Hi, I’m Jennifer Smith-McLaughlin, your yoga and meditation instructor. Born in America, and raised in Northern Virginia, I had the amazing opportunity to live abroad and travel for 14 years at the age of 31 with my first husband and my 2 small children. After living 5 years in the French Caribbean as a married person, going through a difficult divorce, and then living 9 years in France as a divorcee and single mom with 2 kids, I ended up back in the U.S. in 2007.
I returned to the area where I was born and raised feeling sad, lonely and defeated. I remember sitting at my high top table with 2 barstools in my tiny kitchen and crying over my 4th, (or was that my 5th?) glass of wine. I had given up a life of adventure, a beautiful home in the south of France, wonderful friends, speaking the French language, in which I have a Master’s degree (in France), and having a full, happy life. I was a single, middle -ged woman with the sole intent on helping my 2nd child, my daughter, get through high school and into college after she had been through some rough teenage years of depression and substance abuse. I felt lost and alone. I felt as though I was disappearing down a black hole.
One important part of my life that kept me going was my dedication to working out and fitness. I had done every kind of workout invented, but one thing that I truly enjoyed was a good yoga class. I had been a yoga practitioner for over 35 years and I sought out yoga classes wherever I traveled. I found a yoga class that I enjoyed tremendously at the local gym in Bethesda. I adored the teacher and would go every Sunday with dedication (Heather, the instructor, helped me get started as a yoga instructor and is now one of my best friends). At one of my lowest points, I went on a Sunday at 11am to take Heather's yoga class and something magical happened. After perhaps 2 minutes into Heather's class I fell into a state of bliss that lasted the entire class. I remember nothing about the details of the class, the time that passed, or what postures or movements we were practicing. I was in a state of rapture and at the end of class when I came back to reality, I felt a shift happen within me that would end up affecting the rest of my life. I had been given a glimpse into what true joy and peace was (what I now know as the state of Samadhi) and I wanted more!
I decided to become a yoga instructor in 2009. I wanted to learn the traditional practice of Yoga given to our world by the ancient sages of India. I searched for several months online to find the right fit with no luck. During this time I took other workshops and studied on my own. I began to teach a class or two around the area, including co-teaching with Heather at Washington Sport and Health Club. She was so gracious to allow me to do this and I'm forever grateful.
I tried to move on with my life, but something was gnawing at me deep inside to continue my search of the right place to study and get my certification in Hatha Yoga. With determination, I finally came across an organization online called Sivananda Yoga Organization.
It was an Indian-based organization, but there were centers and ashrams all over the world. I was directed to a center in Northern California. I called and asked all kinds of questions and was convinced that even though they were located in Grass Valley, California, they were truly an offshoot of the Indian organization and their teacher training programs were the true Hatha Yoga instruction that I wanted so much to study. In 2010 I received my 200 hour certification as a Siromani Yoga Instructor after 1 full month staying in this magical place. Since then I have studied with many different teachers and I've returned to Sivananda Grass Valley to receive my 500 hour certification as a Yoga Acharya, or Yoga Master.
I have also received a certification in Thai Massage with Kam Tai Chow at Sivananda Yoga Retreat in the Bahamas. I'm a member of Yoga Alliance. I've studied under many well known yoga instructors including Shiva Rea, Baron Baptiste, Beth Shaw and Micheline Berry and learned various techniques including yin yoga, vinyasa flow, ashtanga yoga, wall yoga and alignment yoga- but I always come back to the traditional practice of Hatha yoga. It feels like home.
I've taught in many different capacities including large gyms, small studios, with cancer patients at Loudoun INOVA Hospital, and at a chiropractic clinic teaching for several years as a yoga therapist. I now teach gentle Hatha yoga in my home studio in Leesburg, Virginia and will soon be reaching out to a global audience with my online courses. My teachings are focused on a more traditional asana practice of movement and rest, alignment, core strength, and meditation, creating a holistic mind, body spirit approach. My classes are for all people, making yoga available to all ages and in all conditions of health. In my classes I teach my students acceptance of where they are at that moment to avoid injury while gaining strength, flexibility and a deeper understanding of the breath. With gentle and clear instruction, my classes are manageable and safe for everyone. They are also fun!
My wish is to bring the healing gift of yoga to all people at all levels, not only to improve physical health, but to find focus, true peace and balance in our bodies, in our hearts, in how we stand in the world. The deeper meaning of yoga is union, which to me means to remove the false feelings of separation and isolation we all feel and help to create union and community between people of all backgrounds. This is my goal- to bring people together through this practice that for thousands of years has provided practical tools to find health, happiness and peace in our lives. Yoga is a gift to humanity and I am determined to spread the word that yoga is for everyone!!
My deepest hope is that we find true and lasting peace in this precious world and may the practice of yoga help us towards that goal.
With love and light,