Thirteen years ago, fresh off of her high school graduation, Lesline Pittman walked into a yoga studio with a friend. She had never done yoga before but, after an hour of practice in a heated room, Lesline was hooked. From that impromptu visit forward, yoga would continue to show up in Lesline’s life – most crucially in times of pain and hardship when she needed her practice most.
I sat down with Lesline via a virtual chat to learn about her practice, being a Black yoga teacher in predominately white spaces, and how yoga can look for busy moms seeking well-deserved respite.
Lesline on her yogic path: Although she enjoyed her initial yoga class in 2009, Lesline readily admits that being the only black face in the room was daunting but not unusual for her. “I’m used to being the only Black person in spaces,” the upstate New York native says, “But I fell in love with the practice.” The studio closed while Lesline went on to her nursing degree and yoga naturally took a backseat to her studies. Lesline’s life was in flux when yoga re-entered her life during her late twenties. The pain of a 2017 miscarriage brought her back to the mat but it started with one tool: her breath. “Pranayama led me back to my yoga practice,” she says, crediting neighborhood walks as a part of her healing journey. In the two years following her miscarriage, Lesline gave birth to her son and daughter. Her practice had kicked back into full swing by the time she was offered a diversity scholarship to begin her yoga teacher training.
Lesline on her yoga teacher training experience: “If you’re Black, you can get it!” Lesline says, both of us laughing at her description of the diversity scholarship’s guidelines. The scholarship’s learning path, however, was serious business. For six weeks, Lesline dedicated herself to building a yoga practicum and teaching donation-based classes. In addition, the scholarship provided her with a network of other Black yogis with whom to connect. “I felt like I can breathe a little because I see people who look like me doing it.” Through her instructor training, Lesline tapped into her entrepreneurial skills and how her tumultuous journey in motherhood guided her teaching path. “I realized, not only can I monetize my practice, but I can transform lives and hold space for mothers who need it.”
Lesline on why busy moms need yoga: Shortly after her youngest child was born, she began to experience symptoms of postpartum depression. Thankfully, Lesline’s nursing background equipped her with the knowledge to see the signs early and seek help for herself. When Lesline decided to focus on mothers as her clientele, however, doubt set in. “I thought, who am I to help someone else,” she had thought. Looking back, Lesline realizes the tumbles of her journey led her to be doing exactly what she’s been put on Earth to do: teach busy moms how to do yoga. “The beauty of yoga is that there are eight limbs to the practice,” she says when asked how busy mothers can incorporate yoga into their schedules. “Some days I just breathe. Some days I just meditate. My yoga practice looks different every day.”
I feel lucky to have connected with Lesline and am in awe of her journey. From attending her first class to becoming a powerhouse yoga instructor, she has carved an inspirational path to her yoga career and it shows up in her mission to help other women. So many times, I’ve heard moms say “I don’t know where to start!” when I mention beginning a yoga practice. Lesline has the perfect answer: “You can start with me.”
See you on the mat tomorrow!
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