Deepen your practice with Udaya
Tess DiNapoli and Alex McAfee spoke with the creative force behind Udaya.com, Yariv Lerner. Udaya was launched in 2013 by its parent company, Udaya Entertainment, Inc. and has since joined the ranks of other streaming yoga websites throughout the web. What is special about Yariv’s vision is the location, the quality and big-screen worthy cinematography. Yariv and team just returned from shooting with Micheline Berry, Rudy Mettia, Ali Owens, Vytas Bauskauskas, Michelle Goldstein, Jules Mitchell, Anna Hanson and Alyssa Ablan shooting over one hundred hours of classes.
by Tess DiNapoli
In Udaya.com‘s logo, the sun rises over a golden peak; udaya means sunrise in Sanskrit. The idea for the website was born from a brainstorming session at the Udaya Retreat Sanctuary in the Santa Monica mountains, and so it’s no surprise the result is an elegant, striking design. CEO Yariv Lerner adds, “It’s also a play on words, since ‘sun’ and ‘son’ are similar. Since we shoot the videos in Bulgaria where my Dad owns a studio, I figured it’d fitting to give him credit.”
All of the yoga classes, be they set indoors or out, feature distinct settings and intensity. They also feature many teachers familiar to Seek Retreat readers, like Vytas Bauskauskas and Micheline Berry.
Most of the videos on Udaya are shot in Bulgaria. Some of the sets look pretty exotic. “Some are movie sets from past films,” Yariv explained. “LikeConan. That set looks exotic, when it is actually within a movie studio.”
Each class set is based upon the teacher’s style. Deepen Your Practice digs in deep and taps into your inner strength with Vytas, and the set is industrial with a touch of grit. The classes in this series are designed for advanced practitioners, and each practice leads up to a peak pose. Yariv adds, “It’s a tough workout. We do feature a series with Rudy Mettia for beginning to intermediate called Yoga Warrior, and we just finished filming Micheline Berry’s LiquidAsana practice, which we shot as if it were a concert.”
Bulgaria is upstairs neighbor to Greece and Turkey, situated along the Black Sea and a hop-skip-and-a-jump to the Aegean. When I asked Yariv about teachers’ response to the location, he said at first, the question is always – why Bulgaria? “When they get there, they understand.” A few of their series videos are shot in the forest or mountains.
Udaya has a large support system behind the scenes, with a full crew of 60+ people. “We offer an immersive experience for our viewers, making it as close as it gets to a studio class.” Yariv and his team usually shoot the classes in series, but they sometimes do shoot single online classes as well. Students in the videos are all ages and from all walks of life, usually fellow teachers. An interview is given to get to know the students prior to shooting.
In today’s busy to-do-list world, more and more students of yoga are turning toward streaming their classes from their living rooms, hotel rooms, laptops, tablets, while waiting for the airport or traveling for business. On the rise and importance of streaming websites, Yariv agrees it’s nice to be able to take your practice wherever you go. “That’s the goal. Especially during the holidays. Udaya helps you, wherever you are. If you have a favorite teacher, you can do your practice anywhere. We’re not exclusive. We like to find the best possible teachers – the most authentic, the most engaging.”
What’s truly engaging about the overall content, design and feel of their videos is how they’re shot. Udaya uses Red’s Epic cameras with a high aspect ratio, big-screen quality. Alex McAfee, our co-founder, asked Yariv whether or not anyone else was using such high caliber equipment. “Shiva Rea used the Red One camera, and now no one uses it. She was a pioneer in this production quality. She always shot self practices.”
Yariv emphasizes that he and his team are dedicated to creating a space that feels like you are there practicing with your teacher; teachers give variations of poses, spiritual anecdotes, and then they break the 4th wall of film: when the film’s subject looks directly at the camera, to the viewer.
“You’re really there with them. That’s the whole idea.”
Yariv Lerner after filming The Ultimate Yogi, on Vitosha mountain, outside of Bulgaria’s capitol city of Sofia.