Words and story by Yana Papaya.
Edited by Maryana Kirakovskaya.
Photos by Dasha Cherniavskaia
Being originally from Russia but currently living in New Zealand I still find myself quite patriotic about my country. And despite all negative buzz that is coming from news and social media I know that there are a lot of good things about Russian culture, nature and traditions. Multi-skilled scientists are coming for large-scale conferences to enjoy Russian cuisine in between sessions, foreign elderly couples are gazing at world’s scenic underground ceilings or enjoying a long ride along Trans Siberian Railroad, young expats taking ladies out for a date to the Bolshoi Theatre and watch the fireworks near the Red October Chocolate Factory, while American surfers are exploring untouched Far Eastern Coast of Kamchatka region. What might encourage you to come to Russia?
Usually tourists and working professionals come to enjoy big city life for a short-term and then off to next travel/working destination. However, the hero of our story, Lawrence Jay, prefered to stay longer, dive into culture and find out Russian pieces that he has in himself. A passion to share the best hot yoga experience brought him to a cultural capital of Russia, Saint-Petersburg.
Born and raised in Canada, Lawrence feels like the whole planet is his home. Our yogi master travelled around the globe, lived in Sydney, Hong Kong, and Bali, conducted yoga retreats in Thailand and other exotic Asian destinations. Being an unstoppable adventurer who is in love with reaching an extreme and getting out of his comfort zone, Lawrence decided to accept a challenge. He came to Russia and lived there for a while. Probably our hero isn’t the only one who was up for a travel/work experience like that. However, his charismatic personality, the way he feels language, culture and people, the way he feels about Russia in general adds an undeniable value into our story.
You should hear him talking or making jokes in Russian. He nails it, gets into a core of the Russian culture while using very witty jokes. Attracting and gathering like-minded people around him he spreads light, drive and an ambition to stay real no matter how scary it can be. Having a perfectionist side that might split his soul into two uneven halves, Lawrence is a human being who admits failures, mistakes that help him to move forward and get solidness back.
Russia has been a good host for Lawrence Jay, that generously gave plenty of beautiful moments shared inside and outside yogi community, time for solitude that was so required, chance to meet a love of his life that he happily took.
While now enjoying a new page of his life somewhere outside of Russia, I was happy to catch up with Lawrence Jay during my short visit to lovely Saint-Petersburg in July 2014. Straight away I was swept away by his honest and overwhelming free-spirit that ended up in a big warm hug. He called me his sister. It was a defining moment for me to realise that a bond between us was already there. Our conversation was very insightful and open-minded so everyone could benefit and learn from that experience.
Please welcome open, wise and provoking thoughts by a guy who can walk on hands, jump over the fire, play with voicetone, make you smile or laugh out loud, be a best yoga teacher, bubbly buddy or quite compassionate listener or simply sit on a plane for 15 hours and be full of energy. Because he has that special sort of energy. That energy that understands that it’s OK to be imperfect, it’s OK to have doubts and fears, because more important is how you deal with this knowledge and move forward. Meet Lawrence Jay, who came to Russia as a foreign yoga teacher and left it as a true Russian that can ever exist.
I haven’t chose a simple road. I don’t know if any road is simple and easy.
I am intense, excitable. I am extreme with a desire for balance. I am a complicated person. I am connected to spirit. I think I can be sensitive, naive, I can be very focused and I can be distracted. I am comfortable with extremes.
I do my best to make decision that brighten my spirit. So I try to stay open. Sometimes one glass of wine is a nice touch to shift things. But three glasses of wine will darken my mood and might harm my spirituality.
I think every single one of us calls on a drama or creates drama in our lives to remember who we are. We remember who we are through our condition of drama. There is also a part of me which is very acceptable to drama that I am trying to clear and free, so I use my practice to observe as oppose to strengthen them.
I write every day. Lots. I do it in order to get my thoughts and realise what has been happening and have a wise understanding of things. I like to be spontaneous but I like my spontaneous not to be stupid. My writing is like its own meditation, it allows me to process thoughts and ideas.
I go through these phases when I think I am really smart, those are times when things are going well. And there are times when things are not going that well. And those times are the biggest gifts. They are creating an inspiring reminder to get back into the moment and stop thinking that you are amazing or smart. That thinking that you are smart is an unconscious choice that keeps you away from a present moment which means that it keeps me away from truly being smart.
Sometimes it’s a struggle taking time out for myself. In the past when my heart got broken, time that was dedicated to someone or something else freezed up. And it becomes such a gift, because there is some time for myself, that is organically created, that comes through writing, going to the movies, for a walk, practicing yoga or reading a book.
