Laura Conley has gone from one side of health to the other: Once a pharmaceutical sales rep, five years ago a yoga retreat helped her deepen her training and interest.
Having lived all over, from Chicago to North Carolina, she settled in Santa Monica. There, she helps clients “find your shine” through coachings, yoga sessions and the intersection of the two. SBS checks in with this gracious, joyful yogi to learn about practice and patience.
SBS: How did you make the shift from sales to yoga?
Laura Conley: I decided to attend that retreat to deepen my practice. Halfway through I taught for my first time, and I realized how much of loved it. Something shifted in me. I knew in that moment I had to teach yoga. So I ended up finishing that training and then signing up for advanced training. During that time, I got a teaching gig at a smaller gym while still doing sales. After teaching a few months I knew I had to do it full time, so I sat my husband down and explained that. We were going to save and then make the shift, but a week later, I was at coffee with my boss and my boss told me we were going to go through layoffs. I offered to be let go, but he said no! Another week later the head of our group said if anyone wants to leave with a voluntary severance package, come forward. I threw up both hands: The universe handed it to me, and I never looked back.
SBS: How did you approach teaching once you were able to do so full time?
LC: I definitely hustled! I put hard work into teaching at good places like YogaWorks and Equinox, along with corporate places like Twitter. But I also feel that there was a sense of ease. It was meant to happen, and I was meant to be doing it.
SBS: How do you feel about cross training? Do you enjoy other options, or do you think yoga is the best choice?
LC: I love all different modalities. I think there is yoga in most things. For example, PiyoJam is to Top 40 music, and within that there’s yoga because there’s a sense of freedom. You’re getting lost in the music to find yourself. In dance there is a love for yourself and grooving.
Running or hiking can be super meditative, too. So, today I went for a six-mile run, then I will go to yoga tonight. Tomorrow I might just do five minutes on my couch meditating. Or my yoga might look like hiking with my husband. There are a lot of answers within nature. I might ask the trees and sky and mountain a question and wait and listen for the answer. That’s yoga in a sense.
SBS: What do you love about yoga?
LC: I actually thought I hated yoga originally! I took some classes in high school, and thought, ‘That’s not a workout!” But when my husband and I were dating, he ended up at the USC sports medicine office for an ankle problem. His doctor recommended yoga, and we went together.
Meanwhile my dad was going too. So, the two most important men were into it, and I tried it again…and I loved it. Yoga helped me be a better, well-adjusted adult. I could go and be quiet and breathe. It helped me find out who I truly was and wanted to be. Also, yoga was very efficient: It’s a work out, meditation, and offers mental calmness, builds a spiritual practice and self-actualization.
SBS: What’s your approach to yoga:
LC: My approach is fun and lighthearted. It’s all about not taking yourself so seriously. One student was laughing at himself as he was falling, and I said, ‘Who is the more advanced yogi? The guy who laughs or the guy who poses perfectly?’ Hopefully that translates to off the mat.
Also, I love that it’s called a practice because we can never perfect it. That’s practice for real life, too. We’re creating our reality moment to moment by what we think, and we can we choose our thoughts.
I want my students to sweat, breathe, enjoy rigor and also meditation. I like to get it all in.
SBS: What would you recommend for a new student when finding a teacher?
LC: I would ask what they’ve done in the past. Then, take a month and take a different teacher every day. There’s a teacher for everyone if you’re willing to put in the work to find your style. I’m not everyone’s teacher. If you want to be serious and have a Yin practice, my class isn’t for you. Give yourself a challenge of going every day for a month, and use your past experience to guide you.
SBS: What advice do you have for new yoga students?
LC: .It can be intimidating, it can be scene-y and everyone seems familiar. But go and don’t take yourself so seriously. It’s just yoga, and you have your whole life to practice. You can take child’s pose the whole class and still count it as yoga class.
SBS: How did coaching come into your work?
LC: Just over a year ago I graduated a leadership program. Now I am a self-proclaimed lifestyle soul coach, and I help people create their wanted future. My mission is to help my clients figure out who they are and what it is they are meant to get up to on this planet. We all have a calling.
SBS: How do you stay grounded yourself?
LC: Each day, my goal is to sit down and say, ‘Ok Laura, what is it you need today?’ One day it might be pranayama, another I might need to move my body and another day I might need to breathe. Sometimes it’s a quick check in. It changes daily.
Also, I remain in the joy by almost always being happy. But, if I’m having a day or being sad, I honor it. I lean into choices. I make happiness a choice, but now it’s easy because it’s become a habit.
I care about personal development. As I’m helping create development for others, I need to be on that path myself. I try to make everything more fun. Every time I work out, I always have a buddy for example, and then I balance fun with grounding.
SBS: How do you get to that grounded happiness?
LC: First, choose it. Literally decide. Make a conscious decision to choose happiness. Make a mantra of that.
Then, consider: What do you love? Identify what you want to be doing more of and pick a reasonable by-when date. Maybe it’s not Europe by the end of June, but what about a day trip to Palm Springs? Also, surround yourself with other happy people.
SBS: What are the different branches of your company?
LC: My brand is Spark Your Shine. It’s my mission. Everyone has her own authentic self waiting to come out. Sometimes it takes a little igniting and sparking. You can do that with me through yoga or coaching, retreats or classes, or a coaching series. There is a wide range of options, whether in a group, privately or in the workplace. Then you become part of the Shine Tribe.
LAURA’S CHATURANGA DIRECTIONS:
Even though it’s a common pose, it can be challenging. Check out Laura’s tips:
Shift forward into plank pose. Make sure your shoulders are stacked over your wrists. Your thighs are firm and your belly lifts toward your spine. Shift forward another inch, like you’re looking over an imaginary building. If you’re starting to feel weak, put your knees down. Lower half way down, but only half way. Your shoulders should be in line with your elbows, not below. Your body is still a plank, and your butt doesn’t stick up.
If your knees are down, lower all the way down to the earth and straighten your arms into upward dog, making sure your wrists are stacked under your elbows.
If you don’t put your knees down, keep one long line of energy from the back of the head to your heels. Slide your feet back, and come onto the tops of your feet as you straighten your arms. Your thighs should be off the ground, or if you’re doing cobra, your thighs and hips are on the ground.
Fave Healthy Restaurant: Beaming in LA or coconut cream ice from Alfred in Brentwood
Favorite Splurge: The crab burger or regular burger from Hillstone
Fave Classes: PlyoJam with Jason Layden at Moore Dancing and OrangeTheory Fitness in Brentwood
Fave Teachers: Kia Miller, Mia Togo, Patti Quintero and Jesse Schein
Laura’s SBS Mantra: I love Be Happy because it reminds me that it’s a choice. And it reminds me it’s contagious, too. We have a responsibility to show up and be who we are. I would argue we are happy at our core: We were born that way. Find that so you can radiate that and lift another up.
For more, check out Lauraconley.com!