Tuesday, November 15, 2016

AMPed Life Women : Leah McPherson. The Engineer and Yogi

Tell us a little about yourself Leah. Where are you from? What's your Occupation?
I was born in Boston raised in Greensboro, NC.  I graduated from Johnson C. Smith University in 2005 and I've been living in Charlotte, NC ever since.  Occupation, I always say by day I'm a Data Cleansing Engineer, but by passion I teach yoga.

 You run marathons correct? What is the most difficult part about preparing for the race?
I have actually never run a full marathon, I have done a few half marathons.  The most difficult part about preparing for race is getting mentally focused.  Four years ago I lost over 100 pounds. One strategy I used to get me through my weight loss journey is I would tell myself, "I'm so proud of you!"  "We are doing something great for our body!"  "I'm so happy I'm further today than I was yesterday!" I still use some of those things. Often I tell myself, "I'm so grateful for my body," or "I am so grateful to be able to move like I wasn't able to before."  I try to stay in the present moment and be appreciative of every step.  It's not always easy, but I love the challenge.

Why did you decide to become a vegan? What changes have you noticed since becoming vegan?
About a year into my weight loss journey, my dad suggested I read a book called "Eat to Live" by Dr. Joel Furhman.  My dad has lead a healthy life style my whole life, so anything he suggest on health, I took to heart.  I was so desperate to get the information that I bought the paper back and audio book. I would listen to the audio book and cook the meals in the paperback book.  I found the things he had to say convincing.  I first started cutting meat and dairy out of my breakfast, then lunch, then dinner. Since I've been vegan, I think I've noticed that physically I have endurance, and feel like I'm doing something good for my body.  Mentally and socially I've discovered how strong I am, it's not easy being vegan especially a black vegan.  My friends, family, and people I meet will pick on me sometimes, but I don't take it personally I laugh along with them, so it taught me not to take myself to seriously.  Also I've been vegan for four years, and by seeing my transformation some of my friends have even tried it for a while or they like what I cook.  I've never been one to go along to get along and the people close to me know that so even though they pick on me, I know they respect me.
Leah teaches classes at her clubhouse.

Why did you get involved in yoga?
I first practiced yoga in high school, I bought a VHS tape and I loved it.  From there, I would practice with my VHS tape or along with this lady that used to come on PBS.  As I got older, I will always find myself coming back to yoga hopping from studios here and there.  This year I decided to get more dedicated to it.  Plus I wanted to help others to see how beneficial yoga is, so I decided to get certified.

Why is yoga beneficial?
Yoga is beneficial in many ways.  I teach kids and teenagers. For them, it helps with mental focus, flexibility, and I truly believe it just makes them kinder.  I often tell yogis, adults or otherwise, this is the only form of exercise where the instructor is not going to tell you to push.  Your yoga practice is your own, I'm only there to guide and help facilitate.  I think you can learn so many things about your body. I tell people to notice pain or that you're able to do a pose you weren't able to do before and it's just really a time to get in tune with your body.  In a modern world, we don't get to many opportunities to do that, so it great to take an 30 minutes, 45 minutes, or an hour just for yourself. What a gift.

To whom do you teach yoga and why is it beneficial for those groups?
Leah facilitates a Yoga class for a high school's football team.
I mainly teach teenagers and children.  I kind of fell into this age group. I was offered an opportunity to teach at a summer camp, then a high school football team and I really love it.  For the children it calms them, it teaches them mindfulness, and I do a lot of partner work, so it teaches them how to get along with others.  For the football players, it's beneficial to them because becoming more flexible helps to prevent injury.  Also, doing it as a team is just another way to bond them and help them to be better young men in society.  Very proud of my athletes.

What's your favorite thing(s) about yoga?
I am addicted to the look on people's faces after a yoga session.  I can literally see how a weight has been lifted in that moment in time. I can see that they are happy that they took this time out of their day to do something for themselves.  Another thing I love about yoga is that anyone can do it, young/old, athletic/mostly sedentary, beginner/super yogi.

What advice would you give to someone interested in starting yoga?
Yoga for the children.
I would say go to beginner's class at your gym, a local studio, or your local YMCA.  If you go into a power yoga or hot yoga class as your first class, you may be turned off from yoga because the instructor is going to assume most people in the class have a regular practice and therefore may not give you the attention you need especially if it's a full class of about 30.  Don't count yourself out before you even start.  I often hear, "I would like to try yoga but I'm not flexible or I might fall."  Yoga is to make you more flexible and to find balance.  Like anything else you get better with practice.

How are you able to balance your engineering career along with your yoga lessons?
My apartment complex is great that they let me use their space, so I basically schedule my sessions around my full time work schedule.  Also my job is really flexible, if I have to teach my kids, I'll take an extended lunch break and I'm allowed to make up my time by staying a little later.  If you're passionate about something, you find a way to work it out.

What advice would you give to women with regards to chasing their dreams and living their life to the fullest?
I would say start small. Everyday do at least one thing that's going to get you closer to the life you desire.  Focus on yourself and the things you can control.  Your emotions are the biggest indicator or what you're focusing on.  I once heard something like if you're feeling feelings of depression you're focusing to much on the past and if you feel feelings of anxiety you're focusing too much on the future.  Try to stay in the present moment where you are right now and what you and only you have control over.  There's always going to be things that happen that's going not feel good or not go the way you want, but just trust that God is working things out for you to have the best life.  Most of all, laugh!  Don't take yourself too seriously, I believe we are here to enjoy this life.

How can people get in touch with you to find about your classes or for yoga guidance?
If they want to get in contact with me they can follow me on IG(Instagram): @le_naturally. The link to sign up for classes is on my profile or if they have any special projects they need me for, they can email me at lenaturally@gmail.com


  1. Thank you so much for sharing! I have been an off and on vegan for years and have just recently decided to commit for good. I always thought that I could get away with the fact that I lead a very sedentary lifestyle because I eat very healthy most of the time. Your blog has really opened my eyes about taking baby steps to healthier practices overall not just with what I put in my body but also with what I do outside as well. Your story is amazing! Please keep doing what you do!

  2. Thank you for sharing your story! I have been an off an on vegan for over 10 years, constantly sliding along the scale of pescatarian, vegetarian and vegan. However, recently I decided its time to make a change: one that involves a firm commitment to always do and be better. Therefore, I decided to plant my feet firmly in the ground as a born again vegan LOL! Reading your story has inspired me to take it one step further, and get out of my sedentary routine and has showed me that baby steps are achievable if you just take the first one! I know my friends and family are gonna look at me even more sideways than they did before, I've always been the Black girl who doesn't eat meat and now I'm taking on Yoga...oh well! If you can do it, I guess we all can! You are amazing! Thank you for setting such a beautiful standard!