Meet a Teacher: Lisa Cook

Posted by on Dec 31, 2018 in carson city yoga studio, meet a teacher | 2 comments

Lisa Cook

This month, our featured teacher is Lisa Cook.  Lisa is a long time teacher here at the studio, teaching since the inception of Yoga Sol, and then staying on as a teacher with Carson City Yoga.

It’s taken us a while to get together, but we finally got to sit down for an interview. Read on to learn more about Lisa, and what she is up to, both in and out of the studio.

CCY:  So, Lisa, let’s start with a little bit of your background. In a nutshell, what brought you to yoga? Did you have specific teachers that were really significant for you? 

Lisa: My path to yoga…  At first, I just really wanted to be able to touch my toes. I was 21 and still my entire life I had never been able to touch my toes. I have no memory about having first learned about yoga. But for whatever reason, I decided the best way to touch my toes was to do yoga. So I took a semester at Mesa Community College, in Maricopa county. 

To this day, I know that the teacher there is why I got into teaching yoga. I can’t even tell you her name, unfortunately, but she was amazing.

I took two semesters there. I was able to touch my toes within probably a few months. I just thought it was wonderful. And that was a great part of it, the flexibility, but, of course, what really happened for me is that this particular instructor would constantly bring you back to your mat. She was really big on reminding you not to judge, either yourself or anybody else. 

Lisa CookAnd of course, here I am, this 21 year old, sassy little thing, and I’m like, “I’m not judgemental.”   And I’d look around the class and I’d think, how the hell is that person who is like 30 years older than me, able to do that? I found myself fixated on all the people in the room. And then, all of a sudden, I’m like, “Oh, I am judging them. Whoops.”

And then of course, that trickled off my mat into my life. I noticed when I was being highly judgmental of other people in my life. I thought, “Oh boy, OK.”  I thought that was really fascinating. And really beautiful. Yoga really has never been for me about the asanas (poses). 

When I was in Arizona, I took some Bikram classes, and I dabbled in various styles. I took yoga from an instructor at 24-hour Fitness, and, she was really good. She wasn’t your typical gym instructor because I never found another one like her. She was towards the end of her pregnancy then, so I only practiced with her for 3-4 months, and she didn’t come back after she had her baby. 

I specifically remember the first time I stopped thinking in Savasana. I didn’t really know where I went but I came back out of it and thought, “Oh wow, what was that?”  So then I started being fascinated with the question – “what was that, and what is this other spiritual world?”

CCY: So those early classes opened the door for a spiritual exploration?

Lisa: Yes. 

CCY: And when did you know that you wanted to teach?

Lisa: Actually, my teaching career started with Mat Pilates.  That same school that I had taken that first yoga class, I also took Mat Pilates.  The instructor there was lovely, and I was like, oh, I can do that… I should do that; that’s fun. So, I went directly and got certified and started teaching Mat Pilates. I did that first.

I was doing that for a couple years, and then I moved back to Carson City. I continued taking yoga up at the college. At this time, Angela had already closed her studio, I think, because there was this myth of a person who used to have a studio in Carson City. So I didn’t know where else to go besides the Community College…

So, for me, I was like, well that’s a pretty big hole in Carson. I mean, why isn’t anybody teaching here?  I was acquaintances with Maureen Lamberdin (at Sierra Acupuncture), so I knew that Maureen was making a yoga studio. And in fact I started teaching Mat Pilates there. So I had a place to teach yoga. 

I don’t know where I found the advertisement for yoga teacher training, but I went to Yoga Loka, and studied with Kim Orenstien, like a lot of people in the area.

I can’t tell you how I found out about it. I just remember thinking, oh, that’s something I’d like to explore more of.  Already at this point I was a little less infatuated with movement. I was much more infatuated with the spiritual side. So I felt like I needed something to help educate me in that area.

Lisa Downward DogCCY: That was when?

Lisa:  That was 2010.

CCY: 2010. So you’ve been teaching 8 years.

Lisa: Yes. Teaching ever since.

