Category Archives: Yoga Teacher of the Month

Meet March’s Teacher of the Month: Natasia Cook

 

Her first passion was dance.

Having trained in various forms of dance since the age of 5 and later working as a professional ballet dancer for 7 years, Natasia had gained a huge respect for the “incredible human body and its ability to transform and heal itself.”

After retiring from the stage she moved into the corporate world and later studied Reflexology & Meridian Therapy, registering as a Therapeutic Reflexologist and running her very own practice “The Sole Sanctuary” for 6 years.

Continuously returning to and reverting from the corporate world over the years, Natasia learned a great deal but not quite enough to feed her soul.  Until she discovered the practice and her Yoga journey commenced in 2001 : the day Natasia took her first Yoga class.

Finding Yoga felt like coming home.

Through-ought her journey, Natasia has been exposed to the Hatha, Iyengar, Ashtanga Vinyasa, Indieyoga, Sivananda, Budokon, Yoga Synergy, Yin/Restorative, Partner/Acro and Dharma styles, thus helping her discover where her interests lie – in body alignment and the healing potential of Yoga.

Natasia was blessed with phenomenal teachers who, evidently made an impact that changed her life.

I am grateful to my teachers;

The late Ingrid Eriksen was her guidance into teaching in 2008,  Kerry Weavind’s ( from Haum of Yoga (now Indieyoga)) insightful and life changing 200hr Indieyoga course (2013) was the inspiration behind Natasia’s leap from her day job and journey into sharing this incredible art and discipline as her full time passion.

I never realized that I would love teaching so much! What a privilege it is to interact with people from all walks of life and watch as they develop their own awareness, strength and peace

Natasia started Namaste Yoga studio on an impulse in 2008 and it has grown over the years to become her very own “happy place, community and purpose.”

Intrigued? ( Keep reading. )

 

What are some of the challenges you’ve experienced as a Yoga instructor/studio owner?

*The biggest challenge (apart from the usual business owner’s challenges of paying all the bills and multitasking) is finding time to get on the mat for myself. I don’t think I’m alone in this as we all tend to teach at the same times, so it’s a bit of a juggling act. Staying true to the discipline of the practice and keeping it fresh are always on my mind.

 

What is your favorite memory of opening the studio?

*The night we opened our new full time premises there was such an amazing energy in the studio; at the after party my best friend’s 9 year old daughter was dancing unselfconsciously while everybody mingled, munched and connected. It warmed my heart so much as I looked around and drank it all in.

 

What piece of advice can you give to future yoga studio owners?

*I definitely don’t have all the answers as I’m always trying to figure things out too, but I think to be organised, consistent and true to your gut feel, while not neglecting yourself.

 

What is the most rewarding part of teaching yoga?

*The connections with the yogis and seeing how they blossom and release their tension. Yoga is such a great leveller as there’s always something that will challenge you and something that feels great, so it keeps you honest as a yogi and teacher!

I love how yoga enables one to disengage from life’s stresses and strains, and that it is non-competitive and non-punitive. Yoga is a unifying force. It speaks to us as human beings and heals on a subtle level as well as a tangible one.

 

How do you build relationships through Yoga?

*How do you build relationships anywhere? By being approachable, treating people with respect & compassion and letting them know they’ve been seen.

 

How have you improved your classes since you started teaching?

*I think as you develop experience you find your own flow, your own unique way of articulating things, and this changes as you change and as you learn more about and from those you teach. Still working on it all the time as I do believe the more you learn the more there is to learn!

 

Do you prefer to instruct small groups, large groups or one on one?

*I’m comfortable with all three as they all offer something different. Individual or small groups offer a chance to really give tailored attention. The group energy in a larger group is contagious though, especially if they’re in a playful mood!

 

What is your greatest achievement in life?
*Reinventing myself several times in different industries and learning to be more adaptable (still working on this one)

 

What makes your yoga classes unique?

