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Up, Up and Away with Anngela Leone, Yoga Instructor

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Anngela Leone is not your typical yoga teacher. After a number of years spent working as a lawyer in Washington D.C. and New York, Anngela left her practice to pursue a career as a full-time yoga teacher. Now, Anngela is a regular instructor at Brooklyn Boulders Chicago where she teaches Vinyasa yoga.

This Saturday, May 17th, BKB Chicago will host Anngela’s first yoga workshop in our space: arm balance for climbers. Participants will learn various arm balances, different ways of entering into them, and play with variations and transitioning between them. Click here to sign up for Anngela’s workshop.


I love arm balancing. I think it’s so playful. It reminds you to have fun in the practice.

When did you start doing yoga?

I took my first class in Washington D.C. I belonged to a dance studio. I had a carte blanche so I could take unlimited classes and they offered yoga so I gave it a try. I loved it. It was like dance, but new and different to me. This was back in 2004, I think. And that’s how I first started taking it, with just a few teachers at the dance studio and then from there, I took a couple of classes from a yoga studio in D.C. And yoga wasn’t very popular then so the classes, some of them would be just me. It was all a new experience. And from there I moved to New York and I continued taking classes there and eventually, I decided I wanted to go deeper, thinking I’d like to teach, but it wasn’t a definite plan at the time. So I did my training in New York and Laughing Lotus and taught part-time in New York for four years and then I moved here and have been teaching full-time for over a year.

 

What were you doing before you were teaching full-time?
I was a lawyer.

 

Wow.
Yeah, I know. It’s so the opposite so everyone’s always so surprised.

 

When did you decide to make the full-time jump to teaching?
You know, the last few years, I started to think it could really happen. I had a lot of old debt to pay off, so that was always the barrier to changing careers. Once I got a handle on that and you can kind of see the light at the end of the tunnel, you start to think, “Yeah, this is what I love to do. I’m gonna give this a try.” I love health, fitness. I’ve always loved to move. I’m not very athletic in the sense of team sports. Like I’m a little clumsy and uncoordinated at times. When I was young I used to take Tae-Kwon-Do for a while. I used to dance a lot. I’ve always loved working out. I started lifting weights a few years ago. So I just love movement and fitness and I thought, if this is a passion, let me see what I can do with it.

I think that putting yourself out of your comfort zone in the safety of your yoga practice does help you when you go out into the real world.

What do you personally enjoy about yoga?
Initially, I loved the practice. That’s pretty much what draws in most people at first. The physical practice. It’s good for your body. It’s challenging. And then you don’t realize it at first, but I remembered this from when I was working long days as a lawyer, I would just come home and be really not happy. I just did not like my lifestyle. And I would take this yoga class in my gym and I would feel so much better. Like I’d released something, whatever it was, and that’s what keeps me coming back more than anything. You can get a great workout doing anything, but it’s that connection of really being present and that’s how I felt with dance, you’re just really in the moment. Whatever it was, you could forget about it. And I feel that’s what you get from your yoga practice. I still find it really enjoyable to challenge myself physically because things I never thought I was capable of or strong enough for, I realize now, “No, you put the hard work in. You practice it regularly, and you could surprise yourself by what you can achieve.”

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What was it like when you first quit practicing law?
I was totally ready for it. I moved. I was living in New York. I left with a decision to move back to Chicago, so I moved back a year ago November. I went from living in New York, working 10-12 hours a day, teaching yoga on the side to moving in with my parents in the suburbs, no jobs at all. And it was Thanksgiving. It was a total shift. I was used to working all the time, nonstop, so I moved back and had nothing to do. Everyone was like, “Enjoy it! Enjoy it!” It’s enjoyable to an extent, but I need something to focus on. I can chill. I can do nothing every well. But for me, I need something that makes me excited to get up in the morning. The whole not working, I was so happy to not sit at a desk. It felt really exciting. It was really exciting for me to change careers. The challenge I think came with looking for jobs and then it was a little overwhelming. But once you kind of get your foot in the door, you realize how great the community it and you can maneuver your way through it.

You feel strong and you feel powerful and I think it’s important to have something in your life that just gives you that sense of strength.

What is the Chicago yoga community like?
Based on my experience, really supportive people. Really willing to help one another out in terms of practicing together or giving each other feedback or you’re looking for a job, let me help you out where I am. It’s been really nice. It’s been a really nice transition. I’ve met some great people who’ve helped me since day one and I continue to meet more people within the community.

 

Why did you decide to do this particular workshop?
I love arm balancing. I think it’s so playful. It reminds you to have fun in the practice. It takes you out of your comfort zone which I think is important to expand your comfort zone. People have a lot of fear about getting off your feet, either balancing on your hands in different shapes or getting upside down. I think that putting yourself out of your comfort zone in the safety of your yoga practice does help you when you go out into the real world. And I think for me, arm balancing are really strong poses. And I don’t mean that you need to be strong and have a really advanced practice. You feel strong and you feel powerful and I think it’s important to have something in your life that just gives you that sense of strength.

 

Do you think that people that are newer to yoga can do this?
Yeah! I think you can come never having done an arm balance before and you can walk out having learned how to do it. You’ll successfully do an arm balance. There’s many ways to approaching it and there’s different arm balances and some speak to various people for various reasons. But I think it’s one of those things that you can successfully go in and accomplish it.


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Anngela Leone’s arm balance for climbers workshop takes place this Sunday, May 17th. Click here to sign up for the workshop.