Yes, we get incredibly lucky sometimes…
And this is one of those times!
One of our dear friends and much-loved collaborators is the one and only Kristin Gould. Kristin is a yoga teacher, natural health and Ayurvedic guide, mother, friend, creative genius, stand-up paddle guru (If you click on Kristin’s name, you will head right to her website – we recommend booking SUP yoga now, before she fills up completely), AND a good friend of the one and only Leslie Kaminoff.
Kristin recently put together an intensive with Leslie for an inspired group of NJ yogis (a group that grew well beyond her expectations within hours of Kristin announcing the special event) and, as you might expect, our entire Jersey Shore yoga tribe is now wholly enamored with Leslie’s teachings.
So much so that we begged Kristin to interview Leslie and grab a few more nuggets of knowledge for us to share. And as she always does, Kristin came through!
Here is more on Leslie + Kristin’s amazing interview. We hope you enjoy it as much as we did and we hope you immediately sign up to see Leslie when he is your neighborhood. We’ll let you know ASAP as soon as we find out he is coming back to ours.
Leslie Kaminoff is a yoga educator inspired by the tradition of T.K.V. Desikachar. He is recognized internationally as a specialist in the fields of yoga, breath anatomy and bodywork. For over four decades he has led workshops and developed specialized education for many leading yoga associations, schools and training programs in America and throughout the world. His approach to teaching combines intellectual rigor, spontaneity and humor, and is always evolving.
Leslie is the founder of The Breathing Project, a New York City based educational non-profit dedicated to advancing educational standards for yoga teachers and other movement professionals. His unique year-long course is available online at yogaanatomy.net.
He is the co-author, with Amy Matthews, of the best-selling book “Yoga Anatomy.”
You can follow him on Instagram (@leslie.kaminoff), Twitter (@lkaminoff) and on Facebook (LeslieKaminoffYogaAnatomy), on YouTube (YogaAnatomy) and learn more at YogaAnatomy.
Kristin: Leslie, when you began studying the teachings of Krishnamacharya did you have an immediate interest in the human anatomy as it relates to the asana shapes?
Leslie: I had already developed a keen interest in the anatomical basis of yoga practice by the time I was introduced to the teachings of Krishnamacharya/Desikachar. I first met Desikachar in 1988 and, by then, I had been working for several years as a biomedical technician in sports medicine, and as a hands-on bodyworker trained in myofascial release techniques. All of my exploration and education in the fields of anatomy and therapeutics was being filtered through my interests and experience as a yoga teacher.
Kristin: What specific topics do you most enjoy teaching to students and why? What is the most common “take away” from your trainings do you think your students bring into their own practice?
Leslie: My favorite topics to teach are breath physiology, mechanics and their relationship to the core principles of yoga theory and practice. The “take away” I most strongly desire for students in my workshops is more of an ability to think in some of the fundamental principles I try to convey.
Kristin: You recently posted a comment about having lots of “uh-oh” moments before having an “ah-ha” moment. I love this as it is so common in yoga practice and life. Can you give an example of this in your life or in your teachings?
Leslie: A major ah-ha for me was the realization that the near-universally taught pattern of inhaling on spinal extension and exhaling on spinal flexion is nothing more than a prejudice that privileges the mechanics on the front of the body. In fact, the posterior mechanics on spine and breath motion are the opposite. So, it’s not a matter of right and wrong as far as that cueing is concerned, it’s just a choice of what you want to emphasize. The uh-oh side of that realization was that I had to radically change the way I described the anatomy of breath mechanics, and that I had already committed much of my previous view to written and video courses of study. Uh-oh.
Kristin: What questions do hear most often from students? Do you think there is a fundamental reason for that?
Leslie: It’s a class of question I hear most often from students that is worth mentioning here. It starts with “I have been taught by (fill in the teacher/system) that when we do (fill in the yoga asana/breath practice) that we should always try to (fill in the cue/objective)…” This kind of question always comes after I’ve said something that seemed to contradict what someone had been taught, or had been teaching others, and it indicates a desire to rely on an appeal to authority for validation, rather than personal experience and reflection.
Kristin: I often hear a lot of yoga students comment on how they get so many different alignment cues particularly if they practice with different lineages of yoga teachings. I’ve always believed in the single teacher (guru)/student (aspirant) approach, but in the modern world this is not so common any more. What advice can you share to our readers about hopping around to different styles of teaching and teachers? What should be at the center of their exploration and commitment to the practice of yoga?
Leslie: First of all, where did you acquire the belief that one should always stick with a single teacher or approach? Is it based on personal experience, or something a teacher told you? I think introspection (swadhyaya) on this issue is needed before characterizing others as “hopping around to different styles of teaching and teachers.” From my perspective, as far as what should be at the center of a person’s “exploration and commitment to the practice of yoga,” I agree with Patañjali’s formulation of yoga practice: Tapas (challenging habitual patterns on every level), the aforementioned Swadhyaya (introspective self-awareness), and Ishvara Pranidhana (surrendering to forces bigger and more powerful than oneself).
Kristin: Do you have a personal daily practice that you never neglect to do? If so – what is it and why is it important to you?
Leslie: If you mean formal asana/pranayama practices, the answer is no. These days, I use those tools as-needed. As far as the aforementioned principles of tapas, swadhyaya, isvara pranidhana, I access these multiple times every day in my thoughts, actions and decisions.
Want to learn more and practice with Leslie? You can find all of his upcoming events here.
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