Interview: Lisa McMurtrie

Interview: Lisa McMurtrie

Can you give me a bit of background/history about when you started practicing and teaching?

I started practicing in my second year of university, when a friend dragged me out to a hot yoga class. I had a regular gym workout schedule and was comfortable lifting weights, so I was hesitant and very intimidated that I wouldn’t be able to keep up with the class. I bought the 30-day “Intro Pass” at that studio and fell in love with yoga. After 2 years of practicing (sometimes twice a day) I decided to do my 200-Hour Yoga Teacher Training to deepen my practice – with zero intention of becoming a Yoga Teacher.

What are you working on right now in your practice and/or in your life?

This is the beautiful thing about this journey – it never ends. Just when one thing becomes easier we find something else to achieve. In my personal practice I am focusing on building strength and stability in my upper back, to help support my inversions. I admittedly have a tendency to round through my shoulders so this is a priority for me work on. I practice 1-2 times a week targeting these upper body areas (that I have been avoiding over the years), and 1-2 times a week on my lower body. On top of my teaching and personal practice schedule I am currently in school at the Institute of Holistic Nutrition to become a Certified Nutritionist. Healthy living is something I am passionate about!

Can you tell me about something you learned that changed your practice in a significant way?

Yes! Where do I start?! When I began my Yoga journey, I was in it for the yoga body (to be completely honest). My intention at the start of each class was “bikini body.” In hindsight, this is understandable from where I was coming from. I was in University for Drawing and Painting; I would paint themes of perfection, memory, desire, and fear. As a perfectionist with an obsessive workout schedule, I was channelling my personal issues both through art and at the gym. When I discovered yoga, my yoga teachers started to introduce ideas like “mindfulness,” “forgiving yourself,” “self-love,” and “non-judgment.” This was enough to keep my membership going because I was starting to put words to the feelings I was experiencing. I was starting to create awareness, but I still did not know what the next step was.

My major “aha” moment was in my third year of practicing. Up until this point I had been trying to achieve physical goals. Everything was physical – if I didn’t “feel” sore the next day, I didn’t think I was working hard enough. I was working so hard on my physical body and was completely ignoring the mental practice (which was creating a block in my practice). My Teachers Karina Guthrie and Bryan Cremer suggested that I start journaling and introduced me to meditation, stillness, and restorative and yin yoga. At the time I was incredibly resistant. I thought that if I introduced these “slower” practices I would lose everything that I had worked so hard to gain. I gave it a try just to see what would happen and to my surprise, rather than taking away from what I had achieved, I noticed a change in my confidence and energy, by starting to balance Yang and Yin yoga practices. Now I not only focus on strength and conditioning, but also indulging in stillness, love, forgiveness, non-attachment, and contentment.

What is the most important thing that you want students to learn or know about practicing yoga?

I would like students to become more aware of their inner dialogue. We call yoga a practice because each time we step onto our mat is a safe space to learn and explore more about ourselves. The best project that you can ever work on is yourself, and you are forever evolving. You are in complete control of how you react to the situations around you, and your practice on the mat can help train your mind to take that “observer” seat. In a stressful situation on the mat (ie. a least favourite Yoga Pose) – how do you react, can you use the breathing to calm the nervous system and calm the heart rate and the mind? If so, then can you start to do that when the person in front of you in the grocery store line is paying their $27.95 bill in coins? Haha!

What one word would you use to describe yourself?

I’m not sure if this counts but: “big-hearted.”

What is your spirit animal?

I think I would have to choose a sloth, not because I am lazy – I think I am the opposite of lazy – but because I like a slower pace. I have seen sloths and they are pretty freaking cool cucumbers. They stay calm under pressure, and are pretty laid back. I choose sloth!