“Does anyone in here know what bounce-back ability is?”
She opened this question as the class began, just breathing.
“Do you have the ability to bounce back when you fall?”
I’ve known instructor Lisa McBryde for years, since I first met her in my teacher training with Dolly Stavros (owner, asmi yoga) several years ago. And I know her best because as an oncology nurse, she took selfless, motherly and downright angelic care of my own Mom during her battle with cancer.
“Move as slowly as you want to,” she said as we lifted up into Downward Facing Dog. Lisa always has way of helping you lose all the stuff in your head for a while, whether you’re in her yoga class or she’s prepping an I.V. for you.
“If you take a chance on a certain posture and you fall, just get up and do it again.”
We stretched our bodies long and grand in three-point Downward Facing Dog.
“How much space between your shoulder blades can you find?” she challenged us, as she placed one hand between my shoulder blades, lifting my skyward ankle as the whole classroom seemed to grow taller.
In the middle of a sun salute, we rested on our mats, breathing, and instead of Cobra, we stretched from the top of our heads, flying in Shalabhasana.
“Beautiful breath—slow and controlled,” she said.
In Lisa’s class you might practice with reggae, Motown, country, or just the collective inhales and exhales of a focused, quiet room. No matter the soundtrack of the practice, I always leave her class feeling recharged and relaxed at the same time.
We tested our solid foundation in forearm balance. Grounded, gripping, some even lifted both legs up, and I heard a laughing thud or two behind me as I worked on tight shoulders.
“When you land, that’s bounce-back ability,” she said.
Another sun salute to the steady rhythm of the reggae song, moving thumbs into the sternum to feel the rhythm of the heart, we sat low, chest to torso and what a wonderful Utkatasana twist. Breathe.
Try this some time: in Utanasana, take one big toe with the peace fingers, lift up to Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana, exhale out to the side, the knee can be bent as much as needed. Then exhale as you fold back down with that same big toe, plant the foot and ground it like a strong tree as you lift the other leg up into Half-Moon. Engaged. Sound fun? Go to Lisa’s class and see what I mean.
Chair to Crescent Lunge and back again. Three Point Dog to side plank, back to Three Point, knee to chest or any arm balance. Any variation works. Cat-cows to relax and lengthen the spine, right in the middle of a power vinyasa flow. Any variation you like from there. Can you open your heart to the ceiling? From Triangle, try half-tripod, half-forearm balance. Or stay where you are. I love the challenge when it makes me laugh.
As Bobby McFerrin reminded us to ‘Don’t Worry, Be Happy,’ we moved from cactus arms to hold our beach balls and back again with our legs in Upavishta Konasana.
By the time Savasana arrived I was so relaxed I couldn’t wait to fall in.
As we rose up to meet again, she said, “Maybe bounce-back ability means what we are on the inside versus how tough we think we are on the outside.”
Amen and thank you, Lisa.
BW: How did you find yoga?
LM: “I found yoga about 15 years ago. I had just gone out for a five-mile run, and I thought, ‘you know, I think I want to stretch a little bit,’ and I went to Asha’s Ashtanga class (Asha Wolf). My legs were shaking, and I quickly learned that it was different than I had perceived in my mind for it to be.”
BW: What was your first impression of yoga as a practice? Did you think it was difficult?
LM: “I thought it was difficult in a different way—using your body in a different way than I was used to for physical activity, and using my mind in a different way, which was very challenging for me. So I loved it.”
BW: So when you first started practicing, was it the challenge that kept you coming back to yoga?
LM: “It was the challenge and also that I had permission to not have to say anything for an hour and how ever long. It was very nice.”
BW: What teacher first inspired you the most? And what was it about her practice and her teaching that inspired you to keep coming back to yoga?
LM: “First teacher? Ahsa Wolf. Being a physical therapist, combined with the alignment issue that was so important to her and just the physical practice is what made it perfect for me. Since I’m a nurse, it put it all together for me.”
BW: What school of yoga first inspired you the most, and what kept you coming back?
LM: “My first exposure to yoga was with Ashtanga, but I didn’t love it so much after a few years because it was too much for my shoulders. With my weightlifting and all of the other things that I do, it just wasn’t a good fit for me. But then I found vinyasa flow, and that’s it for me.”
BW: What inspired you to go to teacher training?
LM: “Sara Mingus, (Owner, Director of North Shore Yoga) inspired me to go to teacher training with Dolly Stavros (Owner, asmi yoga), and I absolutely loved her because she is so real to me. She brings every aspect of just being a real person into the room, and you don’t have to be perfect or be a straight-up vegetarian to practice yoga. You didn’t have to fit the role, which worked for me. So probably Sara and Dolly have had the most influence on me, as far as teaching. At first, I really didn’t want to teach. I just wanted to practice. But teaching yoga is very different from group fitness. To encourage people without yelling into a microphone is very different, and I love that.”
