The Helicopter View From Space Yoga Studio
”Yogaś citta-vritti-nirodha” - Patanjali, Yogasūtras.
Written in Sanskrit at some point between the second century BCE and the fourth century CE, Patanjali's classic
definition of the purpose of yoga has been translated in a number of different ways, but they all boil down to
essentially the same message - the calming or quieting of “mental fluctuations.” Thus the ultimate goal of all yoga
postures is to develop the ability to sit still with a straight spine, listen to the breath, and journey inward. The
literal meaning of asana is not simply to assume a certain posture, but more accurately to develop the ability to find a comfortable seat.
Meditation is not what you think. It's like driving along an eight-lane highway, constantly trying to avoid delays,
accidents, and all the other traffic, and forgetting that we constitute just a small part of the general congestion
around us. The problem is that gravity keeps us earthbound, our field of vision is constricted, and we are unable see
past the first bend in the road. We have no idea what lies ahead, but tuning into a radio station or using Sat Nav in
search of directions for the quickest route provides us with a higher elevation or 'helicopter' view - a better
perspective that makes it possible to consult expert opinion about the optimum way to get back home. Sometimes it is not
the most direct path, frequently it involves some convoluted contortions and detours along the way, and what often
happens is that our bodies distract us with muscular tension, discomfort, and pain, preventing our minds from focussing
on the simple act of breathing. We get stuck, feeling sad, angry, or frustrated, even though we are sitting in the
driver's seat and striving to remain in control of whatever direction our lives take us.
In an intermittently successful effort to overcome some these vicissitudes as a yoga practitioner for over forty years
and an instructor for twenty, I can testify to the constant struggle to cope with the pressure and anxiety of dealing
with the seemingly endless difficulties that living on this planet entails. There are many individual paths up the
mountain in this particular time and place, and I have explored a wide variety of classes in cities from Rome to Hawaii,
and Bangkok to Rishikesh, as well as teaching at dozens of different yoga studios, health clubs, and gyms. I received my
first teacher training in Kundalini Yoga at Yoga West and took advanced courses with Erich Schiffmann at Exhale in Los
Angeles, studied Conscious Communication with Yogi Bhajan in Espanola, New Mexico, and worked with Nancy Gerstein in
Chicago. My personal practice is definitely a work in progress, with plenty of peaks, valleys, and plateaus still to be
experienced along the way.
For the stark natural beauty of its location, however, few can compare to Space Studio, which is nestled at the top of
Mt Victoria high above Wellington. It has been specifically designed to provide a breathtaking vista of a spectacular
landscape where the sky collides with the sea around the Miramar peninsula in the foreground and the Rimutaka mountain
range provides a distant backdrop beyond. The ever-changing views promote a sense of floating in a serene world high
above the harbour below. They provide an inspiring inducement to neutralize the waves of feeling that constantly lap at
the edges of our consciousness.
With over thirty years experience behind her, Owner and Director Lana Bright originally trained at the Insight Yoga
Institute and the Mindfulness Training Institute Australasia. She has recruited an international team of skillful and
caring instructors from as far away as Germany, Mexico, the US and UK. As an ensemble, they offer a gentle programme of
finely balanced yin-yang classes that transcends the tedious repetition of endless sun salutations sadly commonplace in
most vinyasa flow classes. Their collective approach to teaching orientates students towards both dynamically mobile and
satisfyingly still practices for both body and mind, encourages them to focus on developing their strengths while moving
beyond barriers, and leaves everyone feeling simultaneously centered, strengthened, flexible, and alert.
All classes at Space Studio are specifically designed to meet our lives' ever-changing flux of needs and demands -
whether dynamic, restful, flowing, still, strengthening, or challenging. Students are encouraged to arrive early in
order to sit and meditate or just stretch out and relax. There is no need to talk in this beautiful silent space, only a
compelling incentive to become aware of the organic environment, from the constant stridulation of cicadas and gentle
gusting of the trees during the summer months, to the winter winds and horizontal rain, and the continuously mutating
formations of cumulonimbus. Even the intermittent yawn of airplane engines arriving and departing provides a metaphoric
aspiration upward toward the lifting grace of flight, while paradoxically attempting to stay firmly grounded on the mat.
Plenty of props are provided to support your individual practice and the instructors always offer a plethora of options,
constantly inviting us to rest more and do less than they might suggest. The idea is to listen to your body and choose
whatever position feels most appropriate at that specific moment. Sometimes simply lying down and resting - even for the
whole class - might be the perfect practice for our over-stressed bodies and over-stimulated minds.
Whatever practice you may personally prefer, all yoga is designed to increase our self-awareness, recalibrate the
endocrine system, and strengthen the nervous system - in short, to relax, reinvigorate, and renew. At Space Studio, a
sense of greater mindfulness is also cultivated in order to encourage states of both wakeful presence and increased
calm. During the daytime classes, the masculine yang energy is increased, while the evening classes tend to focus more
on the feminine yin energy with a gentle, restorative practice that explores more passive postures and targets the
connective tissues in the hips, pelvis, and lower spine. This is an holistic process that involves concentrating the
mind and healing the body through simple poses held for anywhere between five and ten minutes with the help of props
such as blocks, bolsters, and straps.
The aim of all the instructors at Space Studio is to increase flexibility and encourage a feeling of deep release, while
also explaining the basics of meditation by quieting down what Buddhists call the chattering 'monkey mind' - our
constant tendency to jump back and forth between thoughts, memories, and emotions. It is not only ideal for athletic
types who need to release tension in overworked joints, but also provides an excellent practice for those with limited
mobility who simply want to relax. Space Studio is the perfect environment for cultivating this yin-yang balance, using
the gentle susurration of the breath and the soft hum of the heart to rejuvenate all aspects of the body, mind, and
Ultimately, we may find ourselves in contact with something larger than ourselves and totally at ease in the driver's
seat, no matter what vehicle we are driving or whichever fuel we choose to put in the tank. This is the fundamental goal
of yoga to which Patanjali was referring - literally, to 'yoke' our individual identities to a higher consciousness and
merge with an expansive sense of infinite awareness. At Space Studio, achieving such an elevated perspective is never a
struggle, simply a continuing process of gradually opening and deepening as we strive toward perfection in our daily
practice. We may never arrive at such an ideal destination in this lifetime. Nonetheless, in the immortal words of
Hamlet, it remains “a consummation devoutly to be wished.”