Living Yoga & Health

Lisa Nevar-Landsmann

How did you come to yoga?

In 1996 Lisa was working for an Ontario environmental non-profit organization. She was tired all the time, under a good deal of stress, and discovered she couldn’t touch her toes! She was in her mid-20s. She took this as a sign that she was in need of some physical and emotional help and decided to research yoga. She sat in a bookstore and poured over all the books she could find at that time. She was either extremely intimidated by the imagery (BKS Iyengar in a no-hands handstand) or found them to be too 90’s-fitness-crazed. She then happened upon a little book called Yoga & You by Esther Myers and it spoke to her. It said, quite simply we all come to yoga in our own way and in our own time. Whatever your reason, make sure the yoga benefits you. And that was it. Twenty years later and she still believes this, practice this and teach this. Yoga isn’t just about de-stressing or stretching, but certainly for many of us, that’s a good point from which to begin to explore our practice.

What made you decide to become a yoga teacher?

Lisa had been practicing yoga for about 10 years when her teachers approached her to begin the teacher training program. She declined the opportunity. She felt that her yoga was still too personal; it was “her time” and she didn’t feel she was in a place to share it. Three years after that, she finally applied for the teacher training program. By then she had been teaching Itsy Bitsy Yoga for a year or two and that experience made her realize how much she had to give and how much she actually could enjoy sharing yoga with others. Oh, and she admired her three incredible yoga teachers so much, she really did thrill at the idea of one day following in their footsteps.

How long have you been teaching yoga?

Lisa started teaching Itsy Bitsy Yoga in 2006. For adult hatha classes, she began a 2-year/750+ hour teacher training program in 2008. A major component of the program was being immersed in teaching – both interning and teaching classes. She hasn’t stopped since then!

What do you enjoy most about teaching?

Lisa really encourages dialogue and feedback in her classes. She loves hearing people say “Wow! I really liked that! Here’s what I experienced…”. Or “I’ve never tried it that way before; I’ll have to think about it.” Her favourite way to practice yoga is to adapt and modify. She likes to see how many variations she can create with a pose and how many ways she can enter into and move out of a pose. She loves sharing this idea with others and seeing and hearing about their experiences with it. She finds it so rewarding when she can see and hear people developing a strong self-awareness and growing their own, unique yoga practice.

Your favourite pose? Least favourite pose?

Lisa has two pose families that she particularly loves and they are at opposite ends of the spectrum. She loves restful, contemplative poses like Little Boat, Child’s Pose, Savasana. She finds the experience to be so rich, calming and helpful. On the other hand, she thrills at the energizing effect of inversions – Headstand in particular – and she loves Wheel Pose. They are playful and she feels like a kid at the playground again! Overarching all of these poses is the exploration of her breath. Understanding how she breathes in these poses and what breathing patterns are the most beneficial are key to any positive yoga experience for her.

A pose that confounds her, believe it or not, is Tree Pose. It’s so popular, even if you’ve never practiced yoga in your life, you know what Tree Pose looks like. For whatever reason, she can manage all sorts of standing balances, but Tree Pose continues to be her project.

Inspiring quotes, poems, sayings?

1) “Do not kill the instinct of the body for the glory of the pose.” ~ Vanda Scaravelli

2) And in praise of quiet: “Deep Relaxation (Savasana) is an orientation to our entire practice. It is not simply a way of resting or a counterbalance to more active poses. It brings us to passive release which is at the core of the work. It is a benchmark that shows us what it means to release with gravity, what a passive breath feels like…that our bodies do release spontaneously and without effort…that something really does happen when we become quiet and surrender. There is a tremendous simplicity, integration and wholeness to the pose.” ~ Esther Myers

3) Yoga. Anytime. Anywhere. With Anyone. ~ Me

What are doing in the community, personally, etc.?

Before moving to Guelph she had the privilege of providing monthly yoga workshops for the clients of an organization that supports individuals living with HIV and AIDS. She taught yoga to people at all ages and stages of their lives through the Town of Oakville Parks & Recreation department. Perhaps her favourite program of all was Yoga & Art!  She continues to offer private yoga to students that need personalized, supportive practices, whether it be for physical or emotional challenges.

Her family moved to Guelph in the summer of 2014, so she is still finding her footing in the yoga and community volunteering realms. So far though, she has begun teaching yoga in schools as a way of encouraging children to enjoy an active, non-competitive activity, find focus and develop body awareness, self-confidence and healthy movement habits. She also does as much parent volunteering as she can at her sons’ schools.

On a personal level, she is an avid hiker and wilderness camper, as she just loves to get outdoors and be in nature. Every day she and her husband try to teach their two incredible sons to live life actively, sustainably and respectfully. And with a little yoga in it too.