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Students share why they love Land Yoga!

Elizabeth Huber, 40, Project Manager at an Investment Bank

What drew you to Land Yoga?

I was looking for something new to add to my workout routine. I’d never done any yoga before and was a little nervous to give it a try, but I live near Land Yoga and would always see how homey and welcoming it was. I looked at the website to figure out what classes might be best and emailed for more information. Lara herself responded with great advice and words of encouragement and praise for trying something new! That was really what got me in the door – it wasn’t an automated response, it was personal.

What was your yoga experience prior to Land?

I had never done any yoga prior to Land.

What are some of the classes you’ve been taking at Land and how has that experience been? Is there anything unique about classes with us?

I take the Led Classes. I’ve also taken the Yin/Restorative class and I’m doing the Meditation Workshop. Also, now that we are livestreaming I’ve taken several of the Meditation classes. The most unique thing about Land is how welcoming and comfortable the environment is – and that is all coming from the staff. Everyone gets to know their students and works with their individual needs.

What changes have you seen within yourself since joining?

I’m a much calmer and happier person. It has really taught me to take the time for myself both mentally and physically. After every class I leave with a smile and a feeling of contentment – that I did something good for myself. That really helps me to go back out in the world with more patience and compassion

How has it been moving from live in person classes to livestream classes? Please explain as deeply as you can the experience of taking classes livestream. Do you feel you are still improving? Are there any benefits?

It’s been a great experience. I really commend Lara, Dana, Thimo, Marcy and Caroline for making it so seamless. And it was amazing how quickly it was up and running! The teachers are still really invested in making sure we succeed and keep progressing. They take the time to call out modifications, remind us what we can be doing to go further in our poses and call out corrections if needed. They can see what we are doing, and instead of physically making the adjustments they verbalize what we can do to keep making progress. I’m sure it’s been a challenge for the teachers, but I really haven’t felt held up or hindered in any way. In fact, there are a few poses that I had been struggling with that I’ve gotten much better at over the past few weeks and some poses that I’ve not been able to do that I feel close to achieving! It’s very fulfilling. I also love the fact that I can just click on a link and I’m in class – I’ve been able to attend class on a daily basis because it’s just so easy!

How do you think taking yoga and meditation during this crisis has helped you?

I don’t know how I would be coping with this entire situation without Land Yoga! The Led and Yin classes keep me going physically. And the Meditation classes restore me emotionally. We are a community of people coming together for a common purpose, and even if we aren’t in the same location we are still together and I love that!

What would you like to say to anyone considering taking yoga but hesitant?

I would say just give it a try. Whether you are a professional athlete or someone that has injuries or physical limitations, yoga has something for everyone. I can’t say enough for the benefits physically – flexibility, balance, core strength. But even more than that, mentally the practice gives me a moment to pause and focus. You have to concentrate to maintain the poses and for the time you are doing your practice everything else melts away.

Jasmine Maurice

You came on the Iceland retreat with me. What made you decide to go? What was that experience like?

I have always wanted to visit Iceland but no one else that I knew was interested in going to Iceland. So when the opportunity presented itself to travel with a group, and the itinerary was very detailed and well planned out, it was a no-brainer for me. My only concern was, I do not practice yoga, and this was a yoga retreat. I decided to join Lara on the trip to Iceland anyway, and the first thing that I said to her, “I don’t know if I will be able to make it to Yoga practice in the mornings.” She replied, “no worries”.

The trip to Iceland was an amazing and satisfying experience. From the time we landed and headed to the Blue Lagoon; having the opportunity of staying in three different locations in Iceland; traveling all-over and seeing and experience the most splendid waterfalls, hot spring and breathtaking scenery; all accompanied with delicious food, wines, desserts shared with a diverse group of people. The most surprising part of the trip, I am not a morning person, I do not practice yoga; but I woke up every morning looking forward to learning and practicing yoga, having breakfast and off we went. The morning yoga sessions in Iceland reinvigorated me and set the tone for an exceptional day, resulting to an exceptional trip.

You were the first person to register for Recharge Yourself Mykonos Retreat. Tell me why you jumped right on the Mykonos trip.

Having traveled with you before, and the opportunity to stay in luxury villa (something that I’ve experience in the past and I enjoyed thoroughly) in Mykonos, (a place that I’ve always wanted to go), I jumped right in with no hesitation. Now the cost. Enjoying the benefits of what a villa has to offer, does not come cheap and is a lot more expensive than staying at a hotel. I enjoy staying in private villas because it offers privacy, security, stunning scenery, peace and quiet. Staying in a villa affords you outdoor spaces, private pool, larger indoor spaces to interact such as a living and dining room. What I enjoy the most is fully stocked kitchens with a chef; a well-stocked bar of wines and cocktails. But that all comes at a cost.

You don’t practice yoga regularly but you come on my retreats. Would you say they are appropriate for non yoga practitioners?

Taking everything into account, the villa, excursions, personalized led yoga, and a personal coach; this trip is bound to be exceptional and worth the cost.

If you want peace and quiet with an opportunity to meet new people whilst promoting self-care, and have an opportunity to hang out and party in the Mediterranean, this trip is for you.

Myron Schwartz, 65, Professor of Surgery, Director of Liver Surgery, Recanati/Miller Transplantation Institute, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai

Tell us a little about yourself. How long have you been living in the area?

I was born and grew up in Philadelphia. After finishing at Jefferson Medical College I spent three years doing (very) general medicine in the Shenandoah Valley, took a year off to study Talmud in Far Rockaway, and came to Mount Sinai in 1981 to train in surgery. I joined the team that did New York’s first liver transplant in 1988, and my practice and research have evolved since then to focus primarily on liver cancer.

What brought you to Land?

While walking through Harlem one day a few years back I came upon Lara and Dana demonstrating some of the more challenging asanas of the primary series out on the sidewalk in front of Land Yoga. I knew of Ashtanga, and I did a free introductory led class shortly thereafter. The schedule of led classes was sparse, though, and at that point Mysore practice seemed out of reach; while I kept Land Yoga in mind, I continued my practice which at that time was close to home at Bikram.

Had you done yoga before? If so, how is the Ashtanga method and/or Land Yoga different?

At 50 I decided to give up weightlifting in favor of yoga, and fate led me to my first guru, Swami Bua, who when I met him in 2003 was 114 years old. He taught at his apartment on W 58th St during the week, and at the Ganesha temple in Flushing on Sundays. Swami Bua had developed a series of postures and an accompanying narrative of how to perform them; after asana practice there was relaxation during which he would say an amazing closing narration that I have added below. He studied at one point with Swami Sivananda, and his series has more similarity to the Rishikesh series than to Ashtanga. Swami advocated daily practice, and would often take time before or after class to talk about how best to lead a good and healthy life. Distinctly different from Ashtanga, Swami specifically emphasized that breathing should NOT be linked to the movement; breathing exercises were done separately after asana practice was finished. In 2006 I bought a house in Sag Harbor and started practicing weekends at Yoga Shanti with Colleen Saidman and Rodney Yee who taught an eclectic blend of New Age Ashtanga- and Iyengar-influenced yoga. When Swami Bua died in 2010, I continued weekends at Yoga Shanti, and started practicing at Bikram yoga; apart from the hot room and the character of its founder, the yoga was quite similar to Swami Bua’s routine with a set series of postures and a fixed set of instructions spoken by the instructor.

What benefits have you experienced since starting at Land?

I started Mysore practice a bit over a year ago. I was approaching 65 and it was a period for me of broad reassessment of how I was living my life; while I attributed my reasonably good physical condition to having practiced yoga over the years, I had by no means been diligent in maintaining anything close to a daily practice. I have an assortment of minor age-related issues, most notably with my shoulders, which have improved considerably with the regular practice at Land. While not emphasized overtly at the studio, I have done a lot of reading, learned rudimentary Sanskrit, and tried to embrace the other seven limbs. Coming to Mysore practice is as much mental as physical exercise; there is a series of postures, goals to reach for some of which will very likely remain unachieved in this lifetime. I was admonished by Lara the first week for watching another student; trying not to watch, not to compare, not to feel chagrin when a younger person starts and within a few months is able to achieve more asanas that I have over a year’s time, learning self-compassion yet maintaining determination- these benefits are as real as the fact that I can continue doing the long and stressful operations I do with somewhat less of the neck, back, and shoulder aches that I recall having felt a year ago.

What obstacles did you have to face to walk in the door?

I had the misconception that starting Mysore practice required considerable experience with the Ashtanga series, and this kept me from approaching it for many years; when I finally decided it was time, I got a book and learned the primary series before coming in. The idea of committing to a daily practice also took years; it was only at a point in my career where I felt I had achieved enough that I could afford the time to do daily yoga. In retrospect, both of these ”obstacles” were silly. The other thing that stood in the way was how to get to the studio, as I live at 98th St and 5th Ave, but Citibike turned out to be a great solution.

What would you say to someone nervous to start?

As with so many aspects of life, there comes a time for some people when the sum of their experiences leads to curiosity about yoga. If you are going to do something, do it right. Ashtanga is the source; the various yoga styles that go in and out of fashion are derivative. Yoga is great exercise, but the goal is to clear your mind. If you are nervous to start, your ego is wasting precious mental energy that could be put to far better use. Just open the door, and you will see.

Swami Bua’s relaxation:

Relax your body. Relax your mind. Mentally massage your body. Give a mental massage. Pray to God almighty, the creator of the universe. Pray to Him to give you a long life, a healthy life, a disease-free body, health and strength, strength and stamina, vigor and vitality, peace and prosperity. He is the doctor of doctors. He is the father of fathers. He is the architect of this human building. He is the engineer of this human machine. He alone can give you whatever that you require. Therefore, pray to Him. Surrender unto Him. Take shelter under Him. Seek protection under Him. Seek asylum under Him. He is the creator. He is the protector. He is the savior. He is the survivor. He is the sustainer. He is the preserver. He is the designer. He is the presenter. He is the destroyer of all ills and evils. He alone can give you whatever that you require. Therefore, remember Him always, forget Him not. Forget this body. Forget this mind. Forget this intellect. Forget this ego. You are not this body. You are not this mind. You are not this intellect. You are not this ego. You are something supreme. You are something divine. Relax. Relax. Relax. Relax. Relax. Place your left palm on your left chest, your palm on the physical heart, your fingers on the spiritual heart that is in the center of the chest between the two pectorals. Place your right palm on your navel where the fire of life is located, where the life energy is stored in. Feel the pulsations on your navel. Feel the vibrations on your heart. Give autosuggestion that all of the impurities of your body, mind, intellect, and ego are being thrown out, and instead you are absorbing cosmic energy direct from the ether. Feel that you are becoming stronger and stronger. Feel that you are becoming healthier and healthier. Feel that you are getting health and strength, strength and stamina, vigor and vitality, peace and prosperity. Feel that you are getting rejuvenated, regenerated, renovated, accelerated, exhilarated, exuberated, invigorated, integrated, vivified, and energized. Feel that the life energy is flowing from the top of your head to the tip of your toes, and from the tip of your toes to the top of your head. Let us chant the Pranava mantra, the mantra of the universe, or the sound of the universe, or the sound behind all creation. Take a little deep breath. Let the sound be deep and long. Om. Feel the pulsations on your navel. Feel the vibrations on your heart. Take a little deeper breath. Let the sound be deeper and longer, too. Om. Feel the pulsations on your navel. Feel the vibrations on your heart. Now take the deepest breath. Let the sound be deepest and longest too. Om. Move your right palm from your navel to your chest. Rub both palms together. Palm your eyes. Palm your nose. Palm your lips. Palm your chin. Palm your cheeks. Palm your ears. Palm your forehead. Slowly come to a sitting position. Palm your head as if combing your hair. Palm the nape of your neck. Palm the throat of your neck. Palm your chest, down the abdomen, down the thighs, down the knees, down the legs, down the toes, soles of your feet, heels, ankles insides, calf muscles, hamstring muscles, gluteus maximus. Run your palms across your abdomen below the navel. Palm both your arms simultaneously from the fingers to the shoulders, and from the shoulders to the fingers. That is enough. May God bless you. Be happy. Be healthy. Be prosperous. Be peaceful. My sincere blessings for your prosperity and auspiciousness. May god bless us all. Om. Shanti. Shanti. Shanti. Om. Shalom. Shalom. Shalom. Om. Peace. Peace. Peace to the universe. Love all unconditionally, without any reservation, including yourself. Begin the day with love. Spend the day with love. Fill the day with love, and end the day with love. That is the way to God. God bless you. Serve. Love. Give. Purify. Meditate. Realize. Be good. Do good. Be kind. Be tolerant. Be peaceful. Be merciful. Be sympathetic. Be compassionate. Be generous. Be magnanimous. Be charitable. Be philanthropic. Bear insult. Bear injury. Radiate love and affection with whomsoever you may come across. May God bless you abundantly.

God bless you.

Gilbert Rodriguez, 55, Yoga Instructor

Namaste. My name is Gilbert Rodriguez, but I am also called Berto. I look forward to celebrating my 55th birthday the end of January 2020.

I achieved my 200 YTT in May 2017 at the ALMA Institute, under the tutelage of Erica Garcia. I was introduced to Yin Yoga as part of my initial 200 hour training. It immediately caught my interest because it is about completely slowing down and self-care, and who doesn’t need more of that in their life.

In addition to the the many physical benefits of this practice, permitting the body to gently soften with every exhalation, focusing on the breath as you relax into stillness with eyes closed, observing and feeling, cultivates Pranayama, Pratyhara (Turning Senses Inward), Svadyaya (Self-study), and Meditation. I wholeheartedly believe that my yang yoga and meditation practice have become stronger since incorporating Yin Yoga, which is why this practice has become special to me.

I like to bring some yoga philosophy and wisdom to my classes acknowledging that yoga is so much more than asana. I encourage my students to stay in the present moment as they work with what they have, utilizing available props and their breath to gently reach an appropriate depth of resistance with no strain, as they release, surrender, and let go of what no longer serves them….physically, mentally, emotionally, and yes, even spiritually.

I am excited to bring my Yin Yoga practice to Land Yoga. Born and raised in Spanish Harlem, it gives me a immense feeling of coming home again. This time to provide my childhood community with a practice that cultivates transformational soul-searching. Though Harlem is not what I remember it to be, I will never forget that while growing up there, you did what you had to do to get yours, be it a new pair of kicks…or your next fix.

Since acquiring my 200 YTT, I have subsequently completed two separate Yin Yoga trainings with Megan Moss Freeman. I look forward to further expanding my Yin Yoga practice with all of you at Land Yoga and hope that I will see some familiar faces from the old neighborhood.

Caroline Mceneaney, 31, Yoga Instructor

What led you to become a yoga teacher?
I have loved yoga since the first class I took when I was seventeen. Though it would be years before I developed a consistent dedicated practice, and a few more years before I pursued teaching, it was something that slowly transformed me for the better. I wanted to do my part to share that with others.

What do you like particularly about Ashtanga?
I think I was drawn to the steadiness of the practice. Learning in the traditional way, adding on slowly, made so much sense to me. The beauty of practicing the same poses and yet having different experiences connects me to myself. And the quiet of the practice in the midst of the busy city grounds me like nothing else.

