EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: YIN YOGA

The first time I met Leonie Lockwood was when she taught a Yin Yoga class at my local studio. Later that year, she kindly helped me with a blog post about beginner’s styles of yoga by explaining what Yin was, more in-depth.

Leonie has a long-standing passion for Yoga which came from her early years spent doing asana with her mother from age 8. She began her on again, off again love affair with the mat throughout her 20’3 and 30’3 . From there, she developed a 12 year career in remedial massage learning anatomy in-depth, and understanding how the body moves. Her shift to yoga, came gradually after working in another industry that left her anxious, withdrawn and chronically depressed.

 

By the time she was 38, Leonie realised her current office job wasn’t for her, and she ventured off solo to India and Nepal where she made the decision to return to study remedial massage upon arriving back to Melbourne. India called her back for another 6 week adventure, and she made a promise to herself to return for a whole YEAR to deepen her understanding of yoga and meditation, learning from some of the worlds best along her path.

After completing her initial yoga teacher training during that year in Asia; she went on to complete a 150 hour mentorship program with Ambika Chadwick of The Yoga Social  and another 350 hours of study in the USA with Yin expert’s Paul and Suzee Grilley. From there, she developed her meditation methods with Sarah Powers and is currently completing studies into clinical Pilates through breath education.  Like any passionate entrepreneur, her learning is never complete and she is always looking for opportunities to grow, and new approaches to bring all of her accumulated knowledge to the mat.

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In THIS interview, Leonie agreed to lay her life bare allowing me to open up areas where she has seen struggle; and found strength. Where she has been at her lowest; and used yoga to shift above and beyond to her highest. She is strong, she is brave and she is FULL of loving courage that she fondly shares with her inspiring yoga students on a daily basis.

M.E. “From experience, most great yoga teachers start their journey from a place of pain, looking for a way to escape the demons and devastation of their past, would you say this is true for you?”

L.L “Can I not answer that question? Let’s start with something easier. We’ll come back to that…”

M.E. “O.k., let start with the easier ones. When you were younger, what did you MOST want to be when you grew up?”

L.L “I wanted to be a ballet dancer, or a dancer of some sort. Or an actress. I just liked dancing, and acting, and singing.”

M.E. “At what age did you feel like you were on a different path to your peers – as far as your spirituality goes?”

L.L “I think there were little glimmers through my teen years, and then it dampened down again. I got interested in Buddhism around 19 or 20, and had been interested in yoga, because my Mum was into that. So I had been interested in that as a kid too.” Pauses for a moment, to contemplate “More so as I hit my mid thirties I thought there’s NO WAY this environment is for me. My role and the office work I had just seemed hard to do. And kept getting harder and harder and harder.”

“Eventually I decided that work was getting in the way of yoga

M.E. “On your website, you said you’ve been dabbling in yoga for over 25 years, what made you turn from having it as a passion, to having it as a full-time career?”

L.L. “It’s probably even more than 25 years to be honest, that was just when I started going to classes. I started with Mum though when I was seven or eight and practicing with her in front of the television to Swami Sarasvati, whom I believe is still alive.”

By the time Leonie was in her mid thirties, she had been working for over a decade in not for profit organisations supporting those experiencing homelessness. She helped at the crisis intervention point and some days she would receive threats, or feel hopeless for not being able to provide shelter for the people who came to her. Working at the front line of crisis meant she often dealt with people experiencing mental health issues and/or drug and alcohol misuse in addition to lack of housing. Some were just exiting prison, and some had managed to escape the clutches of family violence.  Being a caring person, she could not help but be affected by the raft of problems presenting. Most were grateful for assistance, others violent towards themselves, staff or their families; pushing her moral and ethical boundaries.

