Just as Yoga continues to evolve itself, Yoga Journal has surely come a long way since it’s creation in 1975 by the California Yoga Teachers Association. In 2016, Yoga Journal created the Live Be Yoga Tour. The aim of the tour is to send out ambassadors to shine a light on the real talk, real issues, real work, and real fun taking place in yoga’s diverse communities, large and small, across the United States. In April of this year, Lauren Cohen and Brandon Spratt embarked on the cross-country journey together to forge new conversations in yoga. We had already connected with Brandon thru Yoga Trade and wanted to learn more about this inspiring journey! Here, we catch up with both Lauren and Brandon to get an insight to what life is really like on the road, to catch a glimpse of their experience, and to hear the modern day yoga wisdom they are learning along the way. May we all continue to show up for every part of the voyage with open hearts!
Can you briefly tell us about your yoga background?
Lauren: I started practicing yoga during college in Cleveland, Ohio during an extremely challenging time in my life. I grew up as a competitive figure skater and when I stopped skating I had a major identity crisis at the age of 17, wondering who I was without the sport. When I walked into the yoga studio that day, I was at an ultimate low – emotionally, mentally and physically. Over time, the mat became my savior and the practice brought me home to myself. To this day it continues to do that very thing.
Brandon: Yoga truly found me – in every way possible. When I was very young, my mom would take me to meditation gardens and yoga classes. Looking back on my life I can see that this seed that was planted would be paramount for my journey ahead. Yoga and meditation was always something I practiced here and there, until my entire life felt like it had an atom bomb dropped onto it. In the midst of incredible challenges, yoga found me again and asked for its deepening and devotion. Over the past couple years I have worked towards integrating a daily practice, which has now become my anchor and rock in this world. Incredible healing took place when I took on this commitment and as a result, all I cared about and wanted to do was share these tools to help repair people’s spirits and bring them back hOMe. Over the past couple years, I have lived nomadically sharing yoga wherever I may be. Most recently, I have become a brand ambassador, alongside Lauren Cohen, for Yoga Journal magazine and have embarked upon a 6 month yoga tour exploring the state of yoga in America today.
How did you connect to the Live Be Yoga Tour and what is the mission?
Lauren: I had a friend that did the tour last year and got to hear about his experience. The idea of combining three of my greatest loves – yoga, travel and writing – seemed like an amazing opportunity. My mission with the tour is to provide meaningful and inspiring content about how yoga is impacting various communities around the country.
Brandon: It had been a while since I was on Yoga Trade’s website and I went to go explore some opportunities. I had just gotten back traveling internationally for a while, was visiting my family and figuring out what was next for me. Also, after living with your parents for a while reminds you of how much you love them and then why you left home in the first place! I was starting to get antsy and ready to embark upon the next adventure. I saw an opportunity on Yoga Trade for the Live Be Yoga Tour by Yoga Journal Magazine and I immediately lit up inside and just knew that this was going to be that “next thing” for me. So, I went through the application process and after quite an extensive interview procedure, I got the gig! The mission of the tour is about building community and having important, relevant conversations within the yoga community today. It is a very general intention and mission, however, it gives us freedom to really explore a variety of topics as we travel from city to city.
How do you define seva and why do you feel it is important on the path of yoga?
Lauren: I think of seva as selfless service and I view it as a huge component of yoga. The deeper we get into our personal practice the more we begin to care for and know ourselves, which then allows us to more readily and powerfully be there for others. In this way, yoga truly has a ripple effect. We are all connected and yoga is about union in every sense of the word.
Brandon: Seva is when you serve through the heart selflessly. You take such great care of your Self that your cup is overflowing. When that happens, your heart is open, without effort. You effortlessly want to just help, give and share whatever you can with others. It is a humble act of kindness and can be done in many ways – offering to clean a yoga studio for free, giving your lunch to a homeless person, just doing any kind of good deed without expecting any kind of reward or return. Simply doing it because it’s the right thing to do.
What have been some of the most inspirational tour experiences yet?
Lauren: For me, so much of the tour has been about the relationships I’ve been able to cultivate. Meeting Brandon and finding a close friend and support system in him has been such a gift. As far as actual tour content goes, my favorite interview was our very first interview with Richard Freeman and Mary Taylor – they set the bar quite high in our conversation about what it means to really “live” yoga and to take the practice off the mat.
Brandon: Getting to sit down with Santosh Manikur when we were in Salt Lake City was refreshing and helped Lauren and I to feel jovial again. The tour has its challenges and we were at a bit of a low point before meeting Santosh. I wrote an article here about our experience with why meeting him was so inspiring.
What are some of the challenges you face while on the road?
Lauren: Being away from those I love and not teaching much!
Brandon: Being on the road sounds like a lot of fun – and it definitely is! But there is another side to the coin. Traveling constantly takes its toll on you, mentally, emotionally and physically. There are also new kinds of pressures having to be “on” all the time for events. Plus, being in a new city every week is very ungrounding. We have had to learn to simplify our lives as much as possible so when we pack and unpack every week it’s not completely overwhelming. While it has been challenging at times, it’s also taught us to compartmentalize our emotions in a way that is healthy. We’ve learned to put our own issues aside and focus of service and doing the best we can.
Who are the yoga teachers and what are the practices that spark you up right now?
Lauren: I have done quite a bit of training with Jason Crandell and Janet Stone. Right now, I am most excited about Tias Little and diving more into the subtle body and meditation.
What types of big and important conversations are you hearing currently from the U.S. yoga community?
*How to make yoga feel more inclusive and accessible to all.
*What it means to take the practice off the mat and make it a life practice.
*How yoga brings people together in community and why that is such a powerful and important thing.
*Skepticism around where yoga is going; that it’s all about the physical practice and part of a trendy workout.
What does ‘with great privilege comes great responsibility’ mean to you?
Lauren: Know your impact, be in integrity and stay humble – we must take responsibility for ourselves and know that what we say and do has great impact, even if we can’t see it at first. And, the more we are in a leadership role, the more impact we can have.
If you could express one sentence to every new yoga teacher, what would it be?
Lauren: Remain a student above all else. Stay curious and humble and trust the teachings to guide you.
How can people get involved with y’all and the tour?
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