CCY:  How would you describe the essence of your classes? If somebody wants to come to your class and they have no idea what kind of class you teach, how would you describe your class to them? and/or your style of teaching?

Lisa: You know, I think each of my classes are actually very different. I think the Yin class is its own kind of entity. When I teach a lunchtime class, it really has the same energy as any mixed level vinyasana class. I also bring in a very strong, underlying aspect of personal intention, personal space, personal awareness. I always say, “Be aware of what’s going on in your mind, body, and your heart.”  From that first teacher I had, a big part of what I always say is, “Allow yourself to be free of judgment, expectation, and just pay attention. Give yourself freedom to be authentic in this time you’ve given yourself.”

In my Yin class, I don’t bring as much of that in because I read to the students.

CCY: Can you describe what yin is for somebody who doesn’t know? 

Lisa: OK, yes… My Yin class is very much a mixture of Yin Yoga and Restorative. Yin Yoga is a practice that’s designed to be a yielding and opening in a very passive way for the body’s tissues, tendons, and muscles, because they’re all really involved. Really the focus is to open up the fascial tissue of the body. The underlying energetic of the practice is to allow yourself to open naturally, without forcing or pushing.  Which is very opposite of say, coming into a power-yoga class, where you’re wanting to come into your edge, come into it quickly, hold it for a short duration of time, and come out. 

In Yin Yoga you’re wanting to come in, and you’re wanting to back off your edge. That way you can allow your tissues to open in a very natural, passive, yielding, and feminine way. It’s actually very complimentary to a more strength building yoga practice, like power yoga or vinyasa. It’s very different. It can offer you the restful qualities that restorative has, but it has an intensity to it. Yin is kind of learning to find stillness in the intensity of the pose. Which, I think, then helps translate to finding stillness in the intensity of life when you take it off the mat.

CCY: You say your class is a combination of yin and restorative. Can you say something about what the restorative piece is?

supported baddha konasanaLisa: Sure. I personally don’t believe yin yoga is appropriate for everybody.  What the restorative piece allows me to do is offer a practice that is similar to yin, or a combination of yin and restorative, to people who, maybe, it’s not safe for them to be in a long-held yin practice. Maybe they’ve had hip replacements or knee replacements, or they just have soft tissue injury or their body is too overstretched in their ligaments. In restorative, you use props, whereas in yin, you’re actually encouraged to kind of hang out in the intensity of the pose without support.  In restorative you bring support, so you use the props like blocks and bolsters and blankets to prop the body and hold the shape instead of letting the weight of the body take you into the shape. Does that make sense?

CCY: It makes sense. Yes. Thank you. So, coming back around to your style of teaching. In the Yin class you bring in readings. What kind of readings?

Lisa: It’s really varied. It started because when I had my first yin class, the instructor at the time, who happened to be Kim Orenstein, she read to us. And I just thought it was the most incredible thing I’d ever experienced. So, I thought, well I want to bring that to people. I think the biggest reason I started teaching was that I wanted to teach Yin. People wanted a more Vinyasa flow style practice and that’s fun and fine too, but I wanted to see what this other thing was about. So, the readings, they’re really random to be perfectly honest with you.  I’ve read things from the Don Miguel Ruiz books…

CCY: Ah, The Four Agreements.

Lisa: Yes, I’ve read The Four Agreements. I’ve read Eckhart Tolle. Right now I’m reading The Alchemist, which is fascinating. I’ve read articles. I just try to pick things that I think are appropriate across a broad spectrum. I try to stay away from things that are too linked or rooted into one particular way of thinking or religion. I do tend to read a lot of Buddhist stuff. That was a theme. I’ve read a lot of stuff by the Dalai Lama. And people don’t always even listen. It’s not about that. They’ll tell me that they’ll come in and out of reading. Sometimes they come in just at the right time when they need to hear something. And they don’t even know what I read the rest of the class.

CCY: I love that.

Lisa: People used to joke that they would come just because it was adult story time. There’s something really soothing about being read to. Sometimes it doesn’t really matter what I’m reading. It just matters that I’m reading. I’ve found that over the years too.

