Staying Strong in Your (Dis)Comfort Zone

Have you ever found yourself in a situation so new, unusual or outside of your comfort zone that you immediately wanted to retreat?

The feeling that you just associated with the above situation – chest tightening, hand sweating, fight or flight – has been on my mind recently. In the past few months, I have found myself in a position, time and time again, where I’ve been challenged with a new task or emotion that makes me want to turn tail or make an excuse for not trying.

I went to my best advisor, my mom, and told her about my fear of the unknown. Most of my slight distress comes from not wanting to be told “no” about something I really want. I think we’ve all been there. Whether it’s a new responsibility at work, requesting 15 minutes of a potential mentor’s time or even telling your partner what you really want, it can be daunting to put yourself out there, only to hear “no.”

She gave me the sage advice of learning to “stand in my discomfort.” That’s right: stand in it. Not run through it, like you’d do over hot coals. Stay on top of it, make friends with it. Explore it and ask questions. Make friends with your discomfort.

I told her I’d consider it and hung up. Maybe she had lost her mojo or was pulling my leg. Who actually wants to stay uncomfortable? Isn’t that why specialty stores sold so many $50 pillows? We love comfort, pay top money for it, seek out specialists to build ergonomic playpens for the purpose of achieving a zen-like state. So why should I befriend discomfort and ask it to sit down for a cuppa?

Then I thought about what would happen if I ran away. I’d never know what was not only on the other side of the coal bed. Nor would I learn something new about myself on the way there, walking leisurely and embracing all the lessons. I’d forever be on the other side, safe and S.A.F.E. (a bit NSFW but look up what that acronym means and you’ll get it).

Inspired by this way of thinking, I have since adopted 2016 as my year of “Shoot the shot.” This was a brief trending topic on social media around New Year’s, in which folks decided they didn’t want to end 2015 without telling someone they liked them (or some other hidden revelation). For some it worked and they were able to make a love connection. Others got curved. But at least they knew where they stood.

Since I’m married now, my shot shooting is professional only. In my year of “Shoot the shot,” I’ve expressed more openly my professional goals to my boss and sought out mentors and peers for help in what I am trying to achieve. I have made requests of brands, even though I immediately tried to talk myself out of it. I had to tell myself “Worst thing they can say is ‘No, thank you.’ And then you’re right back where you started, but at least you asked.”

I will say, most of my shots right now are from the free throw line. They’re not super challenging or greatly out of my range. They only send a slight tremor down my spine. As the year progresses, I’ll be taking steps back to get to the three-point line. That’s stretch goals, bigger asks and greater challenges of myself if the answer is “Yes.”

Before the year is over, I want to do a half-court, all-or-nothing kind of shot.

Because, yes, I hate feeling awkward and vulnerable just as much as the next person. I don’t want to feel my heart in my chest as I watch the three dots bubble, awaiting a reply, or check my email nearly obsessively.

But the feeling you get when you hear or read “Yes” sure beats standing on the other side of the coals, doesn’t it? Get comfy in that discomfort zone. You may be there for a while.

How are you shooting your shot this year? What’s your free throw, three-point and half-court ask?

(photo courtesy of Mark Moss, flickr)

Continuing Education: My First Yoga Workshop

I’ve talked about how hard it is to stay on top of my own fitness. This weekend, I challenged myself to keep learning by attending one of Sunstone Academy’s yoga workshops. (Full disclosure: I work for Sunstone part time as a teacher and I attended Sunstone Academy for my 200-hour Yoga Teacher Training.)

In the past few months, Sunstone has offered workshops on diet and nutrition with Dr. Sommer White. This weekend, the workshops focused on advancing one’s yoga practice. Of the four available courses, I went to “The Art of Arm Balancing” on Saturday afternoon.

If she can do this, I totally can as well, right?
If she can do this, I totally can as well, right?

Y’all. I don’t think I’ve challenged my body this much since…ever. The warm-up alone, as we found and engaged the entire core, had me sweating bullets. By the time the teacher, Lady Yoga, got us into our first arm balance (the ever-approachable Crow), I knew I was in for a major workout. As Lady Yoga explained, arm balancing is not just arm strength; you have to engage mula and uddiyana bandhas. These bandhas help us lift and stay into balances and inversions.