“When people are homeless, whether you agree with what they’ve done or not [in the content of criminal behavior]; these people all deserve a roof over their heads. It’s stressful. There’s just not enough affordable housing available for people”

“I started going to yoga on the way home from work, just once a week. Then started going a bit more, and a bit more. I had practiced before as I mentioned, I had dropped in and out of classes, but I got to a point where I just started practicing more and more and I realised how much better that was for me, than heading to the pub after work with the rest of the work team and getting drunk as a way of coping with the stress. When I was 38, I desperately needed some time out, and headed to India and Nepal to find some peace.”

M.E. “You’ve obviously been through a lot in your life, but you still manage to have this fierce sense of confidence and enjoy taking risks to keep creating breakthroughs; what fuels this?”

Leonie mentioned that while her career was in turmoil, her mother was slowly dying from Motor Neurone Disease  – to which there is no cure. The year her mother died, she accepted a voluntary redundancy from work and invested herself fully between teaching yoga and massage.

L.L “If I think about my ‘place of pain; I used to drink a lot of alcohol. I did that from my teens until well into my early thirties. Especially while working with those experiencing homelessness. I often used to self-medicate with alcohol because of what I dealt with on an everyday basis. My adrenaline levels were very high, and I was very stressed out by the things I saw and the people I dealt with, like the threats that were made to me as a person when I was ultimately just trying to help others. People were just angry, and very upset. They were frustrated about being shifted around the system and hearing the words ‘no’ more often than not. Back then, my method of coping with stress was to drink, like many others around me. I was chronically depressed and had been for a number of years, and had also been going to therapy to help deal. All of this decreased, the more I immersed myself in yoga. I started finding inner peace. I felt clearer in my head, clearer in my body and just happier overall. It was so much better than using those other things as a crutch.”

M.E. “You teach at a few studios across Melbourne, and teach workshops too; how do you think you BEST connect to your students?”

L.L. “Mmmmm. Good question! I often think the best way to connect with students can sometimes be when they come through the front door and you check them in. You can chat to them, find out if they have injuries or illness, and find out more about them and personalize the experience

The retreats and workshops I host, also give me a chance to connect on a deeper level as we spend more time off the mat together. It forms a bond, and people often open up.”

M.E. “How do you feel about yoga being depicted by overtly flexible, slim yogini’s getting into impossible-asana?”

“It’s not necessarily about getting into perfect alignment in a posture, but allowing yourself to sit into a posture that suits you best”

“I love to encourage people to be themselves. Yoga isn’t about handstands, or scorpion pose, it’s about being you and listening to your body”

Leonie believes that if you can sit and breathe, (in whatever form that might take), you’re forming a deeper connection within yourself and learning how to relieve stress. To self soothe in a HEALTHY way. That connection is what we need to strengthen so we can rely on the foundations of the practice when we need it most. Once you’ve learned that, you can always go back to that place, it will always be open to you.

M.E. “What is your niche in teaching?”

L.L. “Yin yoga and meditation. I teach mainly mindfulness techniques in this space at the moment, and am also very much practicing what I preach. I’m also working more on Chakra meditation techniques create a deeper, single pointed awareness, taking you deeper into your innermost reaches of your body and mind”

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M.E. “Do you prefer teaching students that are new to yoga or more experienced?”

L.L “I think I have more to offer beginner and intermediate students. I don’t really teach advanced Astana’s, my body doesn’t really go into those shapes {laughs}. If I’m teaching beginners I try to remember what it was like for me; like learning what the meaning of ‘Om’ was, or what a mantra was… I try and answer questions before I get asked them.”

M.E. “A few of my Personal Training clients are interested in learning yoga, but find the thought of going to a class intimidating. What is the best piece of advice you could offer to get them started?”

L.L “If they are fearful of the class environment, they could do a private one-on-one session, or even get a group of friends together and do their own small group class. This way they can learn the lingo, and feel comfortable with the way their body moves.”

