Thirsty for Good Vibes Thursday. Interview Series.
Part 2: The Lovely Little Lotus
Today we visit with Larissa from The Lovely Little Lotus: Uniting Mind, Body, and Soul through Yoga, Wellness, and Mindful Living in and around the Lehigh Valley, in person and virtually.
Wellness and Mindful Living for all ages
We have been taking yoga with Larissa with our children and in her adult classes at the AntiGravity Yoga Lab in Allentown, the Parkland Public Library, in the Emmaus Triangle Park, at the cherished Ju-Ju Monkey, and various other locations including zoom for many years now. She brings a calm, yet vibrant, energy every where she goes.
Her love for children's well-being and humans of all ages is apparent in her attitude, approach to life, her tone of voice, and her beautiful presence. If you haven't taken a class with her yet, she caters to many lifestyles, yoga styles, and also hosts events. We just had a surprise Star Wars-themed birthday party with her today on zoom. She loves to read stories, incorporate nature themes, play music, and encourage creativity from her participants. We have gone on bear hunts, done yoga with witches on Halloween, had open air yoga in parks during the Emmaus Farmers' Market in the Triangle, and created our own poses for each Star Wars character. She is not just fun and games, all of her techniques are based in foundational movements, clearing negative energy, and allowing our best selves to come to the surface.
So who is the woman behind this shining light? Let's take a look.
Thirsty for Good Vibes Thursday. Part 2: The Lovely Little Lotus
The Finding Place: Hi Larissa, I'm so happy you were able to do this with us. We have known you for several years now, but we've never really had the chance to get the lowdown. Can you give us a short introduction of how you came to be, maybe your education and a few meaningful jobs and any trainings that changed your life?
Larissa: Hi! Super thrilled to be here. My name is Larissa, I am a mom of 3 little ones. I went to college locally [at Muhlenberg College] and then moved to NYC and lived and worked there full-time, while going to law school full-time. I was in the corporate legal world for the majority of my career (up until "retiring" from the law last December 2019), but along the way, I weaved in Yoga, Meditation and Mindfulness to get through much of that period of time. I would find my way onto the mat on my lunch breaks, on DVD’s, and in gyms whenever I could. I have been practicing yoga for 22 years, meditating for 10 years, and teaching yoga and mindfulness for the past 6 years.
When I had graduated college, I had the intention of either teaching full-time or going to law school. Ultimately, I chose to move to NYC and pursue law school. At the time, it was the best move for me. I wouldn't change a thing about it, and I am beyond grateful for the many experiences I had in living and working in NYC, and being exposed to all different facets of the law. It was shortly after moving back to the Lehigh Valley and having my second son, Gavin, my priorities started shifting. My second son, was both with some diverse abilities and my involvement in the Deaf/HH community presented itself with a new career path. I began mentoring and advocating on behalf of families who had children with diverse abilities as a side-job in addition to my full time job. It was at that time, I truly started to feel pulled in another direction, but I took several steps before making the next transition to step away from my legal career. I had taken several Yoga Teacher Trainings and Mindfulness Meditation Trainings, and was already teaching both Yoga and Mindfulness, starting in 2015, on the side whenever I found the time. In September 2019, I was presented with another opportunity to possibly make another career move—into teaching at a few local colleges, as well as continuing to mentor and advocate for those in the special needs/diverse abilities space. At the same time, more opportunities presented themselves in the yoga and mindfulness space, with a local non-profit I adore —Pratyush Sinha Foundation— and with Childlight Education Company to teach aspiring yoga teachers. I took a few months to consider the transition but by November 2019, I was ready to make the leap, and I am so glad I did!
The Finding Place: It seems you've had some real professional transitions. How do you feel each part of your path has led you to where you are now?
Larissa: I never truly understood how different seasons of your life present different opportunities, until it has continuously happened to me over the “seasons” of my life. One of my favorite quotes came from Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist “And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.” I truly believe that and see how different seasons of your life present different opportunities. If I hadn’t listened to my heart, and stayed where I was because that’s what I “should” do, or what others expected me to do, I would be missing out on so many opportunities that have paved the way to where I am today.
“And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.” ~Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist
The Finding Place: I have to honestly say, I loved that book and the sequel, they really changed my perspective, or maybe —I should say—expanded my perspective and brought so many things to light. After finishing the books I actually wept for a few minutes, maybe even longer. It wasn't even what was written as much as what it meant, the impact of the words. I highly recommend those books to everyone, especially those looking for some clarity or a nudge to forge your own path.
