“With more than 25 years of experience as a personal trainer, registered dietitian and health coach in the fitness field,” says Shannon Leavitt, “I was effective at getting clients to eat better and exercise. But eating better and exercising have their limits — because they are focused on the external.”
“I stumbled onto yoga about 20 years ago,” Leavitt says. “At first, my focus was, ‘How deep can I get into this pose?’ But soon I discovered there was so much more to it. It integrates body, mind and spirit in a way that connects you with your higher, wiser self who really makes better decisions.”
Leavitt, 54, of southwest Minneapolis uses yoga to help her clients discover their fit and higher, wiser selves, but she is hoping to reach a wider audience with the publication of her new workbook, “Learn to be Lean: A Yoga-Based Approach to Healthy Weight Loss” (CreateSpace, $29.95).
The book was released in December, but she says the message is on target for February, when people are struggling to keep up with the crash dieting of their New Year’s resolutions.
“It’s a workbook that is work,” says Leavitt. “It makes you ask yourself: ‘Why do I keep losing and gaining the weight? What is getting in my way?’ ”
The workbook is a kind of guided introduction to holistic health, with questions for readers to answer about themselves as well as information on how to incorporate yoga, strength training, meditation and personal reflection to achieve sustainable wellness.
Leavitt, like her workbook, has a comforting aura — she wants you to stop punishing yourself.
“Treat yourself well,” she says. “It sounds so simple, it sounds so basic. But that’s why diets don’t work: It’s a lot harder, day in and day out, to deprive yourself. Discipline is one thing — deprivation is another.
“The weight-loss and fast-fitness industry are often more damaging than effective.
“Why not take a slower approach where you experience personal growth as well as fitness? I think we all need that in this society.”
Yoga can help, Leavitt says.
“It’s more conscious, more mindful and addresses all parts of yourself — your body, your mind and your spirit — which ultimately helps you make better choices. It’s more aware: ‘If I skip lunch today, what am I setting into motion?’ It slows you down, so you become more conscious of your inner needs. Yoga builds your awareness.”
She knows it’s sometimes difficult to be mindful and conscious these days: We live in a constant state of interruption (thanks a lot, smartphones).
“The stress of all these interruptions is an issue,” she says. “That’s why I brought yoga into the center of the book. It teaches you how to be present and not reactive.”
One of yoga’s life lessons:
“It’s a practice, not perfection,” Leavitt says. “We show up every day.”
You do not have to be fit and flexible to do yoga, Leavitt says.
“The only real prerequisite you need,” she says, “are an open mind and a desire to transform.”
She’s still transforming.
“I’m a perennial student of life,” she says. “Right now, I’m studying meditation, which complements yoga — which is really a form of moving meditation.”
Moving comes naturally to Leavitt.
“I have a twin brother, and one of my earliest memories is of us weaving in and out of our mother’s legs as she did a Jack LaLanne video. She was very fit. Our parents played tennis; we were a fitness-oriented family. I grew up playing tennis, gymnastics, racquetball … recently, I started playing tennis again because it reminds me of my parents and my childhood. Because: You’ve got to have fun! I am very good at being disciplined when it comes to fitness, but I’m trying to remember that it’s important to have fun, too.”
Maybe yoga will help you find it.
“Learn to be Lean: A Yoga-Based Approach to Weight Loss”
Author: Shannon Leavitt (with Paula Heikell)
Description: “Written and intended as a workbook, ‘Learn To Be Lean’ offers a ‘practice’ approach to body-mind-spirit integration, fitness and weight loss.”
Extras: Purchase of the book includes a free six-month membership to Leavitt’s online community. Leavitt has other resources on her website, Yogalift.com, as well as through her social media channels — including some short videos on YouTube.
For more information: Yogalift.com