Yoga.  Mindfulness.  Healing Justice.

photo by: Natalie Cartz

“As swimmers dare to lie face to the sky and water bears them, as hawks rest upon air and air sustains them, so I would learn to attain freefall and float into Creator Spirit’s deep embrace, knowing no effort earns that all surrounding grace.”

- Denise Levertov

Loretta's Bio

photo by: Natalie Cartz

Loretta_Pyles_BioPhotoLoretta came to the practice of meditation in 1999 after leaving a difficult long-term relationship and becoming burnt out from her work in the advocacy and social welfare fields.  She found herself anxious, grief-ridden and disconnected from her body, mind and spirit.  Over the years, she has committed herself to a journey toward wholeness, presence and compassion.  The realizations that she later found in yoga deepened her ability to understand the ways in which oppression and undigested experiences rest in the mind-body continuum.  To release such blocks and to experience life more fully, she practices a range of techniques including breath work, physical poses, meditation, mantra, devotional chanting and self-inquiry.

Loretta began her transformational journey in the Kwan Um School of Zen, a Korean Zen Buddhist meditation tradition, followed by studies of other Buddhist meditation practices, including vipassana and dzogchen.  She completed hatha yoga teacher training with Lauren Toolin at Heartspace Yoga and Healing Arts in Albany, New York and completed her 500-hour yoga training at Kripalu School of Yoga in Stockbridge, Massachusetts.  She has assisted at the Kripalu 200-hour yoga teacher training, as well. Her ongoing studies of tantra, ayurveda and mindfulness infuse a richness into her work.

Loretta’s sensibility about transformative social change was formed during her time working in a women's collective at a community-based domestic violence program in Lawrence, Kansas.  She continues to be inspired by the insights of collective and consensus building that come from feminist and other social movements, as well as practices such as conscious, non-violent communication.

Loretta received her B.A. in philosophy and sociology from Baker University, an M.A. in philosophy from the University of Kansas and a Ph.D. in social work from the University of Kansas. Formerly on the faculty at Tulane University School of Social Work in New Orleans, Louisiana, Loretta is currently Associate Professor in the School of Social Welfare and a faculty affiliate in the Department of Women’s Studies at the State University of New York at Albany.  She was Director of UAlbany’s Community and Public Service Program from 2008-2012. The National Science Foundation has funded her research on human capabilities, community participation and disaster recovery.  Loretta's social change work has taken her across the globe including to Haiti, Mongolia and Indonesia.

Loretta’s courses at the university include: Community Building; Macro Practice; Policy and Practice of International Development; and Yoga, Mindfulness and Social Work. In her book, Progressive Community Organizing: Reflective Practice in a Globalizing World (2nd ed., 2013, Routledge), she introduces an innovative transformative organizing framework, which affirms critical and compassionate inquiry into self and society. Her book (co-edited with Gwendolyn Adam) Holistic Engagement: Transformative Social Work Education fin the 21st Century (2016, Oxford University Press) offers educators a framework and methods for using the whole self to teach to the whole self.  She has published over 40 scholarly articles and book chapters. You can learn more by checking out her curriculum vitae.

Loretta lives in upstate New York with her husband, Ted Mehl. They like to cook and eat vegan food, wander in the woods, and watch KU basketball.

Student Quotes:
  • “Loretta’s passion for the topic was inspiring.”

  • “Loretta has a very open and engaging teaching style.”

  • “Loretta provided a safe environment for people to stretch out of their comfort zone and connect with themselves, their bodies and other women.”