Larissa Hall Carlson
Currently Resides: Washington DC
Hometown: South Salem, NY
Larissa Hall Carlson has been studying, practicing, and teaching Ayurveda and Yoga for fifteen years. She is co-director of Yoga Journal's online course "Ayurveda 101," a 200- and 300-hr Yoga Teacher Training director, the former Education Manager of Kripalu's Institute for Extraordinary Living, and the former Dean of the Kripalu School of Ayurveda. A certified Ayurvedic practitioner, Ayurvedic Yoga Specialist, and Prenatal Yoga Teacher, Larissa is a professional member of the National Ayurvedic Medical Association (NAMA) and Yoga Alliance. She leads transformative, empowering, and inspiring classes, workshops, and trainings around the world, where she is known for her exceptional knowledge, deep practice, professionalism, and dynamic teaching style. Along with her husband, Larissa is passionate about encouraging all people to live in harmony with the rhythms of nature through the time-honored teachings of Yoga, Ayurveda, and mindfulness.
How were you introduced to Ayurveda?
My mother gave me a gift certificate to get a massage at Kripalu Center in Stockbridge, MA. I’d never been there before, and spent a lot of time reviewing the Healing Arts menu of massage options. Though I’d never heard of Ayurveda, I chose what sounded most scrumptious—an Udvartina Shirodhara—an herbal paste exfoliation followed by a meditative stream of herbal oil poured over the forehead. When I went for my appointment, I had my first doshic intake, and the treatment was adjusted to meet my doshic needs. This fascinated me. But what won me over was the rich and entrancing aroma of the udvartina paste. It was delicious! The shirodhara sent me right into a meditative state—the most relaxed I’d been after six years as a Controller in NY. It wasn’t long after that I started my formal Ayurvedic studies. Om Shri Dhanvantari!
How has Ayurveda changed your life?
Well, it’s changed (and improved!) everything, literally. I’ve learned to see myself, others, and the world through wiser, kinder eyes—recognizing the relative and absolute connections. My sleep, digestion, energy, concentration, and happiness have all been transformed by adjusting my daily routine, diet, exercise, entertainment, time in nature, and the company I keep. There’s always more to do (we all have weak spots), but Ayurveda has made me healthier now (in my 40’s) than I was in my 20’s.
Which Banyan product(s) are your currently using and why?
Currently, I use Daily Massage Oil and Breast Care Balm for daily abhyanga (I love the balm!). Brahmi tablets support my nervous system when life gets really hectic. I love massaging my joints and tension points with Mahanarayana Oil after a busy teaching week. With my pitta prakriti, I tend to use cooling Amalaki tablets to support good digestion and elimination, but often switch to Triphala tablets for the same purpose in the winter. Kapha Digest comes with me when I travel, to ensure strong digestive fire and burn off any toxins I might encounter along the way. And every morning I scrape my tongue with the stainless steel Tongue Cleaner!
When are you most likely to go out of balance and how do you bring yourself back in balance using Ayurveda?
I tend to do well when traveling, as I’ve established a great self-care routine when away from home. And teaching yoga workshops and trainings usually leave me feeling better than when I started. What tends to throw me off balance, though—long days of lecturing. Mindfulness practices are helping me to talk less and more quietly, but as a pitta with a “spreading” (sara) nature, when I lecture, I tend to emphatically jump out of my seat and engage the crowd. This is fine for short lectures, but when I have long teaching commitments, the dynamic talking disturbs my vata; then, my kapha nature kicks in to “ground” the vata—I crave heavy, rich foods that tend to “stick” to me with excess water and weight. To return to balance, the most effective practice for me is doing longer abhyanga (soothes vata), a gentle floor yoga sequence (grounding), a warm meal (nourishing), and getting into bed earlier than usual. Quiet walks in nature and extra pranayama always help, as well as relaxing with tulsi tea (a nervine) and petting my puppy (soft and cuddly are great for vata!).
Favorite place in the world?
Floating in a cool lake on a hot day, while gazing at clouds and mountain tops with my sweetheart.
Hiking with my dog, tending a campfire, exploring beautiful gardens, picnicking at classical music concerts, watching community theatre, receiving great bodywork, sampling organic chocolate, and traveling to see loved ones.
Stephen Mitchell’s version of the Tao Te Ching lives on my bedside table and goes with me on every trip; it soothes me and sets me straight more than any other text. Dr. Robert Svoboda’s The Greatness of Saturn keeps me constantly intrigued by the depth and breadth of the wisdom traditions. Being with Dying by Joan Halifax is filled with stories, teachings, and practices to fill my heart with fearlessness and compassion.
“If you knew, as I do, the power of giving, you would not let a single meal pass without sharing some of it.” —The Buddha