A bright smile in our Root 2 Rise Yoga community since 2013, Tanya Cohen, shares her perspective through her 9-year evolving yoga journey, “I thank myself a thousand times that I did something for me. I learned to listen to myself and remember that I have a choice.”
Yoga has not always been a happy place for Tanya, as she reminisces why her physical therapist, doctor and caring friend adamantly prescribed it for her healing in 2009. She woke up one morning and literally couldn’t get out of bed. She suffered a badly injured spine and a plethora of accumulated medical issues. It was her body’s protest after enduring 11 years of rigorous physical labor in multiple jobs to sustain her family after her relocation from Uzbekistan while caring for her husband who was suddenly left paralyzed after a stroke. In the early years of yoga, her practice was a necessary medicine, which Tanya swallowed reluctantly because she knew it was somehow helping her body. She admits that her approach was diligent, competitive and sometimes forceful to the point of pain. From 2-3 times a month then, to several times a week now, she shows up to her mat in class. She reveals in our interview, as we sit in her warm car on the gym parking lot:
I don’t know when it started that I wanted to go (to yoga class). After, I feel freedom in my body. Small details make a big difference. You bring people to believe in themselves. You teach us how to listen to ourselves. If it’s uncomfortable it’s okay. But if it hurts, don’t push. I feel full of life, a lot of energy after yoga.
Laughing playfully about her body’s inflexibility as a young child of 3 or 5, she proclaims, “I believe it doesn’t matter what age. I’ve never been stronger and more flexible (than I am now). Now I know to breathe and my body listens to me.” Smiling radiantly, Tanya reminisces her first Root 2 Rise Yoga community event she attended outside of our weekly classes in 2013-- a Candlelight Yoga + Live Music + Wine at a studio in Northridge. She says she fell in love with her practice and joined other community events, exploring hikes for her first time ever during our yoga-in-nature excursions in Malibu. She claims, “ I started to enjoy myself completely. Yoga became not just exercise, but it helped my mind, soul and body. A new world opened for me.”
When not practicing yoga in class or sharing her lightheartedness at our community Hike + Yoga events, Tanya works full-time as a Special Education Teacher in LA and treasures her family time. As a former professional piano teacher in her native country and fashion designer during her early years in Los Angeles, her heart and style continue to revel in creativity, infusing passion into her yoga practice of self-kindness and human connection.
The following was my submission to a photo story contest on Facebook to share my story of a time when I felt "unsettled," that is, embracing the unknown by traveling afar and out of my comfort zone. I share the following as a testament of how yoga opens the boundaries of our perceived possibilities, then having explored my personal yoga practice for 7 years.
My mind was terrified with endless what-ifs and my body had stopped menstruating for months from stressing over the decision, but I took the leap anyway because my soul was calling.
For over 5 years, everything felt so safe; At age 30, my retirement and health benefits were secured in the career I had passionately trained for and studied since childhood—being an elementary schoolteacher.
While I still loved teaching, a pulsating inner truth drew me to displace myself into unknown territory and take on the challenge of living outside the comforts of my lifelong conditioning and many attachments. I needed to grow in ways I didn’t even know I could. I needed to feel more connected to the world beyond my daily routes and privileges and experience life more deeply and expansively.
In July 2008, I landed in Ghana, West Africa, where I spent a month volunteer teaching in a rural village. There I lived and learned how to take an outdoor shower with one small pail of water, to let go of my fear of the outhouse restroom (after 7 days of constipation, literally scared sh**less, LOL), to love all the children aged 2 to 16 that I taught in our one-room schoolhouse, and to celebrate life at a funeral through dance and drums. I sat with smiling strangers for long conversations in front of their partially built roofless homes as we exchanged our views on life philosophy, values and love, despite the fact that their next meal was not guaranteed or even known. True presence and being happy, with very little possessions, are what they taught me by example, that is, learning to savor the moment and connecting, soul to soul.
In this photo, I was invited to express myself through dance, with the support of the community drums, igniting my heart to feel so ALIVE. I feel this is the beauty of being “unsettled.”
So, let's turn the story around to you. How do you embrace the unknown and trust what some call "gut instinct," "multi-sensory perception" or "intuition?" Here's an encouraging 16-minute TEDx video of renowned Life Coach Jo Simpson, giving her 2 cents about listening to your inner "nudges."
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