Lara Land Helps Vulnerable Kids And Cops

Yoga teacher Lara Land is the owner of Land Yoga, an ashtanga studio in Harlem. Two years ago she started Three and a Half Acres, a nonprofit dedicated to bringing yoga and mindfulness to youth at high risk of incarceration, as well as to New York City police officers. The name is a quote from her Mysore teacher, Sharath Jois: “Each human needs about three and a half acres of land to breathe properly.” Land spoke with Karen Schwartz for YogaCity NYC’s Ahimsa Activism series.

Karen Schwartz: Tell us how Three And a Half Acres works.

Lara Land: We look for organizations that are already working with young adults at high risk and we present yoga and meditation as part of what they should be offering their clients. Harlem United is our biggest partner right now—they work with LGBTQ youth at high risk of or infected with HIV—and we’re in the process of starting a partnership with the NYC Justice Corps. In a lot of the organizations we’re also serving the staff. Working in service can be very draining.

KS: You’re teaching yoga to the NYPD?

LL: We offer two free classes a week. I go to the precincts and speak at roll call about breathing, mindfulness, the importance of self-care. Most of that is in an effort to get them to class but it’s also a teaching in itself. Both the youth and the officers are doing yoga practices as a means of healing within their separate communities, and eventually in the next year we plan to have them practice together. The reason we haven’t brought these groups together yet is because of how delicate it could be and the potential for awakening traumas and grievances. We want to make sure it’s done the right way.

On the mat with Three and a Half Acres