We’ve worked closely with leading meditation and yoga teacher Laurent Roure since we launched Zen Maitri. Alongside his public classes, Laurent has trained yoga teachers, therapists, counsellors, and health carers with his method of Breathwork and Pranayama.
So it’s about time that we got to know him a little better. In this Q&A with Laurent, we talk about:
You can find out more about Laurent’s classes and upcoming courses, which include a July 2022 Breathwork & Pranayama 60-hour CPD course for yoga teachers, therapists, health carers and bodyworkers - on his website and his instagram.
Now, let’s get into the good stuff…
What brought you to the practice of yoga?
I have been practising yoga for 27 years in London. In the '90s, only gyms, local church halls, community centres, and empty offices used to offer yoga classes organised by solo yoga teachers. Studios were rare.
My first yoga class was in a gym in Covent Garden. I was doing weights and cardio but was very bored. One day I saw a queue in front of a glass windows studio, and, curiously, I went in and took part in my first Ashtanga class.
I remember the feeling of doing something completely new and it was so exciting. It was love at first sight.
I looked for more yoga events, but it was hard to find. Finally, I started practising with an Ashtanga teacher in a damp and smelly empty office in East London. It felt like I was learning something big and vital that would change my life forever. I could feel it in my gut, and It added so much value to my life straight away and it still does.
At that time, there were not many styles of yoga: it was Ashtanga, Iyengar or Hatha. It was simple, and the industry hadn't started making a lot of money yet; it was authentic and pure and rooted in the tradition of yoga without gimmicks.
Why did you decide to become a teacher?
For 20 years, I worked as a fashion retailer in London, and I had two trendy and casualwear shops in East London. In 2008/9, the big recession hit us badly, and I lost everything.
I felt free, poor but free, and it felt like a considerable weight was lifted away from my shoulders. I wanted to do something else, and one day, I went to Yogahaven in Birmingham, which was advertising their teacher training, and my heart stopped! This is it! I suddenly realised that I wanted to teach yoga. It ticked all the boxes: I had time to learn, I like communicating with people, I am passionate about yoga, and I have a strong understanding of the practice after years of exploring and learning with the best teachers in the UK.
It was time to share and offer the benefits of yoga. It made sense, and my gut feeling was right!
I started with a basic 200 hours of teacher training, and ever since, I have kept learning: More than 1000 hours of anatomy, philosophy, yoga therapy, and plenty of other tools to make sure my practice is complete.
What does yoga mean to you? What do you enjoy most about it?
For me, yoga means unifying, putting together all the elements of our being which make us human: body, energy and breath, emotions, mind and thoughts.
I am a non-dogmatic yoga teacher who does not follow a guru, method or just one teacher – I practice and learn from my students and many mentors willing to share with me and unify our experience and knowledge. This is yoga, being together as one and supporting each other.
Yoga is not about Sanskrit texts and old scriptures. Those beautifully written artefacts are just here to remind us of the history of yoga and some philosophical concepts to become happier, peaceful and calmer; this is wonderful! But, they are sometimes not relevant to the people living in the 21st century, and the beauty of yoga is that it can change and evolve to accommodate and support here and now.
This is what I like about yoga. Yoga is changing practice, a never-ending evolving study of the self which shouldn't be stuck in the past. I respect the roots of this ancient practice, but at the same time, I can adapt and make yoga more relevant and to, help people in their journey and support them with their well-being and health. This is where a yoga teacher's principles lie: empowering and supporting others.
What for you is the relationship between physical yoga, Breathwork and Meditation? Why do you feel they must be practised together?
When we speak about 'yoga' in modern Western civilisation, we think of physical practice. It is wrong, and it is not enough.
Yoga is many practices: studying, self-reflecting, praying and chanting. It is also breathwork (pranayama) and meditative steps to achieve high meditation and peace of mind. In western studios, we mostly think of yoga as a physical practice (asana), and it is a good start, but if we really want to practice 'yoga', we need to study the other elements and tools. This is why it is a life-long practice.
We will be attracted by the different facets of the yoga practice during our life. When I was young, I was more into the physical discipline of Ashtanga yoga; getting older, I was interested in subtler techniques like pranayama, yoga Nidra, the different steps to meditation, the concept of energy etc.