I believe my background of 27 years of dance, years of complementary therapy and of course yoga training all combines to give a unique perspective of mind and movement. I think I’m fairly approachable and have been told my classes are playful yet nurturing.

 

Who is your greatest motivator and why?

*I can’t name only one as there have been many over the years! All our yogis, but especially my two 75 and several 60/70 + year old yogis, who show up consistently, do their best and prove how beautifully strong, brave and graceful you can remain through staying on the mat and being engaged with life.  Also anyone who reminds me what compassion is and my teachers, loved ones, friends and colleagues who show grace under pressure daily.

 

Why is Yoga important to you?
* It literally saved my life when I needed to find a way to fill the void that my dancing left. It’s taught me to let go of a lot of the rigid self-discipline and harsh self-criticism that I used to punish myself with, and brought me so much joy. It’s taught me to appreciate my body again, even though it’s not perfect, and enabled me to join a community of like-minded, awesome, authentic individuals!

 

How long have you been practising?

*I’ve been practicing for around 17 years.

 

What type of Yoga do you teach/practice?

I teach Indieyoga, Hatha and occasionally Yin/restorative. However, I believe our teaching is influenced by all that we have experienced before, so some other elements may creep in as the mood takes me. I practise what I can get to; Indie, Yin, Budokon, Hatha, Vinyasa, I’m always exploring!

 

What do you enjoy most about this particular form of Yoga?
*With Indieyoga no two classes are the same; by connecting to your independent spirit you find your own strength, expression and flow, as a teacher and practitioner.

 

Do you see Yoga as a way of life or a form of exercise and meditation? (please elaborate)
*Oh Yoga is a way of life for sure.  Its effects sneak into the rest of your life in a lovely way, whether it’s the ability to detach from drama a little better, practice more self-care and compassion, or shift your perspective as your awareness grows. People often come to yoga as a form of exercise and/or meditation and then the other aspects make themselves felt. A happy side effect is the strength, flexibility and balance it brings, or as one yogi put it: ‘the ability to stand on one leg and scrub your foot in the shower!’

 

What skill would you like to master?

* Ooh I’d love to be able to fly free like a bird!

 

What amazing thing did you do that no one was around to see?
In my dancing days – Six pirouettes (a ballet term: turns on one leg) – pretty close to how I imagine flying must feel actually…

 

What risk is worth taking?

*Following your passion when your gut tells you its right.

 

What is your favorite quote?

*”Lighting another’s candle doesn’t make yours shine any less brightly.”

 

What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

*When I was debating whether or not to enroll for my Reflexology training my wise Mom asked me, “how long is the course?”. I told her and she said “the time will pass anyway so you may as well do it”. How right she was! It opened me up to a whole new world of complementary healing and, as she always says; “nothing you learn is ever wasted”

  • Incredible!

Thats all from me, C

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Meet February’s Yoga Teacher of the Month : Tarryn James

The Yoga Journey all began back in 2013.

Tarryn walked into a Vinyasa class at her local gym with the aim of gaining flexibility, and instead, when she walked out she had gained something else. ( Not weight, keep reading)

She left the studio with much more than a stretch – she left with a sense of discovery, a drive… a curiosity, so she continued to practice yoga through her days at the University of Pretoria, at the gym and following YouTube videos. After years of playing sports such as provincial touch rugby and university hockey, she knew her body needed a change, and Yoga gave her that sense of change.

