Leslie Burger Yoga

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Happy Back Yoga Creates Balance – Buddhi Yoga

I had the pleasure of leading a Happy Back Yoga segment for the Buddhi Yoga Teacher Training this past weekend. It was so wonderful to share tools that I’ve learned with a group of curious and inquisitive soon-to-be teachers! I wrote an article for Buddhi Yoga about Happy Back Yoga, and how it’s changed my practice on and off the mat. You can read the original article here!


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Happy Back Yoga Creates Balance 

I used to think that being flexible made me “good” at yoga. My flexibility is something that I was praised for by instructors and fellow students. I would be lying if I said it didn’t stroke my ego. As a newer practitioner, I believed that flexibility was the goal, and it was something that everyone was striving for in their practice. There is nothing wrong with being flexible, but I have realized that balancing flexibility with strength and stability is vital for a strong, sustainable, and healthy practice. If I had continued practicing the way I was, I would have gotten injured. My joints were absorbing all the weight from my postures rather than being supported by my muscles. This is why I am so thankful that I found Iyengar and Happy Back Yoga.


Happy Back Yoga Helped Me Find A New Way.

Over time, I’ve had the privilege of practicing with teachers who are aware of the subtleties of body mechanics. When I was encouraged to come out of poses and focus more on muscular engagement, I felt resistance and anger bubble to the surface. My flexibility was what made me “ME”! What would be left if I didn’t have that? Postures feel SO different to me now, and continue to evolve. They feel stronger, supported, safer, and smarter. It gives me confidence to know that I am capable of going somewhere new and evolving in my practice physically, psychologically and spiritually. Evolution and growth are things that we strive for when we come to our yoga mats. Evolution in my practice has meant being honest with myself about my strengths and weaknesses, facing those weaknesses with compassion, and lovingly working with them.

Letting Go of Goal-Oriented Postures with Happy Back Yoga

Sometimes we get so caught up in the shapes of poses that we compromise the entire pose in order to go deeper, get our hand on the ground, touch our toes, get our foot to our head, and so on, by whatever means possible! We are all exquisitely unique, of different sizes and proportions, requiring unique alignment in postures. Some of us may have more stable joints and muscles, others of us are more fluid and mobile. An arm or leg might be longer than the other. The curvature of our spines vary greatly from person to person. Happy Back Yoga helps us to adapt our practice in order to be balanced and supportive for our own particular configuration.

Props Are Not Just for Iyengar Yoga

I was inspired to write this article after an experience I had while teaching. I noticed a student in Utthita Trikonasana (Extended Triangle pose) with her hand flat on the ground with her torso collapsed. I offered her a block for underneath her hand and she snapped at me “I don’t need that!” At first I was taken aback, but after some thought I could relate to the student. It wasn’t long ago that I thought getting my hand to the ground for Parsva Konasana (Side Angle pose) was the “goal.” My side body would be smooshed, compromising my breath and creating tension in my lower back. But never mind that, I got my hand on the floor, and that’s the point, right? And if someone were to come around and give me a block, in my head I’d probably be like “forget you, I don’t need that” (inhale love, exhale peace)! Unfortunately, props get kind of a bad rap in yoga. We get this idea in our heads that it’s somehow better if we’re able to do all poses without any “assistance” from props or other modifications. It’s as if using props to support your body and alignment makes you weak, or takes you away from the “true pose”. Props and modifications actually help to intelligently support the body so you can sustain a safe and fulfilling practice for the rest of your life! I have learned this gradually over time (and continue to learn). My yoga began with virtually no props, and now I use at least two blocks and a strap whenever I practice. Because I have a lot of flexibility, there are other aspects of my practice I can work with to make my physical and energetic practice well-rounded. Stability in poses is what will bring me the most balance.

It’s healthy and important to work towards physical goals in yoga, whether they be specific postures, to gain more strength and flexibility, or to be present in the stillness. I also believe that sometimes we get so caught up in how poses are supposed to look that we think we’re inferior because we can’t make our bodies look a certain way. There are some yoga poses that may not be safe or beneficial for our bodies based on our shape and proportions. This concept really hit home for me during my Happy Back training with Rachel Krentzman and Jaimie Perukunas.

So rather than just try to stretch my ligaments to conform to a shape, I now ask this of myself while I’m practicing, and for my students while I’m teaching: What is the intention of this pose?

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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: