Featured Yogi: Kara-Leah

Name: Kara-Leah Grant
Studio: Retreats http://karaleah.com/
Years teaching: 11
Years practicing: 20
Favourite yoga style: Beyond Style

You encourage teachers to have a strong home practice – why is that?
The transmission of yoga occurs through embodiment and self-realisations. And these can only be experienced through self-practice. Therefore, if one wants to transmit yoga, it’s imperative to practice by oneself. Not in a class, not even in front of an online class. But alone – just one’s own breath, body and mind. This is when the yoga practice begins to take root within the many layers of the body. It is one thing to learn by rote the five koshas. It is another thing to sit in meditation and directly perceive those layers with one’s own discernment. Without dedicated sadhana, the kind that leads to embodiment and self-realisation, there is unlikely to be any real transmission of yoga when one teaches student.

One might be able to offer intellectual information about how to do this, or how to do that… but the transmission of yoga itself occurs in the subtle realms. You can only ever take the students as far as you’ve gone on the path of embodiment and self-realization yourself. So if you really want to teach – truly transmit yoga – you need to have a strong home practice.

What drew you to studying and teaching yoga?
A deep remembering or knowing that this was something I was. Right from my first class, I had a sense that this was it. Of course, there was huge resistance to the practice as well. It took me about five years to finally start going to classes consistently, and a life crisis to force me into home yoga practice. On the other hand, teaching just happened. The teacher of my regular gym class didn’t show up, and I offered to lead the other two students through the sequence I had been practicing at home. When that teacher went off to have a baby, she offered the class to me. I was horrified – I hadn’t studied teacher training, I had no certificate, and I was terribly inflexible. But I also knew I couldn’t say no – I was being called. Because what I had lived through was a Kundalini Awakening, which had given me an innate understanding of much of yoga philosophy plus the somewhat disconcerting experience of witnessing yoga kriyas spontaneously happening through my body. Yoga was happening through me, whether or not I liked it. And I was able to communicate it in a way that spoke to students. So I hit up Amazon, bought five of the weightiest yoga tomes I could find, and dedicated myself to daily home yoga practice and deep study. This was the only way I could justify teaching – through my own unwavering dedication and commitment to the practice.

Favourite asana at the moment?
Ardha Padmasana (Half Lotus). Most of my practice is now pranayama, meditation, chanting and visualisation. Being able to sit with ease and grace for long periods is crucial for these practices. Because of this, I’m developing more and more appreciation for the nuances of seated poses like Ardha Padmasana. So much is revealed in the way the legs release to the earth, and the pelvis rests and opens, and the spine extends to the sky. Most of my asana practice revolves around working through the kinks and dulls spaces that still show up in Ardha Padmasana. Attaining a comfortable and steady seat is far more challenging that is might sound. But also, far more rewarding than one might suspect. This week in practice, I dropped into an energetic space I haven’t touched on before… where it felt as if my physical body fell away completely and all that was left was the energy body, floating slightly above the ground with such ease. Of course, I wasn’t. I was still very much seated flat on the ground… but the experience was that dissolving into consciousness.

Where is the most beautiful place you’ve ever practiced?
Glenorchy, New Zealand.

What do you enjoy most about teaching?
When people begin to connect deeply with their breath and allow their breath to lead their practice. That’s the moment when they’re no longer identified with their mind but drop down into presence. That’s what it’s all about.

What do you enjoy most about your own personal practice?
Watching how it continues to evolve over time, and the way that my body intuitively knows how to move in order to release the blockages in the nadis. I love it when I drop in and breathe, and movement begins to happen… and then it’s 90 minutes later and I’ve barely noticed the passage of time.

How important is meditation to you?
It’s everything. All the time. It’s constant witnessing of the fluctuations of the Mind, whether formally seated on the mat, or going about by day. I’m constantly checking in and noticing where I am – am I in my head, getting lost in the past or the future? Or am I present with what is? What is my relationship to thought right now? How about now? How about now?

Who has influenced or inspired you most on your yoga journey so far?
At various times along the ways there have been teachers who have shared something powerful. Tanya Harrington, back in Whistler days. Swami Shantimurti, the first person to talk to me about the Kundalini Awakening I’d experienced. Shiva Rea, who showed me that the spontaneous way that asana was happening through me was ok. Peter Sanson, who helped me find surrender on the mat. Stephan Cope, who wrote Yoga and the Quest for the True Self, which helped me understand the psychological journey I was on, and the flow of Kundalini through my system.

How would you describe the NZ yoga scene at present?
I don’t know if I can answer that… I don’t really go to classes anymore so I’m not out and about in the scene, except at festivals. I know there’s a LOT of studios out there, and more and more people with 200HR Certificates. And more and more trainings offered in New Zealand. So it would appear there is far more asana being taught. Whether or not that translates into a deepening of the practice of yoga as a path to Self-Realization… I don’t know.

What do you love about your part of town?
I moved to Laingholm in West Auckland this September and LOVE it. The entire suburb is set in the rain forest… yet it’s only a 40 minute drive into the heart of Auckland. So I have all the benefits of the city, while still living in Big Nature. And that makes my heart sing. The land is powerful here.

Thank you so much, Kara-Leah!
(If you have any questions you’d like to ask Kara-Leah please leave a comment below or email me and I’ll pass your message on to her.)

Would you like to be a Featured Yogi? We’d love to know more about you! Or is there someone you’d like to nominate … another teacher, a stupendous student? Getting to know our fellow yogis creates connection. We like that. Get in touch here.

© The Yoga Connection 2017