Tarryn found comfort in the practice of yoga.
It was the only place I could turn to in difficult times, when anxiety struck and when I didn’t quite feel like myself.
It was the place where she could find herself, yet lose herself at the same time.
Tarryn completed her Yoga Teacher Training in 2016 and has not stopped learning since. As a qualified Occupational Therapist, her knowledge of injuries and anatomy has helped her to treat every student as an individual..
One of Tarryn’s many other passions lies in Musical Theatre. As a singer, dancer and actress, she is always fascinated by how yoga has helped her grow; in her physical, mental and emotional self. The holistic approach of mind, body and soul is always the focus.
She has a passion for developing the yoga community and started the initiative Yoga South Africa to build awareness within her country. Yoga South Africa has grown tremendously and she couldn’t be more proud to be involved with this community.
And I think I can speak for us in the community, we are super proud to have YOU in it! I mean damn! ( I think I need to diversify myself a bit, clearly i’m slacking! )
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Lets see what we spoke about?
Trust, you’ll be as blown away as what I was!
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1. Tell us about your practice style and how you chose your Yoga method.

My practice is mostly in the style of vinyasa. I like to keep a strong basis on alignment as well as bring a bit of playfulness through arm balances and inversions. I think my style is largely influenced by my first yoga teachers, who presented a strong yet thoughtful flow. I really focus on bringing in creative sequencing that allow my students to become completely mindful when they move through the postures. I have always liked to try different styles and have practiced ashtanga, bikram and yin yoga. I do believe there is an importance in bringing variety into your practice – mixing it up between strength and flexibility, fast and slow etc. Some days I like a very challenging power yoga class and some days I just spend it in longer yin yoga poses. Variety is key and I think it is important to allow your body to experience those different styles of yoga.

2. What is your mind-set when you step onto the mat?

It varies so much. Most of the time when I DON’T feel like stepping onto my mat, is the time I usually do. While teaching yoga and balancing the other demands of life, it becomes tricky to dedicate time to my self practice. There are days when I am super motivated to practice, to learn and to challenge myself. But on other days I need something a bit more restorative, a place to just breathe and relax. Stepping on to my mat is like coming home. I have always said that yoga is a way of finding yourself, yet losing yourself at the same time. Whenever I feel worries, or stressed, or overwhelmed; I practice. When I am happy and excited, I also practice. There is never a non-yoga moment, and that’s what I love about it.

3. What led you to become a Yoga Teacher?

I had been practicing yoga since my varsity years, while I was studying Occupational Therapy at the University of Pretoria. While completing my community service year I had the drive to keep learning, and I knew a natural progression would be to do my teacher training. I was interested in developing my own personal knowledge when it came to yoga, but I also wanted to share my passion with others. At that stage, I was practicing yoga with Eon Swiegers, who I regard to be one of the best teachers in South Africa. When I found out he was offering a teacher training it was as if the universe had just aligned 😉 I signed up immediately and I am so grateful to have done my training with someone that I have the greatest amount of respect for. I look forward to advancing my knowledge and skills and hope to complete my 500hour teacher training one day.

4. What was it like teaching your first class?

When I was completing my teacher training, Eon (my trainer) had suggested we started teaching as soon as possible. I started offering free classes in my house for some of my friends. It was such a wonderful way to learn. The environment was so supportive and welcoming – and fun being with all my friends! To see them grow in their practice was so motivating and that is when I knew that being a yoga teacher is such an honor. After I qualified, I started teaching at studios and that’s when I started becoming nervous! Although intimidated, I was confident that I could offer something new to the students. I always strive to be approachable and welcoming in my practice and have found that that has led to me connecting more to my students. I have only been teaching for 18 months and each day I learn. I still make mistakes in a class but that’s how you grow as a teacher.

5. What insight have you gained whilst teaching yoga?

Wow – so much! Each day I am learning. I consistently try to attend classes in new styles, with new teachers. The best way I learn is from experiencing. Cape Town has some of the most amazing teachers and by simply attending one class, there is so much you can take from it. I also do a lot of YouTube yoga videos with international teachers and it is interesting to note how they teach differently or what they offer. When I am doing self-practice, I try to be more mindful about what my body is doing – and I use that to instruct and cue when in a yoga class. On more than a physical level, I have learned the importance of meditation and mindfulness. As someone who gets easily overwhelmed, I look forward to those moments of stillness where I can just turn inwards. Meditation is something I really only became comfortable with once becoming a yoga teacher. It is a skill I am still working on but it is so rewarding.

