Laura Riley: Yoga Instructor/Lawyer & Social Justice Advocate
Laura came to Los Angeles seven years ago to attend law school at USC. Before pursuing her law degree she lived and studied yoga in New York City. When she isn’t teaching with Sat Naam, Laura works as a public interest attorney at the California Women’s Law Center.
“Transformational social change doesn’t just happen at the policy level,” she says. “For true change to take root it has to happen at a very personal level.” This is a belief that is mirrored in Laura’s personal practice and pursuit of yoga. She insists that studying and teaching yoga, in all its forms, compliments and bolsters her work as well as her personal pursuits.
What attracted you to teaching yoga to children in schools?
I took a yoga teaching workshop in New York from one of my teachers, Mona Anand, and always thought it would be wonderful to teach in the playful, open-hearted way that kids require of us. I also think that it's important to develop skills that yoga can provide, like mindfulness and intention setting, early on in life.
What is the greatest challenge you face in this kind of work? What is the greatest reward?
I think the greatest challenge is balancing discipline, which they (the students) need, with fun and freedom to explore the poses and breath. The greatest rewards are the descriptions of what the children see, hear, feel when they meditate. What they describe is truly magical.
Do you enjoy teaching a certain age group? If so, why?
They are all wonderful in different ways but I do love how unselfconscious the younger kids are, from Kindergarten until grade three.
What have you learned from your students since you started teaching yoga in schools?
How important and fulfilling it is to stay open.
What advice do you have for others who are interested in this kind of work?
Stay open to the children's body language and verbal requests. Get creative with your approaches but reinforce poses and sequences they know to develop confidence.
How has your role as a teacher informed the other work/endeavors you are pursuing?
This role shows me so much joy from the students and in turn gives me so much joy. It is a weekly reminder that this type of exchange is possible and natural in all settings. It also helps me balance my work as an attorney, which by nature, can be antagonistic.