What do you enjoy most about teaching?
I always love sharing this practice, but to me, there is nothing more exciting than seeing a student’s commitment to the practice grow. I believe this practice is life-changing, and it is an honor if I can play a part in someone’s first steps on this path.

Ashtanga is a set practice in some ways but in many ways the teacher makes it her own. What would you say is your method or style of Ashtanga? What is unique about your classes?
I try to bring a lightness to my classes. I want my students to feel warm and welcome. I keep my classes rooted in tradition but I aim to hold space in a way that allows students the space to have their own experiences and learn their own lessons.

What inspires you daily to get on the mat?
Day to day, different things bring me to the mat. Sometimes I’m excited to get up and practice. Other times, it’s discipline and still other times, it’s a spiritual or devotional action. After several years, I think this practice becomes a part of you and I miss that part of me when I miss practice. Even if it’s just a few minutes, I try to squeeze something in every day.

What do you like about Harlem/teaching at Land Yoga?
Growing up, my mother worked for 15 years as a nurse practitioner in a women’s health clinic in Washington Heights and as well spent time treating children in public schools in Harlem. I’ve known for a long time how special this neighborhood is and Land Yoga has managed to create a space within this neighborhood that stays true both to the richness of Harlem as well as the tradition of Ashtanga. The result. it seems to me, is a community of authentic, interesting and committed students and teachers and I am so honored to be a part of it.

Emily C, age 44, non-profit fundraiser

What brought you to Land Yoga?

Following the birth of my second child, I wanted to revive my yoga practice. My work schedule is demanding and the open hours in the morning provide with me the flexibility to practice regularly. I also knew that I needed to start with the basics and build my strength – going to an open level vinyasa class could have easily caused an injury. Ashtanga is the perfect way to begin a practice with confidence and under the watchful eye of a highly skilled teacher.

What was your practice before?

About five years ago I had an ashtanga practice at a studio near my home in Brooklyn, but gave it up when I began IVF treatments. The cycle was successful, and, in hindsight, I’m not sure giving up my practice was really warranted. While I remained physically active and took prenatal yoga classes, my goal at the time was to slow everything down and incubate.

What changes have you experienced since being with us?

A major motivator for returning to yoga was to strengthen my pelvic floor. In addition to practicing yoga, I used to be an avid runner. Running was not at the same after two back-to-back pregnancies, however. I would go out for a short run and would always leak a little (or a lot). It was frustrating and embarrassing, but I had never really devoted time to pelvic floor work. With yoga, Mysore specifically, you are constantly activating your bandhas (aks core and pelvic muscles). I’m six months into my practice and I can now go for a three or four-mile run leak-free – a major victory! I think post-natal recovery is one the most unsung virtues of yoga. I also believe that a consistent practice makes me a more centered and patient working mom…and human.

What do you think is unique to Ashtanga/Land Yoga?

I love that Land Yoga s truly a community space and reflects the vibrant diversity of Harlem. It’s a warm and welcoming space for advanced students and novice practitioners.

What else would you like to share with people considering a yoga practice?

People think Ashtanga is hardcore – reserved for expert yogis who can already bend themselves into a pretzel. It’s really the opposite. You get step-by-step personal guidance from incredibly knowledgeable teachers and you advance at your own pace.

Nina Froriep, Owner & Chief Video Democratizer at Clock Wise Productions, Inc.

I’m on an 8-month “sabbatical” in the Switzerland where I split my time between Zurich (a city) and the Alp village of my ancestors (yes, it’s super cool). There’s no Astanga, and no Mysore anywhere in sight in the Alps, and only super inconveniently in Zurich.

When I left in July I was super worried that I would lose my practice. So far, so good. Some weeks more successfully than others, but all in all I’m doing well.

Lara asked me to share my experience with you all.

The hardest part is keeping up a daily practice when there’s no community and no set class schedule. It’s so easy to flake out. So, I set some ground rules for myself:

  • I no breakfast until I do my practice
  • I schedule my practice in my calendar
  • I tell myself it’s better to only do the standing poses, then no poses at all, and once I’m in the flow – for the most part – I continue on
  • I log my practice in the Fitbit app

I also struggle with stopping during practice because of household distractions (of which there’s no lack of). My phone now stays in the kitchen, my family understands that “asking a quick question” can wait until I’m done. I focus much more consciously on my breathing and the poses and make every effort to exclude “daily” thoughts, that could get me off the mat to “quickly” take care of this, that and the other. And, my puppy has learned to stay clear when I’m on the mat, but for the end when he naps with me.

Also, having the right materials makes a HUGE difference. After a few weeks on several flimsy mats, I went online to find a Manduka mat, the one I have in New York, and a yummy smelling mat-cleaner and it made all the difference.

My favorite experience practicing was in Zurich during the hot days of August. I would go for early morning walks with Tigger along the lake and saw a perfect spot on a little island where Tigger couldn’t wander off easily. I started bringing a towel and did my practice on the grass at the very edge of the lake facing the sun. In the beginning, I kept losing my balance during the standing poses: There was nothing to focus on but the lake, the blue sky, and moving clouds, and the grass wasn’t as even as a mat. It took a few days to stabilize. After practice I would go for a swim – the entire experience was pure magic. What a way to start your day! I loved the week I was able to do so.

Now I’m in the alps and continue my practice in a house where the rooms are paneled with Pine-wood. All I can tell you is that the smell of Pine and Mysore go together very well :-).


Nina xxx

P.S.: For amazing photos from the Alps follow me on Instagram: @NinaFroriep, or for good laughs, my puppy @TiggerFroriep. And to see what I’m up workwise:

Brian DuFord, 48, Composer/Classical Guitarist

How long have you been at Land?
6 1/2 years

Prior to that did you do any yoga?
I dabbled in yoga for a few years, had some private lessons and bought several 10 class passes at various yoga studios that I never used. Simply put, it didn’t stick.

Why did you walk in?
I was slogging home after a long evening of teaching, guitar slung over my shoulder. My back was killing me and a sharp pain ran down my left leg. I thought to myself, “I can’t continue like this. What can be done?” It was then that I looked up and saw Land Yoga, I walked in. I was cheerfully greeted by Lara. We talked a bit about what the studio offered and my rather spotty commitment to yoga. She said, “come back tomorrow at 6 am”. I nearly did a double take, that was pretty early in the morning for a musician! But, I knew I needed help. So, I came the next morning and that was that. I’ve been practicing ever since.

What has kept you coming all these years?
All the wonderful instructors!! Plus, the knowledge and clear evidence that practicing yoga is transformative. Through countless hours on the mat, puddles of sweat and a commitment to daily practice, I have begun to experience yoga’s many benefits, physically as well as spiritually. Looking back, I can now clearly discern just how out of balance my life had become. Yoga has restored my sense of equilibrium. That’s not to say that I don’t experience stress or difficulty in the complicated act of living, that’s inevitable. It’s that, through yoga, I’ve been shown a way to “get back” to a simpler, less cluttered existence – a sort of daily “reset button”.

What are some of the greatest lessons you’ve learned from yoga?
Without a doubt, yoga has taught me patience, acceptance, and non-attachment. I used to always try fitting “the square peg in the round hole”, believing that if I simply forced something hard enough I could get it to work. In my practice, I finally discovered a sense of freedom and contentment associated with ”letting go”. If Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana isn’t quite there on a certain day, no problem – accept it, come back to the breath and move on. Another valuable lesson has been the inclusion of mindfulness. “Monkey Brain” was a way of life for me, creating unwanted anxiety and stress. Yoga has taught me how to calm the chatter, slow down and find my focus.

