Christine Noonan recently had the opportunity to sit down with Lana Sugarman, who has an upcoming Kirtan CD release event at Downward Dog this Saturday.
Well TO Do: Please introduce yourself to the Well TO Do readers.
Lana Sugarman: Hey! I’m a Toronto-based yoga teacher, kirtan artist, and actor. I have been teaching yoga since 2009 and I lead classes and retreats throughout Ontario.
WTD: What inspired you to start yoga?
LS: I discovered yoga at the age of 15 in a ‘Yoga for Teens’ class in Red Deer, Alberta. It was in one of those catalogues of classes the city puts out, and some of my friends and I wanted to try something new.
When I was in high school I was going to Ashtanga classes twice a week. For me it connected me to my body in a way I hadn’t experienced before – it gave me strength and opened my mind to what was possible.
WTD: You specialize in teaching Yin, Jivamukti, Meditation, and Mantra. Can you give our readers a brief explanation of each and why you enjoy teaching it?
LS: Jivamukti Yoga is an Ashtanga-inspired vinyasa flow style. It is vigorous, creative, and incorporates both meditation and mantra. Often, at the beginning of class, students will chant and briefly discuss an element of yoga philosophy. That philosophy theme is woven throughout the physical practice.
Yin yoga is an opportunity to slow down. Poses are held for 3-5 minutes, all done close to the floor. We are aiming to affect change in the connective tissue of the body. The passive and reflective nature of Yin makes it a wonderful balance to our active (Yang) practice.
Meditation allows us to pause, and get more comfortable sitting in stillness – to observe and accept what is present right now.
Mantra can be a meditation tool. They can be in English, but I really love the Sanskrit language. The rhythm and repetition of mantras can get us out of our habitual thought patterns and shift our focus to a specific intention. Mantras can also help to regulate and deepen the breath.
WTD: In addition to being an inspiring yoga teacher, you are a kirtan artist. For those who aren’t familiar with this amazing gift of yours, please share more about it.
LS: The word kirtan can mean ‘to sing’. It is the practice of call and response chanting and is a form of Bhakti Yoga. I used to call it a ‘yoga concert’, because it’s very musical. I play an instrument called the harmonium and always have a drummer playing – sometimes a guitar, bass, or violin.
The fun part is that people get to sing back – it’s a chance to create vibrations in your body, express in a group, or to simply listen to the sounds. The words we sing are all Sanskrit mantras. They are often quite simple so people can catch on without needing previous experience.
WTD: Speaking of kirtan, congratulations on your upcoming CD release! Where can people go to have a listen? Do you have any upcoming events to celebrate this debut?
LS: Thank you! This will be my second album of mantra music. Reverence will be available online on iTunes, Spotify, and Bandcamp. There is a CD Release Kirtan event happening at Downward Dog Studio on Saturday April 22nd, from 8:00-10:00pm.
WTD: Can you share a memorable place you have practiced yoga and why this specific place means so much to you?
LS: In a way, wherever my teachers are is what matters. A number of studios dear to my heart have closed over the years. I have had beautiful experiences in Woodstock, NY with Jivamukti founders Sharon Gannon and David Life. They used to open up their home space there for the month of August to lead master classes. It is a charming place full of artists, markets, and surrounded by beautiful nature.
WTD: What’s next for Yoga With Lana?
LS: I will be heading out on a little European tour with the new album in late April/May. My partner and I will be playing in southern France, Barcelona, and Sweden! Then I’ll be back in the city for a bit teaching in Afterglow Studio’s first Yoga Teacher Training program, YogaVida.
WTD: What’s exciting you most about the Toronto wellness scene right now?
LS: I appreciate the inquiry that’s taking place – how to make yoga accessible to more people. Also, the celebration of philosophy that we see with the release of Hali Schwartz’s new book, and then the intelligent body exploration by groups like Yoga Detour, and studios like Spiritloft.
WTD: Anything else you would like to share with our readers?
LS: I will be leading kirtan at the annual Bhakti and Yoga Weekend at the Shanti Retreat Centre on Wolfe Island, from August 4th-7th.