Wednesday, December 28, 2011

What did you learn?




Asana is like an ocean - you have to immerse yourself in it completely and explore its bottomless depths. Any asana can take you to a state of yoga. But if you just remain on the surface, your experience of yoga will remain limited. It will only be physical exercise. -
Sharath Ji

Coming home is always interesting. The flood of questions never cease. Me, I'm quiet. When we turn inward we tend to talk less, eat less, need less. Content to be, yet committed to my work in a world of turbulence and in a city of sleepless souls, I float like a ghost, alien to it all. I imagine it's similar to the experience of a diver emerging, feeling the affects of change in pressure. We've been diving deep here.

To build on Sharath's beautiful analogy, sometimes you step into the water and and you just don't know how deep it is. I remember clearly when I visited Montauk this summer how one moment I was standing waves up to my waist and then the ground was gone. Yoga can be like that. Most people have no idea of the depth when they first stick their toes in. The water is cloudy and mysterious. But as it starts to settle, more layers are revealed.

We approach yoga from the physical standpoint because yoga is a state to be experienced. Though it can be discussed and analyzed, ultimately it is felt. So, you come in and you start to move your body and match those movements to your breath. Perhaps over time you feel a little lighter, more flexible, stronger. Maybe you start noticing some other changes as well, temperament, sleeping, eating, cravings, desires, more awareness of choice in action. For some people courage increases and will power also builds.

One day you may have a feeling of nothingness in an asana when eyes are steady on dristhi and ears on breath. Then deeper questions may arise.

For each practitioner the experience is unique. Some will dive in very fast, but may race back up for air when they see how bottomless it is. Better to practice as Guruji always advised, "slowly, slowly, all is coming". When you are ready the right question comes bubbling up to the surface and the appropriate answer is there in the book you happen to be holding, or out of the mouth of your teacher or sitting inside your heart where it's always been, just waiting.

I've been diving deep here, but the deeper I go the more I feel the vastness of my landscape, the bottomlessness of this ocean. I will not be able to tell you I now know yoga, just like I couldn't return from Montauk and tell you I know the the ocean. And it will not be too helpful for me to recite to you what I learned, just like a simple recounting of the sand, shells, and water wouldn't give you more than an outline of the beach. Rather, I will take you out into the water and I will show you where to go and when you are ready I will guide you deeper and you won't ask, "what did you learn?" You will feel it for yourself.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Downward Defenses




Sick in India, as you can imagine, is not too much fun. And this weekend it hit me. The whole body aching, nose running, cold, flu thing. I tried to stomp it when I felt it coming, but when you are practicing mat to mat and the bug is in the shala, that bug is coming for you strong.

Luckily Saturday is our rest day. No class. But what about Sunday? Sunday is led intermediate, probably the hardest class of the week. I woke up and I was not feeling too hot. Should I practice? The body was barely up, yet the mind was already jumping like a monkey with its excuses and justifications.

It is in these moments that the value of the habit of daily practice is so recognizable. In fact, yoga practitioners are notoriously disciplined especially in their morning routine. Each morning when the alarm goes off I sit up. No Snooze! I give thanks for the new day so full of potential. I turn on the geyser which heats my bath water, and go prepare the coffee. (Yes, my guru was more than fine with coffee.) Drink the coffee. Take the bath. Yoga clothes on. Chanting. Sitting practice. Maybe some writing, and off I go.

Routine can be very powerful, especially in freeing the mind. See, the monkey mind is stuck kicking and screaming and having its predictable tantrum, but yoga has made the master mind strong. The monkey mind will say anything to get us back into bed, so the master mind has to be very smart. The master mind says, "Don't worry, of course I'll let you go back to bed if that's what you really need, just go turn on the geyser in case." The monkey mind screams, "Your head feels like a ton of bricks. You're sick. Get back in bed!" But the master mind says, "Maybe you're just tired. Go fix the coffee. You love coffee. You can always drink it back in bed."

Well, once I had my coffee and my hot bath I did feel a good deal better. I did the fever test (You shouldn't practice with a fever.) and I didn't think I had one. I could breath through my nose and I was already caffeinated, washed and dressed, so I guessed I should go. I'm not going to lie; I didn't feel too well as I headed over. My body felt weak and I was getting out of breath very easily. My monkey mind said, "How are you going to practice when you can even walk without getting out of breath?!"

