An Interview with Yoga Teacher Alissa Lesperance
Alissa is a yoga teacher, personal trainer, bellydancer and Schwinn Indoor Cycle instructor. She is certified through YogaFit and the American Council on Exercise. Students can take yoga classes from her at StudioNia on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
Nia) Why did you decide to become a yoga teacher?
Alissa) I started teaching yoga when I was 24 which was also the time that I became a certified personal trainer. Mind and body wellness had become a priority for me and I wanted to share its benefits with other people.
N) Name the top three benefits of yoga, as you personally experience them to be.
A) The first benefit I experienced from my first yoga class was the ability to release tension through breathing. Sounds like a simple thing, right? But you have to realize that you're holing tension in order to release it. Throughout the class, I realized that I was holding onto a lot of tension in areas I didn't even notice. And once I could identify that, I could use the breathing techniques I learned to let it go.
Along the same vein, I think we hold onto a lot of repressed emotion in our bodies and yoga helps release that as well. By stretching the body in ways that we don't on a regular basis, we can get into those areas and let it out. It's not uncommon for students to find different emotions crop up during class, from crying to anger or frustration to laughing. It's a huge breakthrough when this happens. But don't worry, it doesn't happen every class!
Yoga is a discipline that gives back what you put in. When you practice regularly, you will notice changes in your body and changes in your ability to move into and out of postures. As your base grows, so does your confidence in your practice and yourself. As Baron Baptiste says, "The power to change your body through yoga creates confidence in your ability to change your life in ways you didn't think possible... With a mindful, conscious practice, you can connect with your personal power..."
N) What is a common misperception people have about yoga?
A) A common misconception that people have about yoga is that they can't do it because they are "tight." How can you become more flexible if you don't stretch? In my classes, I try to offer modifications and props so that people of all flexibility ranges can feel the benefits of each pose.
N) You encourage your students to set an intent at the beginning of every class. What's the advantage of doing this?
A) For me, the intention is an anchor. When I set an intention, I stop and ask myself, "Why am I practicing on this particular day?" It gives me a focal point when I become distracted. Some people like to set their intention to offer positive energy to others. Some people will pick a word or phrase, such as non-judgment, compassion, bliss or breathe. The intention is personal and specific to each practitioner and what they are working on that particular day.
N) What changes do you observe in your students over time?
A) I have noticed a growing confidence in the students that come to class over time. Some people come into class, shy, nervous, and constantly looking around at what everyone else is doing and comparing themselves. Over time, I think the practice becomes more internal for them. They move into postures with the confidence that they have "been there before" and set a focal point that allows them to explore more from the inside out. I had a teacher once say, "When we begin to practice yoga each posture is large and gross. Sort of like the way we used our fingers when we were learning to count. Just as our math skills became more refined and internal with time, so does our yoga practice."
N) What do you like about teaching at StudioNia?
A) StudioNia is by far the most ornate and grand space I have ever had the honor to teach in. From the hardwood floors, high ceilings, white curtains and molding in Studio A to the incredible views of Mt Hood in Studio B, the space is gorgeous.
N) Do you have any advice for new students?
A) Keep an open mind and just try it. You have nothing to lose and you might just like it!