By Augusta Fishman, studio owner and Lauren Bielenberg, Portland, OR based yoga instructor.
For this month's NOW Blog post we sat down with Lauren Bielenberg to learn more about what yoga means to her, her journey to health and wellness and some other fun tidbits!
AUGUSTA: Tell us about yourself, where did you grow up and how did you wind up in Portland?
I grew up in Santa Rosa, CA with my parents and older sister. I did competitive gymnastics for about 10 years. I moved to San Francisco in 2008 to finish my college degree in Liberal Studies. After graduating college, I went to cosmetology school and became a licensed hair stylist. I worked in the hair industry for about 5 years before transitioning to personal training. I was a personal trainer for about 2 years (up until my move to Portland) where I worked with clients one on one and taught a weekly bootcamp. I became a certified yoga teacher July 2017.
I came out to visit my close friends in October 2016 and absolutely fell in love with Portland. I knew I was ready to move and be in a location that was surrounded by nature, a healing energy, a slower pace, and a place I could feel more grounded (and eventually get a dog!). I felt like my quality of life would be more supportive for what I wanted in my future. I sold everything that didn’t fit in my car (I have a Toyota Corolla so not very big) and made the drive up at the end of July 2017!
AUGUSTA: We all know yoga has "healing" powers...how has the practice helped you?
With growing up doing competitive gymnastics, to then becoming a gym junkie (weight lifting, boxing, running, etc.) I found my active lifestyle slowly creeping into an addiction and coping mechanism for my stress and anxiety. I spent countless hours at the gym and progressively started restricting more and more foods. In 2016, during my improper marathon training, I saw just how disconnected I was to my body. I was ignoring my body’s signals up until I couldn’t anymore and had physical and emotional push back. I made a visit to urgent care and the ER due to high pancreas and liver levels. I went through months of testing trying to figure out what my body was trying to communicate to me. I learned that I was battling orthorexia (an eating disorder with the obsession of having a “healthy” diet and over exercise). This lead to adrenal fatigue/hormone imbalance, malnourishment, years of amenorrhea with concerns of early osteoporosis, and SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth).
It was not until I started working with an Ayurvedic practitioner in San Francisco, Kathy Gelhken, and immersed myself with practicing yoga (not just the physical practice) that I realized the importance of reconnecting to my body and intuition. For the longest time I felt like my body was punishing me, when in actuality it was doing all that it could to keep me alive.
Yoga has been beyond supportive for my personal growth. There are many different aspects to the yoga practice and it is about finding that balance and aligning with what your body needs each and every day. Yoga has opened my heart and mind further to acceptance, compassion, patience, the combination of strength and softness, surrendering, and immense gratitude.
AUGUSTA: Tell us about the first time you practiced yoga.
I found yoga as a suggested form of movement for my recovery. It was a restorative class. I remember the teacher’s presence and energy was inviting, warm, and supportive. I found my mind wandered and I struggled with relaxing. Yoga can be challenging!
AUGUSTA: What kept you coming back to your mat?
Everytime I left my mat I felt gratitude for the practice in its entirety. I experienced new challenges, learned about what I was holding on to, practiced letting go, and really felt my heart beat. It’s amazing what we can learn about ourselves when we slow down and listen. It was and continues to be the journey- forever a student finding my way :)
AUGUSTA: What inspired you to become a yoga teacher?
The wonderful mentors and community, and the transition, growth, and empowerment I have gone through (and continue to) physically, mentally, and spiritually. Vulnerability. To really feel connected to my body, to listen, to pause, to breathe, and the amount that I learned (and of course still learn).
I aim to empower students to love all that their bodies do and are capable of doing with a beginner’s mind of curiosity and openness, while being surrounded by a supportive community. I hope to impact people’s lives in a positive, encouraging, supportive, and light hearted way.
AUGUSTA: What do you love most about teaching yoga?
I love helping people feel a part of a welcoming community, guiding a practice that feels challenging and empowering, and holding space for people to feel safe to explore free of judgement. I love being a part of supporting human connections, learning about people (as I believe we all have a story), witnessing “aha” moments, and sharing good energy. Also, there is so much room for creativity!
AUGUSTA:What are some of your favorite songs on your current yoga playlist?
Open by Rhye, Thin by Aquilo, Landscapes by Talos, Your Hand in Mine by Explosions in the Sky, Waterways by Ludovico Einaudi, Miracles (Someone Special) by Coldplay, and anything by Vance Joy and Odesza - kind of a musical hodgepodge :)
AUGUSTA: We LOVE your Sculpt and Flow class! What's your favorite strength building move?
Recently my favorite has been using the block for strengthening the core: placing it between knee and elbow to engage core while extending the other arm and leg out and back in (many variations can be done with the block).
AUGUSTA: Okay, shifting gears - Rapid Fire Q&A!
- Favorite yoga pose: Toppling Tree is my recent fav! I also really like Ardha Chandra Chapasana
- Least Favorite yoga pose: Revolved triangle (gets me every time!)
- Favorite local hangout: I am still exploring, but I love spots that I can sit outside with lights and/or a firepit
- Favorite coffee shop: Townshend Tea
- Favorite brunch spot: Sweedeedee
- Favorite park: The fountain and roses at Peninsula Park
- Favorite hiking spot: Angel’s Rest
- Morning Person or Night Owl: Mornings are my jam!
- Favorite season: This is my first time living in a location that has full season changes! My first visit was in the Fall and I fell in love. With it also being my first time experiencing snow where I live, there is something so magical about the snowfall.
- Favorite Snack: Eating Evolved Primal Chocolate: Signature Dark or blueberries and frozen cantaloupe … even better all together (another hodgepodge of sorts) :)
- Favorite Drink: Lemon Ginger Tea
Lauren teaches Sculpt & Flow at Namaste on Williams on Monday mornings at 9:30 and Saturdays at 11:00. Check out her classes! Namaste on Williams offers New Students one full month of unlimited yoga for only $40! Check out our schedule here.