How has it helped the various aspects of your life: work, family, health?
The greatest gift has been the realization that everything stems from yoga. Work, family, and health all begin with yoga. Like many students, I noticed the physical changes at first, but after almost 7 years I can now sense the inward changes. That can be attributed to finally allowing the yoga to be present in all aspects of my daily life. My creativity as a composer has found new clarity, I’m no longer tense when playing guitar and can once again memorize entire programs of music for concerts. As for health, I used to have chronic back pain, now that’s a thing of the past.

What would you say to something thinking about trying?
Chuck ALL your expectations! Don’t over think the benefits of yoga. Simply go, go every day and allow the yoga do its work. Your journey with yoga will be unique to you, that’s what makes it truly special. No two people’s experience with yoga is the same. Yoga emanates from within you, and no one else is you. Start your practice and get ready to discover yourself, in all its imperfect beauty!

Timothy Lewis, 34, High School Biology Teacher

Tell us about how you found Land Yoga.
I found Land Yoga while searching for studios that offered Ashtanga yoga classes in a google search.

Had you ever done yoga before?
I practiced 3 months of vinyasa yoga with a teacher who practices Ashtanga yoga. She wasn’t certified to teach Ashtanga yoga but would talk to me about the practice as well as other styles of yoga.

What makes Land Yoga unique?
Land Yoga is unique in the overall feeling I get when entering the room. To me it feels like a sacred space.

What was it like coming on New Years Eve?
New Years Eve was refreshing, enlightening, and welcoming. I came with no real expectations of what to expect. The meditation was powerful, followed by a strong, yet accessible led class.

Why did you do the New Year New You commitment? And then the one year?
I did the New Year New You commitment because since my first yoga teacher mentioned Ashtanga yoga, I was intrigued by the style. I did research about ways it’s taught, where it’s offered, and was initially intimidated by many things, about it. However after New Years Eve I tried to move past the intimidation and excuses and wanted to give it a shot. Even after that commitment, it took a few months for me to come in and begin practicing. The decision to do the one year happened because the challenges associated with Ashtanga and benefits i noticed in just two months far outweighed my doubts and initial reservations.

What’s your schedule like daily? How do you find it making it to Land?
I wake up each day at 5:00am to practice Mysore before work. After my practice, I begin teaching at 8am. Most days in the evening I train a martial art. Getting to Land is an easy commute and a short walk from the 116th Street C train.

What has been the most surprising thing about your time here?
I think the most surprising thing about my time at Land Yoga so far is how much I’ve grown to like the Mysore style. I was skeptical about it initially. In growing to like the style, I am surprised that I’ve remembered the sequence.

What would you share with people considering a yoga practice?
Just do it. The barriers and excuses are made up and not real. Don’t wait for all conditions to be seemingly perfect. Now is the perfect time.

Elena Bravo, 60

What brought you to Land Yoga?

I have always been interested in doing in yoga, but I had never the opportunity to do so in the past. A few months back I was depressed, and my family encourages me to take classes to help me relax. That’s when I learn more about Land Yoga since it was close to where I live.

Had you ever done yoga before? Were you nervous?

I have never done yoga in the past. I was a little nervous, but more than anything I was excited to start doing yoga.

How do you communicate with the teacher when you speak different languages?

The teachers do their best to communicate with me in Spanish. Sometimes they will look for another student that speaks Spanish to help me. In addition, they demonstrate the yoga post to me several times and correct me when I am doing something wrong.

What can you share about the way we teach you here? Is it what you expected?

The teachers are very patient and caring throughout my experience. They take time and effort to show me the right way to do yoga. It is a very welcoming environment. I was not sure what to expect, but this a great place for a novice to start doing yoga.

What changes have you seen in your life since starting with us?

I have seen a few changes in my life since I started doing yoga. Not only I am able to do the yoga better, but I have lost weight and feel calmer and happier as well. This practice is helping with the feelings of depression and it is busting my confidence.

What would you say to someone nervous to start?

I would tell anyone that is thinking about starting to do yoga to just give it a change. It is a great practice, but do not expect to get better right away; you get better little by little with dedication. More importantly, you will learn to be mindful of your breathing and relax.

What are your goals here?

My goal is to be able to be relaxed and happier with me and to be able to stop having negative thoughts. I understand that yoga is one aspect that will help me towards these goals. In addition, I want to be able to be stronger, more flexible and have better health. I already can see some of the results as I am losing weight and feeling better.

Anything else you like to share?

I would like to say that this one of the best experiences I had had. I am very happy that I had started doing yoga and even happier to have chosen Land Yoga for this. I highly recommend this studio for anyone that is able to come.

Raju Dave, 46, Serial Entrepreneur

Where did you grow up and what brought you to Harlem? How long have you been here?

I grew up in India and moved to the United States with my family in 1999. Since we moved, we have always stayed in New York area. We moved to Harlem last year once our son went to Northwestern.

What are your favorite things about living in Harlem and to do in Harlem?

I love the friendly people of Harlem, parks, and unique restaurants. The best part is that my favorite grocery store is in my basement!

How did you discover Land Yoga?

We live in the stressful world and my working hours are crazy, I travel 150k + air miles every year. I became sick.After a major event in my life, I was looking to change my exercise routine. One day walking to the Central Park, I saw Land Yoga and decided to enroll.

After my recovery, I was looking to change my routine and that’s when I decided I need to do something different. I knew meditation and yoga can be something which might help me manage my stress. After I joined Land Yoga, I did feel that difference and took one more step – I started going to Sivanad Ashram every alternate weekend to learn meditation practice and reset my mind.

Today, I can focus better, never stress out in my public speaking and seminars.

I’ve done yoga before, however not in the Mysore style. In the beginning, I was a bit confused. But in a few days, I fell in love with the Mysore style of yoga.

Tell us your favorite classes, what you’ve learned about yourself, how you’ve surprised yourself and anything else you can about your practice.

I’ve done yoga before, however not in the Mysore style. In the beginning, I was a bit confused. But in a few days, I fell in love with the Mysore style of yoga. Mysore Ashtanga is my favorite. one of the reasons being, you do yoga at your pace & style. The only thing you must do is remember all of the sequences.

Tell us about opening The Club.

My love for Harlem was growing and at the same time, I was looking to diversify my portfolio in the retail business. That’s when I met Dominik Mager. I met him at his home salon whilst getting a haircut, and the idea of The Club was born.

What is its mission and how can we enjoy all your offerings.

Our missionworld-classlop a world class chain of salons which provides a social environment, makes you fee comfortable, and adds an edge to the traditional idea of hair artistry.

From 7/12 to 7/24, we are offering 20% off to first time customer.

Send us all your links and social media tags!

Feature in DNA:


Desiree Verdejo, 34, Founder of Vivrant Beauty

What drew you to Land Yoga?
I live and own a business in Harlem so I’ve noticed the great work that Land Yoga does in the community. I wanted to support but never saw myself as a yoga person because I usually love high-intensity workouts (umm, I was wrong!). I decided to try a something new when I found out that I was pregnant and signed up for the prenatal yoga classes.

Tell us about the pre-natal class you’ve been taking? Can someone do it who hasn’t done yoga? What kind of vibe is it? Are you meeting other women? What is special about Tara and Land for pre-natal?
My prenatal classes are one of my favorite parts of my pregnancy. Despite not having a strong yoga background, I was able to keep up with the positions immediately- before entering the first class, I was really scared that I’d embarrass myself. Tara’s a doula so she’s not just getting you strong so that you continue to look great. Every exercise that you do is to relieve some of the aches and pains of pregnancy (hello lower back pain) or to strengthen the muscles and body parts that you’ll need during labor. Her class is like a workout and an info session in one. Also, you’re in a room with a bunch of other expectant mamas from the neighborhood so there’s a moment in your week where you’re not the only one with a massive belly and also where you can chat about birth plans, cravings or local daycares with other Harlem women. it’s a really nice vibe.

How has yoga helped you during your pregnancy?
I’m at week 34 now so birth is definitely on my mind. Yoga definitely prepares you for birth by making you aware of movements that my be helpful to strengthen your body in advance of birth, and to relieve and to give you more control during birth.

How has it helped businesswoman woman in Harlem?
I own a beauty boutique in Harlem with premium, indie beauty products. As a small business owner, there’s a requirement for big marketing efforts and digital marketing campaigns but you have to balance those things with just connecting to the people that you’re catering to. Yoga has provided such a genuine way to interact with people in Harlem and prenatal yoga has been a great way to connect with moms in Harlem that are or may be becoming as discerning about effectiveness and ingredients as I am as a boutique owner and product curator.

Anything you want to share about your business, being in Harlem, your favorite businesses in Harlem, women businesses owner community, etc
Harlem is definitely a village and I love that this village has a healthy amount of woman-owned businesses with female entrepreneurs that support and uplift one another. It makes me proud that many of the establishments that I regularly frequent like Seven Brown’s Harlem Skin and Laser Clinic, Yvette Leeper-Bueno’s Vinateria and now Lara Land’s Land Yoga are female-owned businesses run by women that I feel comfortable reaching out to when I have questions about the Harlem business scene.

Any words of advice for someone afraid to take their first yoga class.
With a great yoga teacher, I was able to keep up and reap the benefits and I have a basketball-sized belly. If you’re thinking about it, just go for it.
220 St Nicholas Ave,
New York, NY 10027
​(212) 865-0100

Jonah Geffen, 39, Rabbi

How did you get into yoga? Did you do other kinds of yoga before coming to Land? What was that experience like?
My wife Julia trained as a yoga instructor and has taught all over the city, she got me “into” yoga. And so I tried other styles with and from her, vinyasa, flow, Hatha, stuff like that. I remember first feeling totally overwhelmed with how hard it was! I expected contemplative, meditative, slow and not physically demanding… I remember coming out of my first class sweating like crazy and very sore. Julia was mpressed though, because she noticed that when the instructor said to do something, I did it and did not really get confused. I explained though, that I had been a football player in high school and got used to having coaches tell me to move a certain way or shift a specific limb or angle, so that stuff came easy but the physical challenge, that was something I was not in shape for – that was 9 years ago. Since then and until moving to Harlem I had gone to the occasional class, but yoga never seemed like it was to be “my thing.”

Describe your experience at Land especially during the May challenge. What do you think you learned from daily practice like that? How has it changed your practice now?
So a little over a year ago we started going to Land, and I was really taken by the style. It fit me more than any other yoga I had experienced. We practiced for about a month before the May challenge, 2015 and I remember we tried it – but I could not get myself there daily and some life events and a back injury just threw me off. By June I had stopped showing up and in August I began a new job as the rabbi of Congregation Shaare Zedek on 93rd street and yoga fell by the wayside again. Fast forward to May challenge, 2016. This year I made two commitments for May, the first was to slow down my daily prayers and the second was to complete the May challenge at Land. So I began a practice that most days had me waking at 5am in order to have time to pray before heading to Land at 6 (then home by 7 to help make breakfast for the kids and help pack lunches and often take my eldest daughter to school). I was so sore! I think I posted about it… Still, I kept going. I made sure that I was in the studio daily, used my three “out of the studio” days and posted pics on Instagram to prove it, and somehow this year I was able to make it through. Still sore, but feeling very strong. The most striking aspect of the whole thing was something I had known and teach about in my role as a rabbi – that a real practice takes practice! The difference in my body from 2-3 days a week to 6 days a week was night and day. My body and mind began to crave the practice, instead of fight it. I am now able to feel and notice a change from day to day, that I never noticed before.

Your profession is in a religious space. Some people think yoga is a religion but it is really a practice that can compliment any religion. Can you speak on specifically your feelings practicing yoga as a rabbi and how it has informed that part of your life?
I love this question! In the Jewish community, you actually encounter yoga a lot. Some have tried to put yoga into a Jewish context or use Jewish terms. Some just have brought yoga into their practice of Judaism. I tried it all, and it never worked. Before coming to Ashtanga and really to Mysore I never found a real connection. I enjoyed yoga and all aspects of yoga culture but I could not blend the two. Judaism has strict prohibitions on idol worship and is very strictly monotheistic. And so, since yoga does have this quasi-religious sensibility, and real religious roots; I can not say words unless I know for sure what they mean. And this means that the Oming and chanting common in other yoga classes always left me feeling a little uncomfortable. It was not until coming to Land that I was able to truly incorporate a yoga practice into my whole religious self. I take my Judaism and its practice very seriously, and I needed a yoga style that was complementary. Mysore is so similar to the way I like my Judaism. Serious. Requiring and expecting commitment and practice. Challenging in a way that keeps you coming back to do the exact same thing over and over again, with the knowledge that there is always more to learn. As a religious person and a leader of a community of faith, I see daily how difficult it can be for people to bring Judaism into their lives as a true practice. Like yoga, Judaism is a daily practice that has many different aspects (much like the 8 limbs!) – but often for jews their Judaism is something that resides in 1 days a week or 3 days a year. And these experiences get less and less meaningful for people. Last year I was going to Land 2-3 days a week, and it didn’t take. I could not develop a real practice. It took a total commitment (and a star chart on the door!) on my end to see the benefits, but they came and they came quick! Yoga and Judaism really are so similar in that they lay the same challenge at peoples’ feet: commit to this, truly commit, and it will change your life for the better.

You recently had some tightness in your back. Because of your history in back spasm, we were extra careful. Can you talk about working through that and anything you learned?
So this was amazing! I have had back issues since high school, a lingering reminder of my days on the offensive line. In 2015, I aggravated my back doing yoga at Land and stayed away. I remember Lara saying something like “you should have come in, we could have helped!” and thinking, really? How counterintuitive, hurt your back doing yoga and then doing more yoga to get it better. And in 2016, a week or so into June, the same thing happened. This time I listened, I came back every day, Lara worked with me individually daily helping me to get my movement back and to keep my practice going. Honestly, I was terrified the whole time but Lara helped me with fear as much as the physical stuff. We practiced through it, and I feel so much stronger because of it.

Please share some final remarks.
Maimonides taught that “Just as the pupils are required to honor the teacher, so the teacher out to be courteous and friendly towards their pupils. The sages said: “Let the honor of your student be as dear to you as your own” (Pirkei Avot, 4:15). One should be interested in their pupils and love them, for they are the spiritual children who give pleasure in this world and in the world to come.” And so I just want to express my gratitude. First to my wife Julia, who introduced me to yoga and who taught me all the fundamentals. And second to Lara and Dana, who’s dedication to their craft, their practice, and their students is really quite extraordinary. All of you are living examples of Maimonides’ teaching, it is an honor to learn from you.

Ahmadou Sall, 23, Automotive Technician

What attracted you to Land Yoga?
It’s like the studio does its own advertisement. I walked by a few times the studio caught my attention so I said to myself why not give it a try. So I went online looked up yoga in my community just to do a little more research and land yoga was my first pick. So I walked in one day asked a few questions and then I signed up What was your previous experience with yoga? Growing up I didn’t know much about yoga. I thought it was an art just dealing with stretching, meditation, and flexibility.

What had other physical activities you done?
I used practice Shotokan Karate a form of martial arts that originated in Okinawa. I practiced this system unfirst-degreeed a first degree black belt. My experience with martial arts is what encouraged me to practice yoga. I noticed that I wasn’t as flexible as I used to be especially when I’m practicing my kicks You’ve been practicing pretty regularly for about two months now.

