Spa it Girl chatted exclusively with Tara Lee from Tara Lee Yoga one of UK’s Leading Yoga Teachers to find out her Health and Wellness Tips plus how she maintains her own Balance as a Leading Yoga Teacher, Girl Boss, Mum and Public Figure. Tara Lee is No 1 best selling yoga teacher (over 125,000 DVDs sold).
Meet Tara Lee Founder of Tara Lee Yoga:
Can tell us a little about yourself? I am a Yoga teacher and mother of 2 children (aged 10 and 12). I live in London. I teach prenatal, mother and baby and general yoga classes. I have created a collection of yoga dvds covering general yoga, pregnancy yoga and postnatal yoga (over 150,000 DVDs sold), I am the author of a pregnancy yoga book and have recently designed a very special yoga mat, which will be available in a couple of months hopefully!
What inspired you to start practicing Yoga? I went to a class with a friend while I was at university over 20 years ago and loved the feeling I got from it! Over time yoga became more and more a part of my life and eventually became a way of life.
Can you explain what Yoga is in your own words? This is a really tricky question to answer briefly! I could write pages about this! Yoga means different things to different people and there are so many styles of Yoga. You can practice yoga at any age and start it at any age. One of the great things about Yoga is that as you age, your practice evolves. We have been doing yoga instinctively since we were babies and yoga helps us return and connect to the innate wisdom of our bodies and to live in the moment.
Yoga is more than just a physical activity, its a philosophy and a way of life and as such there are so many dimensions to it. In the West many people see yoga as a physical practice but this is in fact just one of its branches known as ‘asana’. Meditation and Pranayama (breathing techniques) are key elements of Yoga which have a profound affect on the nervous system and our energy, shaping our minds, our perception and and our whole state of being.
Yoga postures work on a physical muscular level but once you become more experienced with the breathing and practice regularly, you begin to sense and feel the effects on a much deeper level. Yoga doesn’t just have to be practiced on the mat, there are principles of Yoga that you can bring into all that you do, in the way you live your life every day and in every moment. As Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar says, “Yoga is not just exercise and asanas. It is the emotional integration and spiritual elevation with a touch of mystic element, which gives you a glimpse of something beyond all imagination.”
What benefits have you personally found from practicing Yoga? an Meditation? When I practice yoga I feel more balanced, calmer, happier, and clearer in my head. Yoga helps me feel more energised during the day but also helps me to sleep well. It helps me to stay well and avoid illnesses. I don’t tend to get aches and pains or headaches if I do my yoga. Yoga helped me to sail through my pregnancies and I really felt the benefits during the pre and postnatal stages. I frequently am reminded of how powerful it is when I see my students every week who look and feel fantastic at 9 months pregnant and when they tell me how much yoga has helped them have fantastic births and how much it has helped them physically and psychologically after having their babies.
What inspired you to want to go from a Yoga Student to a Yoga Teacher? I found myself always wanting to learn more as a student of yoga. I was fascinated by yoga so after about 5 years of practicing it regularly I decided to do a short teacher training to deepen my own understanding to take my own practice to the next level. I never decided to become a yoga teacher but after that training I found myself wanting to share what I had learnt with others. I fell into teaching as a result of the passion I had developed through my own experience and wanting to pass this onto others. I started just teaching friends and family for fun and it naturally developed and grew over time.
How do you Find your Balance, when you are a Mum, Yoga Teacher, Girl Boss of Tara Lee Yoga an Public Figure? I prioritise the things I consider important and ensure I take time out for myself. I make sure I don’t take on too much and have learnt to be more discriminating and to say ‘no’ to some things in order to keep a balance. I don’t teach too many classes a day (unlike when I was younger!) so that I can keep my classes interesting for my students and can continue to feel inspired and not burn myself out. I condense my work into the hours my children are at school and try to spend quality time with them whenever I can.
I have a fantastic yoga teacher/friend who helps me with other aspects of my work (relating to the DVDs and training courses) so I’m not trying to do it all on my own. I tend to keep my evenings and weekends free for my family. My days can be very busy so I go to bed early whenever possible! I also work on other projects to keep my work challenging and interesting. I do teacher training intensive courses every year to keep learning and keep my work fresh. I sometimes go on a yoga retreat to recharge my batteries. My personal yoga practice helps me to stay balanced, to give me energy and to keep me sane!!
