There's a moment in everyone's yoga journey when they find "the one"—that special teacher who shifts their perspective and inspires them to be the best version of themselves. Laura Sykora's one of those people. Her secret? A genuine passion for helping and learning from her students. A playful attitude doesn't hurt either (if her Instagram pics and captions are any indication, the yogi's proof that yoga doesn't always have to be serious). Laura first found yoga by accident and soon fell in love with the practice. Years later, she quit her office job to become a full-time yoga teacher and hasn't looked back since. The yogi shared her story with us, below, plus, her go-to jams for practice!
How did you get into yoga?
I wish it was more of an interesting story. The truth is that I stumbled upon it while babysitting for my sister over 21 years ago. I was over at her house watching my niece and nephew. After I had put them to bed, I discovered a Baron Baptiste VHS tape and decided to try it. I had a background in gymnastics and cheerleading, so I instantly fell in love with the stretching aspects of the practice and how it made me feel. Since then, my physical and spiritual practice has constantly evolved and changed. It is crazy to think that I’ve been practicing yoga for over half my life.
When did you decide to really pursue the practice and what made you decide to take the leap into teaching?
I decided to really pursue the practice in 2003 when I took my first official yoga class at my gym. Up until that point, I was doing yoga at home from VHS tapes. If only there was the ability to stream classes back then! It was in these classes that I was introduced to my first arm balance, crow pose, and reintroduced to inversions like headstand and handstand. I fell deeper into love with the physical practice from then on.
Social media is what gave me the final push to pursue teaching. I had always thought about it but never had the courage to actually do it. After being part of numerous yoga challenges on Instagram, I felt like I had found my calling. I realized my passion for helping others get into poses and found a love for the online yoga community that I was helping to build.
You found a mentor in Victoria Arvizu and now you teach at her studio, High Energy Fusion Yoga! What have you learned from her that you now apply to your practice or teaching?
I will forever be grateful that I met Victoria Arvizu, for she is the reason I am where I am today. She is always there to share her knowledge, support me in everything I do and give guidance and advice. Two of the most important lessons she has taught me are to have confidence in myself and to always be open to feedback from students and peers. She has helped me become the teacher I am today.
How has practicing yoga affected your day-to-day life?
Practicing yoga has definitely made me more patient with others and more mindful of my words. Things that used to bother me or make me mad don’t anymore. I also find myself pausing and thinking before reacting to negative situations. In the past, I was quick to overreact and quick to get angry. These days, it takes a lot for me to react negatively.
What’s been the scariest part of your yoga journey? The most rewarding?
The scariest and the most rewarding part of my yoga journey has been the actual teaching. I had severe TMJ growing up, which left me with a slight lisp. Most people don’t hear it, but it bothers me and makes me feel self-conscious when I speak. There is not a class that goes by where I don’t think of it. It’s the biggest ongoing battle that I have with myself, and teaching allows me to overcome the fear and insecurity each and every time. Each class I teach is a victory, and the most rewarding thing is then seeing my students overcome their own fears on the mat.
What was your last “yoga” moment outside of yoga?
There isn’t one “yoga” moment—it’s more like multiple little things that I make sure to do every day; things like holding the door open for people, making sure to show gratitude to those who help me throughout the day, smiling to those who walk by, helping others when needed and listening to those around me.
What advice do you have for people just getting started with yoga?
Try as many different teachers and styles as possible, especially if you did not like your first class. Not all yoga classes or teachers are the same!