What are some changes that you have noticed in your self (mind/body/spirit)?
I noticed since day one that yoga helps u relax. The breathing techniques allow you to realize that we tell ourselves everything is okay but in reality, we’re frustrated, worked up, and so tensed without knowing so. Internally yoga helps u relax you won’t be so impulsive and as for externally, you get stronger.

What do you think is special about this practice? This practice allows you to realize that the gym doesn’t mean you’re strong. I can’t remember the last time I’ve been in the gym because yoga made me realize that you can big but not strong. Yoga helps you challenge yourself and build natural strength.
What would you say to someone who is scared to try it out? Don’t be scared you just have to challenge yourself if you want to succeed. I guarantee you that you’ll find yourself wanting to learn more and more. The teachers are extremely patient and they know how to deal with the student according to the student capabilities.


We started practicing yoga a couple years ago, but this is the first year we have both practiced every day. Elizabeth’s stepmom is into Ashtanga and told us about it. We both like the structure of the practice. Elizabeth especially likes not waiting for a teacher’s instructions – Mysore style Ashtanga helps her practice mindfully.

When we moved to East Harlem, we realized Land Yoga was the closest community Ashtanga studio. We weren’t interested in any of the corporate places on the Upper East Side. We love going across Harlem – we walk through the park on the way back. It has become part of how we spend time together. Anyone in Harlem who is interested in yoga should come practice here!

We *love* talking about practice and the new things we are learning. It’s our favorite conversation topic! Sharing an essential part of our daily lives really bonds us together.

Both of us spend lots of time sitting at work. I am a chess teacher, which means lots of time sitting across from students with a board in between us. Elizabeth is an English curriculum writer, so she works from home and is seated for 100% of her workday. Practicing yoga helps us both stay focused, which includes sitting comfortably! Elizabeth’s work is deadline driven, and her colleagues often comment on how calm she always seems – Elizabeth attributes that largely to her practice.

On my last day in Philadelphia, I practiced with Chuck Secallus in a studio Lara referred me to. There is something amazing about walking into a room in another state and seeing everyone practicing the same Ashtanga yoga I am used to! I think Ashtanga is a type of universal language. People were strikingly welcoming and friendly, especially the teachers.

We love the teachers at Land Yoga. They are so knowledgeable, helpful, and supportive. And we notice good teaching because of our jobs! Our favorite thing about daily practice is how it makes us feel, mentally and physically. I feel an energetic buzz after every single practice, and it stays with me throughout the day.

I think there is a misconception that Ashtanga is only for people who are already in shape or have prior yoga experience. The truth is that Ashtanga is the best yoga to study because you learn at your own pace! You do the poses you are ready for, in the way you are ready to do them. You won’t hurt yourself trying to follow some instruction that’s way over your head. Mysore style Ashtanga is taught the way real learning is meant to take place – each student is on a personal journey.

Melinda Abbott, 41

Occupation: Yoga teacher @equinox, Adjunct Professor, Health Education Unit @Hostos community college (CUNY) doctoral student @Teachers college

How long have you been practicing yoga?
I have been practicing yoga since 1995. Long time! Through the years I’ve taken breaks but since 2005 I’ve been pretty steady.

What drew you to it?
I was drawn to yoga because I was curious more than anything. Yogis seemed like really cool people! Very spiritual and quick to rise above a knee jerk reaction, very loving to everyone. I was attracted to that idea. I was also always flexible but not very strong.

What did you expect and what was it really?
I honestly can’t remember my expectations but I know for sure I didn’t expect to fall fast asleep at the end! My first teacher had to wake me up, I was so relaxed I just melted into my mat! I’ll never forget that. I didn’t expect it to be so challenging. That also keep me curious, like hmm what else? I wanted to keep learning poses and variations.

What brought you to Ashtanga?
I studied at Jivamukti for a long time. They always say their lineage and I knew it was ashtanga and Pattabhi Jois but I never really knew more than that. I completed the 300 hour Jivamukti teacher training and I was so in love with yoga, I wanted to trace the roots of my teachers, and their teachers. That led me directly to Ashtanga. I hated it at first! It felt so rigid and so so so hard! I couldn’t do any of the binds or twists or jump throughs or anything. Luckily I had patient teachers who helped me master one pose and transition at a time.

Why is it special to you?
Ashtanga is special to me because it’s actually so serene. Yes, it’s very challenging but it’s also so peaceful and beautiful. The breathing is especially calming to me.

What brought you to Land Yoga?
I needed a new place to practice so I tried Land. It’s also close to me since I live in Washington Heights.

What do you like most about practicing at Land Yoga?
Well honestly I like the hours, I like that there is evening and Sunday practice and I really love the teachers. In my experience, everyone is very patient and non- judgmental and allows each person to practice according to their own body and breath. That’s helped me be less judgmental too, and as a teacher, I feel very honored to have any level of student in my class and honor all levels of practice and all expressions of breath. It’s a process and we are all working on it. I see this in action at Land all the time, with all levels of practitioner- it’s inspiring! No one is perfect but everyone is beautiful in their effort.

How has yoga informed your life?
That’s a really deep question! Since I am a yoga teacher and health educator, this is literally my heart and soul. I’ve learned so much about practice, patience, commitment and forgiveness on my yoga mat. I can’t imagine my life without it.

What would you say to someone thinking about starting?
Do it!

What other things do you like to do and like to do in Harlem?
I love being around my family, my biological family, my friend family, my dog and my church family.
I go to church at FCBC right around the corner from Land yoga- so in my opinion, I have the perfect Harlem Sunday morning- amazing church service followed by yoga practice. It sets me up for my week in the best possible way! I’m super fortunate. I really am.

Anything else to add?
Nope! I’m just a happy ashtangi 🙂 drop backs are the best!!!

Brian Kloss, 48

Occupation: Senior Scientist, NY Structural Biology Center

I have lived in New York for almost 28 years and for much of that time I cycled almost daily, both to commute and for exercise, but for a variety of reasons I don’t very much anymore. Like most New Yorkers, I walk a lot, but lately, I’ve felt that I needed to do something more. Gyms don’t really interest me, but I have always been intrigued by yoga, particularly how one becomes more flexible, while at the same time gaining strength. But the meditative and relaxation aspects of yoga also appealed to me, particularly the pace of the movements and breath. I anticipated an experience that would leave me both physically challenged and in a calm, relaxed state of mind. By practicing yoga, I hope to improve my flexibility, gain strength, increase stamina and produce a feeling of calm in my self.

To be honest, my decision to come to Land Yoga was mainly one of convenience – I’m a morning person and I liked that the studio opened early and is located roughly midway between home and work, allowing me to practice before heading to the lab. I had no prior experience with yoga until I attended one of Dana’s Saturday afternoon led classes. Of course, all of the poses were new to me and I struggled to keep up for the entire hour. But during that class, I realized that yoga met many of my expectations and I signed up for a month immediately afterward. In that first month, I practiced about three times a week, during which time I concluded that yoga was something I would very much like to continue and renewed for another six months.

I now have been practicing at Land Yoga for about two months, attending Mysore classes one to four times a week, depending on my schedule. For me, practicing yoga in the morning before work has been terrific. Yes, it’s been a slow process, especially learning and remembering the proper sequence of each of the poses and I’m still a long way from doing any of them fully and correctly. But Lara and Dana have been incredibly patient and inspirational. Over the past two months I’ve gained strength and flexibility and now I can even touch my toes! After practicing in the early morning, I leave the studio sweaty, energized and motivated to face the day ahead (and quite possibly, a half-inch taller).