6. Has Yoga changed the way that you connect with your body?

Yes. Yoga has taught me a lot of self love. It has taught me to appreciate the space I am in, without any judgement. I am in aware of all the amazing things my body can do, that I try not to waste time on thinking about the negatives. Yoga teaches you to honor your body, your breath and your mind. For many of us that is a challenge. I struggle with it too and that is why it is such a long journey. I am constantly working on self-awareness and acceptance and yoga is a big part of that.

7. What is the most rewarding aspect of teaching Yoga?

The release. My favorite part about teaching a yoga class is seeing everyone come out of savasana with those look of complete rest on their face. Every now and then you might catch a little smile. That look of complete joy, ease… release. I live for that moment at the end of the class. I also enjoy the little moments of progress in the students. I love watching how each person grows in their progress- whether its achieving a new pose they never thought they would be able to do. Or even just the belief that they start to develop in themselves. People arrive on their mat each time to honor their journey. Whether its something physical, emotional or spiritual – there is always something that they are learning and I am so grateful to be a part of their journey,

8. Has Yoga changed your day to day lifestyle?

Definitely. Since becoming a yoga teacher, I practice a lot more. Sometimes I teach 3 classes a day and will still try to include a self practice. The feeling that I get from spending time on my mat completely changes my attitude for the rest of the day. Some days I get to start the day with a 15 minute meditation, other days I only squeeze in a practice in the afternoon. For those moments in between I try to bring yoga into every day moments; deep breaths, practicing patience, being mindful… I try to live yoga on and off the mat.

9. What advice do you have for students who are intimidated by difficult Yoga poses?

Patience. These days it is so easy to get caught up in the idea of “what yoga is supposed to look like”. We are constantly seeing instagram photos and yoga videos of amazing bodies doing all kinds of weird and wonderful things with their body. It is important to note that that is not all what yoga is about. Yoga is about doing what YOUR body is able to do. It is about challenging yourself within same parameters, in an environment that you feel comfortable in. It is important to find a studio or a teacher  that you really resonate with. By starting off with a beginners class, you will learn the basics and start feeling comfortable with Sanskrit (yoga terminology), your body, as well as a class environment. I started yoga on YouTube and found that was great for me. Some people need more guidance and that is also OK. It is important to highlight that yoga is not a spring, its not even a marathon, it is a way of life. Postures will happen when your body is ready for it. So while you get there, breathe and enjoy it.

10. One piece of advice do you have for aspiring Yoga Teachers?

Self Practice & Give your all. In each class I strive to give my very best to those students. Even when I am tired, or frustrated, those students have taken time out of their day to practice. In respect of them, I try to give them the best teaching I can. Focus on each student as an individual and guide them through. That is why they are coming to your class – to learn, to be guided, to experience your teaching. I try my very best to meet each person on whatever level they are at and work through their journey with them, at their pace. Self practice is so beneficial to you. Once you start understanding your body in yoga and build up your observational skills in a class, then you will be able to incorporate this into your teaching. Self practice facilitates learning, and continuous development and stimulation is important for a teacher.

11. What is your favorite food?

Peanut butter for sure!! Since becoming vegan about 2 years ago I live off of this. Peanut butter on toast, in smoothies, by the tablespoon… everywhere. I cant get enough <3

12. What is your favorite Quote?

“You will get there when you are meant to get there, and not a moment sooner. So trust your path, breathe, and be patient”

“Happy teachers will change the world” – Thicht Nhat Hanh

“Always be a work in progress”

“Everything you need, your courage, your strength , compassion and love, everything you need is already within you.”.

AM I RIGHT OR AM I RIGHT?

This woman is bloody amazing!

Oh and Tarryn has the cutest Doggo ever!

 

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