From Singapore to France. From Ballet to Yoga. The journey of a yoga teacher from Toulouse is exciting, because in this Life she managed to combine her two passions - dance and yoga!
Q: Dear Ophelie, tell us a little about yourself.
A: I was born in Singapore of French and British parents and currently I live and work in Toulouse, France. I used to be a professional dancer of Ballet, Contemporary and NéoClassical dances. Unfortunately, events did not go as I hoped. During one of my performance, I injured my ankle and my clear vision for the future was disrupted by the forced withdrawal from the stage. However, only because of this incident my path has changed the direction and now I am a yoga teacher.
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I started learning the Commenwealth Ballet Technique with my mother, French dance teacher Madame Barnard, at early age. I then started taking classes with Russian dance teacher Madame Kanevskaia (Vaganova Ballet Technique), Polish dance teacher Monsieur Bres (Royal Academic Dance Technique) and Australian dance teacher Monsieur Mills (Vaganova Dance Technique).
Later on I entered LaSalle College of the Arts (in Singapore) and for 3 years I was learning ballet with Madame Tucker – former principal ballet dance of the Royal Ballet. Contemporary I was learning from Monsieur Redfern – current director of the Hong Kong Dance School and Monsieur Thiong – former dancer of the Cloud Gate Dance Company. I was also studying choreography, dance history, dance kinesiology and the list can go on and on and on.
When the time was right, I left Singapore and went to work in juniors and professional dance company in Switzerland, England, Spain, France; attending different courses with Rosella Hightower, Maguy Marin, Maurice Béjart and Marie Claude Pietragalla.
Q: How did yoga enter and impact your Life?
This led me to dedicate myself to the service of yoga and its wider community, as well as the pursuit of a holistic, balanced and natural lifestyle.
In 2017 I started giving yoga classes in Toulouse. In hatha focalizing on student’s anatomy and placements of each vertebrae in each asanas (yoga poses) and making them understand the purpose of each postures, working on their flexibility in my classes but being careful to not go too far.
In the flowness of connecting each movement with the breath making my vinyasa classes look like a dance choreography.
In my more power-hot-fitness vinyasa classes I really make my students feel each muscles of their body. We are strengthening their muscles to protect them from injures and making them feel great on their mats and not on machines in the gym. I have nothing against the gyms, but I being able to do the same sequence at home is always a great experience.
In 2018 two dance schools in Toulouse asked me whether I would be interested in teaching dance classes for children, teenagers and adults. Since it is still my passion – I agreed.
Both worlds ~ dance & yoga ~ are what’s make me wake up in the morning. I first start with a couple of sun salutations and then a short ballet barre. It gives me the chance to share my experiences, knowledge and lifestyle to others.
Q: What were your reasons for wanting to teach yoga and what do you like the most about being a yoga teacher?
A: Armed with a desire to succeed and to recover, I found my new passion and new comfort in the world of yoga and meditation.
The benefits of yoga are limitless for me: to become stronger and more flexible - in the body and the spirit, more peaceful, in harmony with myself and not to push the body to painful limits but to accept each day differently.
I like to energize and motivate people through purpose, meditation, laughter and movement to improve their well-being. Each of my classes is physically and mentally challenging, filled with maximum support and a personal touch for each student. I always try my best to teach, bringing people to live healthier, in addition to peace of mind and body.
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Q: What is your favorite pose?
A: Natarajasana – Dancers pose: benefits of the stretch in the shoulders and chest. If performed correctly, the stretch is felt in the thighs, groins, and abdomen. Working towards the strength in the legs and ankles. The balance of this yoga pose depends on being able to be stable on one leg.
Q: What would be your top 3 tips for yoga beginners?
A: I can not give only 3 tips because I have more - 6 tips that I always use when meeting new students who want to join the yoga World.
1. Respect Your Body’s Inner Wisdom And Limitations. Don’t push yourself to do anything that feels dangerous or wrong for you. This is ‘Ahimsa’, the practice of non-harm, which is essential to skillful and beneficial practice of yoga. Talk to your teacher and a health professional if you are pregnant or have particular injuries such as to the knees or spine, or any serious medical condition. Find out which poses to avoid at certain times, and which will be beneficial for you. Be aware of contraindications relevant to your specific circumstances: for example some poses are not to be practiced during early pregnancy, with certain injuries, or during menstruation, whereas other poses may be very helpful.
2. Don’t Compare Yourself With Others. Look inwards to your own progress; there will always be more flexible, strong and beautiful people around in your yoga class, as in life.
Yoga may be fashionable, but it is not a spectator sport or a competition. Appreciate the subtle progress of your own practice, the best part of it is on the inside, in the healing awareness and unity of your own body, mind and spirit.
3. Have A Sense Of Humor. Yoga is a quiet, focused activity, but we need not to take ourselves too seriously. We may feel ungainly and stiff as a board as we try to navigate ourselves into new poses. Humility, an inner smile and a bit of gentleness can save us from pushing ourselves to the point of strain and injury.
5. Breathe. Yoga is all about finding a healthier, deeper harmony between our body and mind, and our breathing is central to this. Breathe into your whole body in the poses, and relax. There is a lot to learn about healthy breathing in yoga.
6. Find A Good Yoga Teacher. It is much easier and more enjoyable, to learn yoga, with all its detailed and subtle physical and mental aspects, from an experienced, qualified, real-three-dimensional-living-breathing person, rather than from a book or video. Especially at the beginning, a teacher’s presence and ability to actually see you and respond to what you are doing, it is essential for building your confidence to practice yoga properly.
Q: On which ZENAGOY yoga mats do you practice?
A: I use PUrfect green yoga mat for my Vinyasa and Ashtanga yoga classes because I have more of a grip, feeling safe to do more difficult postures. Zenagoy MiFlow light blue is my companion in Hatha or Yin classes, because of its softness. Very fond of my two new mats. Love the colors, love the feel of each, and most of all I love that my yoga mats are honoring the Mother Earth with its eco-friendly materials.
Thank you, for the interview.