Religious Life Leader Profiles: Nina Laubauch
In this digital age where life is fast-paced and people seem less at peace, Lawrenceville’s Leader for Yoga and Meditation Nina Laubach sees great value in the practices of yoga and meditation.
In this digital age where life is fast-paced and people seem less at peace, Lawrenceville’s Leader for Yoga and Meditation Nina Laubach sees great value in the practices of yoga and meditation. She enjoys helping her students develop mindfulness and regularly engages in contemplative dialogue in the Catholic tradition herself.
Presently, Laubach’s work at Lawrenceville is supported by the Office of Religious Life; the Dean of Students’ Office, which oversees the Explorations offerings; and the Office of Human Resources, which enables her to instruct faculty and staff. A former resident in the Lawrenceville community, Laubach had her first experience with yoga while attending lessons in the basement of the Kirby Arts Center 20 years ago. She has since developed a personal connection with yoga, highlighting how it has equipped her with the awareness to become more present in daily life. Laubach also noted how yoga complemented her Catholic faith by enabling her to cultivate the interior silence needed for prayer and devotion.
Laubach returned to Lawrenceville in 2017 and found her new role as a yoga teacher. She explained that she came to love teaching after leading a 200-hour yoga teacher training and certification program. Laubach has become increasingly involved with the Explorations program, a relatively recent phenomenon on campus aimed at encouraging more hands-on religious, cultural, and contemplative experiences. She now teaches Brain Rest and Stillness (Thursdays at 7:00 PM) and Sunday Evening Yoga for Every Body (Sundays at 6:30 PM for students and 7:30 PM for faculty).
Formerly a structural engineer, Laubach sees many parallels between her previous and current job. “I worked in consulting for almost a decade, and people often say it’s quite a stretch to go from engineering to yoga teaching. However, I don’t necessarily think there’s that much of a difference…When it comes to buildings, a strong, solid foundation is crucial. Elaborately designed buildings without strong foundations are unlikely to hold out for long. The same holds true in yoga practice…[Yoga] teaches us what it means to have a strong foundation and [to] be well in our bodies,” Laubach said. “I also love anatomy, and I think the body is remarkable, just like buildings. It’s amazing how all our muscles and bodies work in tandem to create a balance, just like how we work with gravity in construction…I would say my experience working with structures has deepened my understanding about yoga,” Laubach added.
As she went on to discuss her new role in detail, Laubach also emphasized the relevance of yoga and meditation in the context of today’s hectic world. She elaborated, “One of my most important goals is to develop a heightened sense of awareness. I think we live in a great time, where people are more committed to taking care of their bodies…The challenge is time. It is hard when we have such full schedules here, but I believe it is possible when students are given the necessary tools.” Laubach hopes that yoga and meditation, along with other Explorations, will help students come to stillness amidst their daily activity. She is also positive that the Lawrenceville community together can overcome the idea that yoga and meditation are a luxury.
“I just want my…classes to give [people] a chance to find their own nourishment…For me, the number one benefit [of yoga and meditation] is that they calm the nervous system…The truth is that our minds are always attending something…With yoga and meditation, you start by locating where your minds are and then work from there…That way, we can become more present to each other,” she said.
Her job, however, is not without its challenges. Laubach described the many frustrations her students often have and offered advice on how to develop our own meditation practice. In particular, she stressed the importance of maintaining a positive attitude throughout practicing meditation: “With meditation, people tend to say they can never sit still or that their mind is too full. But I think those are fantastic things to start with. You have a lot to work with, and you know where you have to begin…The goal here is to have an awareness, and to do that, sometimes we just have to sit for ten seconds, and perhaps start again the next day. It really takes an open mind to be able to see it that way.”
For yoga, Labauch commented that a similar approach applies, “When it comes to yoga, people often say they are either ‘too old,’ ‘too stiff,’ or ‘too fat,’ but I think that’s missing the point because yoga is actually a lifetime practice of awareness…It all starts with an acceptance of who you are. It also helps to think that we have a lifetime, and we can always begin again.”
Laubach had a word of advice for those considering yoga and meditation. “Don’t wait [until] the end of the term to come to class. This is because to make yoga become a part of the fabric of your schedule, there’s an element of commitment and discipline behind it, and that takes regular practice,” she said. “Just be curious and open-minded. Explore. You can go to one class and just decide whether you like it or not…It’s perfectly fine, too, to come to my yoga class one day, and then meditate in a chapel on the next.”
Laubach left us with a quote from Pico Iyer, a distinguished American essayist: “In an age of constant movement, nothing is so urgent as sitting still.”