I also cannot tell you how many webinars, conferences, workshops, and other online discussion areas I have attended lately where someone has mentioned listening to your heart and your own path, making your own way despite what you think others expect from you, and leaning into challenges to find remarkably fulfilling results. When we stop to think, "Is this my fear or is it someone else's fear that I have allowed to infiltrate my own thoughts?" We can step back and reflect on how to move forward with out the fear. It is so liberating.
So, how does this career, lifestyle, and your mission impact others and children around you? What do you want to achieve?
Larissa: My goal when working with others is to teach them how to be present in this moment with all it brings — its curiosities, its wonders, its delights, its sadness, its joy. All of it. We, as humans, have a tremendous capacity to hold so much space, but we ignore that sometimes, and push it aside. Instead of embracing those feelings, as they are, which would allow us to fully experience so much more of life and of being human. I also hope to teach them patience, compassion, and empathy.
TFP: What are some basic tips you could provide to families with or without children to lead a more peaceful, enjoyable lifestyle?
1) To be more mindful of what we have in front of us in this moment—regardless of what that moment brings. I think we are trying really hard to make things as they should be, instead of how they actually are — don’t “should” all over your life. It will be so much more enjoyable that way. When I am teaching I remind the little ones to stop, drop and breathe into this moment. What do you hear, smell, taste, see, and touch around you right now!?! That’s life and you’re living it in this moment.
2) When things go wrong (and they will), remember that tomorrow is brand new day and new opportunity for things to go right. Don’t be so hard on yourself, do what you need to process that bad day, week, month, year— and if it’s not just an everyday worry or concern, then please talk to someone —a friend, counselor, or therapist to work through things.
3) Let things be — not let go, just let things be— as they are. When my middle son was diagnosed with hearing loss at birth, I was so worried about all the variables of things I couldn’t control. I leaned into my practice heavily at that time in my life, and the reminder was there — let things be. So I grieved the loss of my son’s hearing, and then moved forward — and all the worries I had were unfounded. My son is thriving, he is part of a vibrant and loving community, and he gets to experience Had I remained in that state of worry and fear, he too would have fed off that worry and fear. I would be lying if I said that I don’t still have moments of “What if?” and then I would get super wrapped up in a LOT of things I couldn’t control. That was making me miserable and unable to enjoy where I was. The more I reminded myself to start to “live” my yoga (yoga is so much more than the asana (poses) we do on the mat), it’s an entire way of living. When I started to “live” the yoga, versus just do the yoga, I noticed small changes, and then those small changes became big changes. And here we are!
TFP: That's always such a good reminder, "Lean in and allow the life that you are worthy of to happen with you and to you, don't jump to worst case scenario first, when you look for the worst or think of the worst case scenario, we often find ourselves in these rabbit holes of woe. I'm guilty of it too sometimes, but when I make a decision and put myself out there, I am drawn to the good things I'm looking for, I see the good things, I find them, and they find me, and it is so beautiful and natural. We should embrace these wonderful "happenstances" and be grateful for the gifts we are given when we let go of woe.
Speaking of letting go of woe and relaxing, how much of your day is spent doing or leading yoga? How much personal maintenance do you require for your craft?
Larissa: I teach anywhere from 10-30 active hours each week. I personally practice every day (even if its only 5 minutes). Most importantly, I read constantly about the things I am passionate about and that inspires much of my teaching. Spending time outdoors also inspires my teaching. And finally, I also take classes with my teachers and mentors at least two times each week. It keeps my practice and my teaching fresh and keeps me humble. It reminds me what I know is only a fraction of how much more there is to know out there!
TFP: We happen to be in the same Rodale Garden Store book club so I know you are choosing some great literature. <haha> I am pretty sure I know how you are going to answer but I'll ask for our readers. Where is your ideal yoga location for personal and professional practice?
Larissa: Outside, on a beach, in a garden, in the woods. Literally anywhere outdoors! Ha! Traveling was a huge part of our life pre-Covid and we look forward to the day when we can resume seeing and traveling the world.
TFP: How can we use yoga, mindfulness, and meditation outside (Possibly in and around a garden setting)?
