Mother’s Day Yoga Profile: Leanne, Andi & Lesley

In honour of Mother’s Day (Sunday, May 13), we’re profiling amazing Bikram Yoga moms and their kids. For Leanne (a registered clinical counsellor and 55 years young!) and daughters Andi (a 27-year-old public health worker) and Lesley (a 24-year-old UBC student), the hot room is a chance to stretch together, de-stress together and, most importantly, support each other and celebrate together.

When did each of you start practising Bikram Yoga, and why?

Leanne: Bikram Yoga had been recommended to me by Lisa P. over 10 years ago, but I didn’t like the idea of repeating 26 postures over and over again – not to mention my fear of the heat! In the fall of 2009, however, my back was so stiff in the morning from scoliosis that I was struggling to stand up straight. I remembered the benefits of a good spinal series from my previous training as a Kundalini Yoga instructor. After my daughter, Lesley, survived her first Bikram Yoga class, she was determined to recruit me. Finally, I agreed to go, along with my other daughter Andi. Going together was pure moral support! Now I practise two to three times a week; at my age I find that my body needs a day of rest in-between.

Lesley: I took my first Bikram Yoga class in October 2009, hoping to find relief for problems I was having with fatigue and my digestive system at the time. I went alone at first, but quickly convinced my mom and sister to suffer with me! These days I aim to practise between three and four times a week.

Andi: I started doing Bikram Yoga about 2.5 years ago, just after I moved home from Europe. Lesley literally dragged mom and I to our first class. It was gruelling, but I was unemployed and struggling to find a job in my field, and I really valued the structure and discipline that Bikram Yoga provided during that time of flux. I’ve stuck with it for the last two years because it’s helped me develop an impenetrable calm, which makes me better able to tackle any challenges that come my way. My practice has been pretty regular, though it varies a bit depending on what else is going on. I aim to practise between three and four times a week to help keep me focused and calm outside the yoga room.

What benefits have you gained from practising Bikram Yoga?

Leanne: Besides improved spinal strengthen (I’m happy to report that I can stand up straight in the mornings!), flexibility, endurance and cardio plus an increased sense of peacefulness, my daughters would probably also remind me that Bikram Yoga helps me keep my “hot little body” (their words, not mine)! With a little persistence, they’ve even gotten me to wear short-shorts and a sports bra to class, when sometimes I’d rather be in a muumuu!

Andi: At first I couldn’t understand how people didn’t get bored with the same postures day in and day out, but I’m constantly surprised by how much my practice and postures evolve over time. I value this yoga for teaching me how strong I can be in tough situations, both mentally and physically. There are many other things I do to ensure a healthy lifestyle, but since introducing yoga to my routine I feel stronger, have more energy and my skin is brighter. I also really like the “spongy” feeling in my lungs after class; I feel like I can get so much more air! It’s not easy doing Bikram Yoga, but it’s damn well worth it.

Lesley: As early on as my second class I saw changes in my body and, more specifically, in my breathing that hooked me on Bikram Yoga – and I’ve never looked back. I can now touch my toes (something that had eluded me until I started doing yoga) and have increased energy, improved digestion and a better balance between flexibility and strength. But the benefits don’t stop at the physical. I’ve learned to use my breathing to control my body and mind while inside the hot room, but it’s also a skill I apply any time I feel stressed … it’s how I survive each set of exams!

How often do you practice together?

Lesley: We often manage to do one or two classes a week together. We try and go to 6 a.m. classes together, since scheduling conflicts are rare that early in the morning!

Leanne: The buddy system for 6 a.m. class is very helpful. Yawn!

What do you love most about sharing the Bikram Yoga experience with each other?

Andi: My favourite classes are when mom, Lesley and I go together and then, after class, drink chai tea and discuss our latest yoga-room progress. I really like the support and encouragement of going as a family. There are days when I don’t want to go, but I’ll rally if I’m meeting mom or Lesley at the studio … and that can be the turning point in my day!

Leanne: I love that we share our good and bad yoga experiences. Supporting each other through the tough days as well as celebrating the days when we say, “Wow, did you see my Standing Bow?” We also love laughing together about the little idiosyncrasies of our individual practices, and we’re constantly holding each other accountable to try our best each session.

Having said that, what do you admire most about your daughters, in or out of the hot room?

I admire them for taking what they have learned in the studio and applying that to other areas of their lives: to focus on one thing at a time, to think less and do more, to remember that what you can’t do today you might be able to do tomorrow, to push through when you feel like giving up and that to commit to something often means you can do it!

What do you admire most about your mom?

Andi: My mom is truly amazing! She is the most grounded and supportive person I know. She’s made me appreciate my flaws, as well as my strengths. I have a favourite quote by Edith Wharton that I often think describes my mom: “There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle, or the mirror that reflects it.” In my opinion, my mom is both!

Lesley: It’s always a hard question to answer; there are too many wonderful things I want to say about my mom and my words will never do her justice. In yoga, specifically, she accepts each class as a new class, never judging or comparing herself to others in the room (or to herself on another day). Scoliosis makes many of the postures much harder for her but, if I look half as good as she does when I’m her age, I will be thrilled! She is, without a doubt, the most amazing influence on my life: the support, love, and laughter she brings make me strive to channel her positive energy every day. She believes that I can do anything I set my mind to and supports me each step of the way. Without sounding too much like a Hallmark Card, my mom is my most inspirational role model and I hope to follow closely in her footsteps.

Bring your mom to Bikram Yoga! If she’s never tried it before, her first class is free!

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