My master mind said, "If you have to stop, you'll stop." "Plus, you know what's going to happen, right? You are going to have an annoyingly good practice."

And I knew that that was the truth.

Annoying because of course we don't want to be sick, and we don't want to admit that the trying so hard we do when we are well is actually what often gets in our way. My teacher always says how some of the best practices are on those days when you barely made it to the mat. And I agree. On days like today, when the body is a little bit tired and a little bit sick, it simply can not hold any tension which is not completely necessary. Because of this we float in and out of poses with ease. All defenses gone, we just are. And that is yoga.

On a side note, later today, our teacher asked us if we want a day off for Christmas and nearly everyone preferred to practice (except those with kids, fair enough!). AND when he was asked if maybe he wanted a day off (which, with the shala packed from 4:30am-11:30am and evening classes and a family, would not have been unreasonable) he laughed and said he'd rest when he was gone. Surrounded with that kind of commitment, who is going to call out sick!

Friday, December 9, 2011

That f*ing bird ate that worm!



India. Many of us come to here to "find ourselves", discover truth, deepen our spiritual practice. In India, land of sensory overload, we strive to look inward and find stillness amongst the chaos. How?

Have you ever traveled to a foreign place where nobody knows you? When you go somewhere outside your zone and where you are surrounded by strangers, you have a real chance to experience yourself. Without the preconceived notions and role expectations that solidify us into one version of ourselves, we could be anybody. Perhaps it is that we don't know who we are, but only the outer layers of who we have become.

This week our teacher reminded us of the importance of remaining in and relishing the unknown. The moment we think we know is the moment we cease being students and can learn no more. What an infinitely greater choice, then, to remain curious, seeking deeper and deeper levels of understanding.

To understand, we must try to observe ourselves from a place of neutrality. We don't say to ourselves, "That f*ing bird ate that worm. What an ass!", so why do we apply that harmful judge and jury voice to ourselves and loved ones? Just watch and ask questions. Be as a child. Try observing someone or something easy to be open to at first, and move toward those who are harder to understand as your ability to observe in neutrality grows.

Recognize, that learning how to observe without reprimand does not mean you have condoned any action. You are building a skill. By remaining curious of the world around you, you will strengthen your relationships, peel away layers, and see what moves those around you to act. Eventually you will be able to turn inward and discover your own true nature.

As we enter holiday season with all it's fluctuating energy, take a look and simply ask, "who am I?" Am I daughter, husband, father? Am I playing a role or writing the play? We can't have all the answers. We must not or the joy of being a student of the world is lost. But we must ask the questions, dive into the darkness, live in unknown.

With the greatest gratitude to my teacher. -L

(Pictures from India HERE)












Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Place



I just got out of my shower, I mean bucket bath, I mean moment of sticking my head under the faucet. Geoff's got his laundry in the bucket so there was no where to collect the water. I like this method anyway, for a good hair wash. Sat straight on the floor of the shower which is also the bathroom. I stuck my head under and wash wash wash. It's true what my dad posted on facebook, I have a real toilet. This hasn't always been the case and is plenty to get excited about. Unlike some of the other yogis, I do not get all ecstatic about an opportunity to practice my squatting over a hole in the floor.

Geoff's my roommate. We share a 1950's style room with twin beds separated by nightstands. Goodnight honey. Goodnight. Careful now, not to injure yourself on the rock hard bed. Our other housemates share a room as well. They have their own bathroom which received a water heating system after some demands by Geoff. Our 'man of the house' also managed to get us a new system so we no longer have to unplug the fridge every time we want to use the water filter to get some drinking water. Amazing.

Our "stove" is a small tank of gasoline with a burner on top which I am no longer allowed to use after nearly burning the house down. That's okay, because I can hardly get into the house anyway, with its medieval style locks and three separate keys. Thank goodness for my roommate/coffee wallah who I am going to owe a lot of Mysore Pak to after all the coffee making and scooter rides to the shala which is not so close this year.