Over the course of the workshop, Lady Yoga led the group of about 20-25 people, half of whom were also teachers like me, through Crow, Side Crow, Baby Crow, Running Man, Flying Pigeon, Eight Angle (which I could not get to save my life) and the most challenging for me, Visvamtrasana.

Nailed it!
Nailed it!

Not since training have I been so challenged in my practice, and I loved every moment. I will be attending more yoga workshops, focusing on both the asana (physical practice) and philosophy. Keep up with what workshops I’ll be attending in my quest for knowledge by following me on Twitter: @veleisap.

And if the workshop wasn’t enough, I decided to hop on the Grit Fitness X Luke’s Locker kickoff challenge. Whew, y’all, lemme tell you: the ladies of Grit Fitness are amazing. In an hour, we went through a dance cardio, kickboxing and glute workout and I felt (and still feel) all of it. Check out their latest fun challenge: #LUKESGRIT, plus my sweaty selfie with Annabelle, who kept me moving throughout class!



Level Up: How to Stay On Top of Your Own Fitness as an Instructor/Trainer

Recently, I had a thought: if I took an informal poll of my fellow fitness teachers or the trainer members of the Dallas Fitness Ambassadors, probably 99 percent would say that as their teaching and training increased, their focus on their own growth went down. An inverse and perverse relationship, if you will. Speaking for myself, as I’ve invested time in reading, learning and teaching others, my training schedule has suffered. I almost have to force myself to dedicate an hour to getting on the mat, not to creating a new flow or reading the latest yoga news.

As a student, you have seemingly unlimited time to learn, explore and jump around to different classes and studios. Now that I teach, I have a home studio and getting to other locations to experience other instructors often takes a back seat to meeting and greeting with the teachers and students at my own location.

It’s easy for me to recognize when I need to switch it up and revert back to being a student. Not only do I physically feel the need for a return to a challenge, but my mind clues me in that I’m not growing. My fitness routine, whether it’s yoga or weight training or my “unbridal bridal” regimen of sprint work on the track, connects me to an inner energy source and allows me to be a better teacher. I sleep better, digest my food easier and generally am a happier person when I’m challenging my body and mind through fitness.

Me, as a student, working on my handstand.
Me, as a student last year, working on my handstand.

Returning to the act of being a student is a humbling experience, and often, as teachers, we need a reminder that there is no end to the practice of learning. We can all be taught something new, whether we are a beginning instructor or a seasoned veteran trainer. When we don’t expand our minds through continued education, what we put out to our students can become stagnant or boring. And really, who wants to be a boring fitness leader?

I vow anew to give time back to myself, to explore not only different instructors at my own studio but with other yoga studios. After getting my butt kicked at Surf City Fitness last month, I’m excited to try new experiences and see how it shapes my teaching principles. I’m a big proponent of lifting, and lifting heavy, and I’ve seen the improvements to my time on the mat due to pumping iron. Thankfully, my fiance and I belong to the same gym, and he loves kicking my tail in the weight room, telling me to lift heavier, move faster and challenge myself. I’m excited about my renewed focus; maybe you’ll join me?

If you’re an instructor, have you found that your own fitness journey has stalled as you’ve taken on clients/started teaching?

If so, how do you plan on jump-starting it again to ensure that not only are you satisfied with your progress but you’re giving your students the best knowledge and experience based on what you learn?

Shout out in the comments, or message me on Twitter (@VeleisaP) or Instagram (@LeisaWithAnE). Looking forward to hearing from you!

Shopping for Your Workout Without Going Broke

I got a fun package in the mail this week: new exercise tights. Colorful, stretchy, sweat-wicking workout gear. Me, being who I am, I immediately shared it to Instagram.

A photo posted by Leisa (@leisawithane) on


Several friends wanted to know about how to shop for their workouts. I’m now working out or teaching upwards of 4-5 times a week, and I’m learning about making a limited supply look good. Plus, according to the sales numbers, activewear represents nearly 16 percent of the total apparel market, which means we’re spending plenty on workout clothes. 

Here are some of the things that I’ve learned about shopping for a workout wardrobe that will keep motivated to move.

Buy on clearance. Who doesn’t love a good sale? Online retailers and brick and mortar shops alike have to clear out merchandise regularly, which means a great deal on clothing. Make friends with the team at your favorite store and sign up for email alerts to be in the know about upcoming sales and specials.

Shop at the end of the season. In addition to sales, shop seasons. Once the temperatures start to change, and when you have drastic temperature changes like we do in Texas, you need to move from sleeveless singlets to layers. Some of the deepest discounts I’ve come across have been during the summer and winter gear swap in merchandise.

Be open to non-name brand clothing. Some yogis, CrossFitters and Zumba-heads are label-conscious and only wear Nike, Adidas and Lululemon. But me, the way my checking and my savings is set up…I can’t afford to drop $75-$100 on tights and $20-30 on tanks and tees. Not only am I sweating pretty heavily every workout, I’m washing items at least weekly. While I am not spending $5 on throwaway t-shirts and cotton tights that go nubby in one wash, I do believe in a bit of frugality. I’ve found that J.C. Penney, Kohl’s and H&M (home of fast fashion) provide a cute and comfortable outfits, usually with wicking material that helps keep you dry while you’re lifting, dancing or stretching.

Choose your prints wisely to mix and match. While we all want to be cute in colorful patterns, a monochromatic color palette means no one knows how often you’ve worn a piece. Maybe your lucky color is black, blue, red or green. Use the solid color as a base and throw in patterns for variety.

Here are a few links around the ‘Net that will help you maintain your wardrobe:

How to avoid pilling in yoga pants: 6 athletic wear questions answered – via

Toxic chemicals lurking in your yoga pants – via PopSugar

Presenting: Yoga Photos + 10-Minute Yoga Flow

My good friend, writer extraordinaire CJ Johnson, approached me about a photography project, I couldn’t say no. CJ and I originally “met” on Twitter. Upon discovering that we live in the same part of Dallas, we’ve managed to keep in contact and establish an in-real-life friendship, discussing creativity and life.

After explaining to me her vision, we met up in the visually-rich Dallas arts district, beginning in Klyde Warren Park. Since it was a (very) warm night, we chose to start at the quieter west end of the park. CJ’s approach was very conversational, allowing me to immediately feel at ease as I moved through Sun Salutations to warm up.

Over the next couple of hours, the photo shoot moved from Klyde Warren Park to the Meyerson Symphony Center and the Dallas Museum of Art, ending with a catch up session and ice cream.

I’ll be sad when CJ moves to LA soon, but that just means I have someone to kick it with on the west coast.

And here are the best of the best photos:

Smiling Upward Dog Dancer at the DMA Close Up Tree at DMA Side Crow Revolving Chair Handstand Triangle Chatarunga



Here is the first part of a recent flow I put together for my APY Flow class. I want to share this so readers get an idea of my style of flow.

Before beginning, warm up with 2-3 Sun Salutations. Find a library of postures, including the below, over at Yoga Journal.

Warrior One

(straighten the front leg and shorten the stance by bringing in the back leg)


(rise out of Pyramid, release arms to the sky, bend both legs and lift into the balance)

Warrior Three

(bring hands to the mat, keep hips level)

Standing Split

(bring lifted leg through to hip height, cross over standing leg)



Why You Should Accept Compliments Without Excuses

Let me start by saying, the following story is not a humble-brag. It is a situation that happened this morning, inspiring this post.

“You look so put together all time time; it makes me sick!”

This statement, coming from a female coworker, surprised me, and I’m not sure why. Maybe because it was 8 a.m. and I’d yet to eat my breakfast or have a cup of tea. Or I thought to myself that if she’d looked closely, she would notice I had not a lick of makeup on my face (nerd-style glasses hide plenty of sins). More than likely, however, I was falling back on the tendency that many women embrace: deflect the compliment and offer a mincing aside to bring myself back down to “normal.” But instead of flicking off a remark about my naked face or that my cream blouse and pencil skirt were just something I threw on – even though it was the truth because I’m a lazy dresser – I said simply “Thank you!” and kept strutting down the hallway. Despite the blush in my cheeks, it felt good to just accept the compliment without excuses.

Much is written about women’s communication style in the office: our lack of assertiveness but if we’re too aggressive, heaven help us. How our up-talk makes us sound persistently uncertain and that we’re always apologizing for perceived slights (or just simply taking up space). While I’ve never been a shrinking violet, I found conforming ever so slightly to the behaviors of the office in the beginning of my career, a form of assimilation. Instead of making a declarative statement of opinion, I would lead with a preemptive clause to deflect any potential ruffled feathers. While it never reached the level of speech that constantly sounded like I was questioning myself and others, I could hear myself and I didn’t like it. So I stopped making excuses.

  1. I refused to be afraid of my own opinions. Solicited or not, if I knew that a thought would add value to a discussion, I offered it. I stopped being scared that I might be wrong in giving my two cents. And you know what? The world didn’t stop spinning. In fact, as I listened, reflected and made contributions, I stopped having to push my thoughts as people began to pull me in. I created my own value by showing I had some.
  2. When someone gave me a compliment, whether for physical or intellectual capital, I didn’t demur. How many times in the past week have you brushed off or downplayed a legitimately earned kudos? When you landed your company a key client, did you protest or did you accept the well-earned praise? If your hair or make up was on point, or you spent an extra minute coordinating your outfit, did you allow the admiration or did you point out your badly needed manicure?
  3. I encouraged others to do the same. Currently, my office is 90 percent women, various ages, backgrounds and experience. One of the most common personality traits they share: apologizing for “slights” like speaking up in meetings, not having printouts unexpectedly and other small matters that wouldn’t concern most people but especially not men. Jokingly, I’ve brought up the idea of an apology jar, similar to a swear jar. For every unnecessary apology, put in one quarter. No one has taken me up on it yet, but the principle behind it stands.

Bottom Line: Don’t be afraid to exist – take up space, be imperfect, be wrong, learn the lesson and move along. And when someone gives you a compliment, you turn around and give them a high five.

What It Feels Like to Return to Yoga After a Hiatus

During training, we ate, slept and breathed yoga. Asana was the word of the day, all day long as we strove to understand every posture. Six months after finishing yoga teacher training, I’m immersed in functional fitness classes as I teach Sweat and Core classes at my home studio. Last year, 80 percent of my physical practice was yoga-based with 20 percent going toward weight training. That breakdown is now flipped on its head, and when I’m not in the studio teaching weight class, I’m in the gym with my fiance doing his regimen. Before I knew it, I’d gone nearly a month without taking any kind of yoga, which is a crazy-long time for me.

Last night, it was me and the mat and my Yoga Studio app. As I stepped to the top of my mat to begin an hour of class, my body automatically went to what it knew: shoulders back and down, chest lifted, breathing in and out deeply. Turns out, my time away doing weight work improved my practice. Upper body and core work helped stabilize Chaturangas and those taxing leg presses and weighted walking lunges meant I could get my thigh closer to parallel in Warrior positions.

Best of all, when I went to practice inversions – handstands – after the class ended, I got some hang time! For reference, just six months ago, I was either kicking over into a backbend or flailing. One key piece of handstand prep I found was from Kino McGrego (Kino Yoga); I’ve embedded it below.

Moral of the story: don’t be afraid to change up your fitness. Engaging in a range of exercises means you won’t get bored, cross trains your muscles and improves your performance. What are your two to three must-do exercise programs? How do they intersect? For example, do you find your Pilates classes complement marathon training?

Adventures in Yoga: Teaching My First Class

I’d mentioned earlier this month that I was in a “name and claim” mood when it came to my development as a yoga teacher. Rather than be a bullhorn, I have selectively reached out to those who I know care about fitness. The one-on-one engagement has always gotten me more results, plus it saves me losing followers who don’t want to be “sold” on yoga.

Recently, in a conversation with my fiance’s cousin, I mentioned becoming active again in our sorority. I know she’s active in a graduate chapter, and I wanted to find out what activities the group performs in the community. By chance, she mentioned that the chapter holds fitness fundraisers after their monthly chapter meeting. *Ding!* My opportunity radar set off a loud ping; I dug deeper. After I asked her a few questions, she put me in touch with the woman who coordinates the workouts, who promptly asks me if I can teach a class…in 9 days. “Sure,” I say. “Not a problem.” Inside, total freak out.

Fast forward a few days and I’m leading my fiance through a series of postures and noting his feedback – he’s also fitness-minded, so I know he is thinking of the client experience in his comments. The day of, and butterflies are dancing in my stomach. Will I manage to get the words out of my mouth? Will they silently judge my teaching style? What if I forget something? Then, it was show time. And you know what?

I didn’t suck. Not even a little bit. In fact, I kinda kicked butt. We all did, together.