As the sign says out in front of the studio, “Yoga is for everyone” and my experience at Land supports this. While I may have arrived here by chance, Land Yoga has been a wonderful discovery. The instructors are terrific and the studio is a beautiful and peaceful space. The Mysore classes are particularly appealing, as everyone practices according to their own levels of experience and ability, while receiving individualized attention and assistance from the instructor leading the class. I encourage anyone who is considering getting started, but may be apprehensive, or intimidated, to give it a try. You won’t regret it.

Shaun Covington, 56

Profession: Real Estate

I have been studying at Land Yoga for a little over a year now. I have gone to other Yoga classes in the past but I find Land Yoga’s, Ashtanga Yoga most refreshing. You can attend the sessions within an allotted time window and practice at your own pace.The instructor is observing and giving mindful guidance during the session. As they see your progress, they add additional movements. You never feel overwhelmed or out of place. I started going to Land Yoga because I was told that Yoga, practiced regularly, would relieve some of the lower back pain I was experiencing by loosening the muscles and tendons in the back. Most Importantly, I am also an avid golfer. The motions practiced in yoga have helped my swing tremendously. I am hesitant to share this, as it is revealing my secret to my golfing buddies, but it is true. My back has felt much better and I can see my ability to rotate my body getting increasingly easier the more I practice.

I would recommend Land Yoga to anyone who whats to increase there mind to body awareness. I have found it to be a great stress reliever. I can go into a session tense but after the focused breathing and rhythmic movements, I come out feeling refreshed. I no longer view Yoga as just some fade I would do and move on. I now see it as a practice for a lifelong body and soul awakeness that will serve me well in my advancing years.

Shauna Lozada, 35

Occupation: Marketing Director, AHRC NYC

What drew you to Land Yoga?
I really wanted to find somewhere in the Harlem area to practice. I live in the area, and it’s important for me be part of the community, and contribute to the businesses in the area. I dabbled in a number of yoga styles over years, but nothing really stuck. A couple years back, when traveling through India, I attended a week-long workshop in Goa, at Purple Valley Yoga, with Govinda Kai. This is where I was introduced to Ashtanga. Once I returned, I started my practice at AYNY in Soho, but once they relocated to Brooklyn, it was increasingly more challenging to attend classes.

What do you particularly like about this method of practice and about being at Land?
I like that it’s individualized. We’re all on different journeys, and this style allows for this practice to meet you, where you are, in your journey. I also really like the dedication required for this style of yoga. Overall, it’s allowed me to focus on my overall well-being; it has given me permission to listen to my body. This style of yoga can be intimidating because you don’t have other people to follow, but once you allow yourself to give into the practice, you’ll be happy with what you discover.

Mary Ewing-Mulligan, 64

Practicing yoga for 2 1/2 years

What made you decide to try us out? Had you done yoga before?
I used to be a fairly serious recreational runner. I trained for 5 marathons and was so proud of my accomplishment. But I had injuries along the way. In 2011, I was suffering from plantar fasciitis and a heel spur: I couldn’t even walk without pain. I had just moved into the city from the suburbs and knew that I needed to find a new form of exercise. Land Yoga had just opened, just around the corner from my home. I was unfamiliar with the various types of yoga but loved the idea of Mysore practice — the freedom of the schedule and the individual nature of the experience. That’s what motivated me to join.

What did you think when you first started? Did you expect to still be here now?
I was amazed at the proficiency of the other students, but I didn’t feel intimidated because the instruction was caring. I was impatient to progress quickly, but Lara took me along very slowly. “There’s always time,” she said. My impatience was a big challenge that I had to overcome. I knew that I would continue with yoga, though; I sensed that it is an activity that I could sustain for the rest of my life. What I didn’t expect was the degree to which I have embraced the practice, and how much I love it.

What do you enjoy most about the practice? What are the challenges and what do you do when you encounter them?
I enjoy the physical challenge of it, and even more so I enjoy turning my attention inward and watching how my body responds to that challenge. I love the fact that one’s practice is personal — it’s between me and myself. In that sense, it reminds me of the solitary nature of training for a marathon, which ultimately is just between you and the road.

My limited physical ability can frustrate me sometimes, and when that happens, I try to smile at my stumbling efforts and remind myself how far I’ve come. Distraction is a challenge for me on some days; I try to notice it when it happens and use my breathing to bring myself back inward.

How has this practiced helped you outside the yoga room?
I am not the same person I was 2 ½ years ago. I feel more alive and more present in the world, instead of existing amidst the niggling anxieties in my mind. I feel younger than ever both physically and mentally. The experience has simply been transforming. I am so fortunate to be able to drink from the fountain of youth every morning!

What would you say to someone considering joining?
I would highly recommend it, of course, and I would say to stick with it even if it seems slow going at first. I would urge him or her to practice daily to gain the most benefit. In a word, I’d say, “Commit.”

Is there anything you’ve found unique about the experience here?
I have no basis for comparison, but I find it hard to imagine another yoga studio that combines such kind and talented teachers, such a strong community focus and such emphasis on giving and goodwill. Land Yoga not only teaches yoga but also teaches a way of life.

What you do and how people can support you?
I have a wine school in NYC, International Wine Center, ( which many people consider the leading wine school in the U.S. Because I am one of only 314 Masters of Wine in the world, some of our classes attract a serious crowd, but we welcome novices, too. I also write about wine; I have a regular column on Wine Review Online ( that features wines I particularly like. Finally, I am the co-author of Wine For Dummies and seven other wine books in the …For Dummies series — together with my husband, Ed McCarthy. We are so proud of that book, now in its 6th edition and translated into 37 languages! If you want to learn about wine, please check out our book!

Adrienne Phillips, 39

Profession: Hematologist and Medical Oncologist; Assistant Professor of Clinical Medicine at Columbia University Medical Center; Assistant Attending at New York Presbyterian Hospital

I received a free weeklong invitation to try Land Yoga last year as part of a Holiday gift raffle. I didn’t end up trying it until April though as I was pretty committed to my regular exercise at the gym (running, Zumba, boot camp classes, etc). I had also tried yoga before- Hatha and Bikram, and it never really stuck. Though I enjoyed Bikram, it was challenging to fit the class into my daily routine. With Hatha, perhaps I never really learned it correctly but I didn’t feel like I was getting an adequate work-out and I always found my mind wandering to other things during the class. After my first week of Ashtanga style yoga with Lara I immediately enjoyed it and felt like I was truly getting a different type of exercise. Learning postures one at a time forced me to perfect them before moving on (key for my perfectionist personality!). Simultaneously incorporating the breathing technique also relaxed me and allowed me to maximize each posture.

Learning Ashtanga also came at a particularly stressful time in my professional career when I was feeling overwhelmed with career decisions and taking care of very sick patients. Starting each day quietly breathing and going through the postures allows me to come into work prepared for any challenge. It’s also helped me during moments of stress during the day as I find myself practicing the breathing technique when feeling overwhelmed or stressed.

Health-wise, it’s also been helpful as my blood pressure had been running high and now it’s better controlled without medications. My first free week turned into a month and now 6 months later, I try to practice at least 4 times a week. I feel stronger, healthier and happier overall and it has really become part of my everyday routine. Next month, I will be hiking Mount Kilimanjaro and I’ve intensified my practice now essentially going daily and jogging to the studio. I particularly feel my core getting stronger which will help with the daypack I will wear on the hike. The breathing technique will also come in handy as just how breathing deeply and focusing more on my breaths helps be position myself just a little bit deeper in the postures, so too will it help me focus on the endurance I will need to reach the summit of the mountain (I hope). My life as a physician can be very chaotic and intense, and in my particular field of oncology I frequently deal with quite sick and at times dying patients. Practicing Ashtanga yoga each morning has grounded me and allowed me to focus better not only on my patients and career but also myself and the simple things that makes life enjoyable.

