). In the past, I have rationalized that I don’t have enough time in the mornings to meditate (you’ve heard that excuse before, right?).Well, to counter my excuse I will set my alarm 20 minutes earlier than I normally need to so I can carve out some quality *me* time before I leap into my day.

Meditation is so vital because it gives us the opportunity to sit with ourselves, go inward, and listen to what’s going on. It’s a time to detach from the external world and get in touch with our truest, most powerful, and loving selves.

I have had very pleasant meditation experiences, sometimes just “meh”, and sometimes kind of terrible. This usually reflects what’s going on in my life and the quality of my thoughts. But, if I simply ignore what’s happening internally and power through my day, I never really have the opportunity to connect with whatever it is I’m going through–good, bad, or somewhere in between…

As humans we are experts at distracting ourselves in order to avoid dealing with any internal or external junk we’ve got going on. Distractions might include emotional eating, drinking, lashing out to those around us, or behaving in other ways in order to comfort or numb ourselves. What we are actually doing is shoving whatever we may be dealing with down even further into our core–which is so not what we want! I’ve certainly used all of the above to avoid really feeling or acknowledging something difficult I may be going through–even if it’s just coming home from a not-so-great day at work.

One of my teachers, Carolina Vivas said something during a guided meditation that really stuck with me: “Meditation allows us to let go of the stuff that holds us back, making room for the things we truly need.”

The things holding us back could be feelings of inadequacy, jealousy, anger, fear, and much more. When we are able to free ourselves of our negative internal baggage, we can grow and flourish. We become happier, healthier, more grounded humans.

I believe my consistent meditation practice will be a tool used to work through difficult stuff, exciting stuff, boring stuff, and everything in between. I invite you to join me!

Some tips I have for starting a beginning meditation practice:

1. Get cozy!
I like to be seated on a bolster or a block learning against a wall to sit upright. If you’re seated, you will definitely want your hips above your knees, otherwise you will start to get really uncomfortable after a few minutes. I took a workshop with Erich Schiffmann and his advice for beginning a meditation practice was to just pile up a bunch of pillows on your bed, lie down, and “just be” (that sounds pretty awesome, right?). If you’re lying down on your back, try putting a pillow underneath your knees to release your low back.

2. Focus on your breath.
Visualize it traveling in and out of your nose. Feel your belly expand and ribs expand in every direction as you breathe in, finding softness as you breathe out. Imagine your lungs as a big accordion being played and expanding on the in breath, and folding on the out breath. Breathing in you find expansion, space, and openness; breathing out your body becomes a little heavier in the earth and more relaxed.

3. Try not to get frustrated.
It’s easy to get discouraged if your head is filled with the usual cluttering thoughts, and on top of everything you might be asking yourself “Why am I doing this again?”, or thinking “This isn’t doing anything!”, or maybe you have some other unpleasant thoughts come up that you would rather not deal with. Remember that you are not your thoughts. Let them come and go. Try your best to relax and detach. I remember getting frustrated with meditation because I expected something profound to happen–nope. You’re just sitting and breathing. Remember, you’re not trying to STOP your thoughts (I think that’s damn near impossible!). The goal is to release them and quiet your mind so that you can be receptive to your most powerful and positive energy beneath.

4. Use some guided meditations to get started.
The Chopra Center and Your Buddhi are fantastic resources; both sites have free meditations to download.

Meditation Benefits (in case you need more persuasion!):
-Stress reduction and prevention
-Lowers blood pressure
-Pain reduction
-Protection of the immune system
-Reduces risk of heart disease
-Improved memory and focus
-Reduced anxiety
-Less reactive
-Increased compassion

Take a look at how the brain is affected during meditation below:
brain on meditation
More from your brain on meditation found here (Lifehacker.com)

Additional Sources: