If you’ve been a member if 42Yogis for a while, you probably know I’m all about Lesley Fightmaster. If you have ever watched yoga videos online, you have probably at least seen Lesley Fightmaster. Lesley teaches yoga in Orange County, California, but a couple years ago she began teaching amazing yoga classes on YouTube.
What has set Lesley’s videos apart from the majority of yoga videos on YouTube is the production quality and the care Lesley takes in teaching her class. Even though you’re taking her class virtually, she teaches as if you are right there in the room with her. It’s not surprising Lesley’s channel has (at the time of this writing) almost 67,000 subscribers. Lesley is currently teaching Yoga Fix 90 on YouTube, a digital yoga class designed to help you create a healthy yoga habit in 90 days.
In this interview, Lesley talked to me about her yoga practice, her awesome videos, and transformation.
Ysmay: How long have you been doing yoga?
Lesley: I went to a few of classes in 1999 when I lived in San Francisco, but I didn’t like the classes very much and I was so disappointed because I was really feeling drawn to yoga at that time. I tried again a year later and found a style of yoga (Ashtanga and Vinyasa Flow) that really appealed to me and I continued to practice.
What first brought you to yoga?
I have been in recovery for alcohol since 1994 and I was really looking for a way to find a deeper spiritual connection. I heard that it’s great to meditate after practicing yoga and I wanted to to try it because I had a really hard time sitting still and meditating. I think that’s why I was drawn to the Ashtanga and Vinyasa flow styles of yoga…I couldn’t stay still for very long…I was very type A, and had a lot of anxiety. The only way I could relax in Savasana was to be a sweaty mess from the practice! I also felt compelled to work on aligning my chakras and all of the reading I did about how to do it pointed to practicing yoga.
How long have you been teaching, and what inspired you to become a yoga teacher?
I started teaching in 2006, so it’s been 9 years now. I started practicing with some amazing teachers in San Francisco including Stephanie Snyder and Janet Stone. They were incredibly inspiring to me. When I began to practice, I was extremely stiff and pretty weak. I never thought I would be able to be a teacher because my teachers were soooo amazing and I never thought I could do anything close to that.
When we moved down to Orange County after our first son was born, it took me a while to find good teachers, but then again, the teachers that I started with in SF were so awesome that most teachers paled in comparison. I realized that I wanted to teach to try and inspire others the way that I was so inspired when I began to practice. I’m also happy to report that I’ve found amazing teachers here in OC, but I’m kind of glad that I didn’t at first…I probably would have never taken teacher training!
When did you start doing yoga videos, and why did you decide to teaching yoga online?
The first class that we did was a couple of years ago. My husband is a writer, musician, and stand-up comedian. He wanted a video camera to work on some comedy projects. We bought the camera and he wanted to practice using it, so we went to Pacific Ashtanga Yoga Shala (one of the studios where I teach) and he filmed me, edited it and uploaded it to YouTube and we pretty much forgot about it. I led a retreat in Bali about 6 months later and after I got home, Duke told me that our 30 minute Ashtanga video was getting some views. I said let’s do another one, and we did a 45 minute flow class and then forgot about YouTube again.
Maybe another 5 or 6 months after that we were getting some subscribers regularly…I remember when we were getting an average of 10 per day and I was amazed. In December of 2013 we decided that we would consistently upload one new class every week and we’ve been doing that ever since. I can hardly believe how much our channel has grown and I’m so grateful for the community we’ve started. I really hope that we continue to bring yoga to as many people as possible. I think yoga brings more love and happiness into the world and the more people that practice, the better the world will continue to be!
You teach a lot of different styles in your videos; what is your favourite ?
I really love the restorative and yin classes. I used to think it was a waste of time to do a yoga class that didn’t end in being drenched with sweat and I couldn’t sit still, so for the longest time, I wasn’t able to practice restorative or yin. Now, I love it and practicing those kinds of classes regularly and meditating now give me more energy than the sweaty practices. I still like the sweaty flows though!
Yoga can really help people transform. What is the most inspiring yoga transformation story you have come across?
I have heard of tons of amazing transformational stories and I’m so blessed to receive messages and emails from people all over that world sharing their triumphs! One story that touched me was from a woman who has an autoimmune disease called Scleroderma which tightens the skin and joints. She was getting very weak and even carrying groceries was too much. She had practiced a little yoga a few years ago and she decided to go back but then started to have random panic attacks and couldn’t comfortably leave the house. She found our online classes and began to practice. Within a few months, she began to see major improvements. She went from being mostly immobile to sending me pictures of herself in Bakasana and Urdvha Dhanurasana! Amazing!
What can we expect to see next from you?
Believe it or not, a yoga rock opera! Duke [Fightmaster] has written a rock opera based in the yoga world. He and I used to be in a band together when we lived in San Francisco. He writes music, sings, and plays guitar. I sing and used to play bass in the band. He has 25 songs written for the rock opera. When Duke gets an idea, he doesn’t stop until it’s finished. He wrote a screenplay and put together a Kickstarter campaign to fund the filming of it. He raised $11,000, hired a director, actors and a film crew and made a feature film called “Pablo Steel.” It’s a comedy about a failed talk show host…which is kind of a biopic. He used to have a talk show on YouTube…but that’s a whole other story!