Apart from Practicing Yoga do you have any other ways you like to Keep Active and Healthy? I love to try everything and anything to keep active and healthy. I think being active is so important for the body and mind. I do lots of different types of activities to keep it fresh and stimulating. I love to go for long walks, dance classes, swimming and I ride my bicycle when the weather is good. I have also been doing Pilates for about 8 years. I also think the food choices we make are important for staying healthy.
Can you tell us about your Latest Yoga DVD Series? The new yoga DVD series is based on the principles and tradition of Para Yoga which was founded by my teacher Rod Stryker. The Solar yoga sequences are more dynamic and designed to build heat and energy, leaving you feeling uplifted and inspired. Para yoga uses specific breathing techniques within the postures which makes them more powerful.
The Solar Yoga practices which I designed can be broken into 3x 20 minute short sections if you have less time or for a more powerful practice you can choose to do all of them (just over an hour) in sequence, finishing with a meditation. There is also a bonus breathing section showing you how to do the breathing correctly which you can then use for the yoga practices. The exercises in the Lunar yoga DVD are designed to recharge and rebalance.
Lunar yoga is more soothing and helpful for releasing stress and balancing the nervous system. Different breathing techniques are used within the postures to help you let go of tension and feel more calm. There are 3 x 20 minute sections with different focuses, so that you can build your practice depending on your time available and how you are feeling that day. There is a beautiful Yoga Nidra practice, where you lie on the floor and are taken through a guided relaxation. This can be done on its own any time you are feeling tired or stressed and will help you to feel recharged and restored.
Both the DVDs are suitable for all levels and can be done at any time. After the Solar yoga you will feel more energised and after the Lunar yoga you will feel more relaxed and centred. Having both the Solar and Lunar Yoga videos is helpful as every day brings different demands. Depending on how you feel that day and how much time and energy you have, you can choose the right practice that will suit you best at that time and provide you with what you need!
They say getting 8 hours of sleep is a Must Have, but as a Busy Yoga Teacher, Mum, Girl Boss, Public Figure is it really possible? Yes! I think sleep is essential to energy levels and well being. I go to bed early most nights during the week (around 10pm -10.30pm) and if I have to stay up late or I’m feeling tired, I practice Yoga Nidra during the day to recharge me.
What could someone do if they were feeling overwhelmed or stressed out? Yoga nidra is something I recommend a lot! If you are feeling stressed or overwhelmed it really refreshes you and rebalances the nervous system. Practicing Yoga or even spending time doing Pranayama (breathing techniques) will help you to stay calm even when you have a million things you need to do.
What is your Favourite Yoga Activewear? I don’t have a favourite as there are so many good brands now compared to when I first stared practicing yoga. I like Lululemon, Alo Yoga and Asquith Yoga (a British Organic brand).
What Yoga Mat are you Rolling Out? I am rolling out the Bump Mat which I recently designed with The Yoga Shop (in Edinburgh, Scotland). It is going to be available for people to buy in the next few months! It is much more comfortable than any mat I’ve ever had before as it’s extra thick and it has a really good grip. It’s great for anyone wanting more cushioning for their knees when kneeling! It is grey on one side and purple on the other with a helpful alignment line down the centre.
What’s Your Favourite Place to Practice Yoga? My favourite place to practice is either outside in the elements (weather permitting!) or anywhere with a beautiful view of nature. I recently went to Blue Sprit in Costa Rica and the Yoga Shala there looks out onto the jungle and sea below which is truly incredible! I also love to practice at home.
When we feel stressed out what is a Go-To- Yoga Move or Meditation we can do? Yoga nidra (as mentioned) or lying with your legs up the wall for 5-10 minutes. I have a free yoga nidra on my website.
Do you have any Favourite Spa’s or Holiday Destinations we should know about? Yes! I love travelling. My favourite destinations are Morocco, Costa Rica, Turks and Caicos and the Maldives.