CCY: That’s great. I wish I could come to your class. I want to come to adult story time!

Lisa: Ha, yes. Adult spiritual story time. 

CCY: I love it. We should rename your class. 

Lisa: That’s not a bad idea.

CCY: Ok, so, this is our little studio plug: why do you teach at Carson City Yoga?

Lisa: Well, you know, I taught the very first class at Yoga Sol. And I think I taught on the anniversary, the first three years. So the reason I teach at Carson City Yoga does stem back from teaching at Yoga Sol. I went to teacher training with Jenn (Andrews). We did our first 200 hours together.

CCY: I didn’t know that.

Lisa: Yes. She went on to do all sorts of other hundreds of hours and I didn’t. She and I were the only two people from our class who lived in Carson City. And we had everyone else’s contact information. Jenn approached me about the time she was opening Yoga Sol and asked me if I wanted to teach. I said yes, and I came to this space.

And it’s funny; I do have an interesting sense of loyalty to this space. I love it so dearly. I walk in and it’s like all is right in the world. You know? And I think our students feel that way too, which is really lovely. 

I think that Jenn built an amazing foundation. Now I think that you (Amy and Mary Kay) have really helped elevate it to a different level. I mean by bringing in the different teachers, and also by taking a little bit more of a business approach to it. I don’t know quite how to say that. You’re able to take a different perspective on something that had already been nurtured and created and to help it grow even more.  I think that’s really incredible and I think I’m actually more proud to teach here now than ever. 

There’s a really beautiful reputation of this studio in this town.  I’ve been asked to teach in other places and it’s more that this is where I want my energy to be. I’m not interested in segmenting and going to different spaces and getting used to different..I don’t know. This is home to me.

CCY: This is home. Yes. And I am so happy for that.  Thank you for staying on. You are truly appreciated!

Lisa: I’m really happy to be a teacher here.  It’s been really lovely.

CCY: We are fortunate to have an amazing group of teachers, and sometimes I feel like we are all just holding the space for the studio to be whatever it needs to be.

Lisa: It is very special. It’s kind of what you do in class, you’re just holding space for people to have their own personal exploration.

CCY: So, shifting gears a little bit. What does Yoga mean to you? You said already that it’s not about the asana. What is your interpretation of what Yoga is?

Lisa: So, people will describe it as the yoke and the union. I guess the literal translation of that could be true. For me, personally –  it’s interesting that I said it’s not about the asana, because it is about the asana in the fact that the definition of asana is “the seat of awareness.” Really, that is yoga for me.

CCY: Asana: “To sit with.”

Lisa: Yes. Because that is something that you can take with you off your mat. And I don’t know that the concept of taking the word, Union, or Yoga, or to Unite, I don’t know that that is as easily digestible to take off your mat and really be able to put into daily practice when you’re off your mat. 

But the seat of awareness, whether you’re in that pose, you’re back in that same belief pattern, you’re back in that same conversation with your friend or your partner or your parent, that’s useful.  It’s like, “Oh, Ok, I’ve been here before. What’s happening with me now? Is this a way I want to behave? Is this the pose that I want to compose myself in?” 

When you come into your asana, what does this feel like today? How is this different from yesterday? What’s going on in my mind, body, and spirit that’s affecting this particular pose today? That’s making me either stronger or more balanced or less balanced? It’s that bit that is really translatable for me.

CCY: As an extension of that question… What does it mean to take Yoga off the mat?

Lisa: I think it means to take a certain sense of awareness, and an openness with you off your mat. I guess my first example would be, if I’m in a conversation with my husband, for example, and maybe it’s a communication issue that doesn’t go so well. It’s like, OK we’re doing that thing again. OK, why am I doing that thing again? Why today? What’s going on with me today that wasn’t yesterday? Did I eat something weird? Is it because I didn’t meditate this morning? Is something that’s going on because I’m a woman and I am in a 28 day cycle of life? Is it the moon? Is it the stars? Like, what’s happening? Did I have a conversation with somebody that riled me up and I’m bringing that energy into this space? Or he’s bringing that energy into this space? So I bring that example up because for me that’s relevant and I think that you can translate that into any aspects of your life when you’re doing certain things.

CCY: OK, yes, that deepening of awareness.  And of presence. 

Lisa: Yeah, I think that’s really it. And being able to remember that and learn from it. 

It’s funny; one of the R’s for meditation secrets is Remember. (side note: from the Meditation Secrets for Women workshops with Jenn)  When I first went through that with Jenn, that was a big deal for me. That’s something I’ve had to work on is remembering. I’m like, oh, I’ve been here before. Or, oh gee, this is actually a pattern that I got from my Mom that I don’t like so much. And I recognize that about her and now I’m doing it. Let’s remember this and be aware of it so that we can change it. Because you can’t change anything unless you are aware of something and remember that you want to do that. So how do you do that? 

How you do that is with repetition. Just like practice. The more you repeat it and practice it, the better you get at it. That’s my take.Lisa bhujangasana

CCY: Lisa, you are doing some work outside of this studio that actually ties in to yoga in certain ways.  Do you want to talk a little bit about that?

Lisa:  Sure. I’m currently working on becoming a health coach. An integrative holistic health coach. Which essentially is something that is going to allow me to work one on one with people and help them create change in their life in a meaningful way that they know will serve them.  I mean, that’s kind of like yoga. It’s just a different approach to it, I suppose. 

I’m going to be specifically working with an integrative cardiologist for a new company called Change of Heart Health. And we are going to be opening a functional medicine practice. And what that means, in the simplest form, is we are going to be helping people treat their root cause instead of symptoms. 

If you think about yoga, when you’re going through the journey of yoga, whether you are a teacher or a student, (because we’re all students, always) what are you really doing?  I remember one of the first analogies of yoga: you’re trying to peel back the layers of an onion. I’d get really frustrated with that, and a couple years back, I’m like, what the hell? The layers don’t end. I mean, what are you trying to get to? They just keep going and going. 

(laughs)

So, you’re trying to figure out what is actually going on. So that you can address the root cause of something. People don’t have heart disease because they have a deficiency of Lipitor. It’s not a thing. People don’t have depression because they have a deficiency in …..

CCY: … the joy molecule? 

Lisa: No, that is why they have depression! They do have a deficiency in the Joy molecule! 

Western medicine, the way it treats things, doesn’t treat root cause; it treats symptoms. And all that does is kind of put a bandaid on something, on a wound. It’s like you’re putting a bandaid on a wound and you’re never actually trying to heal the wound. And so eventually, the wound won’t heal; it will get worse and fester. And that root cause isn’t being addressed which will just lead to other problems. 

Really, the future and history of medicine is in functional medicine. It’s in root cause resolution. It’s not in treating symptoms. So this will be the first functional medicine practice in Carson City of its kind which is so very exciting. 

CCY: Just functional cardiologists? Or the broader picture?

Lisa: There will be a broader picture. Because Dr. Tan is an integrative cardiologist, that’s where a big focus of it will be in the beginning. But, the interesting thing about it is preventative. For example, I’m a patient. We want to see people who have not had heart attacks so we can help them prevent them. Instead of waiting until the fire’s already lit within you and trying to put it out, how do you recognize what areas in the house are at risk? Think of it as a house that has poor electrical, and you want to address those areas where there’s potential for fire to break out. Then make sure that you fix it so that you never ever have a heart attack. So, the starting point probably will be cardiology but hopefully we’ll be able to address many other things over time.

CCY: And part of what you’re doing there will be to create yoga classes specific for that practice and for people’s issues?

Lisa: Yes, and actually Dr. Tan is a 200 hour registered yoga teacher. He doesn’t teach because he’s on call at 3 different hospitals as an independent contractor and he works in the cath lab which means he puts stents in some people’s heart. Or he goes in to see if they need one. I think his yoga practice is his sanctuary and his sanity. So he’s very interested in helping patients who are interested to develop and utilize yoga and meditation. 

