Yoga With Les Leventhal
By Nick Stergiopoulos
How has your partner influenced your yoga?
My partner and I have been together for 10 years. We both had corporate jobs. He came home one day and said he was quitting his job and decided to go into interior design. A year later I came home and announced I was quitting my job. I had no idea what to do next. I was burned out. It was no longer about customer relations; it was about getting the deal and beating the competition. Yoga gave me enough information to tell me that wasn’t right. My partner said I should do a teacher training. He suggested I go to LA for a month and do yoga. I didn’t know why I was there. I just wanted to absorb. By the end of the first week we taught an intro class to new students and I was into it. Is this what I want to do? I come from an all or nothing background. I do everything to the best of my ability. There is always this funny battle between yoga and the business of yoga. There is definitely a competitive element to what we do and what type of classes are taught. I didn’t want to get too crazed in that. I just want to teach. I still take classes and go to continuing education because there are so many things I don’t teach that I want to know about. Things took off for me pretty quickly. I try to stay very humble. There is a part of me that is still that ambitious banker.
And how did you begin to include music into your routine?
A few years ago I had a drummer who started coming to my Friday afternoon classes and drummed for about a year. Other people started doing music-yoga stuff and Wanderlust happened last year, which was amazing, and teachers discovered the power of live music versus a simple playlist. At Wanderlust, with the nature and the pools and the energy of the music at night, it was unlike anything I have ever experienced before. It was like my first day of yoga. You carry that with you for the rest of the year.
I wanted to talk to yoga teachers originally, because I used to be very against yoga up until a year ago. I thought it was a teaser in this contemporary world. Now I know that I was wrong.
There is a yoga practice for everyone. Yoga is creating this avenue where people get creative. If it’s just exercise for you, that’s great! If you want to come for spiritual teachings, that’s great!
And as far as the spiritual, how does that influence your yoga?
New Age yoga for me is light and fluffy. It is very meditative. I know that works for a lot of people, but I like to move. At this point in my life I want to get into my body. I do give wisdom during my classes. I want to give something that is high-level that doesn’t push people into one place. You never want to be at a place where only one yoga is the right yoga. For me the whole spiritual side is getting connected to yourself and how you connect to other people. This takes me back to my job at the bank where I wasn’t connected to anybody but the almighty dollar.
Being out, what are your views of the gay community in relation to yoga?
You think that the studio on Castro would just be the gay boys. Not necessarily. I think the gay community is coming along in terms of yoga. Now there is the naked yoga thing happening. It’s not my thing. I sexualize nudity, so knowing that about myself, my intentions of going wouldn’t be yoga. But isn’t sex yoga? Yes. Isn’t sharing a meal yoga? Yes. But I think going to naked yoga wouldn’t be with the right intention. But people are getting something out of it and that is all that matters. That is what yoga is. I am an old party boy from L.A. who is happy to be alive. Yoga heals from that time where everything was a bit too crazy.
For classes and retreats, visit: www.yogawithles.com
-- COURTNEY NICHOLS
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