What got you into yoga?
I was formerly a Professional Actress and began practicing yoga as a warm up when rehearsing with The Purple Rose Theatre Company. As actors we would use it as a tool to focus our minds and warm up our instruments; our bodies. There was also a sense of camaraderie as we warmed up on stage with the different postures. The funny thing is- I didn't even have a real yoga teacher! We just taught each other and then I began to explore some of the well known teachers such as Rodney Yee and Patricia Walden through their videos produced by Gaiam.
I began practicing more and more and when I moved back to New York. I was inspired to try Jivamukti Yoga in NYC. It was at that studio that I fell in love with Yoga and knew it was for me. I felt a sense of wholeness there which I had never before experienced so profoundly and deeply.
When and why did you decide to start teaching?
Although I had been practicing yoga for over ten years it wasn't until the birth of our son that I decided to become a teacher. A significant shift began to take place in me when I became a mother. I wanted to contribute more and actively share my passion for yoga with others. I guess I felt more responsible as a parent so I was able to accept the responsibility that came with fulfilling my dharma as a Yoga Teacher. I have been a certified Registered Yoga Teacher (RYT) with Yoga Alliance since 2008 and recently achieved my E-RYT 200 hr status having taught over 1500 hours of yoga.
Describe your training and influential teachers
I really connected to the Vinyasa Flow style of yoga which I trained in through the Adiaya Yoga Sanctuary with Di Tyssen. Vinyasa Flow emphasizes connection with the breath while practicing alignment, and maintaining joy and energetic expression through the fluidity of the postures. It prepares the body and mind for meditation, releasing tension and stress both physical and mentally. Based on the ancient teachings of Ashtanga yoga, Di created her own series which can also be modified to a more simple hatha practice. I found the physical discipline combined with a connection to the Universal Consciousness provided a perfect springboard for harmonizing my life and keeping me engaged emotionally, spiritually and physically. Favorite Instructors I have studied with are Sharon Gannon and David Life (Founders of Jivamukti Yoga) as well as Ram Gian Singh (my husband), Di Tyssen, Meridith Abrams (Jivamukti) and Rita Knorr (Anusara).
I resonated deeply with the yoga philosophy part of my teacher training that was based on the complete study of Paramahansa Yogananda's "Autobiography of a Yogi" so much so that I travelled to meet Mata Amritanandamayi Devi (known affectionately as "Amma", the Hugging Saint) who became my Guru and most influential teacher. She has truly effected my life the most, inspiring me to lead a life of service and Yoga. She has blessed me with my spiritual name, Vandana, and handpicked me to teach her IAM-Integrated Amrita Meditation Technique (R), which I teach to children and teens ages 6-18 at All Children's Hospital; a John's Hopkins Hospital in St Petersburg, FL.
Describe your personal practice
My practice is a combination of IAM – Integrated Amrita Meditation Technique (R) which I try to practice daily, Hatha Yoga, studying spiritual texts (mostly based on my Guru's teachings), Kundalini yoga, Kids Yoga with my son, Kirtan, Satsang, Seva (Selfless Service), and Love. I feel that a big part of my practice is serving others – seeing All as One and serving in whatever way I can to uplift or support each other. I believe that yoga should be practiced off the mat as much as possible and I try my hardest to be an example of that.
Additional thoughts and insights
I am honored to teach yoga at Yoga Village in Sunken Gardens, the most beautiful place to practice yoga in Tampa Bay. What a pleasure to be amongst such a great Yoga community filled with some of the best teachers and most dedicated yogis. I am also humbled to serve the incredible children as the Founder and Lead Instructor of Awaken Yoga 4 All Kids, the first Volunteer Yoga Program to be offered at All Children's Hospital.
I believe that yoga is essential to my life and that many, many other people will feel the same way. They might not even know why they are coming in the beginning, but Yoga serves the soul and IS the meaning of Life. Whether it is committing to a regular practice, meditating or performing acts of selfless service (Karma Yoga) in a devotional manner, Yoga on and off the mat offers students the chance to become more engaged in their lives and experience union with divine consciousness. I look forward to serving each and every student that comes my way. Namaste.
Vandana teaches at Sunken Gardens on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays at 10AM and Wednesdays at 6PM. She will lead the Yoga Village Hatha Yoga Teacher Training starting in August. See our homepage and Teacher Training pages on the website for details or call us: (727) 712-1475