I show up at Lotus House of Yoga on a Sunday morning at 10, just as Lora McCarville is finishing up teaching her 9 AM Basic Power class. Sweaty, smiling people are pouring out of the studio, chatting and hugging Lora, whose smile and presence have a gravitational pull. It’s Berkshire Hathaway weekend in Omaha, Nebraska, and the class is more crowded than usual. Out-of-towners come up and introduce themselves and say what a fun class it was. Various regulars share bits of news with Lora. Amid the chaos, she manages to give each one her full attention and a warm, heart-first hug.

Once everyone has filtered out, I sit down on the floor by the desk to chat with Lora about her journey to yoga, Yoga Rocks the Park, what it means to show up as a woman on the mat and in life, and her new adventures in chicken farming.

The Interview

Jane: When did you start practicing yoga? And when did you decide to teach?

Lora: Whew. I’m gonna have to really come to the present moment for this one. In California, 10 years ago, I started by practicing Kundalini. I was a school teacher back then and I was assaulted and beaten up by a student. It left me with a back injury, a herniated disc. A friend invited me to take a Kundalini class and it healed my body. It just changed everything. Then, when I moved to Scottsdale, Arizona, I stepped into a Vinyasa studio. I took one class and signed up for teacher training. It was a sweaty mess and everyone was upside down, and I was hooked. Right when I finished teacher training, I got pregnant with my daughter and my then-husband lost his job, so I then started to teach because money was so tight. I didn’t realize it when I signed up for the teacher training, but it was all part of the divine plan. And then we moved to Omaha.

Lora teaching. Photo Credit: Lululemon Athletica

Lora teaching. Photo Credit: Lululemon Athletica

J: How did you and Mary Clare, the owner of Lotus, connect?

L: Four years ago, Omaha didn’t have a Vinyasa studio and a student told me that one was opening. I went to the space and there was a flier in the window about a teacher training with a teacher from Scottsdale who I had practiced with. At that moment, I knew it was my home. I didn’t know MC at the time, but it turned out that she had practiced there too. Our universes were aligned. Lotus opened that May and in June I stepped into Turner Park and had the vision that turned into Yoga Rocks the Park.

J: Tell me about that vision!

L: When I stepped onto the grass at Midtown Crossing, I had a vision of the park filled with yogis and live music and the community in the park celebrating. That vision led me to research how you go about making that happen. I Googled “Parks and Yoga” and Yoga Rocks the Park came up. At the time Denver was the only city it was happening in. I emailed the guy in charge, “How do you bring yoga to a park?” and he replied back, “Let’s do it in Omaha.”

Yoga Rocks the Park Omaha

J: That’s amazing.

L: Yeah! But then I had to recruit a lot of people to believe in my vision—sponsors, other studios, because I wanted it to be a community event, not just a one-studio thing. And people had different opinions about what was possible. But it came from such a soul place that when people said no to me, I didn’t hear them. I was one hundred percent sure it was going to be free, people were going to come out and play, and we were going to make a change. And we had tons of volunteers and supporters right from the start.

The beauty of the Heartland is that if you have an idea, the community comes out and says “How can I help you?” If you have a dream seed, they say “Let me come and water that for you.” That volunteerism is so unique. It’s also unusual in a community to see multiple studios coming together. And the kids’ camp element—for kids to see adults not partying and drinking and still having fun and hugging? That’s so important. Like 35 people were showing up to the event in Denver and our first event had more than 400 people. We invited our Scottsdale and Kansas City teachers to come guest teach and they fell in love with the idea and started Yoga Rocks the Park in their own cities. Now it’s in 20 cities.

Yoga Rocks the Park Omaha

J: Do your kids do yoga too?

L: Yes. All the time. Yoga is such a part of our family. Of course, they do the poses and they have a handstand chair which they love to play on, but it’s more about the mindful living, the mindfulness with our words, the breath work, and communicating with love. They see me doing breathwork and meditation and stretching all the time. It’s just part of their lives.

J: I love that. And the kids are so playful in their practice too. How do you encourage your students to be adventurous in class, rather than following the cues exactly or only trying poses they know?

L: Ooo, good question. I think practicing any kind of arm balance or hand balance takes them out of their comfort zone. And teaching that the purpose of the asana is not the pose itself, but what comes up when you get into the pose if you stay curious and stay open to possibility. I love teaching that fear and excitement feel the same in the belly. I encourage my students to know what fear looks like, how it feels, and where it’s coming from—which voice is telling you that you can’t do it. Because if it’s not love, it’s coming from someone else. Once people step on the mat, they know that how you do one thing is how you do everything. [Laughs.] If we ran numbers at the studio, there would be such a high percentage that start practicing yoga and then quit their jobs.

J: [Laughs.] Yeah, I’ll bet.

L: We are designed to live the way we feel on the mat when we’re out in the world. We know we’re supposed to live passionate lives. But man, shit falls apart. The more you’re practicing yoga, affirmation, meditation, and prayer, the more you recognize what’s not in alignment—the stuff we thought would make us feel better—and it falls off. It can be marriages, jobs, anything that isn’t in alignment. It’s the journey of the soul. Then you show up for the next step. When your soul says you need to do something, you go do it.

