It’s impossible to know Lamise Mansur and not be struck by her gracefulness—from the way she moves on her yoga mat, flowing from one posture to the next, to how she expresses herself through writing in her signature and super-quotable #LettersByLamise posts on Instagram. The Houston-based yoga teacher fell in love with yoga after noticing a dance-like quality to others’ practices and gradually found her own groove, naturally picking up some wisdom along the way. She shared a few gems with us, along with her inspiring story, below.

Tell us about your path to yoga!

My journey to yoga was definitely not linear. As a kid, I used to watch my mom and stepdad practice using VHS tapes of Rodney Yee (shoutout to one of my biggest inspirations!) but was never really interested in taking it on myself. In my teens I would occasionally go to a class with my mom but still wasn’t too keen on it. I practiced some ballet as a child, so I had decent flexibility but lacked strength. Yoga was extremely challenging to me in that way, and quite honestly, I found it boring. It wasn’t until my last years of college that I kept randomly coming across beautiful teachers online, like Shiva Rae, Meghan Currie and Briohny Smyth. The way they moved spoke to my inner dancer. They were fluid, rhythmic, strong, creative and graceful. It shined a whole different light on the practice that I had no clue existed. I wanted to move like that and feel that sort of freedom in my body. From that point on, I was hooked!

What made you take the leap from practicing yoga to becoming a yoga teacher?

It was my last year of university when I decided to do a yoga teacher training. I wanted to get deeper into my practice and understand the true meaning of yoga. I was at a place in my life where I didn’t want to settle down with a 9-to-5 desk job after graduating. I knew I wanted to be able to travel and do something I was passionate about, I just wasn’t sure how. I hoped that my yoga teacher training would help me figure my life out, and although it didn’t, it gave me the tools to learn more about myself on a deeper level. When I taught a class as part of our final examination, my teacher said that she would like me to start teaching at her studio. I had no other jobs lined up at the time, so I didn’t even hesitate to say yes. I’m grateful for the opportunity because I can now say that I have been teaching what I love for the past five and a half years!

How has yoga affected your day-to-day life?

My yoga practice has probably affected my day-to-day life in more ways than I even realize. For one, I am more present. I have learned the value of truly soaking up every moment as it unfolds, seeing how each day we wake up is truly a gift. Yoga has given me a greater appreciation for my body and health, where the emphasis on feeling good is greater than the one to simply look good. Probably the greatest thing that yoga gave me is the connection to my breath. Anytime I am feeling angry, anxious or afraid, I know to pause whatever is happening and take a few deep, mindful breaths, so that I respond instead of react to the situation.

We’re always so inspired by your beautifully written Instagram captions. Tell us about how #LettersByLamise, the hashtag you coined for these, came about.

I am naturally a more shy and reserved person, so I’m always in my head thinking and daydreaming. Photography, yoga and writing became my creative outlets. They help me process how I’m feeling and channel that energy into something I think is beautiful or could be inspiring to another person. “Letters By Lamise” are really reminders to myself, however, after seeing several other writers and poets put themselves out on Instagram, I decided to do the same. My hope is that by sharing my words, I can help at least one other person that day to feel a little lighter and see a little brighter. You can definitely expect a book of my letters to be published in the future!

“Yoga has given me a greater appreciation for my body and health, where the emphasis on feeling good is greater than the one to simply look good.”

You went on a 3-month backpacking trip earlier this year! How was it? Any stories or defining moments to share?

Backpacking for three months through Southeast Asia with my husband was life-changing to say the least. Basil is a bit more adventurous than I am, so for me it became a trip of overcoming fears—coming face to face with a whale shark, just to name one. I will never forget that moment. We were on a boat tour in Indonesia having our lunch when all of a sudden we spotted a whale shark in the water. Without hesitation Basil asked the guide if he could grab the snorkel gear and jump into the water, to which the guide excitedly replied yes. Never once in his seven years of guiding tours had he ever seen a whale shark! We all rushed out to the deck to watch Basil leap in, and without second guessing myself, I followed his lead. You can literally hear me screaming in one of the videos Basil got on the GoPro; the whale shark curiously swam right up to our faces a few times before continuing on its journey. Had it not been for Basil encouraging me to step out of my fears and try other activities leading up to that moment—rock climbing, scuba diving and cave exploring—I don’t know if I would’ve felt confident enough to take the plunge!

What has been the most difficult part of your yoga journey and how did you overcome it?

One of the most difficult parts has been to not compare my practice with anyone else’s. We live in a time when our lives are constantly put on display through social media, so it’s easy to feel like you can never measure up to another person. What helped me was to realize that talent comes from hard work, practice and patience, not luck. So I became my own motivation and competition. I knew that if I wanted to be great, I too had to put in the time and effort to get there!

What’s something that people might be surprised to learn about you?

I’m an old soul but will always be a kid at heart and still love anything Disney/Pixar/animated! Whether it’s a book, tv show or movie, I will take fairytale and fantasy over facts and documentaries any day. I guess you can call me a dreamer.

Favorite songs to practice to?

I usually like slow and steady beats that I can move through with my breath and not feel rushed. I’m currently obsessing over these downtempo, chill, hip-hop-style songs…

Want more? Catch up with Lamise on Instagram!