Lourdes Paredes is a teacher of vinyasa yoga—centered on breath-synchronized movement—as well as a trainer of other yoga instructors in Chicago. Raised in a Filipino-American family in Southern California, she studied human development at the University of California-Riverside. Her interest in human spirituality led her to pursue graduate studies at the Jesuit School of Theology at UC-Berkeley, after which she had a fellowship at Columbia University in New York City, where she was introduced to yoga. She moved to Chicago in 1996 and received an M.A. in organizational development from Loyola University.
Time is such a scarce commodity in our lives. Tell me why you think your students choose to spend some of their time with you and with yoga?
That’s a really good question but I think the return on their investment must be very precious. I believe they get to that point when they feel rejuvenated or reconnected or just a little more awake because they’ve spent some time dreaming in a conscious way. There are so many things that deplete us in our lives.
I think the experience of yoga is different for everyone, but I do think that people feel reconnected and maybe realigned in a way that is not just physical but also spiritual and emotional. It’s an escape from all the stimulants in our lives.
You’re a full-time teacher so you, too, must especially feel rewarded by it. What is yoga’s appeal for you?
As a practitioner, I’d say it provides an integration of the many parts of what makes us who we are: the physical, the intellectual, the emotional and spiritual. Sometimes people forget that we have all these dimensions or we compartmentalize them. They say, I’m going to the gym, or to church or to work as though these are all separate when in fact we’re more integrated than we realize. We need to be in touch with them all.
Arianna Huffington recently aid that “women need to stop thinking that success is driving yourself into the ground, working around the clock, never having any time for yourself, never having any balance in your life.” It sounds as though you agree about stepping back.
Yes. I think yoga can align all the elements of your life.
You also teach yoga teachers. What would you say is your teaching philosophy?
Well, I always say the best yoga teachers are the people who practice yoga. I think that when people look at a teacher, the more we’re in that role all the time the more authentic we are. It might sound presumptuous but the more integrated a person is, the more believable they are as a teacher.
Does it surprise that this is where your life took you?
Absolutely. Sometimes I think back to when yoga was a hobby. To be a full-time teacher now is amazing.
When it was a hobby, what did you think would be your main career path?
I was in organizational development and human resources. Really I took a yoga teacher training program for myself and not because I thought I would teach yoga. When I went back to school for my Master’s degree in organizational development, I started to teach classes for a little extra cash and to do something I loved. And then it blossomed into my full-time job.
Do people who don’t understand yoga just think you close your eyes and meditate?
Absolutely. But it’s the hardest work I’ve ever done. It’s not like you can check your email while teaching. Being fully present in the yoga is the most important thing. On days when there are things that distract me, it’s especially difficult.
Is there any level where what you learned about organizational development intersects your yoga?
Yes and no. I studied at Loyola and the program drew on some very progressive thinkers, like Margaret Wheatley and Peter Senje, who are looking at organizations as transformative places to work. The idea is that we don’t just show up for work and put in our 40 hours. We’re transformed by where we work.
Teaching yoga is in some ways transformative, but for me it has been more entrepreneurial. When I started 10 years ago teaching, I didn’t know a single person who did this full time. I didn’t know if it was possible [to make a living in yoga]. I had mentors, but all of us were taking the path blindly.
How much of a leap of faith did you feel you were taking in shifting to full-time yoga teacher?
It was tough. I didn’t know I had stepped into this life until I showed my résumé to a headhunter who was a [yoga] student of mine. I asked her to look it over and tell me if something was missing and she said, “I think you’re doing what you’re supposed to be doing.” I said “Are you kidding?” but she was right.
I used to work at it seven days a week. I still could if I wanted to but I’m trying to create more balance in my life. I’ve been married for three years. Meeting my husband changed my perspective.
Other than your tolerance for long hours, what is there about you that has made you successful?
I’ve never stopped being a student. I’m going to Singapore for a training program, not because I need to but because I still really want to learn. That’s characteristic of what I bring to the discipline, I think.
And I think I take my work seriously. I told a friend about what I do and she said, “Wow, you really take yourself seriously.” I don’t know about that. I take what I do seriously because I’m a teacher.
If a young woman asks you whether to make a similar leap from a traditional career to something that had grown from hobby to a passion, would you advise her to do it?
I would say do it, but only if you do it with a plan.