Lauren Porat created YogaSpark in 2013 with the goal of creating a high-end, all-inclusive hot yoga experience that is equal parts killer workout and centering journey – after first feeling the benefits of a powerful hot yoga practice as a strategy executive 15 years ago. Her mission is to help other people step into their own power. Her belief is that 3 critical things support that mission: the physical yoga practice which strengthens and makes the body more flexible; self-awareness; community. YogaSpark has 2 locations in Westchester and New York City as well as a 24/7 Digital studio. All classes at YogaSpark are open level, challenging, fun and set to great music. YogaSpark also offers the SparkDome - an inflatable at-home hot yoga device.
Annabelle van Schravendijk: Hi Lauren. As a professional in creating hot yoga spaces, tell us – how can yogis recreate a hot, sweaty class at home?
Lauren Porat: If you are accustomed to the immersive experience of practicing at a hot yoga studio - where heat, humidity and ventilation are perfectly calibrated to deliver that sheen of sweat on your entire body while still allowing you fresh air to breathe deeply - this pandemic has not been easy for you! Simply setting heaters up around our mat is not going to cut it. Hot air and water vapor need to be contained in your practice space in order to get to the temperature and humidity levels you are likely used to. This is why we created the SparkDome, an inflatable device that functions as a mini studio in your home. We find that simply using 1 small heater and humidifier in the SparkDome achieves studio-level sweat. Of course, the pace and intensity with which you practice is also a factor. Muscle activation is key to building heat, and this comes with time, mind-body awareness, and smart cueing from a great instructor.
Annabelle: What are the best ways to center into your practice when surrounded by distractions at home?
Lauren: This is one of the biggest challenges to practicing at home. For many die-hard hot yogis, it’s so difficult to find peace and presence on their home mat that it’s just not even worth it. This to me is such a shame - the pandemic has taken so much - can we really let it take our access to meditation, joy, connection to Self? We have to accept that an at home practice is never going to look and feel the same as a studio practice. This acceptance is key to embracing the benefits of an at home practice. Once you accept, you can receive.
More tangibly, things you can do to aid your home practice are:
- Make sure all urgent emails/texts have been sent in the 10 mins prior to class and turn your phone on DND. Let your colleagues/kids/partners know that you’ll be unavailable. Get to your space early and find a way to get your mindset right for 5 mins before class starts: a quick meditation, journaling, or just an early child’s pose.
- Experiment with different areas of your home to find a spot that is as decluttered and peaceful as possible. Some people like a view of nature.
- Make sure your tools are on point so that unnecessary discomfort does not distract you. A great mat which provides support and cushion yet doesn’t slip; towels; water bottle.
- Using wireless headphones helps eliminate external noise and creates a stronger, more immersive sound experience.
- Bring one thing into your practice space that helps center your thoughts on your practice: a plant, a candle, a mantra, a piece of art.
- When the distractions creep in, note your reaction and consider that it is a choice. (I’m thinking of everything from a thought of a random to-do, to the doorbell, to your kid bursting in the room and asking for a snack!) Make the choice to respond with kindness to the distraction and to yourself, and dive back into the practice when you can.
As you start to have more and more power over your distractions and your reactions to them, your home practice may actually become even more important to you!
Annabelle: What can you tell us about the future of yoga from a small business perspective?
Lauren: I can tell you that folks practicing in the studio are more grateful than EVER to be there. Physical and mental health have never been more important. Community and showing each other that we care for and need each other has never been more important. That said, the pre-COVID yoga studio business model does not work at 33% capacity (the current New York state mandate, excluding NYC which is not allowing group fitness of any kind). I am embracing all the good things happening at our one open location, am personally so grateful that I have it to teach and practice at, and I believe in the future of in-person yoga. There is nothing like it. But where we are now is not sustainable, and that’s why we are seeing so many unfortunate closures.
The writing on the wall was there with Digital for years. Peloton, of which I am a huge fan, was challenging studio owners to consider what our value is way before COVID ever happened. In 2019, I was on active hunt for new locations. 2020 was hell, but it did bring us an amazing new “location” called YogaSpark Digital. I hate the word “pivot” because it implies some kind of clever opportunism in the face of distress, that I don’t think we had. I prefer “evolve”, because we did it out of necessity for ourselves and our community. I believe that what we are doing on Digital is unique, just as every small business that develops an awesome online product for its community can now get it into more hands and help more people. So I am excited to see where that can go. But we will get back to the business of building studios as soon as humanly possible!
Annabelle: Speaking from what I have seen from studios, my community, and what I have felt myself- a lot of us have gone through many hopeless moments in the past year. What are you hopeful for in 2021?
Lauren: Aside from the obvious (continued vaccinations, development of treatments for the ill, seeing my parents for the first time in a year and a half), I am hopeful because I think we have learned so much in this time. We have developed so many new skills - everything from gardening to meditation to living with uncertainty (that’s a big one!) - and so much armor and self-awareness. I personally have figured out so much of what makes me tick and brings me joy. And I feel like I have developed the skill set to continue doing that work. I know that I am not alone in this. When we are happy with ourselves we can treat others with more kindness. Magnified on a global scale, the impact of this can be huge.
Written by: Annabelle van Schravendijk, Manduka Account Executive - East Coast