Regarding advice, I would say yoga is a practice and you must enter each class with an open mind and prepared for a challenge. Some days postures come easily and other days they don’t but I am patient and enter each class with a clear head and open for whatever experience I will have for the day.

Elizabeth Griffin

I always told myself and others that I hated exercise. I thought the only way I would enjoy working out was if I had a TV in front of me watching one of my favorite television shows. I decided one day to try yoga just to stretch out my body. I was only hoping to get a good stretch, as they say. Little did I know that I had walked not into just an exercise studio but into a new way of life.

When I started at Land I decided to take one led class a week. I had Dana or Lara leading me in the beautiful postures. Week after week I would come and enjoy the beautiful movements. I always felt great afterward. I had heard about Mysore but was really intimidated to start. I figured that since I am not a yogi there was no way I could do it, it sounded too intense. In fact, I would not even buy a mat for the three years I took the led class. I just could not commit to a practice.

Then over this past summer, I had the opportunity to do yoga more frequently while I was on vacation in the country. I noticed how I felt after class, day in and day out. The feeling was uplifting, enlightening and something I wanted to have in my daily life here in New York City. I decided to give it a try and join Mysore practice. The first day I was nervous, but Dana was so kind and so encouraging that I was able to feel right at home. The second day when I woke up in the morning I found my body kind of on autopilot, taking me right to the studio and I felt like I really wanted to be there. My body knew it too. Ever since I started,I have always felt wonderful after class. I feel proud of my progress and stronger and more serene than ever. It is the perfect balance to my hectic life as a mother, professional and NYC dweller.

I am an example of someone who thought she hated exercise who fell in love with the practice. I feel open and connected to my life in a new way after doing Mysore. I encourage all to try it.

Kristen Caldecutt, 30

Occupation: Community Manager at SevenFifty (wine & spirits technology company)

How long have you been coming to Land Yoga? Did you do yoga before? What was your first impression coming here?
I just celebrated my 3 year yoga anniversary at Land in April! I had dabbled in Hatha and Vinyasa classes in college but had not practiced for around 8 years. When I decided to join Land, I was reverse commuting to New Jersey, but living in Harlem. Thankfully, I was able to grab the Led classes at night with Dana. Starting at Land in a totally new yoga style, I felt welcome, not overwhelmed. Ashtanga yoga works for me, as I can see my progress practicing the primary series. When I moved to my current job, I was able to switch to Mysore classes.

How has yoga affected your life? relationships? work?
I feel that I have a lot more stamina, both mentally and physically. I find morning practice positively affects my performance at work. I feel out of sorts when I haven’t been able to practice.

What is your favorite thing about coming here?
I love the connection with all of the teachers and their different teaching styles. It has been great to meet some of the fellow yogis in the local community.

How has the experience been practicing since you’ve become pregnant?
Since becoming pregnant, the practice has been a great way for me to get in touch with myself and my baby. I can feel smaller things, such as my center of gravity changing that I would not notice otherwise. Having a great teacher like Lara to guide you and add specific new poses has been incredibly helpful to keep my life as ‘normal’ as possible before such a huge change ahead!

In my first trimester, Lara gave me modifications (no jump through, jump backs, assistance in balancing poses, no deep spinal twists, no extreme forward folding). I was loath to give up the full spinal twists in the Marichyasana set, as that is one of my favorites! The first trimester was an odd time for me, as I wasn’t visibly showing, felt fine, and didn’t yet have the shortness of breath. I started eating a little snack before going to practice in the morning and making sure I had drunk one pint of water before and after. Lara also added several hip openers and additional poses that would help stretch out my low back. Adding these modifications was one of the first indicators to me that I needed to take it easier and be aware that it wasn’t just me anymore.

When my second trimester started, I was starting to show, I was definitely feeling more out of breath, and needed to take everything a bit slower. I found that my pace and breath had to slow down and that I might need a few extra moments to collect myself before moving on to the next pose. I could start to understand now why deep spinal twists are removed, as my bump was growing and ‘getting in the way’.

As I have just entered into my third trimester, I find I am moving more slowly and need to modify positions that I used to be able to do previously. That said, going to yoga makes my whole body feel better by stretching out muscles that are now more used to sitting. I still find that the Marichyasana set is one of my favorites, although now I am appreciating the hip opening poses more and more.

What has made me proud over the course of my pregnancy is the fact that I still have a strong, albeit modified, practice, which includes backbends, shoulder stands, and even assisted headstands. Keeping up my practice has not only been eye-opening for the changes I was experiencing, but also for maintaining a sense of ‘normalcy’ as my body has been growing.

Stacey McFadin

Occupation: Pre/Post Natal Instructor

What brought you to teaching pre/postnatal yoga?
I am fascinated by the capacity of the female body to grow and give birth to another human! A woman’s body goes through so many changes along the journey of pregnancy, childbirth, and motherhood, and yoga can be a wonderful complement to these transformations. Midwives and doulas have long recognized that certain movements (which mirror some yoga asanas) can help position a baby favorably in the womb, as well as help a baby negotiate the space during birth. Additionally, yoga techniques of pranayama and mantras can help quiet the mind during pregnancy, childbirth and beyond.

Did you teach yoga before?
I began my own yoga practice in 2008 when I was a stressed out attorney. My first career was as a professional dancer and dance instructor, so when I transitioned to the law I found that I was craving movement in my body and sanity in my mind – yoga was a great solution for both. I fell in love with yoga – I often say that in my personal yoga practice I feel as though I am dancing on my mat. I teach vinyasa, slow flow, and restorative. I also volunteer with the non-profit Exhale to Inhale, where I teach trauma-informed yoga to survivors of domestic abuse.

What do you like most about teaching women expecting/with new babies?
What I like most about teaching expecting and new mothers are helping them to become comfortable in their changing bodies. Whether their bodies are currently growing a baby, or whether their bodies are transitioning postpartum, their bodies and minds are going through enormous changes. I love holding space for expecting and new mothers to practice self-care and seeing them leave class feeling so much better than they did before they came in.

Why do you think yoga is important at this time?
Prenatal and postnatal yoga classes offer expecting and new mothers a time to share in a supportive community the many changes they are experiencing – this support is incredibly valuable during the journey into motherhood. In addition, childbirth education is peppered throughout each class to help women stay informed about their options, yoga asanas build confidence and increase strength, and mindful breathwork offers the possibility to relax and reduce anxiety.

What drew you to Land Yoga/Harlem?
I love how Land Yoga contributes to the Harlem community!

Anything else you’d like to share with our community about your wishes or hopes for them and your time together?

I am sincerely looking forward to becoming a part of the Land Yoga family and to meeting all of the wonderful students who make the Land Yoga community so special.

Camaron Fagan

Occupation: Owner- Row House

What was your previous yoga experience?
Not much. 2 Bikram classes, 1 class at Land, occasional dabbling over the years. Never really stuck.

Tell us about the prenatal class. What does it consist of? Was it what you expected? Is it appropriate for all levels?
I liked how we introduced ourselves in the beginning- talked about how far along we were and specific aches/pains. There’s a lot of breathing and stretching exercises, definitely appropriate for all levels. I’m used to high-intensity workouts so they are kind enough to offer a few modifications to me to bring a bit more ‘heat’ to the class.

What are some of your favorite things about living and owning a business in Harlem
It’s all about the community. I feel very lucky to be living in a community where neighbors know each other. I know when I have this baby (my first) that my Harlem family will be there!

Do you have anything coming up you’d like to share?
If you’re like me and have to work through the holiday weekend, come to RH for brunch. We are doing Jazz Brunch Saturday through Tuesday July 1-4.

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