Hey, 2022…I’m back!

Well, a fresh set of Covid-19 antibodies wasn’t on my Christmas wish list, but I got them anyway. Between my original March 2020 battle with Covid, three vaccine shots, and a holiday bout with the Omicron variant that had me quarantining instead of festivating, I now assume I have sufficient immunity to get through 2022 with no further incident. I am very much looking forward to resuming teaching events scheduled for the first quarter.

The next in a series of popular 2-hour online workshops I’ve been doing for our U.K. friends at Keen Yoga is coming up at the end of this month on Sunday, January, 30 at 9:00am EST, 2:00pm UK time. The topic is something we could all use right about now: “Introduction to Healing Through Breath-centered Yoga.” The workshop is rooted in the perspective that there’s always more going right for a person than has gone wrong – something I’ve had to remind myself more than once in the past couple of challenging years. The recording will be remain available to replay for 14 days after the event.

Lauri and Leslie dissecting
Lauri Nemetz and me during the livestream of our first KNMLabs dissection workshop in October 2020

Looking ahead to March (the week of my 64th birthday!) Lydia, Lauri Nemetz and I will be back in Colorado Springs at the anatomy lab of our good friend Gil Hedley to lead a unique week-long cadaver dissection March 14-18. KNM Movement Anatomy Labs focus on interests of yoga educators, movement and fitness professionals, bodywork and massage therapists and artists.

A unique aspect of this hands-on lab is the opportunity to apply some of what you see in the lab in your own body during evening movement labs. There will also be opportunities to observe one-on-one work related to structural observations during the day’s cadaver lab.

We still have room for a few more participants, so click on the link above to find out more about this very special opportunity to experience human anatomy first-hand with an amazing group of individuals.

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Greetings from my self-imposed isolation in New York City!

Stale Peeps-on-a-stick pair very nicely with a fine rosé.
CREDIT: Lydia Mann 

I hope you and your loved ones are faring well and staying safe during this challenging time in our shared history. Lydia and I are nearing the end of a self-imposed 14-day quarantine after returning from a month-long teaching tour of Australia. 

The trip home was….well…a trip. Our original flight on Cathay Pacific was canceled, so we enjoyed a 15-hour layover in Hong Kong. We wore our N95 masks, did our best to sequester ourselves in the near-deserted airport lounge, and we had a whole bulkhead row to ourselves on the half-empty flight back.

In spite of all our precautions, I got off the plane from our 44-hour journey with a cough, sore throat and a bit of a fever.  Ordinarily I’d expect to be a bit under the weather after such a travel ordeal and would have paid it no mind but, given the current concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic, we exercised an overabundance of caution and self-imposed the quarantine at home. My fever went away in a couple of days and I was feeling myself a few days later, consistent with my ordinary recovery from a trip down under.

Unsurprisingly, several of my upcoming live workshops have been rescheduled for later in the year. We’ve got wonderful hosts who are doing all they can to accommodate the changes needed during these chaotic times. There is still so much unknown, but please refer to my calendar page for updated workshops.

Much yoga teaching has moved online in the past few weeks, a rapid and wonderful alternative during this crisis. I have made sections of my online course “Practices” and selected resources from “Fundamentals” available for free as part of a larger project called “Studio Relief.” This initiative by Mark Walsh, founder of The Embodiment Conference, brings together teachers from many styles who have donated online resources for the house-bound public. You can access my classes at this link.

As wonderful as these heartfelt and generous offerings are, I feel the need to point out that it is imperative not to permanently de-monetize our value.  If a studio is offering free classes in hope that members or card-holders do not cancel ongoing payment plans, that’s a valid business strategy. But if you are an independent teacher putting classes online for free to stay connected, consider asking students to pay on a sliding scale. It’s simply a matter of offering value-for-value. After all, internet service isn’t free nor are your electric or food bills, so neither should the yoga instruction you offer.

Wishing you and yours well,

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New Breathing Project Programs in 2018: Coaching for Your Breathing Body

I’m very excited about some brand-new community workshops I’m calling Coaching for Your Breathing Body: a 3-workshop Series for People Who Use Their Lungs.

