Your Professional Yoga Teacher Trainers are:

LARA WARD, E-RYT 500, LMT and Founder & Director of Lotus Gardens, LLC

Lara has been studying and practicing eastern and western science for 30 years. In her mid-teens, she was introduced to Masakazu Takahashi and the traditional Japanese martial art of Shotokan Karate. The concept of life energy, known as Ki, began an avid study of all things energetic. In 1980, at the start of America’s exercise craze, Lara became certified to teach Aerobic Slimnastics, a form of aerobic fitness cooling down with yoga posture. By the mid-80’s she was teaching a blend of yoga, fitness, martial arts and eastern healing practices to clients throughout western Connecticut.  While offering Yoga programs for Cardiac Rehab patients at Danbury and New Milford Hospitals, she also created weekly employee programs for Boehringer Ingelheim, Cartus, Dow, Duracell, Ethan Allen, Goodrich, Kimberly Clarke, Praxair and Scholastic corporations. In 2001, out of her love of sharing yoga and the growing need for yoga teachers, Lara founded one of CT’s first nationally registered Yoga Alliance schools. Under Lara’s direction, Lotus Gardens Yoga School (LGYS), has guided 400 people into the world of sharing yoga through teaching.
    In 2013, her desire to advance her knowledge in anatomy, kinesiology, eastern and western body work, polarity and reflexology Lara earned her 1,000 hour certification in Therapeutic Massage and Hydrotherapy.  She holds Massage Therapy licenses in NY & CT.  In 2015, Lara joined her alma mater as an adjunct professor for the Health Promotions & Exercise Science Department of Western CT State University.  At WCSU she earned dual Bachelor degrees in Business & English.  Contact Lara at

REBECCA SMITH  first tried Yoga to recover from a dance injury in 2003 but didn't fall in love with it until years later. After enjoying an assignment as an Army Instructor, she looked for a civilian path with a similar sense of duty, purpose, and service to others. Rebecca turned to fitness and yoga, wanting to share the amazing health benefits of an active lifestyle that had helped in her own life. She enjoys teaching a variety of styles of yoga. Whether restorative or vigorous, she always seeks to empower each student with self-care knowledge physically and mentally, always encouraging and hoping to inspire a consistent home practice. She draws on her dance background for creative movement, her personal injury recovery for modifications and healing, and her military years to bring discipline and strength to the mat. Her disciplined, strong style is still playful and open.
Rebecca highly recommends Lara Ward's Lotus Gardens Yoga School where she obtained her 200 hour YTT as well as Childrens' Yoga Certification, and Veterans Yoga Project with Daniel Libby, Ph.D. with whom she continues to study Yoga for Veterans.  Contact Rebecca @

JESS RAWLING received her training through Lotus Gardens Yoga under the tutelage of Lara Ward. Jess's classes are Vinyasa and Hatha informed, with a healthy sprinkling of Buddhist-influenced philosophy. She is also a Yoga Nidra and Meditation guide. Jess sees Yoga and Meditation as transformational tools; the means by which we emerge as the best version of ourselves. She consistently challenges her students to make space between their thoughts, to develop awareness of their habitual reactions, and to respond to challenges in ways that benefit themselves and others.  Jess has been a practitioner of Hatha/Vinyasa Yoga and Mindfulness Meditation for over a decade, and she tirelessly works to deepen her knowledge and understanding of this captivating practice.

In addition to her RYT certification, Jess holds a BA in Theater Performance from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst and has participated in Commedia Dell'Arte and Suzuki Movement trainings.

CARRIE GROSSMAN (Dayashila) is a devotional artist whose creative offerings explore the wild terrain of the heart. A lifelong student and practitioner of the mystical traditions, she brings a modern, feminine voice to ancient wisdom.At the age of 21, Carrie first traveled to India where she was exposed to kirtan (call and response mantra chanting). The beauty of the practice inspired her to sing, but due to shyness and self-doubt, 10 years went by before the music within her emerged. It wasn’t until her life descended into a dark and difficult period that she spontaneously began to write songs and play the harmonium. At the altar of her instrument she called out to the divine and unburdened her heart. This process was profoundly healing and, the more she did it, the more she felt drawn to share her sound with the world. She has since self-produced two albums: Soma-Bandhu: Friend of the Moon (2010) and The Ram Sessions (forthcoming 2016). Contact Jess at

For over 20 years Carrie has immersed herself in the contemplative and creative dimensions of diverse cultures. She began her journey as a scholar, earning degrees in Comparative Religion from Brown (B.A) and Naropa Universities (M.A), but ultimately she longed to taste the truth of the scriptures directly. This desire led her to study with some of the world’s great spiritual teachers and to receive further training in yoga and the healing arts. Today she continues to pursue the path of self-inquiry and to relish her wild love affair with the Great Mystery. A longtime writer, Carrie also brings her passion for personal and global transformation to the publishing world as Senior Editor of Common Ground magazine. Contact Carrie at the LightInside.Org


PHOENIX MATARAZZO Phoenix returned to the Naugatuck Valley upon completion of her degree in Dance from The Hartt School. Phoenix realized that her home area was lacking something: YOGA STUDIOS. A student of Bikram Yoga in her earlier days, she went on to fall in love with Anusara, and Vinyasa styles. She remembers one specific class in West Hartford that ignited her desire to share the practice with others. Phoenix completed her 200 hour teacher training through Lotus Garden's Yoga in Sherman, CT. Since then she has enjoyed bringing the practice of yoga to students of all ages. In addition to yoga, Phoenix is also a certified Pilates Mat instructor, and holds a certificate in Integrative Health and Healing from the Graduate Institute in Bethany, CT. Most recently, Phoenix returned to Lotus Gardens for an advanced training in Yin Yoga, and attended a restorative yoga training with Jillian Pransky. Phoenix completed a Reflexology course in February under the guidance of Nova Matarazzo, her mother. When not at the studio, she enjoys volunteering at the Seymour Animal Shelter, teaching technique to her former high school's dance team, and spending time with her husband and five children... Charlotte (human), Harper, Izzy, Mr. Tigga (canines), and Bella (feline.)...Looking forward to many more happy years in our community of Seymour! Contact Phoenix at


ANNE NOVAK is a certified Kundalini Yoga Teacher, a Yoga Alliance RYT, an ACE-Certified Personal Fitness Trainer with a background in physical therapy and a certified Hypnotherapist, who has been working in the health and fitness industry for over twenty years. She is the creator of Radiant Health & Authentic Happiness DVD and is a Spirit Voyaga and My Yoga Online teacher.  Anne teaches students of all levels of fitness and experience and focuses on creating an environment that is safe, accessible and effective for all.