A Little Time and a Keyboard: Interview with Laura Kowalski Kids' Yoga Instructor and Founder of Hop Along Yogi

Interview with Laura Kowalski Kids' Yoga Instructor and Founder of Hop Along Yogi

Monday, August 24, 2020

Interview with Laura Kowalski Yoga Instructor and Owner of Hop Along Yogi

Meet Laura Kowalski Founder and Kids' Yoga Instructor of Hop Along Yogi

When Covid stay-at-home orders started emerging across the country, a local artist friend told me that this would be a time of incredible creativity. Quickly, I witnessed many new and inspiring ideas flourish. I, too, found myself in a huge bubble of imagination and innovation. During these times, many of us creative entrepreneurs gravitated towards each other. Recently, I met Laura Kowalski who is an entrepreneurial Chicago suburban mom that will certainly inspire you.

Laura initially practiced yoga as method to stay grounded. Eventually, she seized the opportunity to become a certified kids yoga instructor partly to have something fun to do with her kids. Last December, she began her journey as a stay-at-home mom to better support her children including her youngest daughter, Ellie, who was born deaf. As Covid closures began, Laura quickly realized the impact of how disconnected we were becoming. So, she launched Hop Along Yogi to help parents savor connection with their kids as well as to provide an outlet for kids to be interactive and have moments of connection with a yoga teacher. I am so happy to share Laura's impactful journey to creating Hop Along Yogi and how you can learn both about her "live-online" and socially distant kids' yoga classes here in Arlington Heights. Take a moment to meet Laura Kowalski and Hop Along Yogi: 

How did you begin your yoga journey?

Being a mom of two beautiful daughters under the age of 3, my list of hobbies fell by the wayside with working full-time and trying to care of my little ones. I always practiced yoga as a way to keep myself balanced - physically and mentally - so when a friend of mine mentioned how she became a certified kids yoga instructor, I jumped at the opportunity to take a training of my own. I became a certified Rainbow Yoga instructor, mostly as an enriching hobby and something fun to do with my girls. Little did I know that it would become a business for me.

Laura Kowalski with her family Iced Tea Photography
Laura Kowalski with her family Iced Tea Photography

After working for years in Advertising and PR, what inspired you to embark on a new business sharing the world of yoga with children and families?

My second daughter Ellie was born deaf and as you can imagine it came as quite a shock and surprise to us. For me, working 50 hours a week wasn’t going to set her up for success the way that I wanted to. I resigned from my full- time position in December 2019, then Covid hit in March. I was a newly minted stay-at-home-mom craving a bit of routine and way to connect with my kids. I knew other  parents were looking for the same so I started offering free/pay-what-you-can yoga classes online. I sort of followed the “if you build it, they will come” philosophy and decided to create my own company, Hop Along Yogi Kids Yoga. Each week since March, I’ve been doing live-online classes every Saturday at 9AM. In September, I’m expanding to Yoga in the Park and I’ve been teaching on the Outschool platform as well.

How has the time of Covid in particular inspired you and how do you help families navigate these interesting times?

Covid is a really hard time for everyone. The parents who are burning the candle at both ends- working, teaching their kids, caring for their kids. The children who have been removed from school, have had playdates and sports canceled. All of this is very difficult to process. What I tried to do with Hop Along Yogi is give both parents and kids a way to connect. So during an unprecedented time with so many unknowns you can count on a weekly yoga class for some stability and routine. The fact that the class is live-online provides a safe environment for everybody. I have classes with no set fee, knowing some families were financially impacted by Covid, and I try to teach in a style that offers some engagement and interaction with the kids, knowing how important it is to build a sense of community and give them an opportunity to talk to a teacher, albeit online, but they can still share and connect.

Laura Kowalski began practicing yoga as a method to feel more balanced.
Laura Kowalski began practicing yoga as a method to feel more balanced.
 Image credit Laura Kowalski

How did you create the name for your company, Hop Along Yogi?

There was a song called “Hop Along Yogi” that always stuck with me and since it’s a kids yoga company, I always thought of the kids with their boundless energy and growth hopping from one milestone to the next.

What do you hope for children and families to gain from your lessons?

Movement and mindfulness are so important especially right now. Knowing that so many things are happening virtually, I wanted to create a class where kids can burn off some energy in a healthy way. The mindfulness exercises and breathing techniques we practice can hopefully help manage some big emotions that kids are dealing with during this time.

Laura Kowalski teaching a live-online kids yoga class with a dinosaur theme.
Laura Kowalski teaching a live-online kids yoga class with a dinosaur theme. Image credit Laura Kowalski.

Do you have a favorite pose?

Right now, I find myself naturally standing in tree pose a lot. It’s a grounding pose that promotes balance so maybe that says a lot about where I’m at in my life right now. 

Is there a fan favorite pose among your students?

I can’t think of a pose, but I have a PJ Masks class that has been a HUGE hit.

Laura Kowalski of Hop Along Yogi teaching an online kids' yoga class.
Laura Kowalski of Hop Along Yogi teaching an online kids' yoga class. Image credit Laura Kowalski.

How do you make online yoga classes more interactive?

I theme all of my classes because I think that makes it fun for the kids and virtually I can do things like change the background to an outer space setting when we’re doing Space Yoga or a beach when we’re doing Beach Yoga. I also think of my classes as “live-online” versus virtual. There are some amazing yoga videos on YouTube, but they’re prerecorded so they can’t call out your kids name or chat with them before, during, or after class. These are small gestures but go a long way in creating connection and community which is what yoga is all about and something that I think kids need especially right now. I also try to incorporate music and props geared toward the theme to keep the class varied and

Laura Kowalski and her children practice family yoga.
Laura Kowalski and her children practice family yoga. Image credit Laura Kowalski.

What are your current offerings?

Every Saturday at 9am I have a live-online class. Every Saturday at 10am I am doing Yoga In the Park. I’m teaching live-online classes every Tuesday at 8am and 6pm on Outschool. You can register for any and all classes via my website www.hopalongyogi.com and follow me on Facebook/Instagram for any updates @hopalongyogi.

Where is a place that you find peace?

Honestly, going back to my tree pose answer I feel most at peace among the trees. I’ve experienced so much change in my life in the past two years and being stuck inside for so long, the outdoors have become a safe place to escape for me. Surrounding myself in nature, helps me feel strong, grounded and balanced.

Thank you so much to Laura Kowalski for introducing us to Hop Along Yogi! Thank you so much for providing an option for families to enjoy balance for mind, body and spirit as well as connection!

**Disclosure: No compensation was received for this post. All opinions are 100% my own.

Interview with Laura Kowalski Yoga Instructor and Founder of Hop Along Yogi in Arlington Heights, IL

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