Support Your Local Yoga Teacher – An Interview with Laura DeFreitas
I first got to know Laura DeFreitas about a year and a half ago when she became an independent yoga teacher and started teaching at Taj Yoga, where I teach now, and where I was doing my yoga teacher training with Pacific Yoga at the time. Wanting to support her new business, and as a teacher trainee, I got a super good discount with Laura (that really sealed the deal) I signed up for a one-year membership with her.
So, I got to practice with Laura for a year. She primarily teaches Vinyasa Flow and Yoga Nidra, which, if you have not tried one of her classes, you really ought to.
I met up with Laura in Ballard at a Thai restaurant, and we talked about the practice and business of yoga over delicious Pad See Ewe (no tofu, extra eggs :)). Laura finished her training in 2002 after college and has been teaching since 2003. Her influences are: Ashtanga, Yoga Nidra, Universal, and Iyengar in her 200-hr teacher training at Pacific Yoga.
What made you want to be a yoga teacher?
I was a gymnast for 15 years, took a break when I entered college and felt like something was missing, not only physically but something else. I feel like I’ve always been a seeker. I discovered yoga through a girlfriend of a coworker, took an intro series, and from the first class just knew this was something I wanted to learn more about. I did it as much yoga as I could. Then I discovered the Pacific Yoga Teacher training. It felt like coming home. Yoga speaks to me on that level of spirit I felt I’d been missing in my upbringing.
How did it become your profession?
I just hoped that I would be good at doing it [yoga]. The students were the ones that told me that I should continue and teach. I started teaching more and working less. It took me a couple years to make me realize that this is something I could do professionally.
How did you get your initial jitters out of the way?
I rented a small space and charged 5 bucks and taught my coworkers, whom I already knew, and that helped a lot.
What has changed the most since you started teaching?
I’ve changed from “spa yoga”, to a “no apology” yoga. This started as an internal shift. I’d catch myself getting nervous about teaching difficult poses and then noticed that I would back down in order to ‘protect’ the student thinking, “This is too hard, they’re not gonna want to do it.” I realize now that this is the place to work and there is a lot to be learned right on the edge of physical, mental and emotional intensity. My classes still leave you feeling great and I offer a Yin Yoga class to balance the vigorousness of my general classes.
How would you describe your classes?
I like think my classes move you into stillness. Yoga Nidra is infused into the movement. My primary influences are Astanga and Universal Yoga. Lately I’ve been drawing a lot of inspiration from Seattle Ashtanga Yoga teacher, Troy Lucero. Classes are modified to suit the level of the student base.
How did you discover Yoga Nidra?
I was at the 8 Limbs advanced training, and Anne Phyfe taught Yoga Nidra. It was one of those moments where you’re like, wow, I need to know more about this.
What’s the hardest thing about being a yoga teacher?
I think yoga is undervalued, it’s more than exercise. Getting that across to people in subtle ways is one of my intentions as a teacher.
Laura teaches primarily at Taj Yoga in the Crown Hill neighborhood of Seattle. You can find more about Laura at Laura Nidra Yoga.
Here’s Laura on the value of yoga beyond the physical: