Sunday, September 23, 2012

Teacher of the Month - Kristin Leal

Kristin Leal is one of New York Yoga’s most trusted and treasured teachers, with a list of accomplishments very difficult to summarize. In addition to teaching yoga, she is a Licensed Massage Therapist and Reiki practitioner, holds certifications in Thai massage and Neuromustular and Myofascial release, has created and led yoga teacher trainings all over the world, and helped create the ISHTA Marma Point teacher training. She is a huge anatomy junkie and can usually be found with a skeleton in her bag. Kristin’s passion for anatomy and her open, friendly demeanor create the space for students of all levels to be comfortable in their bodies and in their practices. Soothing, sweet, and grounding are all words that can be used to describe her class.

Join Kristin at the York Studio:
Mondays 6:05pm – 7:25pm Open Level Vinyasa
Mondays 7:35pm – 8:50pm Vinyasa Basics
Wednesdays 4:35pm – 5:50pm All Levels Vinyasa
Wednesdays 6:05pm – 7:35pm Vinyasa Basics

When did you first discover yoga?

In 1993 I went to a class with my best friend. We were both dancers and she brought me to the old Jivamukti Yoga School.

How long have you been teaching?

I started teaching soon after that. I was already teaching dance classes, so I started teaching some yoga within those. I also began teaching friends and people I worked with. This was before teacher trainings were really done. There were a few in the city, but it wasn’t popular at the time to do them. I have taken many trainings since, including one at Jivamukti with Adrienne Burke, an Anusara training with Betsey Downing PhD, and other trainings with Rodney Yee.

What makes your class unique?

I don’t know if it’s unique, but I try to broaden the idea of yoga as being something beyond asana. I try very hard to expand yoga’s definition to include bringing consciousness into each and every aspect of your living. I’m extremely passionate about anatomy and teaching it. My goal there is to get people excited to learn about their own form and to celebrate their uniqueness rather than thinking they have to conform to any one cookie-cutter shape.

What is your favorite pose to teach?

Savasana. I think Tadasana and Savasana are the two most important poses. Tadasana is a wonderful way to learn how to truly stand in your own body and be in the moment of now. Savasana is how to really practice your surrender in that moment.

What is your favorite pose to practice?

Savasana. Surrender. There was a point where 10-15 years ago I was really into achieving different poses like arm balances and inversions, and I found that it doesn’t leave you with much, but a couple injuries. If you learn how to embody yourself, learn how to be present; that seems to be more useful.

Best advice for beginners?

Laugh, don’t take yourself too seriously. Do the best you can to engage, and let go.

Best advice for more advanced students?

Laugh, don’t take yourself too seriously. Keep taking classes and different teachers and keep your mind open the best you can.

What is your biggest yoga pet peeve?

I don’t really have them anymore. I used to have quite a lot of them: people texting in class, leaving early, not paying attention. But one of my teachers, Alan Finger, said, “You have to let people be where they are, and meet them there.” That really chilled me out.

How do you incorporate yoga into your daily life?

Yoga is my daily life.

Passions besides yoga?

Other than yoga I teach anatomy internationally, tantra philosophy, comparisons of the Western anatomical model and the Eastern esoteric model, as well as a Marma therapy course. I’m kind of a dork. I really just like studying anatomy and talking to whoever will listen to me about it. You could also say I have a passion for chocolate.

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