BW: At what point did you know you were going to be a yoga teacher?
“When I went to Barron’s Level I (Baptiste Power Vinyasa Yoga), I thought, ‘I don’t think I want to do this,’ because there was so much of the spiritual component that I see in a different way. It honestly scared me a bit because of my personal religious beliefs, and it was a little too much for me until I realized that I wasn’t expected to do that. But I rethought whether or not I really wanted to teach because I would have to be true to myself. So going to Baron’s Level I was actually eye-opening for me. There were a lot of things that I wasn’t sure about, and I actually came home and told Sara I wasn’t going to teach. But after a couple of weeks, we talked about it, and she said, ‘teach the way that’s true to you.’ And that works for me.”
BW: Do you feel like you bring your faith into your teaching?
LM: “I try to do that without being over the top. In my music, I try to throw in some type of song that represents what I believe without it being offensive.”
BW: What currently is your greatest challenge as a teacher?
LM: “My greatest challenge would probably be just to stay fresh. I try to offer different things every time I teach a class. And I don’t like people to know what’s going to happen next.”
BW: How does your yoga practice enter your life off the mat? Is there a way that you bring yoga into your life, maybe just going to the breath in a difficult situation?
LM: “I’ll give you the perfect example. My Dad died a little over a year ago, and I did the eulogy. It was getting close to time for me to stand up in front of a standing-room-only church of people who just adored my Dad, and I immediately went to my Ujjayi breath. I felt my pulse come down to probably 50, where before that it had to have been at about 110. And so I used that, even as I was talking, to stay calm so that I could present myself and say what I needed to say. And if that fell apart, that would be okay too. But my goal was to deliver what I wanted to say. In my nursing practice, I really try to respect other people and what they’re going through and to have empathy—not sympathy because I don’t have what they have—but I try to connect with people.”
BW: What is your favorite posture and why?
LM: “My favorite posture has always been Half-Pigeon. My hips are extremely tight, so it’s a love-hate relationship somewhat with Half-Pigeon. But it really helps my hips. Most of the time, it will put me in a better place than where I was. And this is probably a two-part question for me … so, favorite pose that helps me? Half-Pigeon. Favorite pose, period? Any kind of arm balance or inversion where I can incorporate my strength and focus on my breath and use balance.”
BW: What is your perceived nemesis posture and why?
LM: “At this moment, it would probably be forearm balance or handstand in the middle of the room. I know that I can do both, but I’m goofy about my neck, and I don’t want to hurt myself. So I depend on the wall or somebody else right now.”
BW: What was a time in your life when you were most amazed?
LM: “When I had my children—the birth of my boys. Amazing how the human body is put together and how everything works just so succinct. Even though I’m a nurse, and I know all of that, to experience it—it’s just different.”
BW: How many boys?
LM: “Two boys, 22 and 24.”
BW: So it was just as amazing both times?
LM: “Yeah, pretty amazing. I didn’t want to do it again, but those two times were amazing.”
BW: What was your happiest moment in yoga that you can remember?
LM: “Maybe it was sense of accomplishment in one certain class, going from Flip-Dog to full Wheel posture, on one of those days when the planets were in alignment and my shoulders felt really great, and I hadn’t been able to do that in several months. But that was one of those ‘ah-ha’ things where it was good for a brief second.”
BW: Do you have any new classes these days?
LM: I added this Sunday class mainly because I wanted people to be able go to Church if they wanted to and then come to class. My only thing is that I still can’t take the class!”
BW: How did you like the Paddleboard Yoga?
LM: “I loved it! I taught it a couple of times, and I actually went out on a full moon recently, and that was an amazing moment. We went out under a harvest moon for two hours, just under the moonlight. There were only six of us, and we left from the yacht club and paddled out into the main channel, around the island, not paying attention to what time it was. I had a watch on, but I didn’t even care what time it was. I wasn’t really thinking, but the moon was there and it was just magnificent.”
BW: I remember that moon.
LM: “It was amazing.”
BW: I can’t imagine being on the water at night like that. Did you do a class or go through a sequence?
LM: We just paddled and talked, and then when we were between these two islands, we were doing headstands. It was magnificent, so much fun. For me, I know where my issues are, but on that board, you really know. Where you overcompensate for an injury, you can’t do that on a board. So go ahead and fall off in the very beginning so you don’t have to worry about falling off. I love to try different things. So what if you fall off, who cares?”
Lisa McBryde teaches Power Vinyasa Flow at North Shore Yoga in Chattanooga, Tennessee on Wednesday evenings and Sunday afternoons. Check out North Shore Yoga in scenic Chattanooga and drop in on one of Lisa’s classes for an amazing practice.