By: Tahnia Belle
Just in time for the summer, adding to the growing yoga landscape in Harlem is Land Yoga, an Ashtanga style studio which softly opened last week.
Lara Land, studio owner and yoga teacher has developed a diverse schedule of classes. The current adult offerings include Mysore Ashtanga and Led Ashtanga. For families, Land Yoga presents many options such as Yogaland Summer Mini Camp, Kid’s Ashtanga, Teens/Tweens Yoga, Baby Sign Language, Pre-Natal Yoga, Post Natal Yoga, and Parent/Child Yoga. Parents and their children ages 2 to 3 can enjoy a free yoga session, Saturday, June 25th from 10:15 – 11 AM.
More than a yoga studio, the space will also serve as a wellness center offering many holistic services. Land Yoga is home to several wellness providers, including Candice Taylor, Holistic Health Counselor of Soham Wellness; Edwin Genece, Reflexologist of EGBodywork; and Serena Dawn, Reiki Master of The Soular Center.
Land Yoga kicked off its soft opening with a commitment to fundraising for Odanadi, an organization based in India working “to combat human trafficking through education and awareness.” Raising approximately $200 to date, Land Yoga will continue to take donations for Odanadi through July 23rd.
The center’s grand opening will be on Saturday, July 23rd, celebrating with an official opening party from 4-7 PM. It will be preceded by a puja, a traditional Hindu ceremony, conducted by the head Ashtanga Yoga teacher in New York. The festivities include a live yoga demo, healthy food from local restaurants, and live music by Blue Bottle Collection. Land Yoga will also announce the local charity that it will support for late summer.
If you are new to Ashtanga or yoga in general do not let the photos intimate you, rather allow them to show what is possible. While I have been practicing yoga for ten years, I am a baby to Ashtanga, and after taking my first class with Lara last week, I found that Land Yoga is a great place to start your yoga practice. As part of the Mysore classes Lara gives each student individual attention, while guiding with a gentle voice and soft touch. For those familiar with yoga classes, the Mysore format is unique in that students are not following a teacher at the front of the room, each student may arrive at anytime, and are then individually guided and adjusted by the instructor based on their own experience level. Music is not played, instead the rhythmic breathing of the participants serve as a soundtrack. I found this method of teaching profound because you have an opportunity to not only trust your teacher, but mostly to trust yourself and go deeply within. As Lara said, “Your only job is to listen.”
Lara and I sat down at Harlem’s Society Coffee, Land Yoga’s fundraising partner for Odanadi, during our conversation she shared her infectious passion for Ashtanga yoga, her call to Harlem and what it means to “Land”:
TBelle: Why Harlem?
Lara: Actually I think the studio is coming into existence because of Harlem. Without Harlem there would not have been a studio. So it wasn’t like I decided to open a studio and looked for a place to put it, at all. I moved to Harlem about two and half years ago after spending a year abroad in India and Rwanda. I had given up my apartment in Brooklyn and when I came back I had no home, I was driven to live in Harlem, I wanted to live here and nowhere else. And so I made that happen. First of all I knew this is where I wanted to stay and live long term. So to want to open a business somewhere, I had never felt that anywhere. It is a huge [commitment], so hopefully you are in a space that you love, teaching people that you love, and working with people that you love. I never felt more [like] right space, right time.
TBelle: Tell us about the name of your studio.
Lara: Well… Land, there’s a lot to stay about Land. I like that question. Land has many meanings, first of all the most important meaning is landing somewhere, that’s the feeling I want the studio to have. When you’ve been running around all day and you finally get to take your bags off and land somewhere, that’s how I want people to feel when they get there. It is also like yoga, yoga is very grounding. Sometimes we get caught up in New York’s crazy energy and yoga can support you and bring you back.
TBelle: Can you explain more about Ashtanga yoga?
Lara: Some people have never heard of the kind of yoga I teach, which is called Ashtanga. Some people have but have misconceptions about it. Often Ashtanga studios are called “Ashtanga Yoga Studio” or “Yoga Shala.” When I started developing the name, [I wanted] to keep it really open, let people come and experience this style of yoga with me, because there are two elements, there’s the style and there’s the teacher that you are working with. I like to use this analogy: you can visit a city and depending on the tour guide you can have a good experience or bad. So I would like to encourage everyone to come in and try and not be afraid. A lot of people are afraid of yoga, a lot say “I’m not good, I’m not flexible.” And I say that’s why we come, that’s why we practice.
TBelle: Please share your experience with your fellow Harlem business owners.
Lara: That part of the experience is very special to me especially being a first time business owner. I haven’t found that [relationship] in other parts of the city because you just get lost. Here there is this feeling that we’re all in this to create something together that has to do with Harlem, with serving our neighborhood. Everyone is here for that purpose.
For more information on Land Yoga, please visit http://www.landyoga.com
2116 Frederick Douglas Blvd
New York, NY 10026