Teacher Spotlight: Laurence Gay

“In my very first class, it felt like nothing I had practiced before. My entire body was pulsing and I could feel that through the breath, my entire body had been cleansed and was filled with something that I would call… joy.”

Photo: © Alexandre Roche

Photo: © Alexandre Roche

One of the things I love about Laurence is how real she is. When she talks about yoga, she sounds like a person from planet earth, not some supernatural being who floats in a magical forest of yoga unicorns. Her very popular blog, yogaenmouvement, bears that out by touching on such diverse subjects as the meaning of Shivaratri, daily yoga news, yoga-themed products, and interviews with students (and even me!) Laurence teaches both Ashtanga and Prana Flow which makes perfect sense given her indefatigable energy and dynamism.

What’s your yoga story?

My first yoga experience was an Ashtanga class in 1999. I was working out at a gym in Dublin and they were planning a 6-week trial for Ashtanga. They were saying Madonna and other Hollywood celebrities were doing it so, obviously, I had to try it.

In my very first class, it felt like nothing I had practiced before. My entire body was pulsing and I could feel that through the breath my entire body had been cleansed and was filled with something that I would call… joy. Traditional workout (cardio+weight lifting) all of a sudden tasted bland. It did not have a soul, yoga had one. I went the yoga way. I went as far as becoming a yoga teacher!

How did you end up in Paris?

I spent 5 years abroad (1996-2001.) It was time for me to come back to France and Paris was—and still is—the place to be to find a job.

In your experience, what are the similarities or differences between yoga in Paris and where you’re from originally?

Tricky question. I am French but I started yoga abroad. I was taught yoga in English by Irish, British, Australian and American folks. So I did experience culture shock when I settled back in France. For instance I would not understand what a teacher meant when he asked me to do “un équilibre de tête”. I knew “sirsasana” or “headstand” but had no clue about the “équilibre de tête”, which is the same! I sounded very blond when I asked him to explain what he meant.

Back in 2002 when I made the transition from Dublin to Paris, the most obvious difference was that there were very few places for practicing Ashtanga and the existing ones were mostly ruled by dancers. That was not my scene. I wanted to find a yoga studio for “regular” people like me, wearing cotton tops and shabby leggings. Since then, things have changed!

The things that I think are different from places like LA or London where I happen to go and practice sometimes:

• In Paris you only find 2 places where you can find many types of yoga all day, under one roof (Rasa Yoga and Beyoga). All other places are rather specific; they teach Ashtanga only or Vinyasa only.

• Yoga studios in Paris are not places where you can hang around after a class. The studios are usually small and very few of them have a boutique.

• Classes tend to be scheduled late in the evening and very rarely early in the morning.

Keeping this in mind, what do you consider to be the most unique aspect of practicing in Paris?

The Parisian yoga scene is smaller than in other capital cities but it tends to be muticultural. 

What advice to you have for non-Francophone yogis who are nervous about taking a class in Paris?

Don’t be nervous! Many French yoga teachers speak English and if not, it is more than likely that a fellow student will. Plus, all yoga studios have websites where you should find all the practical information beforehand. If the web site is exclusively in French, you can ask around for someone to translate for you. The information you need is pricing, the class time and level and the access code to the building if there is one.

Try to find a spot in the room where you are surrounded by other people so that if the teacher’s words are not making sense, at least your yoga buddies’ bodies will!

Photo: © Laurence Gay Yoga

Photo: © Laurence Gay Yoga

I am a yoga teacher and I had a very lovely Australian woman in my Ashtanga lead class. Her mother, a lady in her late 60s, came to visit her and came to the class. This lady had very little French and a beautiful practice. After the class she came over to me and said: “ I breed horses and I speak some French to them. It has a remarkable effect on them. Well I had an amazing class and I believe the fact that the class was taught in French had something to do with it. French should also be the language to teach Ashtanga yoga.”

My little story to say that there is more to words than just words. What they convey matters and that does not necessarily address your left brain!

How would you characterize the Parisian yoga community?

In my opinion, very scattered. We have only had a yoga magazine in France since last year, Esprit Yoga. We should be having our first yoga fair in October 2012 and we have had our first yoga apparel shop since last September, Yoga Concept. Fantastic Pamela from New York runs it. All of these initiatives are essential because they are helping the Parisian yoga community to shift from a very territorial to a more open attitude.

I started my own yoga blog in French in 2010, yogaenmouvement, because I could not relate to what I was reading. Yoga has been depicted as a dull, weird, new-agey, cult-related activity for too long in France. This is changing too.

How has it grown?

As I said, slowly. Things are taking off… as we speak, really!

Similarly, has your practice grown or shifted as a result of being in Paris?

Yes, I personally practice at home mainly and when my schedule permits with Kia Naddermier at Mysore Yoga Paris. I am an early birdie…

In three words, describe yoga in Paris.

Rising, changing, loving. 

What’s your favorite post-yoga class treat? Any special addresses you’d like to share?

Because I practice mainly at home, my post-yoga treat would come from my pantry or my fridge.