But, the bright sides are many. Internet. Awesome! And a swing seat outside perfect for early mornings. And it's pretty quiet in here which is a very rare and special treat for a Mysore apartment. The price is right too, just over 6,000 rupees for the month, which is about $125. You can't really argue with that. And there are lots of lines to hang our clothes on. And a landlord who is eager to help without being too invasive.

And most of all it's here, in beautiful magical India which despite all its absolute craziness and upside downness, somehow flips you upright just the same. Everything is in your face here. There is nowhere to hide and so you address what is in front of you and what is inside of you with honesty and integrity and you heal and you charge and you bring it back. Ultimately it's not about what you do when you are here, but how that translates to the life you lead when you are not here and the people you impact. India is not a place, but a vehicle and she will certainly take you for a ride.


Sunday, November 27, 2011

You've come a long way baby


I want to write to you through eyes that have never been. In some ways I feel like that. A year and a half has passed and in a place as mysterious and changing as India, everything is new daily. So here I am.

Some things change. Some stay the same. Still there is the Indian man, "You come to know yoga. You can't be knowing yoga." "Okay," I say. Smile. Smile. Move on.

But the changes... Well trip Number One, the shots: Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, Tetanus, Tuberculosis?, etc, etc. The malaria pills that made me woozy and dreaming. The never ending flight that stopped in Bangladesh unexpectedly. (Were we even allowed to be there?) And the toilets that were holes in floors. The OLD Bangalore airport.

Covered head to toe in sweats and scarves except for carefully bought sandals creeping out. Carrying all that luggage a backpack across front and back. Trying to hike bottoms of pants up from dragging on wet bathroom tiles. Hike top of pants down. Squatting into holes in floors.

Not anymore.

And no more flying AIR INDIA, queen of missed transfers and crying babies. I'm in Emirates now. Leg room. Warm wet towels and only, well, ok, still a couple of cries. BUT, movie options in English, Yeah! and all that leg room.

Still, here I am at 3AM standing at the conveyor watching waiting the luggage going round and round. I should have looked more closely at my suitcase. Which one is it? And a three hour drive ahead, if I find the driver. He'll blow into Mysore this time of night speeding and stopping with no regard for a westerner's fears. Lucky I'm used to it.

There is nothing like it, you know, shooting through the Middle East, then Asia, to remind you how many people there are doing their jobs, living their lives.

First steps outside. The same sensation as always. Instantly the smell. The smell mixed in the air. Thick wet incense smelling air. How can an entire country smell of a burning stick? Wet. wet and thick like Puerto Rico. Florida. But it's not rainy season so I comment to my driver. "Oh," he says, "you knowing India".

Two suitcases I brought this time. It's my Sixth trip and I don't feel like suffering. I want my things with me and to avoid as much as possible the washing of yoga clothes as I take my bath and the wearing again and again of same shirts.

He puts my small suitcase in the tiny trunk and the larger suitcase he hauls into the back seat. I'm confused when he encourages me to sit front side. I never got upfront before. Not on a ride like this. They usually put your suitcase upright in the back seat if the trunk is full. Uhhhhh.... I hesitate but ultimately get in the front. (I hope this guy can drive.) And big shocker, the seat belt is broken. (I really hope this guy can drive.)

And it's raining and someone tell me why they've tinted out the top AND bottom of the windshield so you can only see out through this tiny strip of clear glass in the center. I look for Ganesha, remover of obstacles. Indians always have little miniature idols on their dashboards and front mirrors. I've even heard of wives blessing cars for their husband drivers. No Ganesh here though, just a mini Buddha, and one small doll hanging from the mirror. I ask what it is. He says it's a doll. A gift. Looks like a pink poodle. Never wanted Ganesha so badly.

New eyes. New eyes. What do I see? Where in New York we would have graffiti on those blank city walls, here they have movie posters. The one famous male star with his predictable mustache and the curvy letters of the local language, Kannada. Coconut trees. Coffee Day, the Starbucks of south India. Christmas lights hung in the shape of G-ds. Lots of store gates painted bright blue. You know Slumdog Millionaire? It looks like that.