For a while, I was broke and homeless, living between family members’ houses. When I was in the studio for an hour, everything I was worried about fell away and I would teach what I had to believe myself. People were telling me to go back to a steady income. And later, after the separation and divorce, as a single mom with two kids, one who has special needs, my fear of financial insecurity opened wide, but abundance rains down when you’re following your passion. It’s science, Sympathetic Resonance. Because we’re vibrational beings, the higher vibrational life we have, the higher vibrational experiences we attract. It’s like ringing a tuning fork. Lotus is a studio that cultivates adventure and high vibrational living. Yoga teaches you to open all of your senses, and whatever your passion is, that’s what we want you to do. We want everyone to feel that fully alive on the mat and off. I remember the moment I had the vision cast for Yoga Rocks the Park—that moment, when I felt my vision, I felt alive. And the years before, I felt numb, like a zombie, no fire, no drive. I was in love with my kids, of course, but I was trying to create an image of my life that wasn’t in alignment with my soul. When you find your love, your passion, your thing, you can’t go fast enough. Sometimes I think I don’t have enough life to live in this body. There’s so much to do and feel. I would love to work in Bali. Why not? We put these walls up, but when you spend time with your soul, you have no choice but to be adventurous. Sit with your soul and it will call you up. I love that word, adventurous. Let’s keep adding passion.

Photo Credit: Chase Barrington Photography

Photo Credit: Chase Barrington Photography

J: Wow. I am totally with you. So what do you wish someone who has never practiced yoga to know about it?

L: I wish they knew how good they could actually feel in their bodies. Yoga is the path to that. Yoga is a technology that’s thousands of years old and it’s made to make the body, the container for our souls, feel good. The rest is fear. Everyone is afraid to try something new. But then we move back: are we afraid, or are we excited? When I started practicing yoga, I was afraid of heights, and yoga took that fear of heights away. A couple of years ago, to really conquer that, I climbed the grain silos. Yoga takes the neuroses away and quiets your egoic mind.

J: So, switching gears–you just got chickens! How did that come about?

L: It’s simple: I wanted chickens. I asked someone about it last year, and, ugh, we ask advice of people and take it and I don’t know why. He was like, “What are you going to do with them in the winter?” So instead of figuring that out I waited, and this year, I just went and got the coop and all their stuff and got the chicks. I wanted farm-fresh eggs, and I just couldn’t take how the chicken industry treats chickens in order to get the eggs. Plus they’re just so cool. But… I have a bird dog, a German Shorthair Pointer, so the biggest challenge was getting him to not want to kill them. [Laughs.] Oh! I want to talk about showing up as a woman on the mat and in life. Can we talk about that?

J: Oh my gosh, yes, of course.

L: So yoga taught me how to go inside to the goddess. If we women understand ourselves as goddesses, we learn how to invoke that power in life, off the mat. In our adventurous lives, it’s important to show up with our wombs, that we can lead with our feminine power. Women need to stop masquerading as men, which is what that bra burning and putting on shoulder pads started. It’s the feminine energy that brings peace and change and empowerment to our world. When we hear empowerment we think of women acting like men, but it’s a different kind of power. Women are really driven by love and peace and community. We care about our tribe, you know? And out of that, social issues, and children—all the children. A woman’s love is not self-fulfilling. And we are emotional beings. The goddess energy is a lot of heart, and it’s also wild and free and untamed. We’re soft and loving and protective and caring and fierce and all of those things.

J: I love that idea of the goddess. Can you tell me a little bit what that looks like?

L: Treating ourselves with so much respect and love. It’s loving our bodies, our temples, and also saying kind things in our mind to ourselves.

And we need to show up from the perspective of woman, in local politics, at the dinner table. The women who have brought on social change were and are living as full women: Frida Kahlo, Rosa Parks. They lived wild, adventurous lives that changed the world. Let your adventure change the world. I swear, we would not have war if women ran this country. We just wouldn’t! We’d be taking care of our children, we’d be taking care of education, we’d be prioritizing so differently. Okay, I’m getting on my soapbox. [Laughs.]

And, of course, sometimes our culture goes to the opposite side and bashes the male, and I’m not at all saying that. But we have been silenced and cultured not to be wild. We’re like lionesses, it’s our natural state is to protect our young and hold our family close. It’s strong and it’s powerful and it’s driven from the womb, the feminine creation.

Burn the shoulder pads, not the bras. [Laughs.] I probably have a shirt with shoulder pads. But let’s stop masquerading as men and show up passionate and communicating from the heart, in conversation too. Let’s not allow women to bash women. It’s not okay for a woman to call another woman a bitch, to talk about a sister in that way, because we don’t know her journey.

Maybe I’m driven to be so protective of all children from having Jordan [Lora’s adopted son]—of course he’s mine, you know? There are 10,000 children in the foster care system in Phoenix. Why aren’t we raising our children? Our culture needs to take on raising each other’s kids in a community way. We need to get involved in social-consciousness in the community and at home, too.

End of Interview

I feel a little dizzy as I hug Lora goodbye. I know her wisdom will be ringing in my head for weeks to come, and we only talked for an hour. I can’t wait to learn so much more as I start my own yoga teacher training journey this month.

Thank you, Lora!