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Student Focus: Elizabeth Lanyon

EMLElizabeth Lanyon Age: 29

Occupation: Philanthropy and Partnerships Manager at the Leadership Learning Community in Oakland, a national nonprofit for leadership development practitioners

Elizabeth took her first class at Adeline Yoga Studio in late 2011, after moving to the East Bay from San Francisco.

How did you discover Adeline Yoga? I was looking for a yoga studio in the East Bay, because I had been going to Yoga Tree in the city with my family for a while. I wanted a space in Oakland that was small and familial. I started coming to class with Chris, who used to own the studio. I immediately fell in love with the small classes and the way that folks were instructing – and easily being able to fit classes into my schedule was great, too. I found the studio by accident, but then I fell in love with it and started to come here as much as I could. I lived nearby for two years, and during that time, I became a more active member of the community and really enjoyed it.

Have you increased your commitment to your practice since joining the studio? Exponentially! When I realized how good doing yoga made me feel, and how it made my body change and my mind have more space, it really became a practice I wanted to cultivate. I’ve now changed jobs twice since joining the studio, and endured a crazy, tumultuous breakup, during which I came to Adeline every day. It’s a place I can constantly come back to. And in terms of my schedule, I love being able to go yoga after work. I can cook dinner or work on my volunteer stuff after. It creates a nice path into the evening.

What classes do you take regularly? I take Melinda’s Level 2 Monday evening class and Anneke’s Level 2 classes on Tuesday evenings and Saturday mornings. I’ve also taken Anneke’s Fundamental series three times now. That’s me. [Laughs] I brought a friend with me to the last series.

Why did you take the Fundamentals series with Anneke multiple times? I was interested in learning the basics. I literally just jumped into doing yoga six or seven years ago, thinking, ‘Okay, I’m just going to do this.’ I didn’t understand the names of a lot of poses, or why we turn our feet a certain way, for example – the mechanics of yoga. I took the series for a second time because I thought it might be good for me to try it again. I had started teaching some informal classes at work, and it helped with that, too. By the time the third opportunity to take the series with Anneke came around, it was really me trying to convince a friend who had recently moved back to California to join the studio. Her name is Rachel; she’s done a lot of yoga. She has fibromyalgia and is in a lot of pain, a lot of the time. So I said, ‘Come with me. I have someone you might really click with.’ And she loved it! She’s hungry for yoga all the time now.

How has taking the Fundamentals series affected your practice? I’ve noticed big changes in my practice. For one, I’m much more aware of my own body, and in particularly, my organs and bones, what things are called. It’s also made me more aware and mindful of myself in space in general, when I’m out in the world. When I go home to Chicago later this week, I’m going to teach a class for my mom, sister, and friends that will start with what’s taught in the Fundamental series. I’ll add some standing poses, and since it’s almost the end of the month, maybe some restorative poses or backbends. I have the practice workbook and Light on Yoga to help me.

What makes Adeline Yoga Studio unique? Well, it’s the most welcoming studio I’ve ever been to, hands down. I’ve been to yoga classes in Chicago, in San Francisco, and at country clubs and fitness centers. There’s always this ego thing that happens. I don’t feel like Adeline has that, which makes it so much easier to come here, want to be here, and not feel intimidated. I didn’t know anything about Iyengar when I started. I just showed up thinking it was a yoga class. When it was over I thought, ‘I didn’t sweat. What’s wrong with me?’ Eventually I realized it was a different type of yoga. The other aspect I think is really important is the value the studio places on education. You don’t just come to class and do ten standing poses without learning anything about them. There is ongoing dialogue between instructors and students – teachers are committed to educating their students. Even if you’re just practicing for practice sakes, and not someone who wants to do this for your life, it’s valuable. I come here and walk away with more than what I came with. I also really like the class sizes. It never feels crowded even when the room is packed with forty people. And I like Heather a lot. She’s pretty cool. [Smiles]

How has committing to your practice affected your health and other aspects of your life? In general, I have a lot of digestive challenges, and those have leveled out a lot since I’ve been practicing. I feel more balanced and relaxed. I find myself being more mindful and able to engage in dialogue neutrally – my emotions running neither high nor low. I’m able to see things in a more well-rounded way. I’m also calmer. I think being in development makes you pretty hyper, because you’re always going, going, going. I’ve really worked on trying to be more calm. And doing yoga has helped me learn how to calm myself down, as well.

Do you have a favorite pose?  A least favorite pose? Ardha chandrasana (half-moon pose) makes me smile every time I do it. I have a funniest pose. There’s this one, it’s a standing pose, that Anneke always asks us to expose our flank in. And I think, ‘I’m a piece of meat!’ I don’t eat beef so it cracks me up. Halasana (plow pose) is tricky for me. I’m using the benches more, but sometimes I still feel smushed in my pectoral region, which makes it hard for me to breathe. I want my feet to be able to go over my head on their own, but they’re not quite there yet.