Laura Ahrens lights up the room with her childlike joy and passion for life. She has a wisdom well beyond her years, and she serves the world with her gifts of courage, compassion, and excitement. We are so grateful that we have had the chance to call her one of our Warriors for two years in a row. Here is our interview with the spectacular Laura Ahrens:
KiraGrace: Your online bio says that your journey with yoga started reluctantly in 2009. Can you tell us more? We’re so curious!
Laura Ahrens: My mom's friend opened a studio and she asked me to take a class with her. My mom had practiced yoga intermittently through the years but I was never particularly interested.
I went, after a little persuasion, the promise of sushi next door after class, and with the expectation that I would be bored. I thought that I'd count the minutes until it was over but show my support and get it over with. I don't remember what happened during my first class, but I became instantly devoted to the practice and getting to class immediately became a priority.
KG: It wasn’t long after your introduction to yoga that you received your 200 hour teaching certification in vinyasa and went on to complete advanced teacher trainings with Ana Forrest! What resonated with you and motivated you to pursue the yogic path?
LA: I felt a pull to continue to study, learn, practice and teach. I didn't immediately answer the call, at least not fully, to teach yoga. I was finishing my BFA in musical theater in Philadelphia when I felt most strongly the urge to complete a training. When I was in college I made my practice a priority at a local studio, and even took a class called "yoga in Japanese" (which is exactly what it sounds like) because it fit in my schedule. I took workshops on adjusting for yoga teachers and serious practitioners, and felt the need to share yoga with others.
The practical side of me decided that teaching would be a nice compliment to the rigorous auditioning I would be doing upon my graduation in the hopes of performing professionally, so my graduation gift from my parents was the money for training. I had a teacher I felt compelled to study with, and everything that happened in training filled my heart and my spirit. I ate it up voraciously. eventually I stopped making excuses as to why I couldn't audition and "had" to practice or teach and realized that the practice had become my life's work.
I became passionate about Forrest Yoga after a workshop with Ana in Manhattan and I knew right away that I had to do the training – literally the minute I stepped out of the class. There is a knowing I get before I decide to take a training, where I feel so exhilarated and sure about signing up and studying. I have felt that way about every Forrest training and every other training that I have taken, and I plan to be a lifelong student.
KG: We are so inspired by our KiraGrace Warriors' dedication to service – how does the practice of service manifest itself in your life?
LA: Service is most important to me. All I have ever wanted to do with my life is to help. With my friends and colleagues I founded One Love Long Island, a service coalition that helps raise funds, awareness and build community surrounding causes of human and environmental rights and justice globally and locally. We support other non profits, NGOs, and their partners and projects doing good work to help where it's needed. Most notably, we have supported Off the Mat, Into the World™ and Yoga Freedom Project.
We also want others to see that Seva can be as easy as attending a fundraising yoga event or as involved as going to India to work with victims of sex trafficking, as some of my colleagues had the privilege of doing, but there is work for everyone.
KG: You also hold a BFA from the University of Arts. What subjects did you study? Does this part of your educational background still inform a lot of what you do/are interested in today?
LA: I studied musical theater, which included training in singing, acting, dance, and music theory.
I love to tap dance, but the other styles always eluded me so I don't think they have influenced my yoga practice. But acting is like yoga in many ways. Although acting has imaginary circumstances, the goal is to be authentic and alive in each moment, fully present.
And my love of singing is definitely connected to my affinity for chanting mantras, and how that speaks to my soul.
KG: What is the best piece of advice someone has ever given you?
LA: The Shakespearian "to thine own self be true" has been passed and gifted to me in different incarnations from the most important people in my life, from parents, to family, to teachers, to dear friends. Those words strengthen my inner compass, my resolve to stand for something and to stand up for myself, and my ability to guide myself towards and carve out for myself the life and work through which I'm most vibrant and alive.
KG: What yoga pose did you choose to feature for this blog and why?
LA: Dolphin pose has an ability to deepen the breath and change our connections from habits of tension to patterns of strength. When we learn to drop the burdens we have been carrying (literally and figuratively, and most specifically in the upper trapezius) we can work with more integration in the shoulder core and in the body to become more balanced. Dolphin helps to drop shielding from around the heart and allows us to work towards nourishing ourselves and reaching out to others from that fullness.
Laura is sporting one of her favorite KiraGrace tops, the Warrior Tough Cut T-Back.
Practicing Dolphin Pose:
1. From hands and knees, place the firearms down and check distance between arm bones by clasping the roundest part of the upper arm.
2. Hang the head, spread the breath into the space between the shoulder blades, push the floor away with the firearms, hollowing the armpits. Low ribs towards the belly, shoulders away from the ears.
3. Tuck the toes and lengthen the legs, maybe step feet closer to face. (Skip this part if you are newly building strength and feel more connected with the knees down, or if you are nursing an injury. The down level still offers many benefits.)
4. Breathe deeply into upper back and shoulders, wrap upper arm bones (externally rotate-- away from face).
5. Place the knees down and rest back into child's pose. Sweep the arms alongside the body for embryo.
Laura Ahrens reluctantly tried yoga in 2009, received her 200 hour certification in vinyasa in 2011, and shortly after fell in love with Forrest Yoga. She completed the Forrest Yoga Foundation Teacher Training and Advanced Teacher Training with Ana Forrest and has completed a year-long mentorship program with Forrest Yoga Guardian Dr. Heidi Sormaz. She is also a level I and II Reiki practitioner and holds a BFA from The University of the Arts.
She is passionate about connection—to body, spirit, the earth, and each other. She works with attention to each individual’s current physical and emotional circumstances (the only possible starting point) to create a practice that is fueled by deep breathing, a strong connection to core (physical and non), reverence for ancient wisdom and ceremony, and the use of the practice of yoga to be more alive in each moment. She emphasizes alignment, development of muscular strength, physical and mental flexibility, and commitment to the work and effort necessary for personal evolution. She is forever grateful to her teachers, formal and otherwise. She is honored to be part of the KiraGrace community.