Victoria Slagter is loved by Ganeshers for her playful, yet deeply spiritual classes and regular “Mindful Monday” inspiration on our Facebook page. We caught up with her mid-scorpian to find out what makes her dance …
Interview by Lynette Chiang
1. Victoria, you’re well known for providing a spiritual reading at the start of each class. Why do you think that’s important?
So much of my teaching philosophy has to do with delivering what I have found has helped foster this Life practice for me. And much of it starts with Svadhyaya, the fourth niyama (disciplines) of Patanjali’s 8-Limbed Path to Yoga.
Svadhyaya or ‘self-study’ includes the study of scriptures – using the mind as a tool to understand the deeper realities of the Self and the nature of Everything and then applying it. To me, ‘scriptures’ include anything from the poetry of mystics like Rumi and Hafiz to the work of Antoine de Saint-Exupery to the screenplay of American Beauty to the lyrics of Jim Morisson to Patanjali’s Sutras … these Yogis fuel and inspire my own asana practice, and I simply try to evoke that same passion and Love in my students.
2. How do you select the theme? How does it influence your class?
Most of what dictates the theme of a class comes from inspiration from a reading and as it relates to one of the seven chakras. For example, if the reading deals with happenings of the Heart, we’re working with the 4th chakra, meaning lots of back bending and heart opening asana.
Without Brushing My Hair, by Hafiz
I get to you, Beloved,
The more I can see
It is just You and I all alone
A knock at my door,
Who else could it be,
So I rush without brushing
I have begged for Your
Is the use of vanity
At this late hour, at this divine season,
That has now come to my folded
If your love letters are true dear God
I will surrender myself to
Who You keep saying
Sometimes it’s the weather or season that contributes to a class theme and energey level – an influence from Ayurvedic principles - which affects the theme and energy level as well. However, so much of what we do as instructors – what we should be Giving – has to do with what students bring to the class; it becomes our responsibility to offer them what they really need. A frenetic group, – bouncing off the walls and high from the buzz of the city – calls for plenty of grounding, centering, and 1st and 2nd chakra asanas and pranayama practices. Regardless of the class vibe, we always finish up with a juicy savasana.
3. What are your favorite poses?
SUCH a difficult question to answer — my favorites include adho mukha svanasana (downward facing dog), garuda (eagle stand), ardha chandrasana (half moon pose), padmasana (seated lotus), sirsasana (headstand) and pincha mayurasana (forearm stand), virabadrasana II (warrior 2) … to name a few.
Victoria’s tips for Scorpian Pose:
Beginners should not readily attempt the pose without supervision. From downward facing dog, place the forearms down and tip-toe the feet closer to the elbows. Holding this position, lift one leg at a time and hold … for a long time. Eventually, confidence and strength will enable you to bring both legs off the floor.
For more intermediate/advanced practioners, go to the wall, turn so your back faces it, go down on hands and knees, and place the forearms down on the mat. Then start to walk the feet up the wall to a 90 degree position; while gazing at the thumbs split a leg and play with bouncing the toe on and off the wall …
4. What poses do you think students find most challenging – do you have any tips for the beginner?
I’m sure we can all say that when we each found Yoga, the Ego crept in a bit and headstand, for example, became an instant aspiration, yet it felt so unattainable. I find that many yogis are initially daunted by arm balancing and inverted asana. No kidding! It’s pretty daunting! So the first step is to own that, to know that every proficient practitioner passes through that phase and that in this “work in progress,” everything is Perfect. But the key to the full inversion is persistence, obedience and unrelenting determination. Practice. Every. Day.
4 good books:
1. The Bhagavad Gita
2. The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz
3. Just Kids by Patti Smith
4. Le Petit Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery
5. What’s your yoga training? Who are your biggest influences and why?
My first influence is my Babaji (my father) Moti. He is a Realized being and an ongoing inspiration. From as early as I can remember he taught me that “‘dance’ is the purest form of joy” and leads to Bliss when done whole-heartedly … like the whirls of a dervish. Yoga has become my Dance.
I am certified in 500hr Dharma Yoga, 100hr Advanced Laughing Lotus Yoga and 200hr Hatha Raja Vinyasa.
My biggest influences are my teachers Yogi Sri Dharma Mittra of Dharma Mittra Yoga, Yoginis Dana Flynn, Ali Kramer, Sheri Celentano and Mary Dana Abbot and the entire Laughing Lotus family, and most significantly, the students. I learn so much from them and their determination feeds my own Life practice.
Full Pranam* to all of You!
The Vegan Manuscript Victoria’s new vegan blog
Victoria Slagter (formerly Victoria Ohana) teaches at YoGanesh at 10am on Mon, Wed and Fri and 6pm Thursdays. Find her on Facebook and her blog.
* A full pranam is done by laying on the belly with the forehead down, arms extended and palms pointed upwards – an expression of full prostration. A full pranam if often done by touching the forehead to another person’s feet (the Guru or Diety) as one might do in a temple. Sometimes the word pranam denotes a type of invocation or mantra.