When a car backs up it plays cheesy Indian music that reminds me of the sound of the doorbell would make at my childhood Greek neighbor's house where, like here they would cover the couches in plastic and display nick nacks proudly on special shelves where they'd be dusted daily.

A lot of buses. On one road will be a bus, a car, a truck, a rickshaw, a scooter, a bicycle, people walking and animals trotting right down the middle. Loudest horn wins. Passing is a science here: get as close as you can to the vehicle in front of you and beep your horn. Sometimes as you're passing the car in front of you, you're going into incoming traffic. The game of Chicken is the status quo.

Gas is petrol. Vegetarian is Veg or Pure Veg. Ask for some one's Good Name when you ask for their name. Use your Right hand for eating, shaking and giving money. Left hand for anything dirty. And don't expect change. No one has it. You may get stale candy instead.

5AM is the 1st coffee stop by the side of the road. A lady mixes it out of pots, blending warm milk and sugar and straining it in the end. It comes in a tiny plastic cup like you get at the dentist for rinsing. And it's hot and sweet and perfect just like I remember it. Seems like all my memories of India come rising up as that first taste touches my lips: the yoga shala, my teacher, the friends I've made from all over the world and see only here.

It's been six years since I first stepped onto Indian ground, open eyed and eager with not a clue what was ahead. Five trips later with an authorization to teach and a yoga shala built, I return. The same but changed, just like She is.


Monday, November 7, 2011

FOR YOU





Land Yoga is not a studio.
It's a shala. Those of you who have practiced with us or have even just come in to say hello and see our space know that it is sacred and special. The intension has been made since the beginning to bring you the purest, truest yoga from the source. The mantra is "slowly by slowly" with a hope that our students will integrate yoga into their lives forever.

It is with that focus in mind that I endeavor on my SIXTH trip to India this December, where I will study with Sharath, the grandson of Sri K Pattabhi Jois, and the head of the Ashtanga community. Though I first found Ashtanga Yoga in 1998 and have studied intensely since 2002, I, like you, remain a student and crave the attention, warmth, love and energy of my dear teacher.

I leave you with two AMAZING Authorized Ashtanga Teachers, Michelle Kalyk and Christopher Hildebrandt who channel the practice through them which is what it is all about! And I will be skyping LIVE from INDIA every Friday evening for a special class and conference in the tradition of the shala there.

In honor of this trip, please join me for the first FULL LED PRIMARY class ever at Land Yoga on Saturday, November 19th at 11:15am. Just $20 to attend class AND get your ticket to the Mother Hale Learning Center Fundraiser and Bon Voyage party which will follow at 3pm and include food from Bad Horse Pizza and Red Rooster!!! RSVP Now!! We will sell out!

As Land Yoga approaches its 5 month anniversary, our purpose remains clear; we are here because of you and for you.

Shanti OM!

Lara


Thursday, July 28, 2011

Grand Opening Recap






To Harlem
To More Collaboration, deepening connections, peace with ourselves, family, community
To following dreams, visions, gut, truth, love
And to finding a place to finally Land

Over 250 of you came out last Saturday to celebrate Land Yoga's official opening and enjoy three hours of joyful collaboration. Here's what happened:

At 2PM we gathered around Priest Prakash and his fabulous little boy as they made blessings on our space, and prayed for our continued success. There was fire, ghee, flowers, fruit and lots of chanting. It was a beautiful ceremony.

We were barely done clean up and set up when the crowds started arriving. The room was dressed beautifully with orchids, plants, and candles by Franz James Floral and was accented with an awesome World Music playlist by DJ David Chang.

Big highlights were the gorgeous outdoor yoga demos by Dana and Jagadisa-devasri which drew crowds out on the sidewalk. This may have been overshadowed (only slightly!) by our Adventures in Yogaland Mini Camp yoginis, Abby, Ava, and Shoshana who showed off their yoga moves both inside and out on the street. They were fantastic!

Almost everyone left covered in Henna Tattoos drawn by the beauticians of the Cinderella Eyebrow Spa who had a constant line throughout the event. And we were all giddy from the white and red sangria (which the kids kept running up to!) mixed specially for us by 67 Orange Street and the lovely champagne donations from Nectar Wine Bar and Bier International.

