• Congratulations, Molly Rue Leitner!

    Grace Yoga (GY): This month we are focusing on conscious breathing and Yoga Sutra 1.34: The mind is calmed by regulating the breath, particularly attending to exhalation and the natural stilling of breath that comes from such practice. How has conscious breathing had an effect on your yoga practice, and on your daily life?

    Molly Rue Leitner (MRL): When I first started practicing yoga about seven years ago, my very first teacher stressed the importance of conscious breath as a means to connect to your practice more deeply. To be honest, it was challenging at first. When I first started practicing I was so much in my head, either worrying if I was holding my body in the right position, or thinking about my life off of the mat...how was I supposed to keep tabs on my breath on top of all of that? But over time, it became like second nature and I grew to exalt in the breathwork aspect of practice. I have grown to learn that breath is SO important to connect to your practice on the mat, and your life off the mat. During an asana practice, consistent and steady breathing is so important to guide you through the pose and keep you present. Off the mat, the same can be said. If we pause to breathe and to reflect before reacting to a situation, we can find clarity, stillness, and a sense of calm in whatever we do.

     

    GY: What is your personal philosophy about maintaining a yoga practice with a busy lifestyle?

    MRL: For me, practice is about showing up to wherever you are fully present, aware, and awake. I believe that even if you can't physically attend a class at a studio every day, it is still possible to find and cultivate moments of stillness and peace throughout your day no matter where you are. I try to emphasize this in my classes- that whatever we find within ourselves during practice on the mat, we can take with us when we go back out into our lives. If we can do that every day, then we are honoring our practice.

     

    GY: As a teacher and a student of Yoga, you are exposed to so many facets of Yoga as a practice. What is the pure objective of yoga as you currently understand it?

    MRL: I believe that yoga is about letting go of the ego in order to deeply connect your body, mind, and soul. Showing up to meet yourself wherever you are along with letting go of any expectations are two huge components that, for me, help to link those three elements. By cultivating a "beginner's mind" each time you come to practice, you leave yourself open to new and meaningful experiences. I found this idea to resonate deeply for myself two years ago when I sustained a pretty serious injury to my cervical spine that changed the trajectory of my personal asana practice. It was a challenging and frustrating road to recovery, and I was upset at first because I could no longer do things physically on the mat that, in my mind, were signs of an "advanced" practice. That's when this idea of shedding expectations really began to resonate with me. I realized it was ego that was getting in the way with what I thought I should be able to do, instead of being grateful for what I could do. Letting go of those expectations that I had imposed on myself really helped me to heal and ultimately take my practice to a deeper level.  Each day, we are slightly different from the day before. When we come on the mat fully realizing this, and by connecting breath, body, and mind, we can gain access to new perspectives every time we come to practice.

     

    GY: Please tell us a little about yourself: career, family, background and anything else interesting you would like us to know.

    MRL: I am originally from the east coast. I grew up in a small town close to the beach on the beautiful Eastern Shore of Maryland. My husband and I moved to the Bay Area in the summer of 2014 but we regularly travel back east (along with our cat, Arlo...yes, we are those people who bring our cat on an airplane) to visit our families for summer and holidays. I have a Master's degree in Spanish literature and have been a Spanish teacher for the past seven years. I love to travel, and my major bucket list item is to visit every Spanish-speaking country on the globe. Finally, I love to crochet, go camping and hiking, play music (I am learning to play electric bass), and make up songs to sing to my cat (although he is not a very appreciative audience).