Yoga Helping Many During Lockdown, including LA’s Lisa Rau

Yoga Helping Many During Lockdown, including LA’s Lisa Rau

Lisa Rau is the Editorial Manager at the USC Center on Public Diplomacy (CPD), a premier organization dedicated to furthering the study and practice of global public engagement and cultural relations. During lockdown she has found stability and motivation through her yoga practice as part of her Yoga studio at Los Angeles.

She says as an American the chanting of a mantra for purification was both new and fascinating for her. Her studio chants the mantra: om apavitrah pavitro vā /sarvāvasthāṁ gato api vā/ yaḥ smaret puṇḍarīkākṣaṁ
sa bahya abhyantaraṁ śuciḥ/ śrī viṣṇu śrī viṣṇu śrī viṣṇu/ which talks about external and internal purification through chanting.

In this interview with CSP she talks about her interest and journey in Yoga.

How and when did you first come into contact with Yoga? What did the word itself mean to you at that point?

I discovered yoga in the spring of 2018 after returning from a trip to Egypt with my family. Our tour guide spoke of spiritual cultures dating back to ancient times, and I became interested in yoga as something akin to that. Shortly after the trip I found my home studio Dharma Mittra Yoga LA.

The word "yoga" to me always meant cultivating wellbeing. Now, I'm learning more specific themes—a few so far are expansion, containment and purification.

Could you talk a bit about the studio that you go to?

Dharma Mittra Yoga LA is a gem in the heart of the West Adams district of Los Angeles. It's an intimate studio that accommodates large group gatherings like sound baths and large classes, but cozy enough for private instruction or the more common small group sessions.

The Dharma lineage we learn and practice focuses a lot on purification. Twisting poses—wringing out the energy and breathing through it - are how I've come to understand the concept both in my body and as it applies to everyday life. Another part of the practice is the "Mantra for Purification" chanted in Sanskrit which is quite the new experience to me as an American.

What does your practice involve? How do you feel after doing yoga? Is there anything else you can compare that feeling to?

Twice weekly I practice a full session lasting up to two hours, but it's the brief early morning bursts of shorter sequences that feel more like a daily through line for me. Before yoga, I stretched in a perfunctory manner.

One teacher at Dharma introduced me to the concept of containment. Sure, he said, you can become flexible. But what do you do within that space? To that effect, he taught me to appreciate not just the newfound expansion between two points, but to build and harness bandwidth within that space. It reminds me of today's buzzword "agility" in the business world, as illustrated in this article by a dancer and professor.

The Dharma Yoga website says that they have a poster of 908 postures by Guru Dharma Mittra. Is there a sequence that is followed or is it individual training?

We follow a sequence of surya namaskars followed by standing and seated poses, inversions and a closing breathing exercise. I believe the shorter wheel we use for daily practice is an adaptation of the larger posture chart, and some teachers keep it out for visual reference.

What does Dharma Mittra mean to you literally and how is that translated into the training?

To me, Dharma Mittra is a person who has figured out how to make the most of what our body can offer by way of accessing inner and spiritual dimensions.

How does Yoga help during these troubled times?

Retaining a consistent yoga practice during the transition to quarantine has been challenging, but an opportunity to practice the skill of re-building routine and rhythm.

Zoom yoga is interesting... I moved a yoga mat out into my living room so that my temporary home office now doubles as a temporary home studio. On the bright side, shavasana is nice in your own bed and makes me wonder whether it's a quarantine life hack to time it with sleep. I'll need to ask our studio owner, Sonya.

Anxiety seems to be an undercurrent of this worldwide, uncertain crisis.

Remembering to breathe deeply is probably the key yoga takeaway that applies most to my life, from pacing to general wellness and productivity.

In your view as an American, is yoga among the most pervasive aspects of India's soft power?

As an American, I think yoga is one of the most visible and positive markers of Indian culture that exists as an everyday household name. It seems to be a gateway of sorts for Westerners seeking new cultural and spiritual understandings. Yoga's byproducts of mental and physical wellbeing (in Dharma we're taught to renounce the benefits of our practice to someone other than ourselves) are highly relevant to my generation, as millennials seem to be a big market for self-help, mindfulness and progress-oriented exercise routines. Whatever the method, I hope the lessons of yoga continue to reach people of diverse backgrounds everywhere.

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