Story and photos by Jen Morabito of The Self Stories: inspiring stories of everyday yoga practitioners. The Self Stories is a yoga storytelling platform: "Our purpose is to provide yoga practitioners the opportunity to share their stories as they realize and live in the infinite benefits of the physical asana practice of yoga, meditation, and self inquiry. We aspire to expose others too, and inspire them to believe that they too, can live fuller, more freeing and empowered lives."
People of Charlotte, here is Tai's story.
Movement has always been a part of you. How did the story begin?
I started out as a dancer. I felt very fortunate because my whole life I always knew what I wanted to be. When I was young I would see ballet dancers on TV and it really spoke to me, so I dedicated my whole childhood; really my whole life to it. I found dance as a real means of expression for my soul and for my spirit that didn’t require words.
Dancing and yoga have very similar and very dissimilar threads. How and why did you transition from dance to yoga?
As the years passed, I loved dancing for myself, but ultimately dance is a very competitive world. It has some harshness to it. It’s a lot about striving for perfection. Perfection of your form; perfection of your body; perfection for your way of being. It got exhausting living in that environment all the time. A lot of betrayal of friendships happened in the world of dance because people are fighting for so much of the same role. I feel in some ways I used dance as an expression of spirit, but the environment itself was also starting to break down my spirit.
I got injured, and it was kind of serendipitous, because around that same time, I woke up one morning and thought to myself, I should get into yoga. At that point, I’d never even tried yoga before, but I’ve always been the type to go with my gut, and yoga started showing up in my life everywhere I looked. Finally, I went to a Christmas party and someone there had just done a teacher training and they told me I had to try it. So, I dove in head first and started taking classes, and immediately fell in love.
How does yoga allow you to show up just as you are?
It was another means of expressing myself with my body, but in an environment that was so much healthier. People at the studio were supportive of each other. The biggest competition if any would be with yourself. Yoga was simply not about striving for perfection. What I found is that we are already perfect, and the work is to let go of the idea that there’s something better to be. The real freedom and perfection come in when we really own up to, and embody who we are. Just showing up as ourselves.
Yoga fosters health within and outside one's self. How so?
Yoga has been a beautiful journey for me thus far, where I’ve found so much healing, and expression, and a deep desire for knowledge. It’s a never-ending tunnel of searching, and learning, and discovering more about myself. Every year I try to go to one training because I just can’t get enough. I believe the more knowledge you have, the deeper your well and the more you can pull from. Everyone and every style has something valuable to give, and I just love learning. I feel that ultimately, the more we learn about ourselves, the more we really learn about each other. We’re more similar than we realize, and are all striving for such similar goals, and similar ways of being.
What can we expect from you classes?
I teach three different styles of yoga; Baptiste Yoga, Jivamukti Yoga, and Primal Yoga. Baptiste yoga is power vinyasa, which is a set flow, and pretty accessible to any body type. As a teacher it’s more about bringing my personal experience to the classroom, sharing without shame, and being vulnerable. Jivamukti is a style of yoga that has a stronger spiritual component to it. Every class begins with a dharma talk, the playing of a harmonium, and a chant. We do a flow that changes each week, followed by meditation and a closing chant. To me, it’s a lot more about introspection and drawing from the bigger philosophies of the yoga sutras or the vedas about a way of life, and putting it into practice on the mat. I really enjoy that practice, because for me it speaks more to the spiritual side, which I strongly believe needs to be fueled.
How can we find our inner warrior?
Primal yoga is a fusion of yoga, tai chi, qigong, and Kung Fu. I’ve been doing martial arts for almost 10 years, so it was so wonderful to come across, and then teach this type of yoga. It’s pure magic when these two forms of movement come together. Primal yoga is based on the 5 Taoist elements of earth, fire, water, wind and metal, and each element has different movements, a different feel, and a different energy. It works a lot with the Chinese meridians of the body and is a lot about the cultivation of chi.
I find it exhilarating- being able to make noise and bring out my inner warrior. I get this amazing mental strength from Primal Yoga, a spiritual calmness from Jivamukti, and then the self-inquiry and ability to reflect to routine in Baptiste.
Is yoga for everyone?
As a teacher of those three styles, it keeps me on my toes. There’s not one style for every single person. I think that’s what’s so beautiful about yoga. There’s so many styles out there to meet whatever needs people might have. That’s why I think it’s important to be open and realizing that everyone has something to offer.
What's your advice about tapping into our inner wisdom?
To anyone that’s on the journey of seeking yoga or has been in yoga: recognize that the true teachings don’t exist outside of ourselves. I tend to read so many books, because I’m so hungry to know more, but if we don’t embody the teachings ourselves and in our lives, they’re nothing more than words. Our own experience of life, and our ability to bring ourselves fully into our life without holding back is really where the biggest lessons exist.
Yoga allows an access point for us to self-reflect and to become more conscious of our actions, thoughts, and words. It teaches us how to be present in every breath and every moment. The more we can do that, the more we can bring ourselves into our own life. There’s no greater teaching than simply living who we are, exactly who we are, to our fullest. Doing that, and supplementing it with learning brings such support to the way we live without telling you how to live, because you’re doing that yourself.
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