The programs are open to all, and I’m particularly keen on attracting people who have either acute or chronic breathing issues. So, if you or anyone you know gets asthmatic symptoms during allergy season, or gets short of breath when exercising, is a singer or actor who’s been told to “sing from your diaphragm,” or is suffering from a more serious challenge like COPD, please consider getting some expert attention and help. No yoga mats or bare feet are needed, and seating will be available.

REGISTRATION AND DATES:
Thanks to our co-sponsor WOOM Center, we are able to offer these workshops on a donation-based sliding scale ($15-$30 per workshop). Please pay what you can after clicking “Donate” for the workshop date(s) of your choice, and you’re welcome to attend more than one.

September 30 November 4

TIMES:
All Sunday times are from 2:30 to 5:30pm.

LOCATION:
The events will be at the beautiful, immersive environment of WOOM Center, 274 Bowery, 2nd Floor, (bet. Houston & Prince), New York, NY MAP

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The Most Important Aspect of Therapeutic Yoga

I am looking forward to an upcoming event in the Philadelphia area – a return visit with our friends at The Yoga Garden in Narberth on the weekend of November 4 & 5.

The topic for the weekend is one my favorites – “The Yoga of Therapeutic Breath, Movement and Alignment.” While prepping the workshop I came across some relevant writing I did, a chapter proposal for a handbook aimed at medical professionals. I hope it sparks your interest in continuing the discussion and, if you’re anywhere near Philadelphia, please come join us…there’s still some room in the workshop.

From “Yoga Therapy — The Art of the Individual”

When applying yoga in a therapeutic context, it is vitally important to remember that we do not treat conditions – we educate people.

Our students are likely to have already seen several professionals whose job it is to focus on their problems. By contrast, the yoga educator’s focus should be on what’s still going right with a person, not on what has gone wrong — and there are always far more things still working in a person’s body than have stopped working. Even on the sickest, most pain-filled day of a person’s life, there are untold billions of unimpeded, cellular life processes happening within them. This is the biological basis of the concept of prana. As long as there’s prana, there can be improvement — not necessarily curing or fixing — but healing — what my teacher Desikachar referred to as “the relationship to their illness.”

In any discussion about the place of therapeutic yoga in health care delivery, I assert that the principle expressed above is the most important to remember.  As long as we stay grounded in the perspective of what’s still going right, our scope of practice is profound and simple: if the person in front of us can breathe, move, and focus, even minimally, they can bring their breath, body and mind into a more integrated state and they can do yoga.

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Podcast: “Even Yoga Masters Break Down Sometimes”

OK, let me say right at the top that I did not choose the title of the podcast I did with the good folks at Curable Health.  I cringe whenever the word “master” gets thrown at a human, most especially if that human happens to be me.

The best definition of “master” I’ve ever heard is: “A master is someone who is capable of creating another master.” This simple concept emphasizes the fact that mastery is a process that is never completed – that it involves passing knowledge freely from one generation to the next.  In other words, the word master is an ever-evolving verb for what a teacher does, not a fixed noun for what or who a teacher is.

That aside, I am really quite pleased with how this interview came out.  Through the well-informed questioning of Laura Seago, I got to tell some very personal stories, some of which regular readers of this blog will have heard in a different context. From her description of the interview:

“So what happened when he lost his breath for six months? When he lost control of his body? When he lost touch with his emotions? Join us as Leslie recounts his deeply personal journey to “mastery,” and shares what he’s learned about life, yoga, and the power of breath.”

Have a listen to the podcast, and let me know what you think.  Also, check out the great app Curable has built for people suffering from chronic pain.  It’s based on the work of the recently deceased Dr. John Sarno, and I think it can help a lot of people.  For many years, I’ve been recommending Sarno’s books, but now, I have the option of sending them to Curable to have a more direct, interactive experience of his groundbreaking work.

Lastly, if you’re anywhere near these showings of the wonderful documentary “All the Rage: Saved by Sarno,” rush out and see it.  It opens in L.A. tomorrow (August 11, 2017).

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Honoring John E. Sarno, M.D.

