Monday, March 16, 2009

Planning my return

There are under two weeks left until my return to the states and the planning has begun.  What energizes me about going back to New York is all the great opportunity I will have to continue on with the kind of work I have begun abroad.  Only now I have a chance to enrich my home community.  

Here is where you will find me in the coming months:

1) Starting May 2nd I will be assisting Authorized Ashtanga teacher, Zoe Slatoff, every morning except Saturdays and Moondays at Ashtanga Yoga Upper West Side.  You will also find me there on Sunday evenings at 5pm teaching Led Primary Series.  Please check out the site for details.

2) I will be giving a workshop presentation on the Rwanda experience tailored specifically to the unique needs and interests of each audience.  Stay tuned for information on the first event hosted at the Fair Lawn Jewish Center on May 7th.  Please contact me if you are a yoga studio, school, or community center interested in booking this one-of-a-kind seminar.

3) I have been awarded the Birthright NEXT Alumni Grant and will be using it to actualize a long dreamed about project.  In the month leading up to Rosh Hashanah, I will be teaching a class once a week that will demonstrate how yoga can enhance the Jewish experience specifically in relation to the new year.

4) I will be teaching yoga to an HIV positive support group in NYC.

5) I will be teaching a yoga workshop to a kindergarten class in New Jersey and working with the teacher on how she can continue to use yoga in her classroom.

And finally, I will be available for private classes.  

Of course, before all that can happen I have two more weeks in this beautiful country!
More next week.  Lara

Monday, March 9, 2009

A Weekend of Karma Yoga

This weekend was busy with joyous giving.  On Saturday Alia and Bruno, hosted a fundraiser at their home (India Song House) for an organization called Odanadi.  Odanadi rescues and rehabilitates the vulnerable women and children sold into illegal sex trade, bonded slavery and domestic servitude here in India.  Through the practice of semi-classical Indian dance, song, drama, art, karate and yoga, the women and children of Odanadi are gradually able to rebuild their confidence, self-respect, physical and mental strength.  Self-expression is of vital importance to their recovery.  In addition, Odanadi goes into villages and educates in hopes of preventing the continuation of human trafficking. 

There was a huge turnout for this event which was designed not only to raise money, but also to educate about the human trafficking still prevalent today.  We watched the Odanadi members perform and heard some of their stories.  In the end over 60,000 rupees was raised.

On Sunday I revisited the children at the Asha Kirana HIV clinic. Many familiar faces greeted me as I entered.  The smiles widened when they saw the great gift of yoga mats I was able to provide due to so many generous donations.  After a gentle yoga practice the children sat down to make drawings for their sponsors.  They didn't know what to draw at first, but slowly their creativity emerged.  I am still collecting mat donations for the 70 children that pass through this clinic each month.  You can support one HIV positive child's yoga practice by making a $7.00 donation to my Pay Pal account under

Thanks for all of your contributions!

Monday, March 2, 2009

The Practice

I have avoided writing much about the yoga practice since many of you are yoga practitioners and already have your own experience of the day to day coming to the mat.  This week I will make an exception with the hope of reaching those of you who wonder what it is this yoga thing is all about.  Perhaps some of you are already taking asana practice at home and wonder why come to India year after year when these days it's hard to walk a block without seeing a yoga studio in the states.

Here in Mysore we sit down each Sunday at KPJAYI (Shri. K Pattabhi Jois Ashtanga Yoga Institute) for a weekly conference.  When my teacher Sharath takes his cross legged seat on the stage the room grows quiet with anticipation.  What will he speak about?  For one hour we will be blessed with some new knowledge often attained through old stories.  Just one glimmer of understanding can make the yoga practice feel completely new in upcoming week.

This Sunday I was reminded of the opportunity practice presents for delving into ones relationship with G-d.  In hebrew, the word for soul (nephesh) and the word for breath (neshamah) share the same root.  In this tradition we understand words with identical roots to be connected and look for what their relationship can reveal.  The relationship between the breath and the soul is one that can be intellectualized but is much better understood through direct experience.  It is this happening that I delve into each morning in the stillness of the pre-sunrise hours.

Through focus on the breath (neshamah) I come to know my true self (nephesh).  And through knowledge of my true self I come closer to knowing the one truth, the higher power I call G-d, but who is known by many names.  This is one of the reasons breath is a main focal point of the practice.  Concentration on breath is crucial to attaining yoga- a yoking of the individual and universal consciousness.  Too deep?  Don't worry.  Concentration on breath can also help release muscle and mind tension and bring you into the present moment, which of course is all there really is!  It links the spirit, mind and body so that you can live with more awareness and experience less friction.  Great benefits come from this such as being able to make decisions more easily and with less regret.  There is also a decrease in covetousness, anger, and anxiety and an increase in overall health and sense of peace and calm.  All this from paying attention to the breath!

The beautiful thing is that it works the other way too.  If you are a practitioner having trouble connecting with the breath, don't underestimate the power of surrender.  Give the practice up as an offering to a higher entity and watch as the breath spirit fills your body and mind.

So why wait?  Start practicing now.  As my teacher says, only lazy people can't practice yoga. All others can.  You don't have to put your feet behind your head to be a yoga practitioner.  And if you can put your feet behind your head, that doesn't mean you are doing yoga.  So, don't be discouraged.  You can try for yourself and observe what changes in you.  Nothing happening? Don't worry, "all is coming".