But according to traditional yoga, there is a progression to respect to achieve the optimum sense of bliss and happiness that yoga promises. First, we prepare the body and deal with the pains, discomfort, tensions and resistance. We become more robust, more flexible and mobile. Then, we can focus on using the breath to manipulate our energies, nervous system, mental state etc. Then finally, the body is ready to sit quietly to meditate and experience mental stability and calm.
Yoga is a mix of multiple techniques, and together, it becomes a holistic practice meant to touch our entire being.
Why do you think physical yoga, Breathwork & Meditation are essential today?
Moving, breathing, and meditating are crucial during our spiritual journey, but also:
- We are detached from ourselves because of the way we conduct our lives. Everything around us is designed to disconnect us from the outer and inner self. We are totally disconnected from our body, mental states, and breathing patterns. All the elements of yoga help us reconnect with what makes us human again.
- Because of that disconnection and constant agitation coming from our modern living, we are becoming more ill, and our body functions are dysregulated.
Our heart, mind, lungs, musculoskeletal, nervous, lymphatic, and reproductive systems (to name a few) are not working smoothly and coherently. Yoga has the potential to support all those systems again and help them to work together in harmony.
- Most importantly, we need to be calm and relaxed to achieve this coherence between all those functions. We can healthy and happy only if we are in this default steady state is, the state of 'rest and digest'. Practicing the tools of yoga takes us in the right direction to find this peace within ourselves.
- Yoga is not the cure for ailments but are significant elements in the holistic approach besides other therapies like herbalist therapy, acupuncture, massage therapy, osteopath, etc. It is recognised as a big part of healing. More and more, other therapists prescribe yoga tools to their clients to support their healing journey.
What is the most essential trait of being a good yoga teacher today?
A good yoga teacher offers their experience and knowledge to their students and community with a desire to support them unconditionally.
A good teacher listens, communicates, doesn't judge or be competitive, and stays humble, grounded, and calm.
A good teacher must know how to look after themselves, have a regular daily self-practice, and never stop learning and being curious.
A good teacher stays authentic and genuine.
A good teacher serves, supports, teaches, and mentors his students but doesn't entertain them.
What does the future of yoga for you look like?
After the pandemic, the yoga industry's bubble is bursting, and many studios haven't learned from the last two years and the new needs of their students. People are not looking for gymnastics, over-physical and gimmicky styles of yoga anymore. Students want to take something away for their physical and mental health. They are in control and want to help themselves by learning techniques and exercises which will help them. Consequently, private classes and yoga therapy offerings increased and grew during and after the pandemic. Also, online yoga classes are now a big part of people's practice besides going to the studio. It is often more convenient and cheaper. It helps people who can't move well, with children or working at home. It is about adapting and serving.
Before, the yoga industry was more about making money and using yoga as a quick-fix product, and this is changing and it is a good thing. But crucially, the sense of community is coming back in some studios, church halls, and community local spaces. We are meant to thrive as a community, and this is also where we can grow and improve. This is the future of yoga – helping, serving, supporting, adapting and offering a practice which is safe and efficient.
Why did you decide to collaborate with Zen Maitri?
I love using herbs and their health benefits. Coming from a rural part of France, my grandmother always used them when we had a cold, a bruise, etc. so Zen Maitri was a prominent place to connect with. Their herbalists are highly qualified and knowledgeable and are a rare breed of therapists that are disappearing.
Later, I realised that we could join forces to help people's health. Combining our skills and creating a holistic environment for Zen's clients made total sense.
Our goals are the same and aim to improve well-being with the power the herbs, breathwork and meditation.
We quickly created specific courses and weekly yoga classes based on supporting people's mental health, breathlessness, and healing journey, and it is working. There is nothing more rewarding than receiving positive feedback and grateful message from students who our combined forces have impacted.
When I finish my sessions with Zen Maitri's clients, privately or in groups, I know that I served someone and hopefully made them feel great in their body and mind.
Which is your favourite Zen Maitri product?
It depends on my health and needs, but a tailored-made tincture has supported my immune system for years. When I was ill with COVID-19, I used Zen Maitri’s strong teas for my respiratory and lymphatic systems.
But they are not just about therapy, I love aromatherapy, and Zen Maitri also has exquisite essential oils and candles.
Meditate with Laurent and Zen Maitri
Feeling inspired to begin your meditation adventure?
- Explore our current meditation classes with Laurent
To find out more about Laurent's upcoming offerings including classes, courses and workshops, please visit his website: www.yogalaurent.com
You can follow Laurent on instagram and facebook: @yogalaurent