State College yoga studio teams with local musicians for unique classes

Erica Kaufman welcomes a class at Lila Yoga in May 2017. The State College studio incorporates local music into yoga sessions.
Erica Kaufman welcomes a class at Lila Yoga in May 2017. The State College studio incorporates local music into yoga sessions. Centre Daily Times, file

Lila Yoga Studios, under the leadership of owner Erica Kaufman, has been pushing the envelope in the Centre County yoga scene for years, and incorporating local music has been part of the formula for as long as I can remember.

The Lila tradition of bringing local music to yoga sessions continues this fall Mondays at 7:30 p.m., Fridays at 5:30 p.m. and Saturdays at 10 a.m. at the State College studio. Denise Strayer, a recently certified Lila instructor, is spearheading the music and yoga collaborations and teaching the Saturday class.

“For the Saturday morning Lila Sun Salutations class, one can expect a different musical experience each week,” Strayer said in an email. “I’ve allowed the musicians to bring their craft to the table, so the music changes from uplifting energetic songs to droning mantras and even a melancholy darkness at times.”

The open approach to what Strayer describes as the musician’s craft is a natural match for her style as a teacher. It incorporates the view that we are united through our human experiences, whether we are talking about our most positive or negative experiences, and extends to the idea that all of our experiences are equally human, real, and therefore opportunities.

“I feel my style can be described as honest and real,” Strayer said. “I’m not afraid to address all the facets of life’s journey, from relishing in the joys life provides to finding strength and courage through difficult times. My intention as a teacher is to bring candor to my yoga practice, with a sense of humor.”

Since summer, the music lineup has been robust, including members of Pure Cane Sugar, Eric Ian Farmer, Hops and Vines, Jason Adams, Joe Belle and Josh Troup, and this robust approach continues this fall with the inclusion of Caryn Dixon, Lowjack, The Blue Herons, Stacy Genn Tibetts, RF Simon-Gomez, Eric Burkart and Aaron Bear.

It’s a veritable who’s who of the local scene, which is a breath of fresh air in what is often described as a difficult gig getting scene. There’s someone new every week, which means a sometimes dramatically new or different experience for whomever is showing up to yoga that day. Strayer encourages musicians who would like to perform to reach out.

“There are still some dates I’m currently working on finalizing for the end of the year,” Strayer said, “So, the schedule will certainly be growing. If a local musician wants to be considered for performing for a class, send a message to Lila. You can go to our website and Facebook to get the latest schedule.”

I’ve attended yoga classes that featured live music and have absolutely loved it, particularly when the musicians perform a primarily instrumental set. Once I learned how to get into my own, more physical asana practice my inner-world silently, expansively, and very profoundly came to the forefront. Music is not required for that to be possible, but music can add something altogether new to it. It changes the drop-in, and performers who are sensitive enough to tap into that and work within the structure of the class are able to do something very special, as are the instructors who jive with the music and the participants who choose it.

“Music can provide healing for the body and mind,” Strayer said. “The journey in becoming a yoga teacher gave me a greater clarity to that fact. I have been able to combine my profession as a musician and teacher, the joy and benefits of yoga, and the vibrations and connections of local musicians to form a special weekly moment at Lila where yoga and local music meet. For that, I feel incredibly grateful to share that with others.”

The Monday night class features Kathryn Fleming, who leads a sound healing and meditation session, and the Friday class is led by Kauffman, who also has a rotating cast of musicians.

Kevin Briggs is a musician, writer and teacher who performs at venues throughout central Pennsylvania. Contact him at KevinTBriggs@gmail.com.