In addition to her work at Pritikin, Liza is a wellness contributer to Livestrong and E-How. She has also developed wellness programs for executives from companies such as BP, Home Depot, and the Aveda Institute.
In her yoga classes at Pritikin, Liza’s focus is helping people “prevent and reverse the detrimental effects of stress on the mind and body – stress that’s often caused by the increasing demands of work, life, and our constant connection to technology.”
Here are excerpts from a recent interview by Pritikin Perspective with Liza Pitsirilos:
What do people like about Yoga For Beginners?
One of the things our guests at Pritikin appreciate is that I meet them where they are. It comes from my background as an educator in New York City’s Department of Education. I am skilled in how to assess my population, their experience levels, and their needs.
Before my yoga class begins, I get to know my students. I never come to class with assumptions.
They really like this pre-class, personalized attention. It gives them enough trust in me and in themselves to try and explore the movements that I’ll be teaching them.
A lot of people are intimidated by yoga because they’re afraid they’ll hurt themselves. How do you get past this barrier?
I make my Yoga For Beginners classes challenging enough so that our guests at Pritikin feel stimulated, but I also focus on making them feel comfortable.
The secret is to give them enough comfort that they feel secure enough to try. When you set people up with the proper support, and then challenge them along the way, chances are they will want to come back and have more experiences like it.
My approach is highly individualized. In class, I walk around a lot, giving them alignment cues and making gentle adjustments. There’s a sense of trust. That’s one of the things they deeply appreciate.
Do people often begin yoga classes to hopefully get relief from pain?
Absolutely. In fact, pain was my own personal reason for getting involved in yoga, the healing arts, and an integrative approach to health and well-being.
I was struggling with chronic migraines. They led me to do the internal work and ask questions like: “What exactly is this pain I’m feeling?” I knew it was a physical pain, but underneath it, I was sensing an emotional and spiritual pain linked to the way I was living my life.
In my classes at Pritikin, I’m able to help our guests identify their own pain. There’s such a negative connotation about pain. We avoid pain. But it’s an informant. It’s meant for us to wake up and pay attention. It’s meant for us to ask some really important questions, such as: What’s underneath the pain? What’s the root of it? And are we willing to reach out for the proper support so that we can move toward understanding it and transcending it?
Whether it’s migraines, neck pain, shoulder pain, low back pain, joint pain, or high stress levels, I work on helping our Pritikin guests move out of these pain points and into a new and wiser way of living and being.
Are there other classes you teach at Pritikin in addition to Yoga For Beginners?
Yes. One that’s especially well received is Meditation for Relaxation. I teach it in the evening, just before our guests retire to their hotel rooms for the night.
I developed it because one of the things our guests often struggle with is sleep. They turn off the light and settle into their beds, but their minds are still ruminating over everything from business to family to minor “busy brain” thoughts like when to pick up the dry cleaning the next day.
In our Meditation For Relaxation class, our guests have the opportunity to recognize, first and foremost, that the mind ruminating is very natural.
The meditation we practice is not about quieting the mind. Calming the mind can be very challenging for many of us to do. Rather, this class is about helping our guests become observers of their thoughts.
We practice an activity called body scanning. They observe their tension, and through breath-and-body skills (that, by the way, feel so good), they learn to re-frame that tension. They emerge wiser, stronger, ready for a great night’s sleep.
We’re a thinking society. We’re praised for our rational thoughts and logic. And there’s certainly value to smart thinking. But this Meditation For Relaxation class – and all my classes at Pritikin – emphasize something different. They’re giving people the chance to really honor and acknowledge what they’re feeling physically and emotionally.
When you can observe your tension, you can allow it to be. It will change on its own. It’s not about the doing. It’s the observing. Once the mind is able to have that focal point, it naturally starts to relax the body.
What do you personally enjoy about teaching at Pritikin?
I love seeing the transformation that people undergo at Pritikin.
They’ve come into a safe space here. Back home, quite often, both their minds and bodies were very much weighed down with life’s responsibilities.
But here at Pritikin, they have this remarkable experience where each day they’re more receptive to their internal selves. They’re making connections, not only with their physical body but with how certain patterns and emotions had been affecting them back home.
They have the opportunity here – and they’re so grateful for it – to make new connections, and launch better ways of living.
For me, the joy is seeing them stand a little taller. I love being in their presence as they open up to their greatest potential.
Have questions for Liza? Click here to message her.