With our 2017 yoga retreats coming up (book your spot now!) we are very excited to re-introduce our lovely yoga teacher Vanessa Fleming. We’ve asked her a few questions to get to know her better!
Why and when did you decide to become a yoga teacher?
I’ve always been connected to movement, but I was very disconnected from my mind. I suffered and struggled with anxiety and depression most of my life, and it was starting to overtake me. My doctor prescribed yoga.
I started going, and it was very difficult. But, I didn’t want to half-ass it. I didn’t want to find the easy way out. It was the first time I showed up to something and found myself taking a journey inward to get to the bottom of why something was difficult. And then one day, after a few years of practicing, I felt myself crying on my mat, because I was connecting to something deep inside of me, something I had pressed down over and over again. I had awakened something in me, and it was then that I knew, I wanted to share this with others. Yoga had brought me out of a very dark place many times over, and I wanted to share that and do my part to help others connect with themselves.
What do you enjoy most about teaching yoga?
My students. The “aha” moments that I see them have. The questions they ask, and the bond that we create. When they come up to me after class and tell me what they experienced, or they learned something new, or something finally “clicked” for them…that’s what makes it worth it.
Name the top 3-4 benefits of yoga to you personally?
The deeper I get into my practice, the more in tune with my body, the universe, and my being I become. Physically, I’m stronger and healthier. Mentally, I have more clarity. I’m far more conscious of the decisions I make, whether it’s what I consume, who I surround myself with, and the like. Those are my top reasons.
Do you have any advice for new yoga students and why they should not be afraid to start practicing?
For someone who is new to the asana (physical) practice and might be a little scared to approach for any particular reason, the most important (and hardest) part is showing up. Once you’re on your mat, you are on your way. Still not convinced? Think about the last selfless thing you did, or the smile you gave to a stranger…guess what. That’s yogic. So you’ve already started the journey, and that counts tremendously.
What changes do you notice students after some time practicing yoga? (physical, mental, spiritual – any)
The “shift.” Certainly the physical aspects are there…more strength and flexibility. But what I start to notice with students is how they start to become more connected with their own bodies, and start to really understand how they work, especially in conjunction with the strength, and using the breath. Most people don’t realize they know how to breathe until attention is paid to it. Sounds silly, because we all have to breathe to live, but most of us are just breathing enough to physically stay alive. When students start to take the journey into breath exploration and control, all kinds of changes start to develop.
Why do you think participating in a yoga retreat is a good experience?
A yoga retreat provides special attention and immersion that a classroom doesn’t always provide. A classroom allows you to practice and learn, but a retreat allows you to connect with others, go deeper on a physical and spiritual level, and it shuts out the “noise.” A classroom is usually a break for an hour or two from your normal busy life. A retreat starts to pave the way to really let go towards serenity. Environmental factors are a big part of the journey. Immersing with nature, like-minded souls, and the energetic space and place to transcend are what retreats are all about.