Art by Tom Swanson

Abhaya Yoga: An Interview with Tara Glazier

Tara Glazier is the owner of Abhaya Yoga Dumbo in Brooklyn, New York. The studio caters to all levels of practitioners from beginners to teachers. Her devotion to her own practice and to her students, as well as her unique approach – The Abhaya Method – made Tara a ‘must’ for an interview.  She’s steeped not only in the study of ancient texts but is dedicated to continuing the evolution of Yoga as a practice, path, and lifestyle.

Daniel: Where have you taught – both in terms of studios and countries.

Tara Glazier:I have taught in Ibiza Spain, Costa Rica (many times) in both the south the north… l Love Costa Rica! , Bali, Indonesia, New York City, Kripalu (a major retreat center in the Berkshires, Massachusetts), and Ananda Ashram in Upstate New York.

Daniel: I can glean some things from your website’s ‘About’ page but is there anything anything more you or the studio that you consider practical background info?

Tara Glazier: Abhaya is truly a place where transformation happens. I see it all the time. People’s lives are shifted, not only their body or physical practice. It is such a sweet community. Most of our teachers are Anusara trained however each one of them has their own uniqueness. Lately what is most important to me is not only training but vision. “Darshana”. It is most important to me that we are all guided by the same overarching Vision. We connect to a vision of fearlessness and transformation and community. It is such a community oriented place and such love that holds it together. I have also been opening up the offerings a bit and bringing in different teachers of different styles to create a more well rounded program. This has been received so well and the students are really open to learning more. Again, when I choose a teacher, I choose someone who carries the same Spirit centered vision that I do. That way, even though we are teaching differently, the students are held in a greater vision and they feel supported by that. It is most important that my teachers are good people first: Open, loving, patient, forever students, empowering. Skill follows.Screen Shot 2014-09-21 at 12.35.38 PM

Daniel:What lead you to yoga as a lifestyle and a profession? I know you studied dance: Was there a direct connection?

Tara Glazier:I came to yoga to keep me sane when I moved to NYC to dance professionally. I had experienced a little of yoga in college but when I came to NYC I realized the spiritual connection and I fell in love. It changed my life forever. Yoga was just a personal practice for a while until I got to the point where I couldn’t NOT teach any longer. I had to share what had radically opened my eyes. It was the perfect spiritual practice for me — being a dancer I loved to use my body. This way I could connect to something more than myself through my body, which was what I was most fluent in. It was perfect. I loved diving into the life affirming Tantric Philosophy and learning how to make positive change in my life and body.Screen Shot 2014-09-21 at 2.38.21 PM

Daniel: When I was in Brooklyn, it seemed fairly commonplace to see folks w/ yoga mats strapped to their backs as they walked to the subway, etc. As one of the most buzzing cities on the planet, does NYC need yoga as much or more than anywhere else? It seems like the business and industry that has grown up around the actual practice is thriving.

Tara Glazier: Yoga certainly is needed in NYC. Everyone here is too busy, too stressed, etc. So, yes, I think they need it sometimes more than others. Yoga is thriving but of course no one is becoming rich from having a yoga studio. For me, I know I have found my dharma,.. it is the most fulfilling thing I have ever done. I gives me unlimited joy to help others and share what I love.

Daniel: Abhaya is translated as fearlessness: What pulled you to name your studio this and how does this relate to what goes on in the studio everyday and in your own practice? Is the studio a reflection of your personal relationship with fearlessness and your journey?

Tara Glazier:To me, Abhaya means to engage fear to step into the courage of our hearts. When I was naming the studio, there was no other name for me. I feel like my life has certainly embodied abhaya. I have made some crazy leaps but well worth it. The idea of Abhaya is that when you step into that fearlessness or courage or engaging of your heart, that grace holds you and supports you. I have felt that again and again. Yoga teaches us how to become Abhaya.

Daniel: You study sacred texts. What texts and why? This kind of study seems more the exception than the rule at a time when so many teacher trainings are offered and many people are becoming ‘instructors’.

Tara Glazier:I study mostly tantric texts (Spanda Karikas, pratybijna hrydym, Bhakti sutras, Siva sutras, Tantric lecture with scholars that have access to un-translated text, I love memoirs too like ‘Tantric Quest’). I also teach on more classical texts like the Yoga Sutras and the Bhagavad Gita. It is important for students to have a sense of classical yoga philosophy so they understand how Tantra emerges from that. I think most trainings are focusing only on the Classical period. I truly believe that is only part of the puzzle. Tantra is becoming more and more understood and I think we will see a huge current of it coming in the next few years. People are beginning to catch on. The main difference in Tantra is how embodiment is perceived. Our embodiment is seen as a gift and therefore the phil is more life affirming and engaging of life, love and the sense.

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Daniel:Following up about the texts… It seems like most people these days seem to associate yoga with asanas, or the physical aspect of yoga. Is this where the texts come in? Has the development of yoga in the west over the last two decades left behind something essential? If so, what texts or other aspects of yoga would you recommend to deepen people’s practice?

