Tanja: Approaching the Divine through Yoga

When I went to my first yoga class 6 months ago, it was out of curiosity more than anything else. There is a yoga studio at London Buddhist Centre where I used to meditate. However, from the first day, something happened, very deep inside me and I started practising yoga quite regularly ever since. Yoga and meditation are complementary practices. They are both based the same values of empathy and kindness with always this idea that it is by taking care of us and awakening our awareness that we will be able to promote peace and love in this world.

Tanja is a senior teacher at The Life Centre. She is also a mentor and teacher trainer with Yoga campus. I met her few months ago in her class of Vinyasa flow yoga. She is a wonderful teacher, kind in her approach while challenging the physical practice. I really like the unique atmosphere of her classes. She knows how to create a nurturing and sacred space for exploration of the body and mind.

In this video recording, Tanja talks about yoga and the tantric perspective she comes from. If you are interested in more than a pure physical endeavour, listen to her wise voice!

Click on the picture below to listen to the interview of Tanja. The recording is in English. The script is available below the video recording. 

So, I’m Tanja. I’m a yoga teacher. I live in London. I’ve been here for most of my adult life. But I was born in Finland, in Scandinavia.

I went to my first yoga class in 2000, I think I’ve sort of heard of yoga and I was kind of interested. I’ve done different movements, things I used to do as a teenager and I guess I was sort of drawn that it was moving with some sort of intention; I didn’t really have any idea what that might be. But I went to my first class. It was an Iyengar class. Something happened in Shavasana very deep, I really felt something familiar and this kind of feeling of “I’ve come home”. Like oh, I didn’t realised I have been looking for something but here it is. From then on, I started practising quite regularly straight away.

So if I have to explain yoga or introduce yoga to somebody who has no concept of what it might be and no ideas around it, I would say yoga is an ancient practice. It is both path to allness. It gives you the tools to really embrace all parts of yourself, the physical; you come into connection with your body, your physicality, and you start to appreciate it and come into connection definitively with your mental body and so where you a start to have a relationship to your thoughts.

It gives you the space to see your thoughts and make choices around which ones you can cultivate and which ones you can make go off.

Obviously it also gives you relationship to your energy body so you spend time with yourself, you become sensitive, you start to understand from an experience how energy can shift and how you can shift your energy.

So I come from a tantric perspective and in the tantric philosophy is non-dual. So that means that really is not about us transcending this body or this pain or this life to reach something else, but the Divine is everywhere, and we are a Divine so in this way the path is really about awakening to the Divine in everything, in our self as much as in the other. And the very practice of yoga gives us some practical tools to become more skilled at getting that connection, at feeling and experiencing that awakening, that remembrance of who we really are.

I teach yoga that is vinyasa based, so moving with the breath. I do have also focus on alignment so that kind of the physical part of the practice. I really enjoy getting creative with my sequencing. I think really the most important part it is Bhakti and Tandra based. It’s a devotional practice. I really want to create space that is sacred so when you come in practice you are held in a different kind of atmosphere than the rest of your life and that is where shifts can happen.

So I also teach what I call mythical flow. These are special classes or events if you like, where I do a lot of story telling around the deities, the Indian deities. There are many, many stories. We are made up of the stories that we had lived, but also the stories that we choose to believe. So in this way, stories can be very powerful. So I like to work with the different deities as archetypes. So we start to have the stories and the archetypes as a mirror to see where am I, who am I in this story, how can I change the story, what do I need you know…

Archetypes are so powerful, because they speak to us on different levels. So it’s not just like understanding “I need to be strong” or “I need to be courageous” if you think I need to be courageous like Hanuman the monkey God, you immediately, if you are familiar with him, like see this monkey that is ready to leap into the unknown, that ‘s gone hard, that he like filled with devotion and faith and everything. It’s become a part of you and it can be really, really powerful.

So the practice of yoga is about connection. The word in itself means to yoke, to bring together and the more you practise and the more you drop into a connection with yourself, the more you connect to others, the more you connect to your environment… and this naturally brings compassion, empathy…

 

So I think every one should try some form of yoga because there is a yoga to suit every body. There are many different styles, there are many ways into practice whether that’s coming from a physical place, or meditation, or breathing, or maybe it’s chanting. So there is a practise that will fit you, always!

 

Iyengar Yoga is a form of Yoga that has an emphasis on detail, precision and alignment in the performance of posture (asana) and breath control (pranayama).

Shavasana is a pose usually done at the end of a yoga practice in which practitioners lie flat on their backs with the heels spread as wide as the yoga mat and the arms at the sides of the body, palms facing upward.