The food was amazing!! We had yummy gazpacho by 5 & Diamond, and endive with beet, gorgonzola, and candied walnuts off Lido's new menu. I couldn't even get to Zoma's warm vegetarian entrée which was a big fan favorite and gone in a minute. Harlem Tavern came through with the slider version of their Portobello Mushroom sandwich which is a personal favorite of mine. And thank goodness for hot cups of Society's Counter Culture Coffee which kept us powered through clean up.

We had a visit from the Daisys who meet in our space monthly and bottles of the thirst quenching, all natural Sokenbicha donated by Anita Bryant. And our wellness practitioners Candice Taylor, Serena Dawn, and Seven Brown were busy meeting guest and giving sample treatments in their private rooms. And our body worker Ed Genece was here in spirit!

Who's Seven Brown? We announced the newest member of our team, Seven who is a highly respected esthetician and long time Harlem resident and whose micro current work gives you an all natural face life and even relieves soreness.

All our wellness practitioners and Land Yoga raffled off free services. Congratulations to our winners, Lisa, Jessica, Liz, Souraya, and JT!

There were many exciting announcements! Highlights were the release of our PERKS program which offers our 3, 6 and 12 month members increasing discounts in house and around town, our interactive Friday night workshops starting in August with Candice's Mindful Eating, and our commitment to raising $5,000 by the end of September for the local Food Bank. Shanon spoke about their recent cut in funding. Please help us to meet our goal by donating here !

A big thanks to all who came to share in this important time, especially my hometown visitors!


My deepest gratitude.

OM!

Lara Land

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Tuesday, July 12, 2011

State of the Yoga Address*



*For those who don't know, yoga means Union.

Land Yoga has been open for one month now and we would like to tell you a little bit about what we have accomplished in this short time.

When we opened our doors on June 16th we did not know what to expect, but you came out and have continued to come out in support of our space and this practice. We have over 100 members here at Land, many of who come daily and absolutely contribute to and even create the spirit of this space.

So many of you are new to yoga or returning to yoga after long absences, and we applaud you. You have made a dedication to bettering your physical, mental, and spiritual selves and though you may not see it yet, the changes you are making, are positively impacting your families and our community.

*Land is committed to you! It is our goal to be open and available as much as possible so that anyone with a desire to practice yoga can fit it into their schedule. We hope you've noticed! Land is open 7 days a week. On weekdays we open our doors at 6AM and our last class doesn't end till 9:15PM. Over half of our classes allow you to chose your start time and require only a 40 minute commitment for your first couple weeks.

*In addition to yoga for adults we are working hard to make sure our schedule serves your children as well, so that you can create a healthy yoga habit for them early on. We have classes for you and your child starting from when they are only 6 weeks old. And we plan to add more children's classes and family classes this fall!

*We also understand that there are other wellness services that compliment yoga. We have made those available to you by housing three top in their field practitioners: Serena Dawn who does Reiki and Vortex healing, Ed Genece who does Craniosacral and Reflexology, and Candice Taylor who is our full time wellness councilor. You can expect to hear news of another practitioner making Land their home in the near future... think acupuncture.

*We are listening to you. Starting in August, Land will host monthly Friday night interactive workshops designed for you to attend with a friend or significant other. Our first is a Mindful Eating Workshop based off the book Savor, being led by our wellness councilor, Candice Taylor. That will be followed by an event on Ayurveda, a system of healing implementing the five elements and creating balance within your body type. We will also be bringing in Juliet Pegrum after so many of you have commented on the beautiful green she chose for the yoga room. Juliet will be helping you to make your home a more peaceful space.

*At Land Yoga we get giddy about collaboration and finding new ways to work with our community. After all, the creation of Land came out of a love of Harlem. We were thrilled when Society Coffee partnered with us opening day to raise money to end Human Trafficking and even more excited when they began opening at 8AM, giving us a place to send our early morning practitioners for coffee and breakfast. Recently we collaborated on their No Impact Week (an event that teaches how we can decrease our carbon footprint) by screening the No Impact Man movie. It was our first movie screening, but definitely not our last!