The ladies were comedians from the very beginning. Of the ten or so students, about a quarter had never done yoga and had no expectations other than a good time and a good work out. Once I put on the music, we found our groove easily. I made adjustments (something that always made me nervous in training), demonstrated postures and got sweaty myself. And I did forget one move…but no one knew it!

At the end, they called me Major Pain/Payne, and I loved it. High fives were exchanged and the kinetic energy that I adore was in the room. I was reminded all over again why I teach, and that was the best part.

Shout out to the ladies of the Collin County Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. I am open to coming out any time. Check out our fun pictures below!

Regular smiles.
Regular smiles.
Fierce yogis!
Fierce yogis!

Starting 2015 on The Right Foot: Setting My Goals

Since I managed to make it into 2015 without doing a 2015 recap post – I’ve not completely dismissed the idea – I figured the first post of the new year can talk about how I’m setting myself up for greatness in 2015.

I gave myself a reality check toward the end of the year. In the span of one year, I graduated with an M.A., started a new job and had a knock-out first year AND completed 200-hour yoga teacher training. Suffice it to say, that’s quite a bit! Hours of studying, full weekends of practice and learning in the studio and sacrifice of time for the things that mattered most to me. So, I say “Clap, Clap!” for me. And….that’s enough. I do want you to remember to recognize your own accomplishments; even if you don’t tell anyone about them, acknowledge your awesomeness.

The year was transformative and I’m ready for the challenges to come!

Continue reading “Starting 2015 on The Right Foot: Setting My Goals”

Inspired Post – Planning for Success in October

Entrepreneur and fellow Dallasite Courtney over at Think & Grow Chick inspired this post outlining September’s results and October’s goal planning and challenges. I appreciate the simple way she outlined her post and we all know that accountability helps move the needle. Here I go!


I didn’t set goals for September the way that Courtney did so this section will be lean. Speaking to accomplishments in September, I did manage to post about my yoga journey not once but twice. At my 9-to-5, I got plenty of face-time with department leadership by proposing new projects outside the scope of my role. Finally, I managed to learn quite a bit by falling on my face – I might write about that experience – and saying “No” to a volunteer opportunity that I knew wouldn’t be fulfilled to the level needed by the organization leader.


This quarter of the year is all about development, from professional learning to expanding knowledge of yoga philosophy.

  1. Attend an industry learning and/or networking event – Like most people, the idea of networking fills me with a certain dread. Knowing that the benefit will be bringing back useful information that I can share with the department makes the idea (slightly) more palatable. I’ve pitched two organizations and will follow up to attend as many as my manager allows me.
  2. Increase my knowledge of yoga philosophy – As I learn about the pedagogy of yoga and develop a greater understanding of the physiology of the practice, I must supplement my understanding with historical texts and the latest research.
  3. Update my personal website, develop marketing materials – ROI is the name of the game. While I’ve enjoyed the yoga teacher training on a personal level, it was also a business decision to earn certification. Now I must press further to define who I am as a yoga teacher, my ideal clientele, pricing and availability, working with a studio or a gym and beyond.


  1. As much as I enjoy talking, I hate talking about myself, marketing myself, all of the above and beyond. Even the thought gives me heebie jeebies. I have to move beyond that.
  2. Recognizing that it’s okay to not have the answers. Often we feel like the best path should be illuminated instantaneously. This sets us up to be disappointed when the path is more winding than straight-and-narrow. Reading “Mastery” by George Leonard puts these concerns in perspective: it’s about the long haul, not instant gratification. Patience, grasshopper.


  1. Saying No from time to time – One of the more difficult things I’ve done this year with fantastic results. I wouldn’t call myself a people pleaser so that’s not the issue. I struggled with thinking that I wasn’t following up on what I signed up for. After evaluating my workload and how much I wanted to add, it was best for me to step away and I managed to do so without damaging the relationship.
  2. Talking to my network – In the past my circle has been so small that everyone in it shared my DNA. I’ve begun to realize that I’m limiting opportunities for feedback and connections by staying so close to home in creating my network of advisers, entrepreneurs and associates. Setting up coffee time and shooting out catch-up emails has netted me useful feedback about upcoming plans.

Next week we graduate from the teacher training – I expect it to emotional and exciting – and the real adventure begins. Eight weeks has flown by quickly.

Check out Think & Grow Chick and join the B-Side Facebook group for inspirational discussions with female entrepreneurs!