Best Yoga Instructor
Libby Robold & Tiffany Lenau
Two Northern Michigan yogis share their take on this ancient practice
If ever you wanted to increase flexibility, strengthen your core, find inner balance or just find an activity that doesn’t murder your joints, then yoga is probably the best go-to activity. While there are numerous teachers, clinics and businesses all over the region to help you with all of the above, two instructors stand out as among the best.
Express readers voted Libby Robold of Yoga for Health and Tiffany Lenau of Yoga Roots in Petoskey as Best Yoga Instructor of their counties, respectively, in this year’s Best of Northern Michigan survey.
Lenau has been practicing yoga for over two decades, attending the Leelanau School in Glen Arbor. Robold has been teaching yoga at Northwestern Michigan College since 1985, opening a studio with her husband, Michael, at the Grand Traverse Commons in 2002.
The Express asked these yogis to share a little more about themselves – beyond what their students see on the mat.
Northern Express: How did you get into the practice of yoga?
Tiffany Lenau: I was very much into dance and gymnastics as a child so I fell in love with the grace and flow of vinyasa yoga. It became a moving meditation where I could let go of the outside world completely and just connect to my breath and my body. It gave me inner and outer strength. I felt energized yet calm and it left me with a mental clarity and lasting feelings of euphoria. Every time I practiced I left all my “stuff” on the mat, walked away lighter.
Libby Robold: I got into yoga initially because I had chronic back problems at the age of 19. I had read a book about yoga and was doing a bit on my own at home. When I went to my first class I thought, ‘Oh, that’s how you do it.’ I had fallen in love with it.
NE: What are some memorable moments you’ve had as far as teaching?
Robold: One thing that was exciting for me a few weeks ago, a woman in a class was very excited because she’s been able to put down her cane and walk. She doesn’t need it anymore. There are also a lot of people who are going through a mid-life crisis and then yoga helps them discover they do have power and control in their lives. I hate to say that I helped them. Rather, we facilitate a process and they help themselves. I’ve seen miracles sometimes. In cases of yoga therapy, when someone changes their lifestyle, yoga is part of the equation.
Lenau: I get the hiccups when I teach yoga.
I guess it’s just part of the charm and I tell my students it’s a reminder for them to breathe even deeper… Last May I finally met another instructor who gets them as well. We spent most of the training asking questions like, what do you eat? what time of the day do you teach? on and on for nine days. On the last day she and I were graduating with our 500 hour certification in yoga. We were asked to give short speeches about ourselves and our yogic path. I began by sharing that ever since I could remember I had dreams of swimming and breathing in water and planned on being a mermaid when I grew up. “So when I realized that career wasn’t available, yoga instructor was the next best option.” It got a great laugh. Afterward the woman said, you are not going to believe this, when I was a little girl, I thought I was going to be a mermaid when I grew up too. Our stories matched. We just decided the best explanation for the hiccups seems to be we are land locked mermaids gasping for air.
NE: When you’re not teaching, what else do you enjoy?
Lenau: Time spent with trees, yummy organic health nerd meals, tending my plot at the community garden, breathing in the Little Traverse Bay and the Bear River, lunch at the Grain Train, riding bikes, good people, mind expanding spiritual conversations, hugs, returned smiles, painting silk scarves, making jewelery, collecting beach glass, being on or in the water, Blissfest, supporting local artists, holding space for healing, playing and dancing with children, having bare feet, Beaver Island, the gratitude attitude and star gazing.
Robold: When we’re not doing yoga (with her husband of 40 years, Michael), we enjoy gardening, bicycling, hiking, skiing and enjoying family and friends. We’re very big on eating well and supporting good, local organic food. The environment is also a big passion. The greater harmony you feel within yourself then you feel the need to bring balance to the environment around you.
NE: What would you share with those who aren’t familiar with yoga?
Robold: The neat thing about yoga is there’s something for everyone. Some people come for exercise, some come because of stress, some come for health issues…others are looking to just calm their minds. For someone who is considering yoga, it’s always good to start with a good foundational class. Beginners need to make sure they’re with well trained teachers. I’d say explore until you find a class and a teacher that feels like home.
Lenau: Some folks think they are not flexible enough – they need it the most. Some people think yoga is too easy – they should try a vinyasa class. Others think it is too hard – they need to try gentle or restorative yoga. The truth is there is yoga class out there for EVERY BODY.