Loudoun yoga instructor gets national award for community leadership

By Caitlin Gibson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, December 8, 2010; 8:57 PM

Sixteen women knelt on the bamboo floor inside the warm studio at Inner Power Yoga in Sterling, their faces down and arms stretched. Morning sun streamed through the windows into the large room, which filled with the sounds of deep breathing and the melodic voice of Ursula Cox, the petite instructor, who circled slowly among her students. She placed her hands gently on arms and knees, correcting posture and softly offering encouragement.

"Breathe very deeply," she said to the group, "especially if you feel your life is too hectic and you are looking for stillness."

Cox, 42, opened the studio a year ago, but her impact on the community has already been recognized: On Nov. 28, several teachers at Cox's studio presented her with a 2010 Community Leadership Award from the President's Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition, an annual award given to those who improve the lives of people in their community through sports, physical activity, fitness or nutrition. Cox is one of 28 recipients of the national award this year.

She was nominated for the award by Jessica Howard, 42, one of the teachers at the studio. She took her first yoga classes with Cox several years ago.

"She has created this amazing place, and with a lot of effortlessness and grace, she has established it in the community," Howard said.

The studio offers classes for all levels of students, from beginners to experienced practitioners, and goes a step beyond in an effort to reach all parts of the community, Cox said.

"We also have a special class and a discounted rate for teachers," she said, adding that her sons - ages 10 and 12 - are in the Loudoun County public school system. "That class is at 4 p.m., so it's convenient for them, and it focuses on stress release."

Cox also offers children's yoga, yoga teacher training sessions and donation-based community classes for people who can't afford regular classes, she said.

Cox is especially good with beginners, Howard said.

"She sees in you that you have the ability and she just keeps nudging. She's like the best teacher you had in elementary school, with that gift to gently push you to do more, and you always leave feeling better about yourself," she said.

Cox, a native of Budapest, moved to Potomac Falls in 2001 with her husband and sons. She taught yoga in Tysons Corner for two years, developing a loyal following of students, before her husband's U.S. Foreign Service job moved the family to Frankfurt, Germany.

"It was so hard to tell my students that I had to go," Cox said.

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