Vinyasa flow yoga

With ANH cover girl Lucienne Shanti

Our cover girl, Lucienne Shanti, chats with ANH about how she expresses herself as an actor through practising and teaching Vinyasa flow yoga.

When did you start practising yoga and what made you start?
My first experience of yoga was when I was about eight. I used to attend a children’s class that was a mixture of dance and yoga and I have this one distant memory of doing cat/cows and really enjoying it! Then, when I was in my final years of high school, I got back into yoga and practised a variety of styles on and off for about five years before taking my teacher training course. I’ve always been fascinated by the body and its physical and psychological potential, and I found yoga, more than any other physical activity especially beneficial for inner and outer wellbeing.

What was your inspiration to study yoga and become a yoga teacher?
After practising for quite a few years, I got to a point in my practice where I wanted to know more about yoga and I felt that the logical next step was to do a teacher training course. Initially, I just wanted to learn for myself and didn’t see myself teaching in the future, but since graduating, I’ve taken on a regular class and I love teaching. It has become a major part of my personal practice and journey. In every class I teach, I learn from the students, more than they can imagine. So many thanks go out to them.

What do you see as the benefits of a 
daily practice?
For me, a daily practice is not just about the asana (physical balance though yoga) but also about the mental and spiritual balance. Giving yourself a few minutes to meditate, to reflect or to take some deep, mindful breaths is yoga in action. The benefit is getting back into the body, into the present moment, into a more stable mind, which leads to clarity. A daily practice helps to open up the mind and body, and when we are open, an interesting thing happens – the world opens to you. And on the physical level, yoga is a powerful healing modality. Your body needs movement. Movement stimulates the function of the organs, the lymph system, the digestive system, and is necessary for muscles and bones to stay healthy and strong. Ultimately, though, yoga is a maker of spaciousness – space within the body and space within the mind.

What advice would you give a beginner to keep them inspired?
Yoga makes you feel better. And when you feel better, you do better! But always listen to your body. Start where you are and don’t compete with anyone in the class. If you need to rest, allow yourself to, but first go to your gentle limit, don’t push or force anything. Challenge yourself though, because from that comes growth; and from growth comes transformation. I can’t remember who said this, but I think it is very wise for all levels of yoga to note: ‘Trust the limitations of your body. Doubt the limitations of your mind.’ Yoga opens so many doors, whether it be meeting a new community, seeing the world and yourself with a new perspective or just that sense of peace when you leave a class – everything seems a little lighter, brighter and more possible. Remember to keep at it and be consistent; repetition enables change to arise.

What style of yoga do you like to teach 
and why?
I teach a Vinyasa style of yoga, however I incorporate Prana Flow and chi gong movements into my classes. The synergy of breath and movement is very important in my yoga practice and teaching. I like to keep the body flowing just as the breath flows. This constant flow creates and sustains a beautiful balance of sensitivity and intensity.

Who or what inspires you most in life?
I had to think about this question for some time. But after some deep thought, it became clear that what inspires me most is the human body. It’s such an amazing vehicle that we live in – it supports us in so many ways that no other sentient being can enjoy, and allows us to move, breathe, create and transform. Yoga would have to be the finest way to connect with the body, mind and spirit and become aware of its many wonderful subtleties. For me, yoga is a conversation with the body – a conversation where we are the silent listener allowing the body to open up and speak freely. As an actor, my body is my vehicle and the awareness that I cultivate through my yoga practice allows me to express fully while maintaining a sense of focus, presence and truth. 

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