In Southern California, yoga studios are as commonplace as convenient stores and coffee shops. But how committed is each studio to providing, not only effective classes but a truly supportive community as well? This month, we hear from Lauren Duke, owner of Gather in Encinitas, California, to get the scoop on a studio that consistently goes above and beyond. While catching up with Lauren, I was looking to find out what influenced and inspired her to create such an amazing community of yoga students and teachers…
JW: Where did you grow up?
Lauren: I grew up in Half Moon Bay and Pacifica California.
JW: When you were a kid, what did you want to be?
Lauren: A writer. I’ve always loved to write and play around with words. My dad was a writer. From a young age, I saw that some of the people around me would only talk about small-town issues, talk about people instead of ideas. But I was too curious about the world, observant, and wanted to shed small town life. I feel like I was born to express myself and to share information.
JW: How did you get your start in Yoga?
Lauren: I was at a point in my life where I had trouble trusting people, even my friends. I took yoga in high school, but I was still a naughty student so it didn’t stick. But then, believe it or not, I went to a yoga event with 300 people. I was intoxicated by the camaraderie, the laughter, the group support, and the healing. It put everything into perspective; I wanted to shed the drama.
I had a rough upbringing and some people close to me were suffering from mental health issues. Yoga was a way to heal myself and to acquire the tools to help heal people close to me in the future.
JW: How do you view the practice of Yoga at Gather?
Lauren: The theory behind Gather is that we cannot do it alone. Transient/corporate yoga studios are commonplace. You go, you practice, no one knows your name, and you leave. Gather is a sense of community, sharing ideas, making people feel like they are part of a group. We want people to feel like they are not alone in their experience. We need that more in order to heal than we need to do a pose.
JW: What makes you really stoked?
Lauren: Learning! Collaborating with friends, talking about ideas not people. And Exercise. I can change my mind and my mood just by going down that path. Nature is the setting that can expedite the process of presence, the quickest way to Samadhi.
JW: Anything in store for the future?
Lauren: Going up next door at Gather will be our next venture, BeWell Encinitas. This women’s co-workspace will include an ancient tea bar and a gorgeous outside patio to help its members relax and get shit done! This space will be limited to members only, we’re looking for women working on empowering projects, who are true to their work, and who need that perfect getaway surrounded by other inspiring individuals.
JW: Wow, that sounds amazing. Sounds like you’ve got a lot going on, I should probably let you get back to it. Pleasure catching up with you Lauren!
Lauren: Anytime, Justin. Cheers!
I have to be honest, when I got off the phone I felt like I had a lot to think about. Not just about yoga and community, but about myself as a person. Lauren is real and down-to-earth. She speaks her mind and marches to the beat of her own drum in a way that is refreshing and not the slightest bit pretentious. Talking and learning from people like Lauren can inspire the rest of us to live up to our fullest potential; to be in touch with our authentic selves; to follow our dreams; to create a way to live and work that brings joy and love to others. It’s no surprise that the instructors at Gather are inspiring in their own way as well. They each do their own thing with endearing uniqueness, they care, they heal, and they have a great time doing it! If you haven’t been to Gather in Encinitas, head over and check it out. And if you don’t live in the area, start seeking a similar spot. Finding a studio like Lauren’s can be like looking for the proverbial needle in the haystack, but when you do, it can mean the difference between a nice workout and real mind and body healing.