One of the blessings of the pandemic and online yoga is that it has brought into our community many students who could not have worked a yoga class into their regular schedules. Laura Putnam is one of those blessings. It has been quite wonderful to have her wry sense of humor and bright smile light up the Yoga Vrksa early mornings. Enjoy getting to know Laura – another wonderful addition to our community.

Tell us a bit about yourself – I moved to Easthampton in March 2020 after spending a number of years in Boston and in Boulder, Colorado. I went to Smith College for undergrad, though, so moving to Western Massachusetts has felt like a homecoming for me.

In my professional life, I work as an immigration lawyer at a nonprofit organization in Springfield. My legal practice focuses primarily on deportation defense for people applying for humanitarian forms of relief like asylum and special immigrant juvenile status. My yoga practice supports that work in profound ways.

What is a little known or surprising fact about you or your work? I served as an environment volunteer in Peace Corps Mali. I brought my yoga mat with me so I could practice at my site during my service.

How long have you been practicing yoga? I attended my first yoga practice in 2006 when I was in my first semester of college. I soon started practicing multiple days a week. I have kept coming back to yoga ever since.

What led you to Iyengar yoga? How did you find IYCWM? That first class I attended had a strong focus on alignment that I’ve sought out since starting to practice. When I went to my first Iyengar class in 2017, I knew I’d found my favorite style of yoga. I found IYCWM after moving to Western Massachusetts during the pandemic.

What keeps you on the mat? When I am practicing regularly, I feel like I can do anything on the mat and off.

What keeps you off the mat? Scheduling challenges keep me off the mat. Being able to practice virtually but still get such clear and useful feedback from Susan Elena has been a real gift.

What poses do you love? I love rope sirsasana, and miss getting to practice it since I don’t have rope wall at home. I also love all forward bends and supported Dwi Pāda Viparīta Dandāsana.

What poses do you find challenging? Downward facing dog presents a new challenge ever time I come to my mat. I am constantly working to feel strong and aligned in that pose.

What do you like to do when you are not doing yoga? When I am not doing yoga, I am spending time with my corgi, Sammy, and my cat, Boris, or tending to my many houseplants.

How does yoga show up in your everyday life? Yoga shows up and impacts my daily life in many ways. Sometimes, yoga shows up as a mental shift when I take a moment to rest my mind in my body and focus on the present moment. I also keep a yoga block and strap in my office so I can stretch my back when I’ve been sitting too long at the computer.

How has the pandemic changed your daily life?  Does your yoga practice help you in any way? 
Having a regular yoga practice during the pandemic has helped me cope with our stressful world and feel well in my body.

What has it been like to become part of a virtual yoga community where you do not know some of the other students? I didn’t know any of the other students when I started to practice virtually at IYCWM. I was nervous, at first, to turn my camera on. But the community has been welcoming and friendly. It’s been a great way to feel a sense of community, especially as someone who moved to the area recently.
 
What do you think about the future of hybrid yoga classes – some people in person some online? 
In the past, I have never been able to integrate a regular in-person yoga class into my schedule when I worked full time. Hybrid yoga classes have made it possible for me to practice frequently. I hope they are there to stay.

Any advice for those seeking to connect to a virtual yoga community? Don’t be afraid to turn your camera on!