Interview with Leigh Ann Root
Original Date: May 19, 2015
Leigh Ann Root embodies the namesake of this website, Powerful Woman Yoga. She is a Woman of Power. A Loving mother to two beautiful children, an entrepreneur, a strong supporter of our local community, a mentor, and a teacher. She draws a loyal following of people into her classes because of her magnetic personality. Leigh Ann radiates energy and her enthusiasm for life is infectious.
I taught at Leigh Ann’s Yoga Studio, Reaching Roots Yoga Company, for several years. Leigh Ann is “extra special” to me, for it was her Yoga Studio grand opening that began my journey into Kirtan. Leigh Ann asked us about bringing some chanting to her grand opening event, and I happily accepted the invitation. We haven’t stopped chanting yet! Her gracious invitation and support opened a whole new life for me and my husband Josh, with our Kirtan group, Pure Kirtan. I am happy to share the words of this Yoga Sister here.
Walk us through your journey to Yoga.
Where were you before you began yoga & what brought you to the practice?
I was a fitness instructor and personal trainer for approximately 16 years before I discovered the amazing world that is yoga. I went to a kick-boxing certification and added on a second certification (It was a great deal and I like a good bargain ). This certification was PIYO, a mix of pilates and yoga and was described as yoga for hyper people. I thought, “great, this is a style of class that would fit nicely in a gym/health club setting.” I was a bit nervous about teaching this new and (for me) slowed down fitness class. The best advice I got that weekend was, “they don’t know what you don’t know!” That empowered me. I first fell in love with the physical side of yoga and how it can develop and strengthen the body. It wasn’t long before the spiritual side made it’s mark on me. I began going to yoga conferences and classes when I could and decided I need to get my “real training” – 200 hrs. This I did about 2 years later. Myself and a friend went to Costa Rica (in the rainforest) and did an intensive program. It was a great learning experience, even though my teacher was not like any of the warm and loving instructors I had in the past. I did however learn a great deal about myself and the type of teacher I wanted to be. About 1 year after that I opened Reaching Roots Yoga Company, which I had for 3 lovely years. Our health club, Twisted Fitness supported much of this endeavor and could not continue to do so during a difficult business climate we were faced with. Today, I teach some “fitness style” yoga at our facility, Vinyasa Flow at Namaste Newport and I will soon be teaching at our season campground, Loon Lake Campground. My teaching yoga journey has been one of constant change, growth, connection and a whole lot of happiness. Due to my fitness background, I enjoy teaching a vinyasa style class with an emphasis on form, strength, creativity and upbeat energy…in an environment that fosters connection to self, free of judgment and full of acceptance.
Was there a particular event or moment you can recall when you decided you wanted to teach yoga?
I knew as soon as I felt a deeper connection to myself, my truths and my purpose…..that I needed to help people find the same. Fitness training is one thing, developing who we are meant to be is quite another. Yoga brings us back to the present moment. Yoga slows us down. Yoga opens us up. Yoga gets us quiet. This is where our toughest questions in life can be answered. The physical practice is satisfying for the body but the other “stuff” settles us, draws us toward peace and allows us to meet ourselves exactly where we are at, flaws and all. This is the foundation for our individual greatness.
What do you love most about teaching?
What I love most about teaching is the energy and connection that comes with every class. I feel lucky to be journeying along side so many beautiful souls.
Do you have a particular story you can share that describes how your students inspire you?
There are so many. The ones that inspire me the most are about the spiritual not the physical. Once during savasana a mother and daughter (adult daughter) were holding hands, I could feel their love for each other. Their connection was so natural and beautiful to witness.
Describe to us what your practice looks like today?
I try to practice in the mornings, I usually begin with sun salutations, lots of standing postures, as many hip stretches as I can muster and usually an inversion, of some sort. My spiritual intention throughout is create an environment (in my mind) that is constantly striving for peace, balance and love of self….. my foundation for day/life. You have to have this first before you can bring it to others.
How has yoga affected your understanding of yourself over time?
It has helped me discover me; the happy sides and the challenging sides….and how to be grateful for them all. It is the challenges, the mistakes and the scars that I am most thankful for. This is where I have grown the most.
As a women in the world of yoga: In your opinion, why is yoga of particular benefit for women today?
We live in environments that require a lot of multi-tasking. When women have a chance to do just one thing, by themselves….it is heavenly.
In what ways does the yoga practice give a woman strength?
I think the physical practice help with the physical strength but I feel as though the a person’s spirit is discovered in deeper sense and this is the most powerful.
Would you like to see any changes in regards to popular yoga images?
Do you think yoga’s popularity dilutes the practice?
I think it will always be what people want it to be. In a pop culture sense….I feel ALL yoga is good, no matter how many different ways you try to frame it up, turn it up, add to it, mix it with other activities, etc. The more people doing it, the happier world we will have. Who am I to say how yoga should enter into a person’s life. Fingers crossed that it makes it’s way into their hearts, then it will…hopefully remain in their lives in some way.
What are some of the biggest struggles you see for your students? What one thing would you like to see your students improve on in their practices?
The biggest struggles I see, is that people are not kind enough to themselves and/or accepting of where they are in their practice. Patience is the hardest.
What advice would you give to beginners who may be afraid to start a practice?
Don’t feed the fear. Step on the mat and meet yourself. The practice (your practice) is only about you. Don’t compare, it steals your joy.
As someone continues to practice, what do you think is key to their personal and physical progress?
Recognizing limitation, knowing when to push harder and understanding that patience and time are key….as is celebrating all the little achievements along the way. It really is about the journey of getting to know ourselves better and what we can bring to life off the mat.
What do you find really exciting for you in your practice, or in the world of yoga right now?
Variety! Festivals and such offering tons of ways to develop all aspects of self.
Is there anything else you would like to add, or tell people?
I know that yoga has taught me how to be a better me because I know me better. Yoga is a beautiful avenue to our authentic self. As I have developed as a teacher I have learned to be me, teach like me and offer my gifts. When I have tried to teach like someone else, for instance, I have fallen short….it is not natural. This takes trusting who we are and not being afraid to shine from this place. This is where the magic happens in and out of our careers and on and off the mat. I have also discovered that who I am is not what I do. When we identify too strongly in the things we do, the job we work, the roles we play…..we can lose who we, essentially, are. I also know that I will never be done learning and growing, I am simply continuing to build this strong foundation for my life. For all of this, I thank yoga for the tools it has given me to learn the lessons that make life so sweet.