Excerpts with Les Leventhal: On Hip and Heart- Openers, Facing and Embracing your Fears

Another of our exceptional Facilitators takes time to share his thoughts on life, yoga and what makes him tick. He’ll be sharing his expertise at MURFEST in one Masterclasses – Anhata Chakra Vinyasa- and two other workshops; Detox Vinyasa and Facing and Embracing Fears.

1. First thank you for agreeing to be at Murfest; we’re looking forward to having you! As this is your first time….what made you want to be part of Murfest?

We have been trying to schedule me at Murfest for a few years now and this is the first time dates worked out for everyone. I’ve been teaching in this region for over 10 years – so it was time to connect.

2. As an experienced yoga instructor/guide do you have any expectations for the students in your class? Do you have any expectations for those who will attend your workshop at Murfest?

My only expectation is that people will commit to practice a willingness to investigate and not watch others do things and sit there and say they can’t do that. Everyone can everything and everybody’s body is different, as in our biography is our biology. Find out what you can do.

3. When did your own yoga journey start; in your website you mentioned that you hit rock bottom….so what pulled you into doing yoga? And then moving on from just learning to becoming a teacher and training others?

Ha, this is a long story – if folks want the long version, get my book, Two Lifestyles, One Lifetime. Basically, I was using drugs and other things and stumbled upon yoga, as we do, and it saved my life and I found that one of the things that continues to save my life is to share my journey and help others discover what their purpose is in life.

4. You’ll be doing 3 different workshops at Murfest; I also noticed that you describe some poses as being ‘Heart Openers’ or ‘Hip Openers’, and one of your workshops is about Facing Fears through doing Arm Balance and Inversion poses- do you intentionally focus on some poses? Or is it unintentional? Could you share a little more about the focus of your workshops?

I always teach the same way, Warm up, hot part, peak poses, warm down/cool down, savasana. Hips are where we store challenges of our relationships. So, I’m asking people to get honest in their relationships and what they contributed to those relationships. We always have our part in everything. Heart chakra is the collaborator of all the other chakras and peak heart opening poses are exhilarating and for some, begin the UN-guarding and -protecting phase of opening up. Arm balances and inversions are all about courage, strength and finding out what we can do. Many people say I can’t do this or that but they never try it. Simply put, that’s lying to self. Investigate, be a spiritual detective and build a foundation. All of these things are inside of everyone and if we give ourselves permission to have the relationship with them on the mat and not bail the poses, then we can see similarities in our lives off the mat and find the middle path.

5. Are your workshops designed for any level? How do you integrate the different levels into one class? I would imagine thats always a challenge for any teacher.

Everything I teach is designed for all levels. The challenge is the student that crosses their arms and huffs and puffs, “I can’t, I can’t”. I don’t let them sit there in that muck and mud. So, I tell people, level 1 stay here, level 2 stay here and level 3 come here. Many people will bail the pose and say I want level 3 but they give up where they are at in level 1 and 2. People need more patience these days. Instant gratification seems to not be quick enough. It took us years to bind all this energy up in our bodies. It will take a while to unwind.

6. On your website it mentions you run a program called FIT which stands for Fun, Inspiration and Transformation – what or who inspires you to do what you do? And do you feel that yoga helps people express themselves better or is it more about a control of the emotions?

It is definitely not about control. Rather, it is about surrendering the illusion of control over anything. My teachers inspire me, Ana Forrest, Seane Corn and Tias Little, to name a few but also, anyone that falls down over and over and over again and gets back up. I learn the most from watching these people on and off the mat, especially drug addicts and alcoholics that relapse a lot (I used to), prostitutes, gamblers,tragedies where most people would just tell these people – oh you’ve had it rough, take a break and they don’t. That energy comes from within and I watch how they source it.

7. Finally… for your participants who attend your class- how can they contact you if they’d like to further their training with you?

Easiest way to stay in touch with me is check my website for workshops, retreats and trainings,