This is the first in a series featuring Yogi(s) of interest to the Yoga community. First up is Yariv Lerner, CEO of Udaya Entertainment. Lerner and his company serve as the creative force behind the critically acclaimed “Ultimate Yogi 108” home DVD Series featuring Travis Eliot and “Yoga Warrior 365” featuring Rudy Mettia.
Yariv was born in 1973 to Avi and Daphne Lerner in Israel. He would later move to and be raised in South Africa. Yariv attended college for four years before moving to the United Sates at 23 to pursue a career in professional beach volleyball. What followed is not terribly surprising considering his upbringing.
Yariv’s father is the owner of Boyana Studios, a man who got his first job producing the film “King Solomon’s Mines”. His father has been producing ever since with over 360 films to his credit. As Yariv puts it “I grew up on the film set. I guess it’s (producing) kind of in my blood”
Yariv took time from his busy schedule to participate in this revealing Q&A. So, without further ado, here’s a Q&A with Yariv:
William Hunnell: So, in addition to producing you had a career as a professional beach volleyball player. Is there a connection?
Yariv Lerner: It worked out well until at age 35 my knees began to give way. I was due to have surgery and the doctor suggested yoga as a way to prehabilitate - before hand to make my recovery quicker. Not doing anything at all half way; I went every day and ended up feeling great and not needing surgery.
WH: How long have you practiced Yoga?
YL: I started practicing Yoga at age 18 when I got involved with Buddhist Martial arts. They introduced me to Chinese Yoga, which is a very active form of Yoga. That’s probably why I resonated so well with Bryan Kest and his style of Chinese Yoga when I came to the (United) States. I followed that by completing teacher training with Rudy Mettia and Travis Eliot to be certified as a teacher in 2011 - since then I have not taught one class.
WH: Who or what inspires you?
YL: I am inspired mostly by the Buddha’s teachings which, simply put say [sic]”Life is shitty because you want things and everything changes, so let your expectations go and do something about it - here is how.” Anyone that attempts to live closely to that philosophy inspires me.
WH: You’re the CEO of Udaya Entertainment. What do you see as your role there?
YL: I wear many hats at Udaya but share the responsibilities with my business partner Rob Edie and Cody who handles customer service. I’m the CEO, technically, which really means playing that game where you are always trying to keep the three balloons in the air.
WH: Speaking of Udaya… what is the significance, if any, behind the name?
YL: Udaya was coined after the Udaya retreat centre I started with Travis Eliot. It means amongst many things “rising sun and new beginnings”. It resonated well with me because returning to the film industry made my dad very happy. I liked the play on words between sun and son.
WH: Ok. What would you consider Udaya’s mission?
YL: Udaya’s mission statement is “A healthier happier world through the practice of unification with truth.” In other words: health and happiness by practicing yoga.
WH: Practicing with the Ultimate Yogis Series (with Travis Eliot), most folks can hear Travis speaking to you. In fact, in one of the practices he clearly asks “Yariv, are you ready?” So, it’s safe to assume that you were not only behind the camera; you were in front of the camera as well. What was that like?
YL: The Ultimate Yogi (Series) was a magical experience. Everyone, bar two Yogis on the cast, practiced with Travis for 108 days in preparation for the filming. It had many flaws but there was certain perfection within the flaws. We also made a short film as well (why not bite off more than you can chew?) but it only found its way onto the intro disc and not much further. I guess you can describe it like your first child.
WH: Speaking of children: It seems you’ve borne more in the form of Yoga Warrior 365 with Rudy Mettia. What was that like?
YL: Yoga Warrior 365 with Rudy Mettia was actually planned in March before we left (for) Bulgaria but it took a year and a half to compete. It was easier to film but tougher to edit. Rudy is hilarious, but has no ‘filter’ so we were constantly going back and forth on whether we should keep something or nix it. Often we would nix something and then have to stitch the class back together and still make it work! One of these days I’m going to release the ‘blooper’ reel and hope the world and Rudy forgive me for it!
WH: Any other ‘children’ on the way?
YL: We are also in the final stages of “Deepen Your Practice” with Vytas Baskauskas.
WH: Vytas Baskauskas? The Yogi on the television series “Survivor”?
YL: Both Vytas and his brother, Aras, are featured on "Survivor".
WH: Considering that you have three ‘children’ thus far, in what order would you recommend folks practice them?
YL: If I were to give someone advise on which order to do the practices I would say start with Rudy, move onto Travis and then attempt "Deepen Your Practice". If you end up purchasing "Deepen Your Practice" please don't hate me. It’s an advanced practice and we warned you.
WH: Are you working on any other projects you don’t mind divulging here?
WH: That’s a lot. Any other ‘children’ planned?
YL: We are in pre-production on “Liquid Asana Live” with Micheline Berry due out in August next year. (“Liquid Asana Live’) is a music/yoga combination. We are also tying the bow on “Deepen Your Practice” with Vytas.
WH: And finally, what do you want folks to know about your company?
YL: What’s not common knowledge about Udaya is that everything is made in-house with love and care. We have not subbed out one aspect of the work (including the original hand-glued packaging) before we send it out to print.
So, there you have it: a closer look at Yariv Lerner; the creative force behind the “Ultimate Yogi 108” and “Yoga Warrior 365”.