Soulful & Inspirational - Sonja from Honestly Yoga is a Mornington Peninsula legend. Her soulful Vinyasa Flows and technical know-how are second to none. Sonja is a 200 HRS RYS instructor and comes from a jazz ballet background. She has trained in Ireland, Northern Italy and in the USA and is certified to teach yoga, meditation, pranayama, aerial, and kids yoga. She is also a Legacy Ambassador for Lululemon.
ASANA BLUE Founder, Pam, sat down with Sonja to get the low down on her journey to Yoga.
Sonja, why do you practice yoga?
I practice yoga for many reasons, primarily because it keeps me healthy both mentally and physically. My practice also encourages me to press pause on a busy life with a toddler and to re-connect with my sense of self.
I also do yoga because it makes me feel physically spacious similar to that feeling of having just experienced a massage. But also, I practice because it makes me feel more spacious in my mind. When I practice yoga my thoughts are not at the forefront of my mind which allows it to rest. This then helps me to connect with myself and others, in a more calm and open manner.
And most importantly, I practice to dwell more in the moment, far away from the past and the future. I guess they call that mindfulness these days or like to call it, being in the magic of the moment. So I do yoga mostly to be in the magic!
Why, and when, did you start Yoga? Was there a specific event that prompted you to begin your yoga journey?
I started yoga in the late ’90s, I spotted a flyer in a window which was captioned, “yoga six-week course” next to that caption was a picture of a woman dressed in a leotard with tights doing a very contortionist style yoga pose (asana). As I read the flyer I thought to myself, perhaps I should try yoga, maybe it will complement my dance background and help me to maintain the flexibility in my body.
Way back then, there were only a handful of yoga studios in Victoria and yoga had just started appearing as a practice in the West. Yoga studios and the style of yoga offered about 20 years ago was vastly different compared to today.
In my first encounter with yoga we practised mid-morning in a fairly dark candlelit room, my first session within that six-week beginner course was spent entirely on the breath (pranayama). Prior to that class, I had no idea how important my breath was to me, especially in terms of my moods and how I can use different breathing techniques to help calm me. I looked forward to every Saturday for the next six weeks, where for those two hours I thought about nothing else but the movement of my body and the flow of my breath.
Prior to my first yoga class, I had no idea just how much the practice of yoga was going to positively impact my mental health and not just my physical body. Right after my first class, I realised for the first time in my young life I was able to pivot my attention away from my busy mind which left me feeling very mentally calm.
To this day I believe that there’s really no other practice like yoga in terms of the effects it offers both mentally and physically, I have continued to practice yoga to this very day some 24 years later.
Even though yoga in the West has evolved over the last twenty years where the classes are shorter, the rooms are lighter and there’s more leggings and fewer leotards, the positive effects of a yoga practice remain the same. I am completely addicted to yoga (in a good way).
What benefits have you experienced throughout your own journey?
The biggest benefit I have experienced during my yoga journey, other than feeling healthier in my spine and less tension physically, is that I have learnt to appreciate small things much much more like really enjoying and realising how good a simple cup of tea is or a really good conversation with someone else is. I think we should all appreciate these sorts of small simple things a lot more than we do.
What is your favourite Asana and why?
This is a terribly hard question to answer, as I love so many, but I will pick three:
Happy Baby Pose (Ananda Balasana) because it feels so good for my lower back and lengthens the front of my thighs and my hamstrings.
Child’s Pose (Balasna) because it feels so nice for my whole spine but also feels like I have cocooned into myself which I find to be incredibly relaxing and calming.
Finally, Legs up the Wall Pose (Viparita Karani) I love this pose for the back of my legs and my neck, both these parts of my body feel really relaxed in this pose and I love that I can do this from bed too. I normally use a couple of blankets to my elevate my seat in this one.
Do you have a favourite gesture, prayer or teaching you'd like to share with Asana Blue's YogaHUB community?
I sometimes say this grounding exercise at the beginning of a yoga class to ground whoever’s in my class before their practice begins:
“Notice the weight of the air around you, notice the surface of your skin, now begin to blur the outline of your being so it feels like no boundaries exist between you and the universe, helping you to feel more grounded and present, right here, from moment to moment”
Where can our YogaHUB Community find you?
I teach at Hot Hut in Red Hill @hothutyoga and at Two Birds Yoga in Mount Martha @twobirdsyogastudio, and at the Peninsula Hot Springs @peninsulahotsprings. You can also find me on YouTube at Honestly Yoga You Tube
Connect with Sonja:
From Asana Blue and the Australian Yoga Community, Sonja we salute you and thank you sincerely for the dedication and love you bring, not only to every practice but to the world around you. xx