Yoga Photo Session with Tara Laval Yoga
How and why did you start yoga?
During my sophomore year in college, I needed to fulfill a physical education requirement, and I elected to take yoga for the semester. I didn't know anything about yoga, but figured it would be an easy elective. I can remember the very first class I took; I was not flexible at all. The instructor kept asking us to twist our bodies into crazy shapes, and she kept speaking words I couldn't understand. However, once she put us into savasana (corpse pose), my mind and body began to relax, and a sense of peace and contentment flooded over me. I went home that day to such a natural high, that I was hooked. I've always dealt with depression and anxiety, and so I wanted more of the peace I felt from yoga.
Is there a style of yoga you gravitate towards?
Yes, I tend to gravitate toward a more slower, flowy practice. I'm learning that by slowing down and allowing the body and mind to fully experience the pose, I am able to move more deeply into what I call a moving meditation. I've tried other styles of yoga, but Hatha Flow resonates with me the most at the moment.
What obstacles has yoga helped you overcome? Is there a part of your journey that stands out to you that you would like to share with others?
The biggest obstacle I would say I've overcome is feeling comfortable in my skin and truly loving myself for who I am in this moment. Yoga has given me a sense of belonging, a sense of purpose, and a sense of community. I still struggle with body issues, depression and anxiety, but yoga has helped me tremendously. Also, with having gone through teacher training and the advanced training, I am trusting my inner voice and intuition, and learning how to express my needs and emotions.
Do you have any favorite mantras, quotes, items, or rituals that have helped your journey?
"I am not afraid...I was born to do this." Joan of Arc - I say this before every class I teach when I start to feel nervous or doubtful in my ability to allow the love and knowledge I have of yoga to shine through.
When did you know you wanted to teach yoga?
I always had a sense that I wanted to teach yoga, but never thought I would be a good teacher because I am afraid to get up and speak in front of others. Then one day about two years ago I was in a class and the instructor had us hold pigeon. She stumbled over the instruction and continued on as if no big deal, and a thought popped into my mind that said, "I can do this. I can teach yoga." So right after that, I signed up for the 200 hour teacher training at Yoga Loft.
You offer Yoga Nidra classes. What is something you would like people to know about it?
Yoga Nidra translates from Sanskrit as "Yogic Sleep", but you do not sleep during a Yoga Nidra session. It is a deep, profound practice where you are guided through the layers of consciousness so that the body and mind become completely still and at ease. The mind is most receptive in this state, and from here you can undo all your negative thought patterns and behavior. Especially with the way our culture is always on the go, and the mind is constantly in a highly alert and/or agitated state, I would recommend trying Yoga Nidra in order to feel more relaxed, centered and balanced.
What do you do when you’re off the mat?
When I'm not reading or taking courses on yoga, I love to travel with my husband and root for our local hockey team, the Tampa Bay Lightning. We have season tickets and make it to almost all of the home games.
What role does yoga play off the mat?
This is a good question. I always thought that yoga ended as soon as the practice was done, and I rolled up my mat. However, I've learned that yoga is a way of life, a way of conducting yourself and the connection with others. I try to practice the Yamas and the Niyamas off the mat, as well as keeping a balance between action and self-care.
What one book or other resource would you recommend to someone wanting to learn more about yoga?
Just one? Let's see. I love to read so it's difficult to pick one book to recommend. I would say Stephen Cope's Yoga and the Quest for the True Self. He delves into the whole practice of yoga, not just asana while giving examples from his own life, as well as his students' experiences.
What piece of advice can you offer someone starting yoga?
Let go of what you think yoga is supposed to be or look like. Many times I have beginner students say that they can't do yoga because they are not flexible, or their friend can get into poses they cannot. Yoga is not about the other person. It is about discovering your true self and peeling back the layers of restricted, limited thinking. Anyone can do yoga. Yoga is for everyone!
What advice can you offer to encourage people to practice yoga off the mat?
I think the more you practice and learn about what yoga really is, then you just start to naturally practice yoga off the mat. In my experience, it happens organically and without realizing it. So, I would encourage students to have a consistent practice on the mat, and then begin to learn more about the origin, philosophy and different limbs of yoga.