aka Surya Gian Kaur. Meaning: Lioness of the Lord whose wisdom shines like the brilliant radiance of the sun.
Creative. Spiritual. Spunky. These are the qualities Leslieann brings to her classes as she guides students through asanas that strive to connect mind, body, and spirit. With an open heart, kind words, and a little silliness, she works to create a safe space that nurtures and heals. She teaches Vinaysa classes that unite breath with movement and Kundalini classes that take it a step further by incorporating sound and chanting. Her pranayama and meditation classes create moments of awareness to allow for stillness from within.
A poet all her life and a yoga practitioner since 2003, Leslieann has come to discover that creative writing and the practice of yoga are inextricably linked: both create and sustain deep connections to the spiritual Self. Calling on mystic poets, Rumi and Hafiz, she aspires to share this gift with her students both on and off the mat.
Leslieann is grateful for this path that yoga has taken her thus far and is indebted to her teachers: Shannon Elliott, Jane Lindemann, and Gabi Perrotti. She earned her 200-hr teacher training at Onyx Yoga Studio in Warren, NJ. She also completed her certification in Kundalini Yoga, training with Mahan Rishi Singh Khalsa and Nirbhe Kaur Khalsa. A Yoga Alliance-registered teacher, she is certified in healing and recovery yoga from Kula for Karma in Franklin Lakes, NJ. In January 2019, she received her 300-hr advanced teacher training certification from Supersoul’s India teacher training, lead by Raghunath Cappo.
How I Came to Yoga
My first yoga class was in Manhattan at some gym in the late 90s, my fitness era of step, spin classes, and boxing (yes, boxing). I heard about how amazing yoga was and thought: yes, stretching would be a good balance to my hardcore workouts. So I checked it out. It was awful. I think I hurt myself in some pose I was neither ready for nor understood. You want me to put my foot where? You want my back to do what?I decided right then and there: I hated yoga. A few years later, I moved to Santa Cruz, CA for grad school and my housemate would go on and on about how yoga was the best thing ever. I finally agreed to go to a class with her, but got confused. This wasn’t the bendy yoga I expected; it was meditative with a slow progression of poses. I nearly fell asleep! This only confirmed that yoga was definitely not my thing.
Then in 2003, that all changed. I had just moved into a new house, found myself between jobs, and knew no one. I felt so isolated. Something inside told me to try yoga again. So I reluctantly ventured over to the local Y and found myself in a class that felt different. This was my first encounter with what I now feel to be the true nature of yoga: a practice in which you connect with your inner self. The teacher lit incense and struck a chime to begin the class. She invited us to go within. I always felt fantastic after class, but never really knew why. All I knew was I started to feel at home. Not just in my actual house and in this new town, but the home within me. The only other time I would feel this way was when I was writing. I was so happy to find other ways to be at home.
Around the same time, I started a spiritual inquiry with my friend, Erika, who lived in Oakland. We would talk every week about a book we had chosen to consider our spirituality. We started with Louise Hay’s I Can Do It. Positive affirmations seemed manageable — we became aware of our self-talk. Then, it was Ask and It Is Given. Our weekly conversations were so good that we just kept going. I was hungry for some kind of spiritual connection, but didn’t realize it until I had embarked on this path. There was that missing “something” but I couldn’t put my finger on it. It didn’t occur to me until years later that the work I did with Erika was connected with my yoga asana practice. I didn’t realize that the two were one and the same.
Fast forward to spring of 2016 where I’m living in a different house with three kids and a dog. I was again looking for something. I didn’t know what, but I sensed that I needed to take my yoga and spiritual practices to a deeper level. I thought teacher training might help. But which program? That’s when I took my first class with Shannon Elliott –Kundalini yoga, no less!—to meet her and talk with her about YTT at Onyx Yoga Studio. That first experience with Kundalini changed me in radical ways that have put me on the path I’m on now. Teacher training continued to change me as I sought out ways to deepen my understanding and experience of yoga and spirituality. I didn’t plan on actually teaching. And now here I am, teaching vinyasa yoga, yoga for healing & recovery, and pranayama & meditation classes. Here I am combining my practices of writing poetry and meditation into workshops. Here I am, having just completed my certification in Kundalini yoga. Here I am curious about Yin yoga and sound healing. Here I am seeking to open and expand my connection with my inner Self, that divine light so that I can share this love and joy by encouraging others to rediscover and connect with own inner divine light. And I could only do this with the home I found with the people at Onyx. I am ever grateful. (July 2018)