Fascinatingly enough, we were just at a conference in Atlanta. We were all getting trained in something called the Bale-Doneen Method. At the very end of this 2-day conference, Dr. Doneen mentions that enough trial studies have come out to show that meditation is just as, if not more, effective than all the other modalities they’re using, combined. Which do include short-term statins. Which include dietary changes. Which include exercise and lifestyle changes. They’ve shown that meditation can trump all those things. 

Now, I think it’s not accepted widely enough in the medical community to spend more time on it than she did, unfortunately. We did express to her that there was more of a need for that than she realizes. That was very exciting for her to know that there are people out here who are definitely interested in learning more about that piece of it. So if we can design specific yoga practices or meditations for people, for anybody really, who has any kind of issue going on with the body, hopefully we can help use a very non-invasive approach to help them heal themselves. 

CCY: Nice. That’s great. It is very exciting.

CCY:  So, is there anything else you want to say about what you’re doing or what you’re offering? Are you going to be open to private health coaching sessions outside of that business?

Lisa: Absolutely. Actually, I’m starting that now. I’ll be the primary health coach of the practice. It’s very likely that we’ll be taking on more health coaches before we even bring on other physicians or nurses. So, the health coach is going to be a very foundational part of this practice. 

One of the things we’ll be doing…I’m going to go back to your question in a minute. I just want to put this plug in for you and for other people. We’re going to have a kitchen there where we’re going to show people how to cook healthy food for themselves. 

I personally believe one of the underlying problems with diet in this country is that people don’t cook anymore. They don’t know how. They don’t do it. You really cannot eat a healthy diet without home cooking. It’s just not possible. That’s a big foundational element that we’ll be addressing. We will have classes there to help educate the community.  Cooking classes, classes on cosmetics and products, what’s in them, what to look out for, etc.

CCY: Will these be open to the public, or just available to patients of the practice?

Lisa: Yes, they will be. Right now, mostly it’s friends, and I’m kind of using them as my Guinea pigs just to see how this will work and get feedback. So we might classes on why it’s important to eat organic foods. What’s in our water? Various things like that. Kind of cover the spectrum. 

An interesting thing about the Integrative Institute for Nutrition is they break food into two categories: Primary Food and Secondary Food. Primary Food doesn’t really include food at all. It includes things like relationships, spirituality, career, and movement, exercise. So I want to also be addressing those 4 physical components, and why those things are more important than the things we put in or on our body. 

Out of that, and as we grow, I will move into offering health coaching for individuals on a private practice basis. 

CCY: That’s excellent. We are excited to see where you go with all of this! And just to let our students know, as Lisa begins to offer her private coaching services, we will post that information and her contact info on our website. 

Lisa viparita karaniCCY:  Alright, Lisa, a just-for-fun question:  What are your favorite and your least favorite, or if you prefer, your most challenging and your most comfortable asana?

Lisa: Oh, interesting! Favorite? Viparita karani. (Legs Up the Wall). Every day.

CCY: Almost everybody loves that one. 

Lisa: It’s so easily accessible. You can do it anywhere. It energizes you. It’s good for your heart. Good for fluid “un-retention”. I just love it and I feel like it’s such a good pose, and I use it almost every afternoon.  It’s probably the most consistent asana I’ve done for the last 10 years. Just because I do it all the time. If it’s afternoon and I’m tired, I don’t go in and do a warrior sequence. I go put my legs up the wall. 

CCY: Nice. So for you, it’s really restorative. Ok, that’s your favorite.

Lisa: Yeah. Oh, Challenging?  All inversions. I totally avoid them. I was looking at Cindy’s flyer for beginner inversions. And I’m like, I should probably go to that. 

CCY: All inversions?

Lisa: No. I mean, down dog is an inversion and I love down dog.

CCY:  Anything that involves an inverted balance? 

Lisa: Yes. 

CCY: Like headstand, handstand.

