Teacher Showcase of the Month – September 2018

Tonya Russell – Yoga Circle Whangarei

The old cottage lovingly restored with polished wood floors and dove grey walls, echoed with giggles, chatter, laughter and life; the life of a community of yogi bubbled out as I approached the entrance.

The model first introduced by Professor Sir Mason Durie known as ‘Te whare tapa whā’ is what this community or circle of yogi is all about; says Tonya Russell owner and teacher at ‘Yoga Circle’ in Whangarei.

‘Te whare tapa whā’ translated means ‘The four structures of the house’ essentially the walls upon which the roof rests are valued and needed to maintain the integrity of the house; which provides shelter. Each wall represents an element;  the physical, the emotional, the intellectual and the social aspect of humanity. Collectively these elements are ‘Holistically’ or ‘whole-istically’ interdependant and integrated to comprise the ‘whole’ and when that ‘whole’ is healthy this is known as Hau-ora.

What does Hauora look like like?

In yoga it looks like an aligned, balanced, purpose-filled person.

And if that alignment and balance is out the person is not well. It is having all these elements synchronised and synthesised that provides the ultimate in wellbeing.

Appropriately Tonya had DoTerra Serenity Oil wafting it’s fragrant blessing through the studio and softly welcoming the senses to a place of ease, I was entering a soul circle.

The general hubbub of yogi in the room was a joyous welcome! This was a very happy family! And along with a couple of others new to this class I felt immediately at ease!

That in itself is a real talent in a yoga studio – and as laughter and chatter is an act of carrying sound upon breath, and breath is so integral to yoga – this poem of these songs and prayers of love wafting out carried on the breath of the yogi within from the studio embraced me long before I reached the door and entered; and as if I had always been a part of this class people looked up and smiled, they said hi and not at any stage did the noise of conversation diminsh!

Tonya sat and chatted while a few people organised themselves with bolsters, cushions and rugs. Eventually the chatter subsided as one buy one the students started going inwards, watching their breath, observing their state of being-ness, and without any particular cue Tonya started moving gently into Butterfly Pose.

A favourite!

As slowly as a butterfly moves her wings whilst on a leaf or flower we came into some kind of unison with our own expressions of Butterfly. The tone was set for a beautiful panorama of asana that intuitively followed one after the other, in long slow breaths reaching deeply into that place known as the ‘still point’ where like in the shelter gifted in ‘Te whare tapa whā’ we were able come into an exquisite place of ‘observation’.

Tonya invited observation, intrigue, curiosity in each posture; to read and listen to the language of our body; and to respond to what it was communicating.

This invitation allowed each person to own their yoga asana and make a collective practice uniquely their own.

Just as in the model of ‘Te whare tapa whā’ where the breath is sacred; by using the physical movement to create asana after asana we were in a joyful solemnity drawing in and releasing the vital power that is the life force known as ‘Prana’ and feeling the change in our body as the class eventually wound to a close with a variation of a slow Sun Salute, which bowed our heads and hearts to Gaia and as it grounded us through Pigeon and Lizard poses, opening and releasing the pelvis, the spine, the chest to a place of utter softness.

The class ended with a recorded meditation while Tonya prepared a special blend of tea.

Replete with the flavours of spring and summertime tea, shared laughter, smiles and conversation, I said my thank you’s and farewells.

When I got home the relaxation was still with me as a deep, gentle powerful latent energy; and having nothing else to to I let myself dive deeply into this lingering relaxation, and honouring my body I slept a memorable restorative and vital sleep.

That is what yoga is all about.

What makes the place special, who makes the atmosphere welcoming, a practice that is communal and simultaneously uniquely your own, and that which you carry into your life afterwards; it is a gift that keeps on giving.

Yoga Circle the circle of friends living, loving, laughing – giving …

Contact Details:
Tonya Russell
Phone: 09438 6906
Photo credit: Stacey Milich Photographer
Note: The oils used at Yoga Circle are always selected especially for each class and I use DoTerra.

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