Vera is like a great jazz song. She evolves and changes her path often but always has a solid core you see threaded through all she does. Her involvement in working with non-profits in a support and then a leadership role has now taken her into a yoga practice, speaking engagements and even some marriage ceremonies.
"My greatest passion is cultivating connection – with ourselves, between people, in communities, and to a greater power."
To learn more about her or stalk her on social media check out her site: veralester.com
When did you start getting involved in Yoga and what led to the change in career?
I took a few classes in college, but I didn't really start practicing until 2003 at Wild Lotus. In the beginning, it was just the physical aspect - a great workout that always kept me guessing, the lyrical vinyasa fed my creative side, and I felt great after every class. Over the course of time, I realized there was more to it than that: the values of yoga were my values. Within a few years, my weekly class was sacred time: nothing interfered.
I started a teacher training in 2011 to deepen my practice. I figured if I could turn the best two hours of my week to the best 10 or 20 hours: why not? At first I didn't intend to teach at all. And then I thought "I'll just teach one class a week." Then maybe two. After a year of teaching, I realized I wanted to do it full time -- that terrified me, because I didn't think it would support me. So I kept working in my old career, but my heart wasn't in it. By January 2014, I was so miserable at work, I just couldn't do it anymore -- I think the universe kept making it impossible for me to do anything else. So I quit.
The universe has been taking care of me ever since.
What are some of the best spots in Nola outdoors to do Yoga or just meditate?
The best spot to meditate is the spot you're in. If we wait for the perfect moment, or the perfect place, we'll never do it. Meditation is way harder than yoga asana (physical practice), but in many ways it's more important. I love the Tibetan House - it just opened Uptown, and they have free silent meditation three nights a week. It's a beautiful space with clear, serene energy.
I love doing yoga on Magnolia Bridge across Bayou St. John. I think it would be neat to practice with a group at Crescent Park. With lots of sunscreen.
What should someone add to their bucket list for experiencing New Orleans and the surrounding Parishes?
Seeing the irises bloom in April in Jean Lafitte park, followed by lunch at Restaurant des Familles, just across whatever bayou that is.
What does it mean to be a New Orleanian?
New Orleanians are that fortunate brand of people who've been "bit by the bug" - we got that quiet, irrevocable knowledge that New Orleans will always be home, no matter what happens. New Orleans claims you, not the other way around.
What neighborhood do you live in?
I live in Faubourg St. John, right by the fairgrounds, possibly the best neighborhood in the entire world.
What is great about your street and block?
Historic properties, aging hippies, quirky coffeeshops, great food, and the beautiful bayou and City Park.
Who do you respect as creators of culture and great community members and why?
Every kid who practices their horn or downbeat at any public school in town. The new comedy scene in New Orleans. The theatre artists who keep at it, despite the fact that they're competing with Mardi Gras for suspension of disbelief. New Orleans is created by folks who everybody else thought was nuts, and anytime someone keeps at something when it seems almost insane to try -- those are the people I really respect. They're the people who make this city great.
Snowball flavor (s)
Orchid Cream with condensed milk. Plum Street.
Who would be your ultimate festival headliner?
I love Galactic. After producing an outdoor festival, their tech rider was always my favorite: "The house should be equipped with enough bass to level the building to dust. NO JOKE."
How do you do Mardi Gras Day?
St. Anne. One day I'll make it all the way to the riverfront. I get sidetracked every year.
Your favorite Dirty Coast shirt design?
I've used "River. Lake. Uptown. Downtown" to explain our version of cardinal directions to countless locals. But my favorite is a toss up between Save the Sazerac and my underground "Helvetica" shirt.