Seattle Yoga News is on a mission to find and highlight all of the hidden, and maybe not so hidden, gems in our yoga community and beyond. We want you to learn about their experiences and perspectives, but also a bit more about their personalities, so we have a few fun questions for them. This week’s spotlight is turned towards Laura Humpf.

We asked Laura to share a word with our community and this is what she had to say:

HOW DID YOU GET STARTED WITH YOGA?

Yoga-Teacher-Spotlight-Laura Humpf

Laura Humpf:

I started yoga while living in Chicago and working in a therapeutic day school. I was burnt out, experiencing secondary trauma, drinking a lot and had terrible insomnia. I talked to my therapist and told her I was going to try yoga. I thought yoga was weird, not for me, and I did not want to go to a class. I went to Barnes and Noble and found a small book I still have on my shelf, Beginning Yoga by Vijavendra Pratap, and I created a 10 minute nighttime routine. I was sleeping within a few days and fell in love with the practice.

A Teacher's Guide for Beginning Yoga Paperback

WHAT KIND OF TRAININGS HAVE YOU PURSUED?

Yoga-Teacher-Spotlight-Laura Humpf

Laura Humpf:

My first training was in Yoga Fit. It was a 16 hour weekend training and I started offering classes right after that. As soon as I started teaching I realized how much I did not know and began my lifelong journey of learning. I completed the 200 Yoga Teacher and 500 Yoga Therapy training with The Samarya Center. As I was doing my yoga therapy training I was also in graduate school for my Masters in Child, Couple and Family Therapy. After graduate school I studied IRest Yoga Nidra with Richard Miller, and I am currently studying Tantra with Dr. Kavitha Chinnaiyan. My racial and social justice teachers and mentors are Leticia Nieto, Reverend angel Kyodo williams, Lama Rod Owens and Shelly Tochluk. I am also looking forward to Resmaa Menakem’s upcoming training on Restore, Reclaim and Resource, focusing on healing embodied racialized trauma.

COULD YOU HELP US UNDERSTAND WHAT YOGA THERAPY IS ABOUT & HOW IT DIFFERS FROM THE WORK OF YOGA TEACHERS?

Yoga-Teacher-Spotlight-Laura Humpf

Laura Humpf:

As a mental health therapist I primarily work with folks who are dealing with some sort of mental health challenge (i.e. trauma, depression, grief, and the struggle to love the body one lives in, etc.), but I use more than the analytical mind to work with these struggles. Yoga and yoga therapy encourage me to look at each person through a holistic lens. How does depression show up in the body? How is the breath and energy impacted by trauma? What are the thoughts and emotions that arise in the mind related to body struggles? What is the wisdom or intuition this person has around the challenges they face? What, if anything, is divine about the grief? When working individually each session has some amount of movement, meditation and talking, and I am holding the ways we can use the body, breath, mind, intuition and divinity of that person to support their resilience as well as to process and heal the challenges they face. Many of the yoga and yoga therapy trainings I attended focused primarily on the individual, and I also believe it is important to work through a systemic lens. Living in a racist, sexist, classist, sizeist, ableist, transphobic (just to name a few) society impacts how clients are navigating the struggles they are experiencing, which is important to acknowledge and explore. I also believe each person I work with has incredible resilience, and I work to highlight and support the ways their inherent resilience can support their healing.

CAN YOU TELL US MORE ABOUT SOME OF THE WORK YOU HAVE BEEN PART OF AT THE INTERSECTION OF YOGA AND SOCIAL JUSTICE?

Yoga-Teacher-Spotlight-Laura Humpf

Laura Humpf:

Both yoga and social justice come from liberatory frameworks and the racial and social justice work I do is part of my yoga and spiritual path. As a white person I am committed to work with other white people who want to face the ways whiteness conditions us to other, distance, disconnect and dehumanize. I currently hold Undoing Whiteness sessions, which investigate one aspect of white conditioning each month. We explore a topic (i.e. white privilege, the history many did not learn in school, our connection to our ancestors, etc.) through movement, meditation, theater, discussion, connection and committing to an action supporting racial justice. I also attempt, to the best of my ability, to offer yoga from an anti-oppression lens. This may include acknowledging my positionality of being a white person profiting off a practice that does not come from my culture. It can include having people share their pronouns or acknowledging the Coast Salish and Duwamish land we are on. It can include paying reparations. Facing the conditioning of the ways unearned power and oppression live within myself and supporting others do the same has been some of the most painful, profound and illuminating work I have done in my life so far.

WHAT IS YOUR ADVICE FOR YOGA TEACHERS AND YOGA STUDIO OWNERS FOR CREATING A MORE INCLUSIVE YOGA COMMUNITY?