I just returned from a screening of a new documentary about Dr. John E. Sarno called “All the Rage: Saved by Sarno” here in New York City. For more than 16 years, this film has been a labor of love for the filmmakers, Michael Galinsky, Suki Hawley and David Beilinson.

As anyone who has heard me teach about the spine or come to see me for private sessions knows, I talk about the work of Dr. Sarno pretty much every time the subject of back pain comes up. I have even written about my own Sarno-realization experience of crippling back pain that finally abated after connecting with five years of pent-up rage over the sad state of my teacher, T.K.V. Desikachar.

Over the course of 60+ years of medical practice Dr. Sarno’s perspective evolved as he sought lasting, reliable treatments for his patients with chronic pain. In the 1970s he arrived at the conviction that mind, body and emotions are inextricably linked and must be considered when it comes to understanding the true origins of the most common kinds of chronic pain. Those of us in the worlds of yoga or embodied movement may consider this a no-brainer, but the majority in the medical and psychiatric professions considered him an outcast and his views heretical. You can learn more facts of his life and practice on his wiki page, but the real story is in the thousands of lives he’s touched and saved from unnecessary suffering and surgeries.

Screengrab of Dr. Frances Sommer Anderson teaching to my online studentsAt today’s showing of “All the Rage,” I met the filmmakers and got to reconnect with an old friend Dr. Frances Sommer Anderson, a psychologist who worked with Dr. Sarno at the famed Rusk Institute for 34 years.  She is pictured here in a screenshot from a video of Dr. Anderson’s visit to The Breathing Project the week before Sarno’s retirement in 2012.  She was there to talk to my yoga anatomy students about the psyche/soma perspective on pain. That talk is part of my “Practices” course at yogaanatomy.net.

Poignantly, during the Q&A that followed the screening, one of the audience members who is a close family friend reported that Dr. Sarno, who would have turned 94 today (June 23, 2017), passed away yesterday.  This important documentary is a fitting tribute to this fine man who dedicated his life’s work to helping people live happier, healthier lives. I was pleased to be amidst a room full of his admirers when I learned this sad news.

Movie posterIf you are in New York I highly recommend you get to a showing of “All the Rage.” Considering reports I’ve received over the years from clients who had a life-altering experience just reading one of his books, this movie could help turn around the chronic suffering of someone you love. On the website for the film, you can learn how to sponsor a screening in your area.

If anyone has personal remembrances of working with Dr. Sarno, or has stories about help they may have received from any of his books, please feel free to post your comments below.

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An Appeal for The Babies Project

I’m sending this special message out to my networks to let you all know about a very special non-profit educational project that my good friends and colleagues, Amy Matthews and Sarah Barnaby have created: The Babies Project.

As many of you are aware, The Breathing Project is ending its educational programming at our Manhattan studio at the end of July 2017. What most of you don’t know is that we still have 2 more years on our commercial lease. If Amy and Sarah can successfully fund The Babies Project, we can accomplish the perfect transition for the use of our unique and beautiful space.

By working with yoga and movement educators and those who train them for the past 14 years, Amy and I feel that the exponential reach of our efforts has shifted the conversation about anatomy, movement and education.  The Babies project represents the next phase of facilitating positive change where it can do the most good — at the very beginning of a person’s life.

To quote Amy, “I am so passionate about this work – helping babies, helping caregivers – it feels like it helps heal everything.”

For years, Amy and Sarah have been offering classes at our studio for babies from newborn to walking and their caregivers, as well as adults of all ages interested in observing developmental movement patterns.  As an educational non-profit, The Babies Project will continue to offer these weekly drop-in Babies! sessions on a by-donation basis, as well as adding fee-based classes, workshops and private sessions. They will also add developmental movement classes for adults, and education for preparing and planning parents.

You can read more about the mission and vision of The Babies Project on their website and you can support them in any amount by going to their Indiegogo fund-raising page. It truly takes a village to raise a child (and educate a parent too), and with your help, the Babies Project can be one such highly innovative village right here in the heart of The Big Apple.

Please help contribute to this remarkable undertaking. Any amount will be greatly appreciated. I have personally donated, and will continue to support The Babies Project in every way I am able.

