Laura Cornell knows how to practice what she preaches. She is the founder of the Green Yoga Association: “Dedicated to fostering ecological consciousness, reverence and action in the Yoga community.” In other words, creating green yoga studios. She is a Professional Level Kripalu Yoga teacher, mentor, and workshop leader. Laura is especially skilled at helping students experience a deeper soul connection through their practice. She received a Distinguished Service Recognition in 2001 from the Kripalu Yoga Teachers’ Association for her research on the Moon Salutation, a Yoga flow of 16 postures created by and for women. Cornell has completed a doctoral dissertation on ecology and yoga. Yogi Times: What has been the most challenging aspect of your personal journey, and how has that strengthened you?
Laura Cornell: The hardest thing for me has been finding the courage to believe in myself and my intuition. When the path I was guided to follow seemed strange – or at the very least highly unusual – I could really doubt myself and get afraid. I’ve had to learn to let go of what others might think of me so that I could follow these inner guides. Practicing this over and over again has made me so much stronger. YT: What do you consider to be your greatest strength, and your deepest weakness? Laura Cornell: My greatest strength is my ability to ask powerful, deep questions – of myself, of my practice, of the Yoga texts, of Guiding Spirit, of other people. These questions help me and others to reframe difficult situations in new and inspiring ways. My greatest weakness is my tendency to self-doubt. Still working on this! YT: What gets you out of bed every day? Laura Cornell: It’s a great joy to greet the sun, the plants, the birds and other animals, the water, rocks, and sky, and to see who I will meet, what I will learn, what Spirit will say to me, what I will share, and what this amazing day has to offer! YT: Who was your greatest teacher, and why? Laura Cornell: I’ve had hundreds of great teachers! Everyone in my Quaker community, my teachers at Kripalu Center and CIIS, everyone whose words I have read like Mahatma Gandhi, John Seed, Joanna Macy, John Woolman, Gurumayi Chidvilasananda; the great texts like the Bible, the Bhagavad Gita, and the Yoga Sutras; my therapists over the years, everyone involved in Green Yoga, my parents and sister, my ex-partner, my friends; but most of all the guiding presence of the Great Spirit. Right now three of my greatest teachers are Jalaja Bonheim and Scott and Shannon Peck. YT: Was there a defining moment in your life that placed you on your current path? Laura Cornell: Yes. When I had to choose a topic for my dissertation, I asked in meditation: “What topic should I choose? How can I best serve through this dissertation?” I received the clearest vision of my life, seeing a great tree with roots in the pre-Vedic soil of yoga, trunk in the classical era, and branches in the contemporary flourishing of yoga in the U.S. A voice said “I want you to help bring the ecological roots of yoga into the present.” I’ve been working on that ever since. YT: How do you define success? Laura Cornell: First of all, just being faithful to the insights I’m given. Following the Guide. Beyond that, expanding love in myself and others. If I see my own and others’ hearts increase their capacity to connect deeply and to care for this planet, that’s success. YT: What do you consider your greatest success? Laura Cornell: Honestly, my dissertation process. I asked very sincerely to be guided, and I was willing to follow that guidance faithfully. It’s taken five years, and was so much more work than I ever could have imagined, but I feel good about my steadfastness and everything that happened along the way. YT: What brings joy into your life? Laura Cornell: The same reasons I wake up! Making new connections every day, with other hearts, with the plants and animals, the earth, water, and sky. Taking the time to really see the flowers, or to look in someone’s eyes, to hear birds, or play with children. YT: What words of wisdom do you have to share? Laura Cornell: Whatever you are doing, live into it fully. Find your area of greatness today and be that. Don’t be afraid to take the initiative for love, for healing, for creativity. The world needs your contribution! YT: What is the next step for you? Laura Cornell: I look forward to expanding and deepening my teaching and spreading my passion more widely.