It doesn't sop there! We have some other huge collaborations in the mix, including FREE yoga at Morningside Park on Saturdays from 4PM-5PM thanks to the initiative of the Farmers Market. And we will also be announcing a very large partnership with the local Food Bank at our Grand Opening Party, July 23rd 4PM-7PM.

*Did somebody say party?! Yes. And it will be our biggest collaboration yet! Please come by and celebrate with us our official opening on Saturday July 23rd from 4-7PM (puja at 2PM). If you were here for our soft opening, you will notice the great improvements we have already made. Most significantly, our shower is up and running! This event will include food and drink by 5&Diamond, 67 Orange Street, Bier International, Harlem Tavern, Lido, Nectar, Red Rooster, Society Coffee, and Zoma and flowers by Franz James Floral. Bring your family and prepare to stay for the whole event for more chances to win our fabulous raffle prizes.

At the party will be offering 10% off all our retail, a huge ONE DAY ONLY sale on all our yoga memberships, and we will be revealing our PERKS program which will extend to you increasing discounts around town when you choose our 3, 6, or 12 month membership options.

For the most up to date news and discounts:
Like us on Facebook here.
And follow us on Twitter here.

You are in for a ride, but sure to Land ;)

Shanti OM! Thank you for a beautiful first month.



Friday, June 10, 2011

A BETTER SOCIETY


It began with a thought that touched my tongue. An image turned sound is now form.
LAND YOGA
2116 Frederick Douglass Blvd (8th ave) nr. 114th st

We open on Thursday, June 16th with our regular schedule. First class is at 6:30 AM. $1 per student will help to stop human trafficking. Our neighbor, Society Coffee, is hosting a free coffee tasting at 8 AM and will have their full menu available. They are donating a portion of their proceeds to this important cause as well.

We hope you'll join us as we set our intention from day one to collaborate with our community, give back to our society, and create a space where you can LAND.

www.landyoga.com

Monday, May 16, 2011

Please Prepare For Landing


Friends, Family, Harlemites. Some of you have followed my journey through New Jersey, New York, India, Rwanda and on. I have been a busy little yoga bee, flying all around, but I knew one day I would finally find a place to Land.

I was drawn to Harlem by an indescribable force and have been on a clear mission since then to build a yoga space and service this community. Now here we are just ONE month away from opening day and I could not be more excited.

Land Yoga opens on June 16th at 2116 Frederick Douglass Blvd (8th ave) between 114th and 115th streets. We are offering classes for adults and children as well as pre and post natal classes and workshops and many other services including acupuncture and nutrition. I am so proud of the amazing team we have put together here at Land, each member of which is devoted to serving and growing with the south Harlem community.

Registration is now open at www.landyoga.com. And huge discounts are applied when you register before opening day.

A wholehearted thank you to all of you who have already devoted so much of your time and energy to welcoming us to the community, especially our fellow Harlem Park to Park business owners who have been unbelievably generous and supportive since the beginning. Please don't forget to check them out for your post practice meal or shopping experience.

Some of you have asked about the Land Yoga wish list and we would definitely appreciate plants that can live with and without light purchased from our local flower shops: Franz James Floral Boutique, Harlem Flo, and Katrina Parris Flowers.

Please don't forget to REGISTER early to get your discount and to "like" Land Yoga on Facebook for all the most up to date news on the studio.

See you on June 16th!

OM!

Lara


Monday, March 28, 2011

American Idol (or something like that)


Imagine you knew personally a finalist on Idol. Wouldn't you vote? Today, I am reaching out for your votes and the votes of your friends and family so that I can have a chance at my very own American Idol moment.

I am in the running for a very special grant opportunity that will support my dream to bring yoga to the Harlem community, and my chances to win greatly increase with your support. I need 1,000 votes by this Thursday. It is going to take the support of a whole extended community, but I know it can be done.

Get in your vote by texting the word Land to 244326. There is No Charge and No Spam. You will receive two follow up texts asking your name and why you voted for this business. You must respond to these texts to finalize your vote.

If you are out of the country or can not text, vote by entering the words Land Yoga and New York, NY exactly on Love a Local Business web page.

I thank you for your continued support through the years. It is because of your energy and love that I have been able to accomplish so much and give back in such large and rewarding ways. This is the next step in that journey.

OM!