Staff Spotlight, Lauren Fraley
Lauren Fraley is a yoga instructor at The Emily Program’s Cleveland Residential location. When she is not working or practicing yoga, she is usually cooking, reading, or doing art-related activities.
TEP: Tell us about yourself!
Lauren: I’m the yoga instructor at Cleveland Residential… but I’ve already told a lot of the residents here that I often identify more as their yoga “guide.” I prefer the word guide since there are so many parts of yoga that can’t be “instructed” — only suggested, or given space for. Outside of The Emily Program, I’m also involved in the performing arts as a director, theater-maker, and performer. I love cooking, plants, board games, reading, writing, and collaging!
TEP: Why did you choose to work for The Emily Program?
Lauren: The people here are so obviously committed to the mission, but on top of that, the culture is multidisciplinary in a way that I get to see and understand mind/body connection not just in my own area of study and practice, but through the lens of the varied practitioners at The Emily Program. It’s already so clear that this translation of ideas from one field to another not only makes for rich discussions but serves the clients in a really powerful way. I also appreciate the depth of working with the same yogis on an almost daily basis.
TEP: Why do you think yoga helps people heal from eating disorders?
Lauren: I asked for some anonymous written reflections and feedback from the residents last week, and they gave some of the clearest answers to this question. Some of them said how incredibly challenging and scary it can be to really be in their bodies, but in the same sentence would say these really thoughtful things like “yoga reframes how I experience my body.” I’ve experienced this in my own practice too; a healing and appreciation of our own bodies can come from an observation of how the body supports itself, the nature of our minds, and practicing a truer awareness of how that all fits together.
TEP: Can you tell us about a typical yoga class at TEP?
Lauren: You can expect to walk into a room of yoga mats and a lot of other “stuff”: blankets, yoga bolsters (pillows), blocks, bean bags (sometimes called eye pillows), rocks to hold while in stillness, and often chairs nearby each mat. The language of the class itself generally includes lots of options (i.e., “if it seems inviting to you, you might come down to your back, your side, or just stay seated.”). The movement of the class is generally slow, deliberate, and will verbally paint the images that inspire physical activity in the body. Some of the actions, poses, or sequences are chosen to help support or alleviate specific physical conditions or transitions that may be going on with the people in the room, but sometimes cultivating the relaxation and imagination of moving the arm across water, for example, is an end in and of itself. I also tend to put an emphasis on the practice as a “portable practice” meaning that the micro-movements that they use, or the meditations and state of mindfulness that they use in the yoga session don’t need to stop when they leave the room. Noticing and observing the senses and the breath can be done while eating, walking, or preparing for sleep. Oh! Sometimes there are emotional support animals in the room, too!
TEP: What’s your favorite yoga posture? Why?
Lauren: I get asked this a lot! I guess today my answer would be supported shoulderstand (salamba sarvangasana). It’s a really “cooling” or calming pose. (And I also like that it’s referred to as the “queen” of all yoga poses.) There are lots of safe and gentle modifications to this pose where you lay on the back and the legs rest on a chair, bolsters support under the hips, and blankets support under the shoulders… so we do variations on this one at the end of a lot of The Emily Program classes.
TEP: What are you most looking forward to this fall?
Lauren: I hear that my 2-year old nephew might be dressing up as a gnome for Halloween, so that’s pretty close to the top of my list!