Lisa: Yes. I think part of that is because when I was going to an instructor in Carson City, before I went through teacher training, I would try to do headstands and I was constantly hurting my neck. My mom’s a physical therapist and I’d go to her and I’d be in so much pain and she’d have to fix it. She’d go, “Oh, you did headstands again, didn’t you?” I think there’s kind of a fear component to that with associating it with severe neck pain. I probably just didn’t know how to do them right. And so they’re just not part of my practice. That’s an area of challenge I need to work on. 

CCY:  There are ways to do headstand without putting weight on your neck. 

Lisa: I don’t know how cheating this is but, I was using one of those contraptions for awhile. It almost looks like an open toilet seat. It’s got the hands on it and your head hangs in it. I could do that just fine.

CCY: That counts. That’s valid. When I teach headstand, I don’t teach weight on the head. I teach it so you’re strengthening and lifting out of the shoulders. So the weight is on your upper body, not on your neck. In fact, there’s some research that says anybody over the age of 35 should not be putting weight on their head. These are little bones. We’re not meant to put a lot of weight on them.  That’s just a side note – I think it is reasonable to be cautious with headstand.

So, do you have a favorite asana that you like to teach?

Lisa bhujangasanaLisa:  Bhujangasana (cobra pose), just because i think everybody does it wrong. No, actually, I don’t feel like people don’t do it wrong any more. I feel that we have enough qualified instructors here now. People are pretty solid unless they’re new or don’t listen. It’s gotten better over the years. It’s taken a long time though. People just want to push up, power up. I’m like, “No what are you doing?”

CCY: Yes, we need to create some length in the spine first.

Lisa: I think it’s a pose that I did wrong for many years too. It was one of those things, when I learned how to do it right, I was mind blown that this was even a thing. That was a very fascinating pose to me. And I love doing it too.

CCY: This has been great, Lisa. Is there anything else that we haven’t touched on that you would like people to know about you as either a teacher or a human?

Lisa:  Hm. Maybe. (pause)

I would say that as a teacher, I’m incredibly grateful for people allowing me to hold space for them. I think that’s a very delicate and precious thing. For me as a teacher, personally, sometimes I feel like I get more out of teaching than I do out of practicing. 

It always blows my mind. I am always so fascinated by the fact that, after a class, even though I’m not even doing any of the poses (I’m a walker and talker) –  still, holding that space just feels… it’s almost indescribable. There is some kind of amazing depth of connection with humanity and love and I feel such a deep sense of gratitude. For people, for life, for the opportunity. And not one time has it ever not happened. Not one time. Every single time I’ve ever taught. 

Sometimes you go in, and I’ll be honest, there are some days when i feel like, “Please nobody come.”  And then a lot of people come and I’m like, “It’s fine. I’ve got this” and its so good. I think it’s almost more meditative for me to teach than to meditate. Personally. I mean, I’m not just holding space for me. I get to hold space for other people which is so much more valuable and precious. I shouldn’t say that. It’s not more valuable than holding space for yourself. I don’t know. It’s different. I’ve had people say, “Is it hard?” or I’ve had students say thank you. But I mean, I thank them too.

Really that is an honest thank you for allowing me to guide you through this experience, through your practice, whatever that was today. You can feel it. Some days, energy can be different. But it’s always good. 

CCY: Sweet. That’s a beautiful note to end on.  Thank you, Lisa, for taking the time to share a bit more of yourself with us!

For those of you reading.. if you haven’t tried a class with Lisa yet, come on in and meet her! Her “Adult Spiritual Story Time,” aka Yin Yoga is on Monday nights at 5:30, and she also teaches a lovely Lunch Time Yoga class on Thursdays at noon, both at the Carson St studio.

Have you been to a class with Lisa? What do you think?  Leave a comment and let us know!

2 Comments

  1. Haiku for Ms. Lisa, CC Yoga, and this interview~~

    Extra helpings of
    Holistic health coaching, please.
    World healing through food.

    Yin within. Without,
    The world tumbles, schemes, careens, bombs.
    Peace through slow movement.

    “Read to us”, they ask.
    “Bridge India, Carson”. She
    Cares for All, Holds Space.

    • Ayden, this is beautiful! Thanks for posting!

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