Hale & Vigor talk with Kelsi Ludvigsen, Co-owner & teacher @ Leela Yoga.
Can you begin by telling us about how you first became interested in yoga and why?
I was living in Cape Town, South Africa 8 years ago and was bitten by a Puff Adder, a very dangerous snake. I was in intensive care for 2 weeks and rehab for 3 months to learn how to walk again. When I finally left they told me if I wanted my leg to function as it had before the bite I should start with yoga! That’s a very short version of a long ordeal but it was the beginning of my yoga journey! From there I joined a studio in Honolulu Hawaii (which was a big inspiration for Leela Yoga) and then took my teacher training. I have been teaching for only 6 years, so I am still very young in my teaching journey.
Where does the name LEELA YOGA come from?
Tonje (Co-Owner) and I wanted something that was approachable yet had a root in Sanskrit. A loose translation of it is “divine play”. We felt the Oslo community at the time was missing something. Yoga was so serious and we wanted a space that was fun and relaxed. We wanted people to make friends and grow their practice together. It’s been such a beautiful evolution to witness, so many friendships have blossomed, limiting beliefs have become liberating beliefs and everyone supports each other. Both teachers and students, it’s a group effort that keeps Leela running.
How many years have you been teaching and where can people find your classes?
I have been teaching for 6 years and I will always teach at Leela when I’m in Oslo. I live in Paris at the moment but travel often home to teach, I also teach retreats and immersions around the world. Tonje lives in Mexico now but comes home during the summer months and Christmas to teach!
How is your yoga centre different from others in Norway and what do you do or offer that sets you apart from many others?
Well, when we first opened we were one of the first to have a membership with a huge variety of classes! Luckily, more studios have joined the trend and people now have so many choices! We have found that people love Vinyasa so we offer a variety of Vinyasa classes but also Yin and more restorative options. Leela also focuses on community, not just within our four walls with our teachers and members but also with some other fabulous studios in the area. We are part of the Oslo Yoga Collective where we have joined with four other top studios in the city to prove to people that there is no such thing as competition but of communal support. We are all doing the same thing, bringing yoga to as many people as we can.
For someone who knows nothing about Yoga how would you best describe it?
I like to tell people that if you forgot to brush your teeth for 3 days you would feel the build up on your teeth of everything you’ve eaten and drank. Yet every day we brush our teeth because we feel clean and better. Well, when it comes to yoga it’s the same thing. If we forget to practice asana, meditate or stay in ritual, our body has this build up inside and we become stagnant and toxic. So for me, yoga is a clearing of built-up toxicity through the physical, mental and emotional body.
Is yoga more for the body or the mind?
For most people the first time they begin with yoga they will find it through their body. But as you continue to practice and study you will notice it has so much more to do with the mind. Today yoga for me works through the emotional body. I can process and integrate so much through my study’s on an emotional plane rather than the mental.
What would you say to someone that says ‘It looks too hard’ or ‘I can’t even touch my toes!’
My rule of thumb is when I see something is scary or hard it’s my intuition telling me and signaling to me that this is my next task at hand. So go for it! And for those who say “I can’t touch my toes” then yoga must become a part of their routine! How exciting! That’s when you know yoga will be great for you!
What do you believe is the most powerful benefit of Yoga?
Community. Being able to sit in a room of 18 people and not having to say a word! We live in a world today where silence is deemed ‘awkward’ and we have to inundate ourselves with podcasts, Spotify playlists, audiobooks or just sit scrolling through Instagram. Witnessing a class practice in their own silence yet hold space for each other is one of the most powerful things for me as a teacher to witness. And I think for the members to learn that silence and breath with strangers isn’t so crazy after all. The fact that a class can all go through the same sequence yet have profoundly different experiences is so beautiful! That is what community is all about, trusting in each others presence and showing up for each other, even when we barely each other.
Visit Leela Yoga in Oslo – www.leelayoga.no