Student Spotlight: Rachel Regenold

I would have scoffed if you had told me I’d one day enjoy practicing yoga via on-demand video. For me, a big part of the practice of yoga was about going to the studio, setting up my mat and props, and lying back in constructive rest to settle in before a class.

I first started practicing yoga in the Des Moines area in 2011, when I was looking for a new way to exercise in addition to walking my dogs. I showed up to my first class in shorts and running shoes, which shows you how little I knew about yoga! I’d tried several activities over the years that I fell in love with but then quickly lost interest—aerobics, kickboxing, and running, for example. Yoga is the only thing that has stuck.

My yoga journey began at R Studio with Beth Damm and Julie Rice when I purchased a Groupon for 30 days of yoga. I got hooked! I fell in love with yoga because it got me out of my head and taught me how to truly relax while also challenging me to stick with it through the hard poses. I hated plank pose and renamed it “strength pose” to change my mindset.

When R Studio closed, I started practicing at Radiant Om Yoga with Robin Bourjaily. Meanwhile, I started attending teacher training with Sandy Eimers at Balance Yoga Lounge in 2014. I loved yoga so much that I wanted to teach it to others. I was also becoming increasingly burnt out in my job as an attorney at the public defender office.

At the end of 2015, I quit my job and left the practice of law to teach yoga and attend massage school. I craved something different than the law and was fascinated by the human body, wellness practices, and healing. Attending trauma-sensitive yoga training in 2016 led me to teach that type of yoga at the VA Hospital for veterans in treatment for PTSD and substance abuse. It allowed me to give back to my fellow veterans in a way I felt good about. As a public defender, I’d represented veterans who came back from war only to get enmeshed in the legal system when they weren’t coping well. One veteran told me at the end of class that he was going to get medication for his anxiety. Instead, he came to my class and couldn’t believe how much better he felt.

After Radiant Om Yoga closed in 2016, I was “yoga homeless,” as I liked to call it, for a number of years . I taught in various places—a yoga studio, a corporate setting, and the VA—but didn’t have a yoga studio that I called home for my own practice. I continued practicing at home, but it wasn’t the same as showing up to my mat in a studio.

Slowly, I made my way back to the law. After a year and a half of running my own yoga and massage business, I began advising other health and wellness business owners on the law and teaching law to paralegal students. I was also educating legal professionals about burnout and compassion fatigue. Using what I’d learned as a yoga teacher and massage therapist, I helped them understand how to better care for themselves.

Even before the pandemic began shutting everything down in 2020, I knew things were going to change for me again. I was ready to resume full-time work instead of the demands of running my own business and teaching. By the end of the year, I had returned to my former job as a public defender, representing indigent criminal defendants on appeal. I had sorely missed advocating for the rights of others.

The following year, when Mary McCarthy announced that she would have an online library of her yoga classes, I paid attention. I couldn’t attend most of her livestream classes because I was working, and the studio I’d started attending early in 2021 had closed. Rather than trying out yet another studio in uncertain times, I decided to give Mary’s Lotus Library a try because I love her teaching. She combines all the elements of yoga that I value—anatomical knowledge, as well as meditation and breathwork. Mary also does a beautiful job of providing variety in her classes, not to mention compassion and humor.

I was surprised to learn that I enjoy her strength classes as well. I feel so good about myself after Mary challenges me for 30 minutes. My cat, Aslan, and golden retriever, Cooper, also like to challenge me by spreading out on the mat or floor as I practice with Mary.

I like the freedom of being able to practice whenever I want by just unrolling an old yoga mat (that has a lot of pet hair woven in) on the floor of my home office.  I don’t have to worry

about being on time or if my yoga pants are covered in pet hair. I can choose the style of class or a particular part of the body to focus on by using the search tools in the Lotus Library.

One of my favorite things to do the night before I argue a case to the Iowa Supreme Court or Court of Appeals is to practice with Mary. It allows me to  just be in my body and forget the legal issues jostling in my brain. I also use breathwork to bring myself to a calm, responsive state before oral argument, so I can do the best possible job for my clients.

Yoga has been an integral part of my journey for over a decade. It has helped me become aware of my body, challenge myself, and heal. It led me to become a teacher and then to happily return to being a student once more.