Larissa: I love practicing outside, it’s such a sensory awakening whether it be yoga, meditation, or mindfulness. There’s so much nature can teach us about being present, our senses, taking things moment by moment, letting things be. All of these lessons are so evident in nature. Nature is literally the most perfect backdrop for these practices.
TFP: Well, they do say that you can't bounce off the walls if there are no walls. That's also why I love nature studies, NB-education, and doing anything outside that I can do inside a building. How often do you go outside? Why?
Larissa: At least one time a day for a LONG walk until it gets warmer. But for me, sunshine and Vitamin D are necessary to maintain my mental health and my mood. The little ones are outside literally all the time. The moment they’re done with school, they’re outside.
TFP: Yes, we personally are completing the #1000hoursoutside challenge so we try to be outside an average of at least 2-3 hours a day—in the summer it is more like 6 hours a day— when we can to make up for those winter or rainy days when we want to stay cozy inside. For you, as a meditation and yoga teacher and mentor, what role does nature play in your life/career?
" Nature sustains us. Nature sustains me. It fills me up in the most natural and beautiful sense. I use it as a backdrop in so many of my classes, meditations, and teachings to others."
TFP: Yes, nature is such a vital part of life, as well as spending time outdoors. How has becoming so virtual impacted your approach to mindfulness and screen use? What would you change (besides the obvious—getting rid of Covid)?
Larissa: We never used to let our little ones have “screen” time before COVID – they didn’t have IPads, or video games. We used to encourage outdoor play and books. However, in light of our reliance on technology for school and work, and in the depths of winter, we have loosened our restrictions on these. We permit a bit more screen time than we had envisioned. We have boundaries around their use, but the screen time has definitely increased. My hope is that once the children are back in school physically, and the weather warms up they will be outside more consistently. And that has already been happening since Daylight Savings occurred on Sunday, the children have been outside the moment school is done until it gets dark and it makes me so happy!
TFP: Do you feel you have catered your practice so that it is now your career? Or has this been brewing a long time to the point where it just occurred because all the pieces fell together?
Larissa: It has been brewing in me for almost 20 years, I just didn’t know exactly when things would fall into place. And when they did, I followed my heart to where I am today and I am so thankful I did.
TFP: Where do you see yourself in five years? Is this where you pictured yourself five years ago? (besides.... the unavoidable pandemic situation)
Larissa: I picture myself Right here in 5 years, in the same space doing the same work! And I didn’t have the full picture of myself here 5 years ago, but rather the vision of what it could look like and I am so glad I am here!
TFP: Is there anything you wanted to do that you haven't done yet? What do you need to do to achieve this goal?
Larissa: I want to continue to travel with my husband and little ones. There’s so much more of the world to see, and I look forward to post-COVID days to achieve that. I am also looking to expand my role as a yoga therapist as well as an overall wellness educator by taking a few more trainings around both of those topics.
TFP: Does your family follow a rhythm or a communal flow throughout the day/week?
Larissa: Yes, it’s pretty consistent and very Waldorf-Reggio based <Extra smiles>.
TFP: Yes, I really love how Waldorf style is an education path and lifestyle. And, obviously, we love the Reggio-Emilia approach over here. It is so flexible and really encompasses the community and the needs of a hyper-local lifestyle. It incorporates nature, art, mindfulness, and a whole child approach to life. It suits us. Is there anything else you'd like to share with me?
Larissa: THANK YOU, your work and your family have been a HUGE part of my life over the last few years and I am so grateful for that. I look forward to continuing to work together in the future!
Thank you, Larissa, for you continual positivity, guidance, reassurance, and your light. Namaste.
If anyone is interested in learning more about Larissa and what the Lovely Little Lotus has to offer, you can find out more about yoga [therapeutic, prenatal/postnatal, mom and me, kids', personalized], mindfulness, meditation, healthy eating and living, community events, private lessons, and parties at:
Email at firstname.lastname@example.org
YouTube: Larissa's channel
Thank you for joining us this week for our second edition of "Thirsty for Good Vibes Thursday". Remember to get outside, plant some seeds, and let yourself grow into the person you always wanted to be.
Coming up soon, we will be discussing the importance of edible children's gardens as a way to increase food security, promote self-sufficiency and sustainability, re-incorporate art and nature into unused open spaces, and encourage children to take ownership of their personal food choices.