“These days the way social media is dictating yoga is that if you’re not a skinny white chick with your hair up in a bun, clutching a green smoothie, you could feel really intimidated by setting foot in that yoga studio environment”

We both giggle at her last comment, remembering those awkward times where you want to start, and are just SO afraid of fitting in, standing out or doing something wrong. She continues:

“Another option is to try a gym based yoga class if they’re already training at there, which can often be less intimidating. Often there are yoga sessions at local community halls that suit people who might want a more casual environment. The key I guess, is to build slowly over time and listen to your body, noting how it moves and how you feel before and after”

M.E. “In your most recent blog, you said that 2016 was one of your ROUGHEST years with a lot of “first world problems” arising and turning you into an anxious ball of insomnia, how did yoga help you through this?”

L.L “Well I don’t know if it did as much as I would have liked! In the end, I AM a human being and like most, I’m not able to maintain that ‘zen’ all the time. I haven’t quite reached that stage… In 2015 I started to turn away from earning money from yoga, as it started turning into another ‘job’ instead of my passion. I found I had to get back into yoga for myself, and developed a stronger meditation practice. More often than not, I found the physical asana too challenging, and it was my meditation practice that really helped me through the rough times. I hate to think what that year would have been like without it. In hindsight, I’ve probably still got a long way to go in terms of not letting things get to me.

Also during that time, I used to journal after meditation and asana practice and started to recognise my patterns. It gives you insight on how you can change, what you can do differently, and then you just find opportunity to implement things. You can do things differently moving forward and just make that choice to start changing for the better”

M.E. “Being such a soulful person, how do you find living in a city that is so full of pressure to fit into that white-collared work ethic, and be so beautifully – You?”

L.L. “It is a bit tough. {laughs} I used to spend a lot of time in the country and didn’t really feel that pressure. In the past year though, it hasn’t been the case as much, so this year I really want to get back to the country more often. This year I’m running a retreat in June out in the country, and ultimately, I would love to own my own retreat venue in the country.”

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M.E. “Leading on from there, what IS the next chapter in your book of life?”

L.L. “I’m focusing my attention on collaborations this year, and really trying to develop more opportunity to work with people who haven’t thought of yoga as an answer. I’m also running some more Yin Yoga Teacher Training [starting this weekend!], and building on the ultimate goal to shift my working life out to the country where both myself, and clients can feel more connected.”

M.E. “Lastly, if you had any advice for a new business owner or venturing into a new direction,  what would it be?”

L.L. “Join a business network so you don’t feel so isolated, so you don’t feel like you’re doing the journey alone.”

“I just knew I didn’t want to die without trying”

“If it’s yoga, then remember always to keep practicing yourself, find a mentor and try not to lose your passion for the industry that you’ve come to love so much” – Leonie Lockwood

As a final note on the interview, I just wanted to thank Leonie again for really opening up old wounds and allowing me to understand how the path of passion isn’t necessarily always easy; but it’s always worth it. I want to thank her for her courage, bravery and honesty in all areas – even answering the questions that I wasn’t sure she would! It takes a lot of guts to become who you really are, and it’s people like Leonie that truly inspire me to be that version of my self.

Lastly, if you’re based in Melbourne and interested to know more about Yin Yoga, and want a chance to practice with the woman herself, check out Leonie’s Facebook Page  or her website Flowing Life. She will also be commencing a 50 hours Yin Yoga Teacher Training from this weekend in St Kilda, hosting everal mini retreats through-out the year, has a weekend retreat in regional Victoria in June and will be leading other workshops through-out the year.

Love & light,

Monique Elouise xx

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Passionate about self growth, Im traveling the world to learn more about holistic fitness from varying cultural perspectives. While I stay put for a few months at a time, I like to 'live as a local' volunteering at health retreats, getting deep into workshops, training, cooking, meditating, dancing and anything that will keep me holistically fit while letting intuition guide me. My end goal is to help others how become deeply in tune with themselves, learning to listen to theit inner voice, conquer their demons and create a stronger version of themselves through health and fitness.

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