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Rising Stars: Meet Leila Worby

Today we’d like to introduce you to Leila Worby.

Hi Leila, we’d love for you to start by introducing yourself.
I was a competitive figure skater throughout my youth, basically yoga on ice, so the poses always felt very familiar to me. I think I was 16 when I took my first yoga class and I remember that the poses felt awkward and not quite comfortable. That was until Shavasana/corpse pose was offered at the end of the practice. I immediately went into a profound state of meditation, when everything became black, similar to deep sleep. But I immediately returned to my body when the teacher cued us to. I remember wanting to explore the practice more with that teacher. Where I lived in Sweden, there were no fancy yoga studios at the time, so I started out doing yoga using a book. When I moved to Switzerland, I bought BKS Iyengar’s book – “Light on Yoga” and continued my practice alone. It wasn’t until I came to America that I started taking classes at a studio. I’m grateful for the time I spent practicing alone using a book. It allowed me to move at my own pace, wearing whatever I felt like in the comfort of my own home.

When you take a class, your attention is directed externally a lot of the time. You worry about how you look; the energy of the other practitioners can throw you off, for better or for worse. Having a home practice allows you to move your senses inwards, one of the absolute foundational practices of Yoga and it is what makes yoga meditative. In the early days of my yoga journey, I didn’t care about the poses at all, all I wanted was to experience that deep meditative state I had reached in Shavasana, so I went to India right after high school intending to live in an Ashram and study meditation. I’m somewhat of an introvert. So changing careers from my busy corporate job in people operations with Google to being a yoga teacher felt foreign at first. I couldn’t think of anything more torturous than having to stand up in front of a large audience (in yoga pants no less!) And guide them with my voice for an hour or longer, so I never really considered teaching until one day when one of my closest friends said “you’d make a great yoga teacher. You have the knowledge and a great European accent, you’d be fabulous! I’d love to take a class from you”.

And I think that was what prompted me to take my first teacher training. I was lucky enough to have the funds to study with the most well-respected teachers in America and overseas. I started out with a local teacher training and I then did my in-depth training with Shiva Rea, who has been my biggest inspiration in terms of teachers. She teaches yoga from a Tantric perspective that I really enjoy. I was also extremely fortunate to have studied in depth on an ongoing basis with direct disciples of Pattabhi Jois, the founder of Ashtanga Yoga, a traditional lineage that I enjoy and used to practice a couple of times a week before COVID. I draw from all that accumulated knowledge when I teach yoga. As well as my studies and practice of Kundalini and Kriya yoga. I was teaching prenatal yoga at a local studio as one of my first jobs, and after that Google hired me, and it felt like coming home. I was teaching yoga to people who were living the life I left when I had kids. It felt really good to help them overcome some of the pressures of corporate life in silicon valley.

We all face challenges, but looking back would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
In terms of physical practice, I struggled a lot. I had a bad accident in India when I broke my spine and my right arm, and I had to relearn to walk again. Because of the structural changes to my body from that accident, the practice can sometimes feel less good, but some days it feels great. I am just grateful to be walking and breathing, and in a way, I think the residue from the accident was a good thing. It made me focus on how the poses felt, not what they looked like, or to try and reach some sort of goal because I knew that I probably never would achieve a picture-perfect practice, and that was never my goal anyway. I was so relieved to leave the competitive world of figure skating and just move for the joy of movement. And it always cracks me up when yoga practitioners become competitive. In terms of writing, it was an adventure to write my first book, especially as a person with English as a third language. I was blessed with a gifted editor that really helped me get my message across in a clean, structured way. I learned so much working with her that I implemented when I wrote my second book.

As you know, we’re big fans of you and your work. For our readers who might not be as familiar what can you tell them about what you do?
When covid hit I couldn’t teach, because I was busy homeschooling my kids. For the longest time I had had this book in my head, so to cope mentally while homeschooling (one of the most challenging phases of my life), I decided to get up at 5 AM every day to write my book before my kids woke up. “My book “Ancient Yoga for Modern Practitioners” outlines yogic techniques to balance the nervous system and help overcome imbalances such as depression, shattered attention, insomnia, and anxiety. It also outlines practices to help support fertility and live in flow with nature (an ancient yogic concept). It contains all the methods I have seen work successfully for people while teaching privates and at Google. And the best thing is that the practices are just 5 minutes long, but you can build up to an hour or longer progressively when you’re ready for more extended practice. You can find it on Amazon:

What makes you happy?
Being in the moment with my sons, Jack, 11, and Cameron, 9. Ideally, while doing some sort of movement practice like snowboarding or surfing. They got great personalities and I love being in the flow and out on adventures with them. Most of the time I prefer to enter flow states with people I love versus actually speaking with them. There is a natural transfer of energy that is more authentic than what can be transmitted through words. Some of the best moments of yoga have been by the beach, combining my two favorite things – the ocean and yoga. When your breath synchronizes with the sound of the waves you can enter some amazingly deep meditative states. Pure happiness. Being with my friends, and practicing and speaking about yoga is another activity that makes me happy. I also love reading and I am currently enrolled in a Ph.D. program at Pacifica in Depth Psychology, which helps stimulate my mind in a way that makes me happy.

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Image Credits:

Kelly Huang

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