Politeia Le believes yoga is about much more than movement.
At his studio Create Space Movement Laboratory in New Hope—a small town outside of Philadelphia—which he opened in 2017, Le has blended elements of modern dance, kinesiology, somatics and pilates, with a deeper understanding of the practice.
His multi-disciplinary approach is a different take on contemporary yoga, which often emphasizes physicality, instead integrating elements of classic yoga, of centuries ago, which had a deeper focus on the mind. Early yoga poses were, after all, first meant as guidance for posture in meditation.
“For me, it’s a safe space to honor who you are and your limitations,” he said. “Yoga is the opportunity to sit with yourself and cultivate an understanding.”
By mixing the art and physicality of dance with the roots of an established mental exercise, you might say Le is trying to reverse-engineer the idea of modern yoga.
“I aspire to bring the spirit of yoga into the physical practice,” he said.
Le didn’t start studying movement formally until college and was drawn to the challenging atmosphere of dance, which pushed him physically, and the therapeutic balance of yoga, which recharged his mind.
“When you’re studying dance, it’s a very vulnerable environment. You’re sharing your capability and incapability in front of your peers,” he said. “ And a great dancer is able to show more than a physical body, sharing personality and story.”
After relating how his work with yoga was impacting his physical performance, his focus there grew, and he became interested in deeper yoga practices and pedagogy, learning about its history and origins.
His interests in movement and mind culminate today at the studio, where he teaches two dozen classes per week, focused on a range of practices from familiar yoga movements, to meditation and improvisational dance.
After he was our yoga partner at Bikeout: Philly to New Hope in 2019, we collaborated with Le on a short illustrated guide for anyone looking to connect with themselves before or after a ride.
As someone who enjoys leisurely cycling himself, Le says he chose exercises that were accessible to newcomers and that emphasized the opposite range of motion of repetitive cycling movements to balance exertion.
Illustrations by Steve Teare, Movements by Politeia Le.
Place one hand on your belly and one hand on your heart. Close your eyes and take a few slow, deep breaths. Guide the breath so you feel more of its expansion and release in your lower hand. This movement strengthens the function and depth of breath while cultivating self awareness. Utilize this breath throughout the following movements, doing each for 5- to 10- breath cycles.
Fold down from your hips. Soften your knees until your ribs touch your thighs and grab your opposite elbows with each hand. Keeping your head, shoulders and elbows heavy, straighten your legs as you inhale, and bend your knees as you exhale. This movement stretches the hamstrings and back.
Cat & Cow
Start in a tabletop position, putting your hands under your shoulders and knees under your hips. Exhale, pressing the floor away and rounding your back like a hill, dropping your head and tailbone. Inhale and lift your chest and sits bones. Alternate back and forth emphasizing length in the spine, and motion in your pelvis and shoulders.
Lay belly down, hands underneath your shoulders. Your toes should be spread to the floor and your legs hip width apart. Inhale and slowly push into your hands and lift your chest forward and up. Exhale and slowly lower forward and down.
Laying on the floor, place your head on its side. Bend your right knee and squeeze your right heel to your butt. Lengthen your sits bones down towards your knees, and your pubic bone towards the floor. Hold and breathe. Repeat on the other side.
Laying on your back, place your heels sits bones width apart. Lift your hips to the sky. Work the sits bone up and forward to lengthen the low back. Interlace your hands under your back and press down. Lift the center of your chest towards your nose. Inhale up, then exhale down, one vertebra at a time. This movement opens up your hip flexors and activates your glutes.
Step one foot as far back as you can. Place your front knee over heel, extending your spine. Exhale and bend your back knee. Inhale and straighten the back leg strong. Emphasize the spread of the back of the knee into the sky and reach your heel back. Opens your calf, achilles, pelvis, and hip flexors.