Yoga-Teacher-Spotlight-Laura Humpf

Laura Humpf:

When I first started to delve into anti-oppression work I remember talking with a mentor about wanting my studio to be more inclusive. I wanted to offer a space where everyone would feel welcome, and I will always remember what she said. She told me to do my work and stop focusing on others. If I wanted people of color to feel welcome I had to get comfortable with my whiteness and look at the ways racism was living in me. If I wanted trans folks to feel welcome I had to do my work around gender and my conditioning of transphobia. If I wanted fat or larger bodied people to feel welcome I had to look at the ways I was sizeist and to unpack the ways I have size privilege. The more I do my own work the more I can be a welcoming presence to others. I also think it is imperative that there are people in the front of the room other than me. It is important to have people of color in front of the room if you want people of color to come to your studio. When the majority of teachers hold similar social memberships (i.e. white, thin, cisgender womxn) this says who yoga is for and who it is not for. Putting up a sign that says, “Everyone is welcome,” but than having gendered bathrooms, using incense when people have chemical sensitivities, locking people out if they are running late, putting Hindu deities in the bathroom, calling everyone who comes to class “ladies” or using Sanskrit incorrectly are ways yoga teachers are not being welcoming, whether this is intentional or not. I offer these examples because these are ways I have personally had the intention of being welcoming but the impact was the opposite, and I am grateful for the people who brought these moments to my awareness.

CAN YOU TELL US WHAT ONE CAN EXPECT WHEN VISITING RAINIER BEACH YOGA & WHAT MAKES IT DIFFERENT FROM OTHER STUDIOS IN SEATTLE?

Yoga-Teacher-Spotlight-Laura Humpf

Laura Humpf:

I offer Yoga for Resilience 8-week series at Rainier Beach Yoga. These series are trauma-informed, limited to 10 students, and based in my belief that everyone has resilience and we can all learn additional tools to anchor in times of crisis and chaos. Each week has a theme around cultivating community and strengthening resilience, and we spend time exploring each theme through discussion, journaling, artwork, movement and meditation. One of the main differences is we spend a good amount of time in the beginning of class connecting in community through discussion and getting to know each other. Community and connection are huge tools for resilience, and my hope is that this can be a space where people create relationships and maybe not feel so alone.

WHAT YOGA RELATED BOOKS HAVE MOST INFLUENCED YOU?

Yoga-Teacher-Spotlight-Laura Humpf

Laura Humpf:

I am a voracious reader and love reading The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali every year, and I read one Sutra each morning before meditation. My favorite translation is by Pandit Rajmani Tigunait. Some other books I return to over and over are Radical Dharma by Reverend angel Kyodo williams, Lama Rod Owens and Jasmine Syedullah, Beyond Inclusion Beyond Empowerment by Leticia Nieto, Witnessing Whiteness and Living in the Tension both by Shelly Tochluk. I also appreciate Skill in Action: Radicalizing Your Yoga Practice to Create a Just World by Michelle Cassandra Johnson.

  • book1-yoga-sutras-of-patanjali

WHAT IS ONE THING MOST PEOPLE DON’T KNOW ABOUT YOU?

Yoga-Teacher-Spotlight-Laura Humpf

Laura Humpf:

One thing people don’t know is that Rainier Beach Yoga and Satmato Yoga Therapy are located at my home, and my beloved partner built the studio from the ground up.

CAN YOU SHARE WITH US SOME OF YOUR WELLNESS & SELF-CARE PRACTICES?

Yoga-Teacher-Spotlight-Laura Humpf

Laura Humpf:

I meditate and walk around Seward Park every morning, and I am deeply committed to getting enough sleep. I snuggle and play with Buddy, my adorable puggle. I swim, dance, read, hike and do asana. I also take breaks from screens and social media.

WHO IS THE YOGI WE SHOULD FEATURE NEXT?

Yoga-Teacher-Spotlight-Laura Humpf

Laura Humpf:

                                                                 Suyuoung Yun and Lizz Johnson

Laura Humpf’s Bio: Laura Humpf is passionate about healing the effects of individual, collective and intergenerational trauma as well as cultivating and nourishing resilience. She is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist specializing in working with folks living with a wide range of challenges including depression, grief, racism, shame, sexism, and the struggle to love the body they live in. As a certified Yoga Therapist she utilizes somatic and body-based approaches to healing, which can decrease pain, emotional and physical, and trauma symptoms (i.e. insomnia, panic, dissociation, etc.) while increasing acceptance, courage and the capacity to meet life with compassion and choice.
Laura, a white, cisgender, straight, able-bodied, middle class womxn,  works through a trauma-informed, consent-based and anti-oppression lens and is committed to students experiencing agency and empowerment.
Laura, born and raised outside of Chicago (on Miama, Peoria and Potawatomi land) and calling the Coast Salish land of Seattle home since 2004, turned to yoga in 2002 after struggling with burn out and insomnia. She started teaching in 2004, has been a mental health therapist and yoga therapist since 2007 at Satmato Yoga Therapy, and opened Rainier Beach Yoga in 2014. She has studied with The Samarya Center, IRestReverend angel Kyodo williams, and Cultures Connectings.
This work fills Laura up, and she is grateful to have the opportunity to share it with others. She is a daily meditator, animal lover, voracious reader and hiker. She looks forward to seeing you in class.