Meet Lara Land and Get Some Yoga In Your Sol
Lara Land, owner of Land Yoga in Harlem, New York, radiates love and beauty from the inside out.
Thirty-five year-old Lara Land began practicing yoga more than seventeen years ago while a theatre student at Boston University. She found that yoga was a great warm up before an audition or performance. She immediately became captivated by the way her yoga practice cleared her mind and body, making her more available, energetic, honest, and free. Lara has traveled to India annually for the last decade, now taking students and studying under Director R. Sharath and Saraswathi.
Seven years ago, Lara traveled to Rwanda to treat HIV positive genocide survivors and their children using the Ashtanga Yoga method. Later, she returned to India where she worked with HIV positive children using yoga as therapy. Returning from that five month journey, Lara yearned for stability and connection to a single community. She found that connection in Harlem. Energized by the people and aware of a need for what she could offer for the mind, body and soul, Lara opened her first yoga shala, Land Yoga, almost four years ago.
Q & A with our Sol Sister, Lara Land!
Q: What inspired you to become an Ashtanga teacher?
When I first began partaking yoga, I took many different kinds of yoga classes but as soon as I discovered Ashtanga I was totally hooked and that was all I wanted to do. I was soon practicing five days a week and then I went to study with a new teacher, Christopher Hildebrandt. My practice was taking a more prime role in my life and my teacher, Christopher, was planning his annual trip to India to study with the Guru of Ashtanga Yoga, Shri K. Pattabhi Jois. He invited me to come along and I did. When I returned I knew I wanted to be a teacher and do nothing else.
Q: Why was it important to you to open a yoga studio in Harlem?
A: The creation of that studio really feels like magic to me. Everything seemed to converge. I had been abroad about a year when I moved to Harlem. I had spent a lot of time studying and I was ready to create. I loved my new neighborhood. I saw a lot of development going on, lots of people, coffee shops and restaurants, but really not much yoga and no Ashtanga Yoga. I felt that I wanted to build roots somewhere and contribute to a single community and that that community should also be my community.
Q: Tell us about the importance of using yoga as a way to maintain a healthy, balanced lifestyle.
A: The practice of yoga is a practice of self-awareness. When you begin partaking regularly, you start to notice your patterns and open up the option for adjustment. You give yourself more choices. Also there is something that naturally occurs with the practice where cravings are muted and healthier desires seem to emerge. You just don't want that second helping. It's not that you have to deny yourself. The desire isn't there.
Q: Can you provide a few tips for people who want to become serious yoga practitioners?
A: First, you need to find a GREAT teacher in your discipline. That doesn't mean someone famous. That means someone consistent, supportive, knowledgeable, and also real. Next, it's important to note that it's not zero to sixty. Everything is a process. Think of learning the piano or any skill. You don't go from scales to a concert in a day. You build slowly. You have to show up daily and put your whole self into it, even on the days you want to turn away. That also builds great mental strength. At the same time, forgive your misteps fully and quickly, and give yourself big pats on the back for small achievements. Remember yoga is about coming to know yourself, so to become a serious practitioner you must keep investigating the subject: YOU!
Q: What are the most important things you've taken away from your annual sojourn to India? How have these experiences changed your life?
I have been going to India annually for the last decade. The main thing I do in India is practice yoga. One month of yoga practice in India is like a year or more at home. It's so intense, mainly because my teacher is transfering all his knowledge and energy. Also, because I'm practicing in this room with people from all over the world all of whom travel so far and sacrifice so much to be there. The collective intention is strong! I have become from these trips part of a small, strong collective of spirits from around the world who are dedicated to learning and sharing this yoga practice. It's very powerful.
Q: What's next for Lara Land and Land Yoga?
A: Land Yoga recently rebranded as a full arts and wellness center so we are trying to get it in people's minds they can come daily for massage, acupuncture, reiki, skin care, nutrition, and life coaching, as well as to check out our permanent art and current installations. I also launched a non-profit this year called Three and a Half Acres Yoga to empower and heal communities using the physical and philosophical components of Ashtanga Yoga, so that's a current focus. AND... We are super proud that in May 2015 we produced Harlem's first yoga festival, Uptown Yoga Festival in partnership with HarlemEatUp! Beyond that, it is hard to see. I have a few yoga related trips in the works including joining Uptown Magazine as the yoga teacher for their Uncorked retreat in Napa and another big project I can't reveal yet. I see some more travel and maybe a book in the future.