New York native Liza Colpa turned to yoga as a way to unpack past trauma and to discover a calmer, more integrated way of relating to her surroundings. Liza first attended a yoga class with her sister, where she instantly felt “this vibration… this calm, electric energy.” Liza kept coming back to the mat and practiced diligently for 10 years, healing the pain and suffering in her own heart, until she felt the call to heal others. Liza got her 200 hr teaching certification and soon followed it with Chair Yoga and Prenatal certificates so that she could serve a wider variety of yogis. This week, we sit down with Liza, YogaToday’s newest teacher, to chat about meditation, mindfulness, and better accessibility across the yoga community.
YogaToday: When did you begin a meditation practice, and how has it informed your yoga?
Liza Colpa: Meditation has always been circling around me and I was always meditating as a kid, I just didn’t know it. Closing my eyes and listening to the birds or coloring were all things I did on my own. Being raised in a religious/spiritual family created an environment where I was requested to learn the skill of closing my eyes and talking to God, the Universe and/or Saints. When I took my first yoga class and entered Savasana, I realized I had the power, skill, and option to explore my feelings at the present moment. I could ponder a question, focus on a vision, or my absolute favorite: let go of what didn’t serve me. Prayer is meditation, and meditation is prayer.
YT: What do you hope to bring to others as a meditation teacher?
Liza Colpa: Freedom, understanding, and personal growth.
YT: What attracted you to chair yoga/restorative movement styles and who can benefit from these practices?
Liza Colpa: The most valuable lesson I learned in my 200hr training is that not everyone has a body like you, the teacher. The best yoga teachers teach class styles that they love while curating that style for all bodies and minds, many of which are not like their own. I say minds because when you are teaching yoga you are not simply teaching a body, but a person who has a story that that body has carried. You are teaching someone whose mind has given you the responsibility of trust.
When I first learned yoga, most teachers were curating classes for a very certain type of person and body. Classes were missing for pregnant women, for those who had experienced physical trauma and could no longer stand, or for those who were born with a body that couldn’t physically allow them to enjoy mainstream yoga. This goes deeper to include those with autoimmune diseases, significant emotional trauma, special needs, past injuries, and so on.
When I began teaching, I saw my mom, a woman in her late 60’s, watch me longingly from a corner of a room and do all of the standing postures only to stop once I sat down onto a yoga mat. She inspired me to take a training from Integral Yoga Institute. There I learned so much, like working with individuals who suffer from PTSD and for whom savasana is not a safe space but a space they dread. I also learned about those who were born with physical differences that required varying postures quite a bit, those with special needs, and those who needed to learn to slow down because life and their bodies said “this is how I need to practice.”
The benefit for the student is the same no matter how much you need to alter a practice from the traditional or mainstream. Widening the space of yoga to be more inclusive and safe for a more diverse range of people will only benefit the yoga teacher and the industry as a whole. Now, my mom can do something she never thought she would do – get on the floor, meditate, and get up again – and has faced her fear of falling in the process.
YT: What does your own daily practice look like?
Liza Colpa: Flexible, in more ways than one… haha! I think people, especially us teachers, get the idea that a practice needs to be every day. We can get so hard on ourselves. Yes, ideally, I practice daily. But I’m a householder yogi, if you want to make it to every day, you got to be willing to mix it up. We got a life. We got bills and appointments and 5am wake-up calls that may keep us going till 8:30pm at night.
You just had a baby? You aren’t going to be practicing like you did pre-baby.
You’re moving into a new space? You aren’t going to be practicing like you were pre-moving. A huge life change just happened? Your practice will change.
So, my practice is different every day. Some days it’s just meditating in the morning. Some days it’s giving myself an Oracle card reading. Some days it’s journaling. Some days it’s thirty minutes of yoga, and others it’s my good old hour and fifteen. I give myself the same compassion and flexibility that I offer my students with their changing needs. And, when my hard work and life are in alignment, I practice yoga and meditation every day. I am on could nine during that time and I appreciate it more, because I am honoring the evolution and flexibility of a practice. 90% of yoga is simply showing up.
YT: What is your advice for a yogi looking to incorporate the more introspective practices like meditation or restorative yoga into their lives?
Liza Colpa: Be prepared to explore the art and authenticity of the swan. The swan floats gracefully on the surface of the water, at times seemingly doing nothing and simply letting the water take it where it needs to go. But, under the surface…those big webbed feet are kicking!! That’s restorative yoga and meditation. It will look like you are doing very simple and accessible poses, but the practice is about diving deep into the tissues of your body, mind, and soul as a whole.
Want to practice with Liza Colpa?