We’re really excited to announce that one of Yoga West’s favourite teachers, Toni, is returning to the schedule on Friday June 9. Toni took some time off from teaching after the birth of her son, Astor, in December.
You can always tell when she is here – just listen out for the constant sound of laughter coming from the studio. Toni will start off teaching the 4:45pm slow flow class and the 6:15 vinyasa flow class on a Friday. We hope these will be the first of many regular classes she will teach at Yoga West.
For those of you who have not met Toni before please find below the interview we did with her when she first started teaching at the studio.
Welcome back Toni…
How did you get in to yoga?
I grew up with a fair bit of pain in my body due to weakness and joint issues but I always loved being active in spite of it. When I was 15 my doctor surmised that I had been ‘in the back of the line when God was handing out legs’ as all the joints were out of line and I was told that I could no longer run or play sport without causing myself more severe damage. As this prognosis to sit still far from suited me, another activity had to be found. It was at this point that My mother dragged me along to her yoga class taught in the basement of our first teacher, Anisha Kurji. At first yoga just seemed akin to 90 mins of circus-related physiotherapy, learning to breathe (which at that point in time I thought I had mastered) and meditation with her and her friends. Because of the the aforementioned joint issues and overall weakness, I used to fall frequently and often. If my teacher put me in Wheel Pose, I would just fall to one side as if toppled suddenly by a gale force wind holding a personal vendetta. Over time however yoga helped me to build the strength and balance that I needed to live relatively pain-free. I still fall out of poses sometimes but with more smiles these days! I owe so much to the practice and my teachers so I am eternally grateful yoga found me all those years ago.
Was there a moment when you realised that you wanted to pursue yoga seriously?
Yoga was just something I did up until I finished university. I always knew that I wanted to work in a field making a positive contribution to people’s health and well-being. After finishing my degree in Cell Biology and Anatomy, I thought that meant becoming an Optometrist but as time went on I realized that I genuinely wanted to offer people the same healing that yoga had brought into my life, physical and mental.
How has yoga changed you?
Oh how do I count the ways?! Yoga has so deeply enriched the quality of my life that it is sometimes hard to put it into words or to quantify it. To try and summarize it as concisely as possible – yoga has brought me mental, physical and spiritual strength to handle what is thrown my way and the flexibility to handle it with much more grace than I had in the past.
What is your approach to teaching?
The ripple effect! I always hope that people take what they learn on the mat off the mat and into the world. We cannot realistically offer others that which we don’t have. Our mat is one of the best places to personally cultivate good intentions, loving kindness & confidence that we can share with those that cross our paths. I like to present challenges in class because they hold up a big fat shiny mirror unto ourselves. We get to see how we react to challenging poses in a room full of other people – this is a microcosm of how we react to challenges in the real world. Do we stand still? Do we admit and soften when a challenge is not appropriate for us without resentment or anger? Do we try even if we may fail? It is a load of questions to ask in an hour but that’s why we keep coming back to our mat.
What advice would you give to people who are considering taking up yoga?
I’d like to say don’t be afraid but the truth is that all I can say is ‘its ok to be afraid or intimidated at first, just be brave!’ One of the big lessons of yoga is working through our fears and our insecurities instead of trying to block ignore them. To paraphrase Mr. Mandela – Bravery is not the absence of fear but the triumph over it.
Do you have a favourite yoga quote?
‘If you’re laughing, you’re doing it right!’ One of my teachers, Nico Luce, said it to me when I fell on my face laughing after one of my first attempts at Koundinyasana. It always stuck with me as a reminder that asana practice is just a fraction of yoga practice. While I am a bit of an anatomy and alignment nerd, its nice to see people open and soften into their practice without getting angry or defensive about small failed attempts.
Is there anything outside your yoga that people should know?
I chose to move to the UK because of my desperate loves of travel and tea. I have been so lucky to travel as much as I have in this lifetime from my hometown’s far away corner on the west coast of Canada. Living in London makes it so much easier to see more of the world without spending days on a plane, sometimes just visiting a new nook or cranny of London itself feels like a getaway. Current favourite tea: Mint Matcha!! I had it brought over from a tea shop in Canada so I have to drink it like it is made from powdered stones that touched the waters in the Fountain of Youth but I might consider sharing…might…