What is your Go-To Morning Drink? tea, coffee, green smoothie? What about Breakfast? I start the day with lemon and hot water when possible. I usually have a green smoothie or green juice a bit later too. I also drink Green tea.
Do you prefer to Practice Yoga in the Morning or at Night? I always practice in the morning, usually first thing. It sets me up for the rest of the day.
How often do you think we should be practicing Yoga to be considered a Yogi? or Yogini? This is a funny question as some people would argue that because yoga is not just a physical practice, you can be a yogi by practicing yoga off the mat in your every day life in your thoughts and actions! Some people might be practicing advanced yoga asanas/postures every day and not really grasp the essence of the practice as they are just focusing on the physical aspect and never really delving deeper. Others may be just meditating with no practice of physical yoga. Which one is more of a yogi?!
Can you share any words of wisdom to someone who thinks they are not flexible enough to do Yoga? Yoga is not so much about the state of your body as the state of your mind! When we first start yoga we think the important thing is flexibility and what your body can do and whether you can get into certain positions. We are more aware of the superficial when we begin but as we become more experienced, over time, we start to realise that the look of the pose is not so important, rather it’s the breathing, state of mind and attention that we are bringing to the practice that makes the difference.
The practice becomes more about our awareness and developing sensitivity to energy or Prana. We become more flexible but this is not as important as the effect the practice has on the state of mind and how we feel in your body. If you aren’t flexible when you start yoga it doesn’t matter (if you find the right class) as there will be modifications to the postures and over time you will become more flexible if you persevere. Your body will thank you later! You will end up with less aches and pains when you are older too!
You are always inspiring others, but who inspires you? I am inspired by my family, by my friends, by fellow yoga teachers and by my yoga teacher.
What Words of Wisdom can you give to someone wanting to Live Their Dreams? Just do it! Don’t compromise what you want and what you believe in.
As you love to travel, what are your must have travel things? When I travel I usually have my Bump Yoga Mat, my favourite herbal tea bags, iron supplements, superfood powders in sachets, my kindle, an essential oil blend, headphones in case I want to listen to podcasts, an eye mask and ear plugs!
We see you teach at the Life Centre in London can you tell us a little bit more about this wellness place? The Life Centre is a haven in the city, tucked away in Notting Hill Gate. It offers all different styles and levels of yoga classes, Pilates and therapies/treatments. I have been teaching there for almost 14 years.
Does your Family and Friends like to practice Yoga and Meditate because of you? Some of my friends discovered yoga through me and now like to practice. Other friends discovered yoga without me! My mother discovered yoga with me about 15 years ago and can still do the splits even though she’s almost 70! My daughter does yoga at school and both my kids love to do yoga especially acro yoga with me. There are quite a few funny photos and videos of us experimenting with crazy acro balances on my instgram page. My children will sometimes join me for meditation although it never lasts very long!
Can you share some of your Favourite Positive Affirmations with us? Here are a couple of my favourites, but I have quite a few!
‘Happiness is when what you think, what you say and what you do are in harmony..’
‘Yoga believes in transforming the individual before transforming the world. Whatever change you want to happen outside should happen within. If yon walk in peace and express that peace in your very life, others will see you and learn something.’
What Skincare are you using right now? A bit of a mixture to be honest! I like to use natural products when possible such as Pai, Ren, Neals Yard, Oskia, Ilia, Aromatherapy essentials.
Do you love to teach Yoga with Music? if so what type of Music is on your Playlist? Yes I tend to teach with music but not always. I vary my playlists according to which class I am teaching but I like uplifting and atmospheric music such as Bon Iver, Masood Ali Khan, Deva Premal and Wah!
What Makes You Happy? Family, friends, nature, sunshine, travelling, yoga and my work.
What things could we do to Feel Happy within? My new Solar yoga DVD will make you feel happy as it helps you connect to your own inner light. We eventually realise that we don’t need to search for happiness through external things or from other people. We can access happiness and beauty by connecting to our own source, if we learn how to tap into it. We can also feel happier by looking after ourselves and being kind to ourselves. It’ sounds simple but it’s important to also look at what makes you happy and to try and make sure you do those things more often or surround yourself with the people that make you feel happy. Understanding what makes you unhappy and avoiding people or things that don’t support you!