"Teaching yoga is just pure pleasure."

Deborah R. Cohen '91, ED.M '92 -- Yoga Instructor -- Cambridge

Deborah Cohen views her job, in large part, as front-line preventative care. "A lot of the ailments that take people to the doctor's office are stress-related—life puts us off balance, and we often somatize our mental and emotional stress," she says. "A yoga class is almost like a tune-up. It makes us more conscious of our bodies so we can give our minds and bodies what they need to stay balanced."

Having trained and worked as an English teacher for years, Cohen pushed that all aside in 2001 to teach yoga full-time, using her connections at Harvard to gain clients, such as the University's Center for Wellness and Health Communication, the women's tennis team (for which she played throughout her undergraduate years), and various University offices. Through her business, Core Yoga (www.coreyoga.com), she also runs a 200-hour teacher training workshop and customized individual yoga classes, and visits clients in their homes, with a special focus on athletes. "I teach about 15 sessions a week, have weekends free, and I am absolutely in charge of my own schedule," she reports. "That leaves time for my own yoga studies, workshops, playing the guitar, tennis, and seeing my family."

As an undergraduate, Cohen was an English concentrator, and taught tennis during the summers. Thinking it would be a good way to balance a career and family life, she earned the degree in education. But English and literature turned out not to be sustaining enough, and teaching them was stressful.

Cohen pursued yoga when she was chair of the English department at the Dwight School in Manhattan. "I had difficulty keeping my mind focused on what I was doing," she reports. "Even if I was playing tennis after school, I was thinking about papers that had to be graded, or laundry to be done. When I took a yoga class, it was the first time my mind slowed down and I felt present in the moment, right there in my body. It felt great."

"Teaching yoga," Cohen says, "is just pure pleasure"—and financially viable, if your lifestyle is not extravagant. Even so, she soon faces the need to obtain her own health insurance, which could lead to taking a part-time job and teaching yoga on the side. "I've had to weigh probably making more money teaching high-school English, especially in New York City, than I would make in teaching yoga," the 34-year-old concedes. "But the bottom line is, how much is my health, my own well-being, and my enjoyment of what I do every day worth? And I have a sense that I am really helping people. People say yoga has changed their lives. And I know it changed mine."

         

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