Tara Glazier: Certainly nowadays the mainstream of the yoga world associates yoga with poses. But those of us who are more steeped in the philosophy see the important connection between it all. When yoga came to the west, most of what we got came from Pattabhi Jois and Iyengar so there was a great physical aspect to it. The first philosophy teacher that came taught Vedanta. So the perspective offered was a little one sided. Most of the beautiful and poetic tantric philosophy we are just getting our hands on today. Scholars are now bringing so much to the forefront. The physical practice of yoga didn’t really come so long ago, relatively speaking, maybe 1000 yrs ago.—- while the Vedas of Yoga are from about 5000 years ago. The upanishads ( the dawning of spiritual insight and turning inward) 3000 yrs ago. Classical yoga 1st century. Vedanta 6th century, The Tantric flowering 6th-18th century. Most of what I just listed had very little to do the physical asana practice – more meditation, breathing, mantra, chanting, etc. It is a modern day interpretation to come to asana and practice with the ideals of the philosophy.
I would recommend Tantric Quest – a story, memoir of a tantric seeker and practitioner- it will blow your mind.
Spanda Karikas- teaches the divines pulsation of the universe and our experience

Daniel: On a different note: Running your studio business involves staffing, overhead, bookkeeping/taxes, and a lot of things that seem like everything but yoga. Or is there an aspect of yoga to running your business? How have you bridged the gap between yogi and business person?

Tara Glazier: Yes, I realize more and more that everything is yoga. I have learned some serious lessons, and many of them through business and relationships. The asana is just a vehicle but life is the real work. This is where we put it all into action. I mean, who really cares if you can do all kinds of fancy things with your body but you are a jerk? So, I try to bring in what I teach to my life. I fail miserably sometimes, as we all do. But, I am learning a lot.

Daniel: Talk about Bhava Fridays. Dj’s at the studio? Do the texts link you to the past as you continue the evolution of the practice with offerings like Bhava Friday’s?

Tara Glazier:Bhava fridays is one of my favorite classes to teach! I created it when we first opened and had the vision of creating a friday night practice for NY’ers.. They can end their busy week with a sacred space for more flowing, less technical yoga and live music. It is really so beautiful. The dub dj is super fun and chill and each musician is so unique and has their own “bhav” ( or mood/ energy). The class feels so connected throughout. One really has to experience a bhava friday!

Daniel: What has pushed the evolution of your personal practice in recent times – either generally, or as an epiphany?

Tara Glazier: My personal practice took a nose dive during and after pregnancy, as one can imagine. I love yoga asana and always will. It is how I express my freedom. I always feel better when I am in my body. My practice now is so much more than just asana, though. My new life as a mother is also my practice. My daughter Samaya is my greatest teacher. She teaches me everyday how to be present, patient, loving. Now I truly know what unconditional love is.

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Daniel: At this point, your practice has evolved to the point where you are teaching your own method – The Abhaya Method. Can you describe that evolution and explain The Abhaya Method? You’re deeply rooted in the yoga’s past but are pushing it’s development in the present day.

Tara Glazier: After many years of practicing and teaching, I was feeling the natural impetus to evolve. I was noticing a big gap between the spiritual teachings that I adored so much and the physical practice. Why so many injuries? Why was I seeing many locked up bodies and minds? And, even though I was very proficient in my body, my mind was still very attached to its control mechanisms ( which is really just a compensation for fear). I was feeling the strong desire to truly connect on a deeper and more subtle level. Since teaching the Abhaya Method for the past two years, my students and myself have found a whole new level of freedom in the practice, in our minds, and most importantly in our lives. We, as a community, are starting to embody the practice of Fearlessness, letting go, and opening to a greater a presence. The Abhaya Method embraces love as a means toward awakening body, mind and ultimately one’s life.  The method focuses on deepening awareness while releasing holding and gripping patterns in the body.  By integrating eastern philosophy/ healing practices and western therapeutic/ functional movement techniques a holistic approach is used to align, heal, and guide the practitioner toward freedom.  Each layer of experience from most gross to most subtle is explored through asana, pranayama, meditation, subtle body techniques, philosophy study, chanting, and community support.  

I call it a “non-method” in the sense that it isn’t dogmatic or regimented. The primary or umbrella principle, the Para Principle is the pervasive thread that holds it all together. Para means Supreme or Beyond. I am trying to express through this concept, that everything is connected and it always is. The Method comes to life through the 5 koshas or sheaths ( from most gross to most subtle) and includes very technical alignment as well as the very subtle practices of yoga nidra and meditation. I think that yoga must evolve because we are always evolving. The Truth is the Truth but finding new ways to connect to it feels right. I am grateful to have the opportunity to share the vision with my students. It is an exciting time!

Visit the Abhaya website: http://abhayayoga.com/

Tara was the first person that I asked to do an interview for this website.  Though her interview wasn’t the first one published, she set the standard:  I’ve often sent people a copy of it when requesting a piece with them.  Her thoughtful and informed answers convey the passion that I know she has for yoga and teaching, and her replies seem to speak of a deep desire to share her love of yoga beyond the studio.  Even her willingness to take time from the busy schedule of a business owner and mother are testimony of her dedication to the practice.  This interview has inspired me on many levels and it’s amazing to have an expert in their discipline illuminate us with their perspective.  Thank you, Tara! Namaste (!)

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