Move Over Bourbon
September is also National Yoga Month
BY KRISTINA ROSEN
If Lissa Sims could tell you to do one thing to celebrate yoga month, it would be to stop right now, take a deep breath and notice how you feel. “That is yoga.”
Born and raised in Lexington, Sims is a Kentucky girl at heart. She says, “I have a friend who says there must be a tiny piece of collapsed star under the courthouse because no one ever seems to leave Lexington forever. Everyone eventually makes their way home not because of the star but because the people are intelligent and caring and open-minded. And we DO love our bourbon.”
She also points out “It is the greatest place in the entire world to live.”
Sims grew up just around the corner from the Henry Clay Estate, where she now leads a wildly popular outdoor yoga practice on the lawn. She’d love to tell you her childhood years spent playing at Ashland was all just foreshadowing, but she laughingly admits, “sometimes when I am there I think how funny it would be to 12-year-old me to see me standing there in the grass leading this big group of people through these crazy looking movements.”
Her facebook identifies her as “mother, dog-owner, writer, yogi…”, but clarifies “time-line-wise, last to first. Yogi, writer, dog-owner, mother.” She says, “I took my first big-deal workshop 22 years ago with Rodney Yee” in LA (that was after she’d completed her journalism degree at Pepperdine).
It’s impossible to doubt her yoga cred after learning her current fridge scene is stocked with “kale, figs, almond milk, lots of organic vegetables and eggs,” as one would expect. But yoga is more about community and connection than it is about kale.
She shares a specific memory, “One Sunday at Ashland, a large man who looked to be in his early 60s walked up to me and I could see something big [was] on his mind. He launched right in and said, ‘I was in the military. I have done horrible things and I have been treated more badly than you can possibly imagine for most of my life.’ Tears streamed down his face as he told me,‘I’m not really even sure what made me come today, I’ve never done yoga before, but I’ve seen you out here for a while and I just wanted to come see what it was. And as we moved I began to, for the first time since I can’t remember, believe that I don’t have to be so angry… that maybe there is a way I can start to let it go.’ And with those three or four sentences, he walked away.”
Remembering his story, she says, “When we start to let go of anger we can connect to the people around us and most of us are looking for connection.”
Of being both a writer and a yogi, Sims says, “I am always trying to find ways to connect with people. I am not sure it matters what my vocation, I would try to be connecting and knowing people. I think if I was a fashion designer or a chef my process would look pretty similar. I am a hard worker and I think I am pretty thorough so yes, the life of a writer and the life of a yoga instructor feels the same to me, it just feels like my life. The arc for both looks similar: There is all the preparation and research lead- ing up to the performance of a story or a practice, then there is the release of it to the world knowing always that it isn’t perfect but it’s out there now. And there is also, always, for me, that momentary high that comes from learning I have succeeded in connecting with someone. Guiding yoga is way less stressful for me. But life is way less stressful for me now that I know myself a bit better and I credit yoga for that.
Her thoughts for someone might love yoga, but is too afraid to try? “Well it’s just yoga.”
She continues with a laugh, “People always say ‘Oh, I wish I could do yoga, but I’m not flexible enough.’ Sometimes I want to say ‘Well, I KNOW you aren’t going to get more flexible standing there telling me you aren’t flexible’.”
We practice yoga not to get good at yoga but to get good at being ourselves.
Her bottom line: Try yoga instead.
“Let go of the idea that is has to look a certain way. It can be really stressful when you make your goal an idealized form or decide there is a certain way it should look. Instead of making the goal about the way a pose looks, make it about feeling good, then healing will start to happen in your body. And then your life.”
As daunting as it may sound, rest assured that it’s as easy as slowing down and taking a deep breath.
She explains, “We practice yoga not to get good at yoga, but to get good at being ourselves. I like the idea of feeling good while I do anything.”
If you stopped earlier to take a breath and noticed how you feel, and now you’re up for something bigger, you can join Sims at Ashland on Sunday mornings, and at a variety of Lexington practices, including the occasional wine + yoga pop up.
Full interview and video at aceweekly.com.
BONUS LIGHTNING ROUND WITH LISSA SIMS
Quick: Is Lexington the South, or the Midwest?
South (as I said recently to someone on who just moved here—we are southern in the love-your-mama- always-say-please-and-thank-you kinda way, not the bigoted backward kinda way.)
Name five things in your car right now:
Yoga mats, Johnny Conqueroo CD, Reva and Warren’s Christmas CD, hand lotion, umbrella.
Last movie you saw?
Once upon a time in Hollywood
Your greatest extravagance?
Tata Harper skin care. It’s so crazy expensive but it’s all natural and smells so good
What book is on your nightstand right now?
Figuratively speaking Michael Pollan and Elizabeth Gilbert’s new books because I use a kindle mostly, but literally, Sula by Toni Morrison, because that’s the last real book I read and it’s still there. And Thich Nhat Hanh’s meditations on love because I read that every day.
Longtime Ace readers love your writing from your famous On The Block column in the 90s (“This balcony reminds of me when I was in high school, I would hang from my fingertips then drop to the ground as noiselessly as I could to sneak out at night.”). Is there a favorite Lexington house you remember writing about?
YES! I love that glam one-story on Tates Creek
Who would play you in the movie of your life?
Johnny Depp. He’s a hippie from Kentucky who likes beads, braids, and eyeliner. He gets it.
Your most treasured possession?
At the risk of sounding too much like I’m writing the introduction to a self-help book (my daughter’s words) I think I’m happier thinking I’d feel ok about walking away from every single thing I own. I do have amazing paintings by Chad Hurley and Madelaine Enochs-Epley and Alex Mason that I do love…
This article also appears on page 8 and 9 of the September 2019 print edition of Ace Weekly.
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