By Emma Schaff
With the popular Rec Yoga starting back up again, I took the time to sit down with Albion College’s Yoga and Meditation instructor, Launda Wheatley, for a cup of tea and the chance to hear more about the interesting life she has led, from moving to England to studying Transpersonal Psychology in Colorado.
So what first got you interested in meditation/yoga?
I got interested in it about 20 years ago when my kids were young, doing videos and taking classes when they were little because it’s stressful when your kids are small and close in age. I started teaching some classes in England when we lived there. I wasn’t certified, but they let me teach them anyway. When I got back to the States, I got certified and somebody at [Albion] College overheard that I taught yoga, so that’s how I ended up here.
So you met your husband in England?
No, actually, I met my husband when I was in my senior year at Kutztown University in Pennsylvania doing my student teaching, as I was going to be an elementary school teacher. He came over on an exchange program, and we did our professional semester together, sort of like a mini student-teaching thing. I wasn’t initially attracted to him but he made me giggle. We had our first formal date on Valentine’s Day and were married 2 months later. I was going to finish my degree, but I couldn’t stand being away from him so I moved to England 8 months later and lived there for about five years. I didn’t really like England. It’s wet, it’s rainy… but it’s probably that I just wasn’t ready for it, and it wasn’t the right timing for me.
Did you eventually finish your degree, then?
I couldn’t do it in England, and I actually didn’t get it in Elementary Education like I had planned. They wouldn’t let my credits transfer, so I ended up getting a Fine Arts degree from Albion. A couple of years ago, I got my Master’s from Naropa University in Boulder, Colo., and that was in Transpersonal Psychology, which is the psychology of the mind, body and spirit. So they all kind of feed into each other.
What do you do when you’re not teaching yoga at Albion?
I do adjunct work with my husband’s company in Marshall. He does leadership development and management training, so he helps companies and individuals be more aware of how they’re operating and how they can become better leaders so that their business can prosper. Basically, he’s the equivalent of me in the business world. I have a retreat coming up in Canada that’s going to be a lot of fun, called a Mindful Awakening Retreat to help with stress reduction and mindful practice at meetings and things like that. I plan to do more retreats like that. I also volunteer at the Veteran’s Hospital. My Master’s thesis was on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and alternative therapy to help with healing, so I’m going to do Yoga Meditation with them.
What kinds of things can people do in their daily lives to channel the peace of mind that Yoga & Meditation bring, besides taking classes, obviously?
The book that I ask all my classes to get, Three Deep Breaths, by Thomas Crum, is an awesome, easy read that will give people a little bit more of an enlightened perspective on this, but that’s simply it—finding your breath. Every situation we come to that somebody’s winding us up or we’re feeling agitated, angry or stressed out, we stop breathing. Not literally, but we breathe from the chest up. So when you’re in the car and somebody cuts you off, before you raise your hand up to make a gesture, first find your breath. Take a deep breath and simply blow it out the side of your mouth. Purse your lips like you’re blowing smoke out and for one, it makes you giggle because it’s kind of silly, and two it’s also a release. Let yourself let it go. Also, when you’re with somebody who’s annoying you or boring you or driving you insane, cup your left hand in your right. That’s a way to receive them. It brings you to a state of being mindful and realizing that, hey, I’ve been boring, I’ve been annoying, I’ve agitated people. Simply recognizing that everything that somebody is giving you is exactly what you’ve done to somebody else can open you up to them. Everything shifts then, because suddenly you’re present, and they sense it and change, too.
You’re well-known on campus for your stories. Why are they so important to you?
I believe the more you know, the more stories we have that connect us, the greater that trust and that ability to move with each other and create energy, create a synergy between all of us.
How would you describe your experience here at Albion?
Teaching at the college has been the most phenomenal experience ever. I can’t tell you how much I’ve learned from all of you. People may say I’m the teacher, but no—all of you are equally teachers, as well. We feed off each other. It’s important to understand and be okay with not needing to know everything and being honest about that. As long as I’m honest, you’re always honest back and give me feedback. What I am today is purely based on all that you have given me through the years.
Wheatley currently teaches five classes for credit and offers Recreational Yoga classes on Tuesday from 6-7 p.m. and Wednesdays from 5-6 p.m.
Photo by Emma Schaff