No matter what we do, what we do matters.
Meet Laura Coen. Laura is sunshine personified. She teaches yoga to adults, and now to kids at Power Yoga on Main in downtown Downers Grove, IL. She is passionate about teaching kids the non-violent, non-attachment, mind-body connections that they can take into adulthood.
G: What drew you to yoga?
L: I used to do martial arts, which was really intense. I got a bad injury, and when I was recovering, I dabbled in yoga. When I was pregnant with my kids, I tried prenatal yoga and it was the only thing that made me feel comfortable in my body. When my kids were little I didn’t have time to work out as much, so I would just practice yoga at home. Then when I started coming here to hot yoga, I was hooked. The more I practiced it, the more I wanted to really understand the full spectrum of yoga; the asana, the breathing, the meditation, the whole philosophy of it.
G: You are such a physical powerhouse. You radiate so much energy. How did learning the other side of yoga, outside of the physical strength aspect, affect your life?
A: I have always felt like I have been spiritually seeking something, and I like the whole process of the spiritual journey. I like the process of trying to understand your spirt and where you are. The philosophy of yoga is about honoring your body, non-attachment, correct living, and it just appeals to me. I think yoga is for everybody and can complement any religion. Yoga offers ways for living, which just appeals to me. It’s a good place for me to do my own spiritual searching. The physical poses of yoga help me release energy so that I can slow down and feel the rest of my existence. By slowing myself down through the meditation parts of yoga, I found that time expanded and I had a new perspective. I was also more present and grounded with my kids.
G: What is so appealing about it to me is that you can go as deep into yoga as you want. Regardless of whether or not someone gets into the spiritual or meditation side of yoga, just coming in and breathing and doing the poses is so powerful.
L: Yes. I like the philosophy of yoga that says that you don’t have to push yourself so hard. Even if you do five minutes a day, it’s enough. It’s ok. And then the more you do it, the more you notice time expanding. You start to slow down, and your perspective becomes broader. One of my favorite parts of teaching yoga is savasana, the last couple of minutes of meditation at the end. I feel like it’s the best gift I can give. Holding the space for others to take a few minutes in peace. I always wish I had ten more minutes more to get people to that deep resting place.
G: Tell me about your passion to bring yoga to kids.
L: There is such a strong connection between the psychological development and yoga in children. In a world of screen saturation, competitive sports, and constant shuttling from one thing to the next, most kids don’t have an awareness of their bodies. Already at young ages these kids are getting stuck in a “fight or flight” mode of being, that physiologically impedes learning, growth, and digestion. For some of these kids, yoga is the one place where they don’t have to have a competitive edge. Competitiveness is great, but it’s also good for kids to learn that they don’t always have to compete all the time. They are told to be okay with what their bodies do no matter what. They learn to relax. To focus on breathing. It also teaches body and self-awareness, which is so helpful for kids to learn and understand.
G: As adults, sometimes as a result of a disease or an illness, we are having to learn things about relaxation, acceptance, body awareness and non-reaction. Learning how to breathe. Can you imagine if we could learn that at earlier ages?
L: Yes, I can think of some important adults in the world right now who could stand to learn these tools! Teaching kids to be able to control their stress response, react with non-violence and settle themselves down is so important. We’re changing the future by teaching this to kids. Plus kids are just fun. They are down with it and will try anything.
G: What gets you out of bed in the morning?
L: Yoga gets me out of bed in the morning. I set my alarm in the morning to practice yoga almost every day. If I am not getting up to do yoga, I am getting up to take care of my family.
G: What gives you hope?
L: It’s easy to feel negative. But energy goes where you put it. If you worry and stress about bad things, it’s going to be bad. I believe that if you put a positive intention towards things you will find it. I for sure have hope. If you look for good things, you will find good things. I believe that as long as someone cares, is setting a good example, and tries to do the right thing, there is always hope. It doesn’t matter how much darkness there is, as long as there is light, there is light.
G: That’s perfect for you. Because you remind me so much of sunshine. You have so much light in you.
L: Thank you. I just have faith in humanity. There are bad things happening. But some people are just misguided or are hurt inside. That’s why I love the idea of teaching yoga to kids. If you can help them feel better, to practice non-violence, they won’t want to hurt other people. The more kids that learn yoga, the fewer school shooters there will be. I believe that. When kids grow up to hurt other kids, we are all to blame. We are a society and we should take care of all of our children.
For more information on yoga and yoga for kids, visit poweryogaonmain.com