I try to let go the idea of destiny that I need to fulfill and letting destiny fulfill itself. Then in itself takes the pressure of.
I have been on a journey and I got to the destinations a few times achieving my goal. Every time I reach my goal as nice as it is to add it to the resume the goal achieved, the most satisfying part of it isn’t the destination but the experience of being in and out of the journey.
You can touch more people if you truly connect with one person at a time, right?
In old age I see myself very grounded and peaceful. I feel like living more meditative life as I used to. I see myself in a countryside, maybe even somewhere in Russia, I am surrounded by nature, water and greenery. I see myself with my lover, family and people who are important to me or to be able to connect myself through different versions of meditation or of dancing with spirit I would say. I see myself as a part of creative process where I am learning for example to play the piano which I don’t play. I see myself painting, which I don’t paint. I see myself very much physical but at the same time very calm and meditative. I see myself involved into the community somehow and also being able to have my quiet time.
When I found yoga I found the community of people who spoke similar language. They were interested in expanding consciousness, they were interested in finding out and touching parts of their emotion or themselves that maybe were not conscious, that were blocked. When I found yoga I found the language to explain what was going on inside of me that always existed. I found the language I could use to explain myself better and it was such a relieving moment. In a yoga community I could reveal my real self and ask interesting, unusual questions and my personality was well accepted, as everyone else had its own awkwardness in them.
Teaching yoga can be challenging at times especially when you are not talking your native language. Coming to Russia and taking a challenge to teach yoga in Russian was an interesting experience. I could hear myself talking differently from a native speaker, I could hear my accent that was bringing confusion into my mind. “Come on, dude. They don’t understand you.” I had to overcome those negative feelings. While I was teaching a Russian class which was new to me, my mind was commenting: “That was grammatically wrong”, “Did you say that word right?” Those thoughts were like an additional commentary that wasn’t there ever before when I was an english class. At the same time there was something positive about that challenge, it helped to slow the process down. So in a class we were more focused on breathing and meditation.
It has always been hard for me to answer the question “If you had time machine where would you go back to?” I would love to go back to Soviet times when it was good, when it was juicy but it was Soviet. I would also like to explore Ancient Egypt and Rome times.
Russia isn’t what American media makes it up to be. I mean it’s all wrong.
I love Russian culture and Russian people. I love Russia. There is something like that attracts me to the language, to the culture, to the depth, to the unconsciousness.
When I talk to Russians I feel very connected, I feel like it’s in my genes.
Home in general means being able to leave and come back to it anytime.
I was born in Canada, have my Russian heritage and Jewish blood in me as well. I am a Toronto man, it’s known as the most multicultural city in the world where everyone holds its own culture, but it’s very progressive and very tolerant of each other too. I am very much like this myself, so many cultures in me and it’s cool that every time I go home I feel like a new part of me is growing. Now I am starting to make sense of where my Russian roots come from and accept them.
Canada as some other countries is very international, its first, second and third generation families from all around the world create a new culture and the world starts to act like that because the world is becoming more international every day. I see that new culture has been birthed internationally which is like we have a foundation that isn’t local but we are local. And I think it’s a cool perspective on the world.
Russia is very ambiguous. We want this to be this way and that way, this and that. Lots of people want their cake and to eat it too. Not to get fat after that.
People always say that if you can’t see it or touch it, it doesn’t exist. Does truly applies to energy? Then I ask: “Do you believe in electricity? Do you believe in Wi-Fi? Do you believe in 3G?” Because you can’t see that shit. You can’t see it but it’s there.
“Tame the Ox” is my personal mantra.
My tattoo means complete understanding. Nothing is ever complete, it’s a cycle of change.
Main strength is my ability to communicate which can be my weakness. This is a muscle that I am constantly working on, being honest and communicative. And even after working hard on this I still see some blocks but I am a really good communicator.
We are after not having a door open, but that moment of opening a door. We want the high that comes from an opening moment that occurred once and you can’t repeat it. So you are always on the search. It’s an addiction. Or it’s like in smoking when nobody really wants to smoke. They want to find a cigarette after a while of not having it. We want a moment of having a cigarette in between your lips and the lighter just about to get light. Even I want that moment, although I don’t smoke, when the tobacco isn’t burning yet, it’s still fresh. As soon as you inhale the smoke the moment of opening is over. I still need to learn how to accept the fact that the opening is not going to have all the time. The rainbow comes after the rain. The rainbow doesn’t sit on the sky all the time.
Someone who is breathing and living the moment deeply inspires me greatly. That’s what I try to do as well, but the world is so seductive. It’s always trying to attract our attention from the moment.