When you see pictures of Lauren Peterson in Yoga, the book published by Yoga Journal, or watch her unbelievable YouTube videos, where she’s blithely moving through Ashtanga’s fourth series at the age of 53, you might assume she’d be a serious yogi with no time for fun and games. But if you saw her on The Ellen DeGeneres Show placing and removing a cowboy hat from her head with her feet while in Scorpion Pose, then you know she’s as fun as they come.
Lauren Peterson and her Hat Tricks
Pursuing a Life of Dance
Lauren was born in Brooklyn, New York. Her mother came from a big, loud, Irish-Catholic family and her father was the only son to Swedish immigrant parents. Lauren and her family moved to California when she was little and she grew up exploring the hills, swimming, and spending most of her time outside with her sister, brothers, and a few dogs.
That time began her love affair with nature and animals, which continues to this day. Her mother brought music to the house, so the kids grew up singing songs and playing guitar. Lauren loved Shirley Temple and Fred Astaire movies; when she saw productions of The King and I and Sound of Music, she knew she wanted to be a part of that world.
She started tap dancing at twelve. When she grew older, she moved back to New York City to study at the School of American Ballet (SAB), founded by George Balanchine, and acting at the Herbert Bergof Studios, with Uta Hagen and other amazing teachers.
The dance world was not all beauty and light, though. Lauren, who’d always been naturally thin and had never thought much about what she ate or didn’t eat, was told to “watch her weight” as she entered puberty. Although she’d watched her mother go on diets, Lauren never had much success limiting her food intake. That changed after a bad reaction to pain medication when she had her wisdom teeth removed. Unable to eat for a few days, she lost a couple of pounds. Empowered, she continued to restrict herself, becoming painfully thin, so much so that at the end of her first year at SAB, her parents were told she wouldn’t be invited back unless she gained some weight.
She then turned to books her dad (a religious scholar) gifted her: A Course in Miracles, the Tao Te Ching, and books on meditation. The ability to become present and listen to her body helped her learn to nourish herself and eat a healthy, balanced diet. She also opened to a new way of thinking, influenced by books, including Diet for a Small Planet. She stopped eating animals at nineteen and started to educate herself about the environment and sustainability.
When in Japan…
In her twenties, Lauren was busy pursuing a career as a dancer and an actress. She was studying and doing theatre, commercials, and the occasional television and movie role. She also did some touring as a dancer and went to Japan for the third time in 1989. When her contract was up after four months, she stayed on to study the language and do some work for a group of artists. A year-and-a-half later, she returned to the US with her two-month-old son Sashi, who was born in Osaka.
“Yoga Felt Like What I Was Waiting For”
While touring, Lauren had casually started a personal Yoga practice that began with a cassette tape of a gentle Yoga class. Right away she felt at home, “Yoga felt like what I was waiting for; I was already reading books on teachings from the Far East. I was conscious of the environment, wanted to help people and was concerned about animals. The physical practice of Hatha Yoga fit in with my need to move. The philosophical teachings, especially the yamas and niyamas, tied in with how I naturally wanted to live.”
Back in California, she studied Iyengar Yoga with Herb Sandoval, and he took her to workshops with teachers including Kofi Busia, Manouso Manos, Aadil Palkivala, Patricia Walden and Lisa Walford. Wanting to soak up everything, she also did an intensive with Ana Forrest in Santa Monica. After her first led Ashtanga class with Maty Ezraty, she could barely lift her arms. It was difficult and humbling. Maty encouraged her to study with Chuck Miller in his morning Mysore class and that’s where she found her primary teacher.
Lauren started to teach Yoga at Malibu Fitness, where she still is part of the regular schedule. As Maty got to know her, she invited Lauren to teach at YogaWorks, along with Steve Ross, Rod Stryker, Erich Schiffmann, Shiva Rea, and Seane Corn. She also continued to practice with Chuck Miller, who taught her through the Ashtanga system’s fourth series.
At that time, Lauren created The Yogi’s Companion, a practice CD. She created this labor of love at home with her father who taught her Photoshop; Lauren arranged and labeled (in Sanskrit and English) the more than 175 photos on the accompanying chart. The photos of Lauren, Sashi, and two students, ranging in age from 9-80, were taken in her living room. This was the last project Lauren and her father did together before he died from pancreatic cancer. It felt like a tribute to her dad when Yoga Journal picked The Yogi’s Companion as an Editor’s Choice.
When Sashi was 12, Lauren took him to Japan so he could get to know his biological father, Kobo. From that trip, Sashi learned to love Japan, as Lauren does. They returned annually. When Sashi was a high school junior, he asked if he could complete a year at an International School located in Kobe. With Sashi abroad, Lauren accepted offers to teach in Japan, which lead to offers from Hong Kong, Korea, and Europe. She headed to Japan again after Sashi graduated from Emerson College in Boston.
At the end of every class, Lauren guides her students in an invocation to, “Show us what we need to see, help us say what it can benefit others to hear, help us to live our truth from our hearts, and help us to know that truth.” From a little kid who wanted to tap dance, to the laughing woman with a cowboy hat on Ellen, Lauren credits her Yoga practice with helping her to live that truth.
Lauren Peterson lives in Malibu, California with her little rescue dog, Koko, and her son, Sashi. You can often see her on her bike or traveling via public transportation. View a selection of Lauren’s online classes at Yogis Anonymous. You can find The Yogi’s Companion and Lauren’s DVDs on her website at: yogacompanion.com.
Featured clothing: The Aquarius Eco Leggings by Cozy Orange Yogawear are made from recycled plastic bottles. Yoga teachers get 20% off of Cozy Orange Yogawear thanks to their Yoga Teacher Discount program.
Ally Hamilton is a Santa Monica based yoga teacher, author and life coach, who connects daily with yogis all around the world via her online yoga classes. She’s the co-creator of YogisAnonymous.com. She’s the mama of two amazing kids and one energetic Labradoodle. Her first book, Open Randomly: Fortune Cookies for the Soul is available on Amazon, and her next book, Yoga’s Healing Power: Looking Inward for Change, Growth and Peace is due from Llewellyn Worldwide in August 2016. yogisanonymous.com