Leslie Burger – Buddhi Yoga Teacher of the Month

March Yoga Teacher Highlight

When Buddhi yoga teacherLeslie walks in the door she is always wearing an ear-to-ear smile and exudes positivity. We have watched her blossom into an amazing yoga teacher and we feel lucky to have her as a part of our Buddhi family. Recently she began teaching Happy Back classes after studying Iyengar Yoga in addition to a few other healing modalities that makes her teaching style unique and beyond compare. We got together with Leslie to find out more about her studies and how she brings such a healing presence to her classes.

Buddhi Yoga Teacher

You’re a very busy woman. Tell us about some of your training and other things you are studying and how it has made you such a unique yoga teacher.

I’ve done a Healing Touch certification, mindfulness self-compassion training, Yoga for a Happy Back 100 hour training, and a holistic nursing certification program. My nursing prerequisite courses (e.g. physiology and anatomy) are super relevant, too. It’s really helpful to have a detailed understanding of the human body and how it works. The trainings I’ve done have all built on each other, they’re all so connected! Healing touch is energy healing; it’s very similar to reiki, but it’s taught from a medical standpoint with very specific guidelines. Because of the specificity of the training it’s acceptable and welcome in hospitals and other clinical settings (but I totally use it in my yoga classes!). The mindfulness self-compassion training was a deeply profound personal experience for me. The tools I learned from that training have been really wonderful and I love sharing them with students. I take continuing education classes for nurses at UCSD—they have a holistic nursing certification program that I’m going through right now. It doesn’t count for anything because I’m not even a nurse yet, but I love to learn and I think it’s so important to have a holistic and integrative background if you’re going into the medical field.

You’ve studied with one of my favorite Iyengar yoga teachers Rachel Krentzman. Explain one of the most important things you have learned from her from a therapeutic perspective.

I learned SO many important things from Rachel, it’s hard to choose just one! I think something that really hit home for me was truly evaluating the intention of yoga. Being able to take a step back from yourself or your students and ask: What is the intention behind this? What am I trying to accomplish here? Is this really benefiting my students?

Seeing each person (or yourself) as they are, and trying your best to offer them what you think might benefit them. For example, someone who is hypermobile would certainly benefit from focusing more on stabilizing their muscles and joints—they already have mobility, so they don’t need to emphasize it more. We would want to create as much balance as possible, physically, psychologically, and energetically.

Everything is so connected and we embody everything we go through. Through yoga therapy, we can start to peel away physical and psychological layers to get to the root of suffering and begin to heal. Sorry, that was more than one thing—I could go on forever!

What made you want to start teaching happy back classes and how are they different from your other classes?

I’m currently going back to school to become a nurse! I believe that yoga and medicine complement each other so well, and I hope to incorporate yoga therapy into my nursing practice. I wanted to start teaching happy back classes because so many people experience chronic back pain; I wanted to learn how to empower and educate my students to heal themselves.

Each pose in the happy back classes has a purpose, which makes the whole class very intentional (I now make sure that this is reflected in my Vinyasa classes, too!). It’s not a flowy, super creative style of yoga, but I love it because it gives you an opportunity to fully experience the postures in the best way possible. Poses are held for longer periods of time with very fine-tuned alignment so we can experience the full benefits of the postures.The poses build strength, stability, mobility, and length in the spine. It’s potent, and it works!

If you could go study with any yoga teacher in the world for an advanced training who would it be?

Annie Carpenter. She totally blows me away with her knowledge of body mechanics; she has the ability to see such subtleties in each person’s body. It wasn’t until I took a workshop with her that I finally learned how to not hyperextend my knees while engaging my quadriceps in yoga. I think each time I have the privilege of taking a class or workshop with her, I have a major “a-ha!” moment. I love the details and fine-tuned alignment that she teaches so well (and she makes you WORK!).

Besides yoga, do you have any practices that you do consistently to keep you grounded and sane?

A consistent meditation practice is a must for me! I wake up early in the mornings so I can have some time to sit and check in before I go dashing off into my day. My meditation practice doesn’t always look the same—sometimes I listen to guided meditations (Tara Brach’s free meditations on her website are phenomenal), sit in silence focusing on a mantra, or use creative visualization. If I didn’t meditate every day I would probably explode. Another thing that keeps me sane and happy is nourishing my social relationships, whether that means grabbing a coffee with a friend, talking to my sister on the phone, anything to stay connected. For me, it’s really easy to become isolated because I’m so busy running from place to place, but carving out those little chunks of time for social connection makes a huge difference.

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