Thanks,

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Meet the “Beyond Anatomy” presenters: Pete Blackaby, Amy Matthews, Leslie Kaminoff, interviewed by Brooke Thomas

The wonderful Brooke Thomas, creator of The Liberated Body podcast, will moderate our upcoming Breathing Project symposium “Beyond Anatomy” in New York City April 1 & 2.

In this special episode which kicks off the fourth season of her podcast, Brooke asks Peter Blackaby, Amy Matthews and me what “Beyond Anatomy” means to us. I’m sure you’ll find our responses thought-provoking, and hope they’ll inspire you to join us at the Symposium.

We already have people coming from across the country, and even across the pond (Pete has lots of fans in his home country, Britain, and throughout the UK), so sign up while there’s still space. We look forward to seeing you there!

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“Who knows?…It may do something good.”

My upcoming weekend workshop at Yoga on High in Columbus, Ohio will focus on the healing potentials of Yoga. Whenever I teach this topic, I like to play a section of a 1996 documentary I helped produce in which my late teacher T.K.V. Desikachar talks about students who showed up at the Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram seeking help.  His simple words express very beautifully the essence of how yoga can help:

“The most important problem is suffering…but for some reason, the usual system of medical and health care is not able to understand the person who is suffering. They know a lot about the problem..but the relationship between this illness and the person is not so much emphasized. It’s not just illness, it’s what I call ‘the relationship to the illness’.  So, when the person goes to all these (medical) people, and still they are not better, they become desperate.

“We talk to these people. We say: ‘You have some resources which are not just medicine.  There’s something you have: you can still breathe…you can still talk…you  can sit and move. That means you still have the energy that can heal you. Let us direct and use this energy…who knows? It may do something good.’”

In my practice, this principle has evolved into a quick checklist for new students: “Are they breathing?  Are they able to focus their attention?  Can they move their body voluntarily?”  If the answers are even a little bit of yes, then they can practice yoga and reap immediate benefits. It is my contention that the most profound healing derived from yoga practice comes from the simplest things we teach, not the most complex.  The first, simplest thing that we ask people to do is also the most powerful: bringing the body and mind together through the medium of the breath.

I’ve provided a more extensive quote of Desikachar’s ideas about healing and the student-teacher relationship for Yoga on High’s blog, and the complete piece was a chapter in the book “Yoga Therapy and Integrative Medicine: Where Ancient Science Meets Modern Medicine” by Larry Payne Ph.D., Terra Gold M.A.LAc. and Eden Goldman D.C.

yoga-on-high-logoIf you’re available and can get to Yoga on High in Columbus, Ohio October 21-23, please come join me as we explore some of the therapeutic applications of yoga.

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Breath-Centered Yoga Therapeutics: A Four Day Immersion in Southern California

YATMI’m excited about my upcoming return to Laguna Niguel’s beautiful You and the Mat studio for a four day immersion in my favorite topic: Breath-Centered Therapeutics. The 4- day series of workshops take place from May 20-23, and will feature a clinical observation day.

Sunday’s session will be Respiratory Yoga Therapeutics: Clinical Observation – offering a rare glimpse into what happens in a private therapeutic yoga session. Through observation, questions, discussion and exchange I will demonstrate the principles of how to customize yoga practices, read the body to identify patterns of holding and tension, offer hands-on assists from an anatomically-informed breath-centered perspective, and explore yoga philosophy with anatomical understanding of the human system.

Three guest clients will have a unique opportunity to work one-on-one with me on specific respiratory issues to build awareness of their particular pattern of holding tension and receive support and encouragement from a group of people interested in their wellness.

I’m inviting you to help us find great clinic guests.

Do you have a challenging client or student or know someone (even yourself!) who could use this kind of breathing help? The person need not be a yoga practitioner, but should be experiencing some kind of breathing disorder or challenge. The time commitment is 1-2 hours on Sunday May 22, 2016.

Please invite anyone you think is appropriate to complete a clinic guest intake form. The deadline for submission is Sunday May 15 at midnight. We will be emailing all who have submitted an application by Tuesday May 17 informing them whether they are on the schedule.

Help us get the word out!   Thanks.

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