Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Interview With A Yogi :: Tanya Voges

Tanya is an independent contemporary dancer who discovered yoga could not only help her gain strength and maintain flexibility between dance contracts, but that yoga also had other amazing qualities. She learnt that yoga could ground you, and make you realise your potential, that it could help with health issues and that the whole path of Yoga could teach you about life, breath and mindfulness.

Tanya teaches Yoga around Sydney, at various studios, health clubs, private classes and in workplaces. She specialises in Yoga for Dancers. Her creative flowing vinyasa style and calm, precise teaching manner is what all her students comment on. Tanya's first meditation recordings are due to be released around March 2012.

Tanya is also the organiser behind bringing Yoga Stops Traffick to Sydney. The fundraising event is happening this Saturday in the City and you can read all about it here! Please come along!  

How do you befriend your body?
I’ve been dancing since I was really young so I learnt early the importance of massage to look after my body- from a really knowledgeable body worker as well as self-massage. I use a range of equipment- from a spikey ball to a foam roller and something I bought at a fitness expo once called a pocket physio that really helps get those knots out in between treatments!

Describe your yoga practice - remembering that yoga is union, not just asana. How do you live yoga on & off the mat?
For me yoga is a movement meditation- I haven’t ever followed just one teaching and love absorbing the teachings of yoga from a range of teachers and lineages. This has taught me to look for the lessons in daily life as well. I have experienced the state of bliss dancing in a studio as many times as I have in a savasana after a strong asana practise, I’ve recognised the necessity of letting go of my attachments to my possessions just as many teachers have invited me to let go of the expected outcomes of my yoga practise, I try not to identify with my ego in a yoga class when I can’t execute a posture well and in contrast spend hours discussing the aspects of ego identification necessary to be able to have the confidence to get up on stage and perform. In essence yoga is in every aspect of my life whether I acknowledge it or not and I am always learning more from my students!

How is meditation a part of your practice?

I was drawn towards meditation over the past few years through a period where my physical practise really slowed down as I did more restorative practises and learnt Yoga Nidra (often known as Psychic Sleep it is a guided practise done lying down). I am so grateful to have the knowledge and experience of mindfulness meditation too, as when I was diagnosed with a couple of auto-immune diseases I had to reassess my understanding of health and wellbeing, so having the tools of being able to clear my mind of unwanted thoughts and attempt non identification with my body and mind, was invaluable to get me through that stressful time. My passion for sharing means I lead guided meditation workshops and recently recorded a range of meditations that will be available as CDs and downloads in early 2012. My students have been asking where they can get meditations that they can do at home and supposedly my voice is very relaxing!

What tips would you give a new meditator/yogi?
Have no expectations.

Easier said than done of course! 
Both meditation and aspects of Yoga will give the side benefit of relaxation which is generally what we crave in our busy modern day lives- yet the path to relaxation and the other aspects of feeling strong and supple are not a process that can be forced. That sense of peace and tranquillity is available through self-enquiry and mindfulness, so make the time to practise and literally smell the roses! Pause and listen, notice your breath, be kind to yourself and observe the ripple effect of how the good feelings you gain from your practise leads to positive thoughts which in turn results in compassionate words and actions.

Seek out a teacher, a school or a tradition that is appropriate for you. Hatha Yoga was brought to the west as a physical practise as we are dwelling in the ego realm identifying with our bodies as self- so this is why a watered down version of Yoga as a series of physical exercises is what most people in Australia think is “Yoga”. 

But this is a multi-layered practise with infinite possibilities- you may find that seated meditation is more available to you, but if sitting is difficult you may need to learn physical yoga (asana) to give you the ability to sit for a period of time where the mind is not distracted by any pain or discomfort. 

The ultimate goal of enlightenment (Samadhi) or liberation (Moksha) may or may not mean anything to you as a starting point, so do what you need and enjoy the journey. Don’t forget to ask questions and let your teachers know if you have any injuries or ailments as they are there to help you, and never do anything that you are not comfortable doing!

