How has yoga been transformational in your life?
Nancy Hanley: Yoga has been transformational in my life in ways that have been quite dramatic (my whole life turned upside down and then put back together a little closer to where I want it to be!) and also in much more subtle ways. The subtle awareness that yoga has brought to my consciousness pervades every moment of everyday for me. In this way yoga has brought me closer to a sense of oneness and unity in all things. It’s also offered me a whole lot of life-tools for communication, for focusing, for chilling out and letting things flow and for seeing the soul in all.
What does transformation mean to you?
Harsukh Kaur: Transformation is the awareness of you being you. We believe we know who we are, through our personality but somehow along the journey we discover there is a richness within us. So, we begin to chisel into our fascade, slowly removing the layers: we allow the stillness to arise, the sense to just be, and a contentment of this space within and the space around us. Observing life unfolding before us: happiness and then sadness, then happiness again!
You have a retreat coming up in Australia, tell us a little about it. What inspired you to lead this retreat?
N: The Bliss Retreatcame from Harsukh and I having a desire to share the transformation we ourselves had experienced through yoga. We wanted to do this in a space that would allow people to relax, to feel nurtured and like they had time, real dedicated time to spend nourishing themselves on every level. Our retreats are so much about setting an intention to let go and relax. To put aside the everyday and allow the body and heart to open. We support this process by eating delicious, organic food, offering massage and we end each day with a deep relaxation meditation while I play my crystal singing bowls.
What makes the retreats you lead special?
N: The venues we choose are always immersed in nature, with very comfortable and clean and light-filled spaces. I absolutely love the Amarant Retreat space in the Yarra Valley VIC, however I couldn’t say I have a favourite as we return each year to the ever-wonderful Avrajita Retreat in the Kangaroo Valley NSW and it is truly beautiful.
Where do you currently teach and what is a typical day like for you?
N: I currently teach at a few different studios around Melbourne: Kundalini House in Fitzroy North, Natural Therapeutics in Brunswick and a private home studio in Glen Iris. As well as this I visit a number of workplaces to teach a yoga class or a meditation and relaxation class throughout the week. I also have private home visit clients that I provide a one to one instruction. A typical day for me is to get up and do my own personal yoga practice first thing. This involves both asana practice and meditation.
My practice can vary depending on what’s happening in my life. I’m currently spending more time in a Kundalini meditation practice alongside a shorter Vinyasa Flow asana practice. Each day is different for me. I might be out and about doing home visit one to one yoga or visiting workplaces to either teach yoga or some meditation and relaxation. I might also be asked to visit a workplace to share some stress management techniques or talk about diet and general health.
Alongside this I have my studio classes that are mostly run as courses. When I’m not teaching I’m either writing my blog or working on the administration side of the business.
H: I teach in Sydney, in Drummoyne at Yogatopia and in a private space in Leichhardt. I begin every day with my own private meditation practise and a yoga set based on Strengthening the Aura: the practise takes about an hour and really gives me space to reflect on whats happening in my mind, and the world. After that, I feel centred, balanced, awakened and ready to face the day!
I also work as a Freelance Designer in the Branding Industry, so everyday is very different. If I am on assignment as an inhouse designer, then my day begins very early with my own practise, before rushing out the door, driving in peak hour traffic, and go! go! go! meeting deadlines and sitting in front of the computer. I aim to have a nice walk in the sunshine in my lunchbreak to open my lungs and reconnect with nature.
I also teach yoga after work, so I will change out of my office wear, into my yogi wear and drive across the city, to where I teach, by the time I am sitting in front of the students, I feel very peaceful and very blessed to share the teachings: its the best way to unwind! I love teaching and I love designing, integrating the 2 worlds have been challenging. I am a modern day yogi, utilising ancient techniques to sustain the way I live.
In the evenings, I will catch up on emails as I am also involved with the Kundalini Yoga community in Sydney and Australia and work on the KYTANZ association. Before bed, I will practise another meditation, to let go of the busy-ness of the day and prepare myself to sleep! That’s why I love The Bliss Retreats, I understand how busy life can be; even as a Yoga Teacher! It is important to create a pause: to stop for weekends away to nurture oneself!
How many years have you been teaching? Who were you mostly influenced by?
N: I have been teaching yoga for four years. Having attended a number of courses and workshops since I completed my teacher training, I have been deeply inspired by the wealth of knowledge of some lead teachers in Australia and throughout Asia, like Sunder Singh Khalsa in Asia, Guru Charan Singh Khalsa in the USA and Guru Jivan Kaur in Australia.
As well as this I am continually inspired by the experience of the cycle of teaching and learning.
H: Nancy & I were room mates on Teacher Training, we created a sisterly bond and have truly been with each other on this spiritual journey of ups and downs. Although Yogi Bhajan, the Master of Kundalini Yoga, has left his physical body, his teachings have changed my life and given me a richness and understanding of who I am. Guru Ram Das, the fourth guru of the Sikhs continues to remind me the depth of seva – unconditional love through giving and serving the community.
Guru Dev Singh – the Master of Sat Nam Rasayan, an ancient healing tradition that I am currently learning has made a huge imprint on the way I relate to my soul and to the world around me. I attend as many teachings I can with him in person. I also love the community of Kundalini Yoga in Espanola, New Mexico. Just through their presence of living their daily lives to the embodiment of teachings, has shown me the possibility to live mine: I feel immense gratitude to them.
What advice do you give your students looking to change themselves through Yoga?
N:I advise them to be very present and to focus on becoming more sensitive and aware of their own experience in their practice. It’s through awareness, that’s where the change happens. If there is something specific they want to work on for themselves, then I guide them towards a specific practice suitable to their individual needs to help them on their way. An example could be a home meditation practice of one of the very specific Kundalini meditations we have to use, like “Meditation to Conquer Self-Animosity”. H: I truly feel their soul is the guardian of their journey. I just open the space to allow the internal transformation to happen. I will guide them to trust their intuition. If they have a question in regards to a situation: I ask them to sit down and meditate on the question themselves: all the answers are within us.
For more information about Nancy and Harsukh’s retreat, go to Soothe Your Soul – The Bliss Yoga Retreat in Australia, Nov 2012