All good things come to an end and so here is the final part of our Lauren Krauze interview. I knew that Fate had intervened and brought me to her class when I learned that she was an Urban Studies major at NYU. Knowing this, I wanted to conclude our discussion by talking about yoga and its relation to the studio space, architecture, and the city. The yoga studio fascinates me, as it appears to be a rare urban space that explicitly prioritizes presence, stability, calm, serenity, and the active body. These are all run counter to what I think of as some of the defining characteristics of the City of Anxiety—multi-tasking, precarious, freelancing, immaterial, desk-bound. I wanted to think through these sketchy notions of the yoga studio as a space of resistance and Lauren was kind enough to entertain my ramblings and leading questions. She has given us great insight into these topics and has opened up numerous avenues for future thinking.
I’m sad to say goodbye to Lauren, but happy that we were able to kick off our Interviews section with her. For those in the New York City area, get in touch with her to begin or broaden your yoga practice, as she deserves the biggest audience in the world. Or hell, fly her to your city and make her an international yoga star please. Enjoy this final part, more conversations to come soon…
Pound for Pound: What are your thoughts when you hear the word utopia?
Lauren Krauze: Some of my teachers have said, “yoga is the state where you are missing nothing.” This is how I interpret the concept of utopia; it’s the literary equivalent of Samadhi.
How do you see yoga and meditation in relation to our everyday lives? Can the concepts and ideas brought out in the yoga studio help us outside, in the city, at work, at home, at play?
I think this is how a practitioner’s daily yoga practice evolves. After we practice for so long and with such dedication and intention, the experience of yoga becomes so highly remembered in each of us. When something is regularly remembered, it’s hard to forget. Various applications of the yoga practice—ranging from a steady, calm breath to the embodiment of ethical precepts and a personal spiritual fervor—remain with the practitioner more often and in more circumstances: as she walks around the city, jams out at a concert, or attends a meeting at work.
Do you believe the yoga studio represents an oasis from the city, a space of detachment? Or is it a space that is connected but resistant to the city outside?
I’ve been thinking a lot about renowned 20th’ Century sociologist Jane Jacobs’ studies of city culture and urban infrastructure. I’ve also been toying with the idea that the city is a macrocosm of our intra- and interpersonal landscapes. That said, I believe that whatever applications you can make to the city, you can make to yourself.
For example, in The Death and Life of Great American Cities, Jacobs wrote the following about successful cities:
"There must be a clear demarcation between public and private space.
There must be eyes upon the street."
I think the studio concept is a temporary model, actually. Right now, many people are learning how to practice yoga, which is an effort that requires classes and formal one-to-many instruction. The studio model, or the classroom model, is a logical response to that interest. However, I think the industry model will eventually evolve where more people develop individual, home-based practices. When that happens, the entire city becomes a yoga studio.
So, let’s take another look at Jane Jacob’s tenets from that perspective, one that suggests how the city can be a successful yoga studio:
There must be a clear demarcation between public and private space. With more people practicing yoga and remember who they really are, I think their internal, private space will be held with more reverence and respect than ever. As this happens, the line between our public space (that which we present to the world) and our private space (that which we hold dear and sacred) will become clearer. Right now, it seems like our culture tends to blur this line (or create no demarcation at all).
There must be eyes upon the street. This current phenomenon of walking-and-smartphoning will fade. I do anticipate that, as more people practice yoga and develop a daily practice, there will be an increase in alertness and vigilance, both internally and externally. I also think there will be heightened ability for people to pay attention to, and delight in, their natural surroundings.
I love this idea of the entire city as a yoga studio. Do you see that as a goal as a teacher, the decentralization of yoga so to speak, whereby the studio class splinters into thousands of tiny, home-based ones? Or is there something about the studio space and its group setting that is important and necessary?
I think the goal of any teacher is to empower students to engage in and pursue self-study. A teacher facilitates a learning experience by serving as a guide who, with great care, thought and love, introduces and invites. Deep learning and growth happen when students practice, internalize, and consider what the teacher shows them. As they continue this process, students not only learn from a teacher, but also from other students, their environment, and their own experiences.
This reflects the concept of guru. Guru is a Sanskrit word that means means ‘remover of darkness.’ Vedantic teachings tell us that the guru is not only all around us, but within us as well. Everything we encounter—including our own realizations, dreams, and fears—serves as a learning opportunity. I find this idea every empowering. It motivates me to keep my eyes open, practice discernment, and evaluate everything with which I come into contact.
So, as long as we recognize that opportunities for learning are all around us (in studios and schools) and within us as well (elements we discover through reflective self-study practice at home), both studio and home-based practices will be relevant and necessary.
Also, a spiritual path can present many challenges. It involves deep internal investigation and inquiry, which requires commitment and dedication. Studios and schools generally have a satsang, which is a Sanskrit word that means ‘a gathering of like-minded individuals.’ It’s a community of people all interested in pursuing the same kind of uplifting, spiritual endeavors. In my own practice, I’ve found it helpful to have support and encouragement from people invested in the same types of practices.
If you had the money and time, what would your ideal yoga studio look like? Where would it be? NYC? SF? LA? City? Country? Suburbs? Secluded? Open to its surroundings? Big? Small? High ceilings? Low ceilings? Open floor? Columns throughout? Wood floors? Carpeting? Big windows? Small windows? No windows? White walls? Black walls? Pink walls?
I definitely have my preferences. My ideal studio would be clean, minimal, spacious, bright, and decorated with plants and reminders of nature (or actually located out nature itself, preferably near a beach). Having sweet little animals around would be fun, too.
As I think about this, I am also reminded of this teaching (from The Yoga Sutra of Patanjali, translated by by Shri Brahmananda Sarasvati):
YS IV.28: The greatest obstacle to the practice is one’s own prejudices based on one’s own preferences.
He’s explaining that our preferences create more obstacles than they do pathways to enrichment. I don’t think he’s saying we should completely avoid our preferences. I believe that our preferences tell us many things about ourselves and help us to grow in self-awareness. However, what I think he’s saying is that it might be limiting to always indulge in and chase after that which we believe is ideal. If we stick only to our preferences, we risk becoming closed off from other options that could help us become closer to ourselves and each other.
So yes, I have an ideal yoga studio. However, what’s more appealing to me, at this point, is the potential that I have to carry the teachings and apply various aspects of the practice with me at all times, regardless of whether I am practicing in a studio or not.
How can my readers get in touch and find out what you are up to these days?
I love meeting new people and connecting about yoga, meditation, teaching, and writing/artistic expression. Please feel free to check out my website and write me an email to say hello.
You can also come take class and practice. Check out my classes at Brahman Yoga in Harlem and Jivamukti Yoga Center in Jersey City. I also teach private sessions at these studios and in students’ homes.