Please share your favourites with us - books, sites, anything (specifically yoga related or not) that light your fire!
“These are a few of my favourite things….”

Book: Jivamukti Yoga by Sharon Gannon and David Life. This book was introduced to me at the yoga teacher training that I did with Katie Mantitis at Samadhi in Newtown which has recently become the first Jivamukti Yoga School in Australia. Based in New York, Sharon and David are extremely knowledgeable yogis who were a dancer and musician respectively before they discovered yoga. I respect their teachings and love that the classes are creative, flowing sequences, filled with philosophy and accompanied by “Om” inspired music, chanting and meditation. The book is all of this and more.

Site: I love both Yoga Glo www.yogaglo.com and My Yoga Online www.myyogaonline.com
They are sites which have instructional videos, ones that you can sit and learn from and others that are filmed as if you are in the class and you can practise with the streamed clips. There is a monthly fee to have unlimited access, so for those of you who want access to an international range of teachers whether you just don’t have time or money to get to classes or if you are a fellow teacher looking for more inspiration or to trouble shoot a problem one of your students has- these websites are an incredible resource.

Style: I love the variety of sequences and combinations of poses that a Vinyasa class can offer, but over the past couple of months I’ve been studying Ashtanga Yoga with an amazing teacher David Roche at Bondi Beach Jois Yoga Shala in preparation for my trip to Mysore to practise in the tradition of Shri K Pattabhi Jois at the Ashtanga Yoga Research Institute.

How can people bring yoga into their everyday?
Big question but my answer is small. It’s the little things in life that will change. I think this is such an individual path you will have to find your way through this journey and discover your own answer to this question!

What is one thing that today you are grateful for?
I am grateful that I am writing to you from Mysore, India! So many people made this trip possible- my students in and around Sydney coming to my classes throughout 2011 helped me to save my pennies, my fellow yoga teachers who are covering my classes whilst I’m away (big shout out to Stella, Cecilie, Leonie, Andrea, Donald and Dara), I’m also grateful to my acupuncturists at Community Acupuncture for helping me get better when I was sick, and for my friends who convinced me that I could get through the Ashtanga Yoga Primary series, and to my family who have always encouraged me to follow my dreams and do what makes me happy- cause here I am every morning practising with Sharath in the Shala of Shri K Pattabhi Jois for a whole month of transformation and physical enquiry.

How do you slow down and smell the roses?
Time out for me is reading a novel, having tea with my friends, dancing alone in silence so that I can sense the initiation of every movement and delight in the body’s infinite capabilities. I also like gazing at the stars, road trips and travelling which always seems to heighten my experience of the world around me.

Any ideas on stressing less and enjoying more?
Get time management in order, plan the time to practise meditation or yoga or whatever it is you enjoy so that you can stop complaining about not having the time to do the other things you’d prefer to be doing. Have a car free day once a week. Be the person in your community who schedules time to share meals with your family and friends. Take a deep breath and talk to someone about your problems in a constructive way. Then listen, listen to what the world needs from you. 

How do YOU live a wholehearted life?
I’ve been very lucky to have a supportive family who encouraged me to do what it is that makes me happy. I want this for everyone, so I try to be supportive for my friends and community. I aim to choreograph and perform dance works that people can really connect with and be inspired by. I teach and share my knowledge of movement of the body and movement of energy through dance, yoga and meditation classes, workshops and retreats. I live with my heart open and this can hurt sometimes, but as I write this it feels like this is the true way of being the most honest version of myself- loving everyone and everything as if connected to me.

Last words?
I’m no Mother Teresa, but as I’m in India I’m about to visit a refuge centre for women and girls to teach and choreograph a dance piece for their upcoming benefit- Keep posted about what happens there and once I return to Sydney by checking out my Yoga website: www.balanceinspire.com or my online dance presence: www.tanya.voges.net 

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