Meet SOMA Coach - Dr. Vanessa Michielon

Curious what yoga poses even your yoga teacher has difficulty with? Read on.

Many of you love Vanessa’s classes and her precise attention to detail as well as her always impressive postures which make even the hardest ones look easy. You may not know that she also holds a PhD where she defined a new paradigm called “performative museum”, looking at how adopting Natural User Interfaces in Museum exhibitions is shaping the way we learn as physically engaged visitors.

We took some time out and sat down with her to learn more about how she got into yoga, her pet peeves when it comes to teaching and what postures even she needs to overcome.

How did you start yoga?

I came to Yoga through Contemporary Dance and Somatic Practices, as 10 years ago I was lucky enough to train with teachers, who would naturally integrate Asanas and Mindfulness in their classes and workshops. Still today, I experience Yoga and Dance as deeply connected, and the mat often feels like a restriction to me.

What does yoga mean to you?

Yoga is for me a practice to achieve enhanced physical and mental clarity, and a body of knowledge to understand myself on many different levels. What probably attracts me the most, is that really there is so much to learn and to relate to.

What is your favourite Element to teach and why?

Fire, I love moving around in space and practice partner work.

What is your most challenging yoga pose and why?

I am personally focusing on winning my fear of inversions at the moment, so I am enjoying practicing Pincha Mayurasana and transitioning smoothly in other poses.

Teacher pet peeve?

I tend to be very understanding in general, but I can’t tolerate if someone is rude to other students.

What is your guilty pleasure?

Coffee, no matter what science says about it, I will not give up my Espresso.

If you could only give yoga students one tip, what would it be?

If I have to choose one, I would borrow Bernie Clark’s words: don’t use your body to get into the pose, but use the pose to get into your body. So, look at poses as tools, not end goals, and you will let go of a good amount of useless self-judgment and pressure, and discover something much more precious.

What is your dance background?

I started dancing at the age of 4 and never stopped, shifting more and more from Ballet to Contemporary Dance and Somatic Practices about 8 years ago. In 2014 I moved to UK to attend a Master in Dance Performance at Trinity Laban Conservatoire, where I toured with Transitions Dance Company, and later I started freelancing, especially in durational performances in museums and galleries, and creating works with smaller independent companies. As a natural consequence of my studies, in the past 10 years I have been focusing a lot on the integration of Digital Technologies and Dance, both as a performer and as a researcher.

What were you doing before becoming a teacher?

Before moving to UK, I used to work in University on various projects, and thanks to this very flexible job, I would have enough time to dance and teach as well on the side. Commuting time was not as in London: I would move from the barre to my desk in 10 minutes!

5 Ways To Excel Your 30 Day Challenge

Over 60 SOMA members have already joined the Official Spring Challenge 2018, and we’re only on day 2. The Challenge goes from Monday, 23 of April till Wednesday, 23 of May. Our goal: take a minimum of 30 classes by 23rd of May. This is for fellow challengers (hello there!) and for those of you who are still thinking if this craziness would be possible.

1. PLAN IT

Preparation is the key for the Challenge. Look at the class schedule, add the classes you plan on taking to your calendar. For me, if it’s not on my calendar, it won’t happen. Give yourself a visual reminder of your daily commitment to your 30 day Challenge. Take note of any other commitments you have over the 30 days which might make you to skip a day and plan doubles for those weeks. Aim to do 7 classes a week (minimum) so you don’t get too far behind. The weeks you are feeling strong do more so you have some buffer for any days you might miss a class when life happens (or a bank holiday!).

Pack your bag for both SOMA and work the night before with everything you need: toiletries, change of undies, a snack and your water bottle for class. It takes little  extra time each night, but it will save you precious minutes in the morning and eliminated a way to talk yourself out of not going to class.

Finally be kind to yourself. This is a tough challenge. Postpone some work and social commitments and take life back to basics over the next four weeks. Fully cherish this time you are giving investing back in yourself.

2.  HYDRATE EAT REST

Water. Water. Water… and some electrolytes. This tip is especially for the Hot Yoga challengers. Up your water intake during the Challenge so you won’t dehydrate your body. It is important to drink water throughout the entire day before and after your practice. Gulping water between poses will not help you much and might make the class even more difficult as your stomach will be full. Try to drink at least 2,5-4 litres of water before the class and stop drinking excessively 1-2 hours before the class. As we sweat a lot it is important to replenishing any lost sodium, potassium, magnesium, and calcium. Add an electrolyte sachets/tablet to your  water or follow my trick to add a pinch of pink Himalayan salt and lemon in warm water — cheap DIY electrolyte drink (and makes the hydration tasty). On days you need extra boost add some honey to that drink. Hydration isn’t a choice, it’s a must. As a bonus you might get a pure glowing skin (to match you 30 day challenge smile).

Diet. Your body is pushed during the challenge so make sure you enjoy a balanced diet with protein, fruits, vegetables and carbohydrates. Up your protein intake and snack on nuts and seeds. As a general guideline you should try not to eat anything substantial two hours prior to your hot class. If you need to eat, stick to a piece of fruit or other small non-salty snack.

Rest. To help muscles recover make sure you rest and sleep enough. Spoil your hard-working body with Epsom salt bath end of each completed week (magic to aching muscles). 

3. EXPERIMENT

You will feel different each day. Your body will react differently every day, Therefore be flexible and experiment with classes and times you practice if you can. See what is  the best time to practise as it may vary. Maybe it will be easier to get an early morning class or perhaps later evening class will suit some days allowing you to go straight to bed after your hard work.

Try different classes. We are lucky at SOMA to have such a big range of classes and teachers to choose from. Become a ballerina a day or a fierce cyclist. Stretch and strengthen in different yoga classes if you have not done that yet. 

Balance and mix it up. When doing doubles for some of us yoga after TRX might be a good combo and you might find yourself going deeper to postures mentally and physically. For some of us the body heat produced at TRX might be too much for a hot yoga class after and yoga-trx combo might work better for example. Try different combos and see what suits you best. My tactic is to give the body 1 day rest so I do minimum 7 classes in 6 days and have one day rest. Yours might be different. Test it out, see what feels good. And if you have the chance go for yoga elementals SPACE class on Sundays! Your body will need the nurturing yin type yoga to balance all your active yang classes.

4. GET SUPPORT

Announce it. Tell the word that you are doing the challenge. It won’t only allow you to stick with it and making pulling out less likely, but your friends and family will be incredible aid to help you through. They will hopefully cheer you on, want to hear all your stories and maybe even help out with groceries, child care, you name it so you can take your class.

Your SOMA Community will be in integral part of the challenge experience. We will share the experience together, congratulate each other and push on as a community.  You should also mention to your teacher that you are one of the challengers -we teachers can give you really important advices that you might not normally get day in day out. The whole SOMA team is here to give you support and encouragement when you need it!

Join on the sociable vibe and stay engaged with challenge posts, daily pics and inspiring quotes (add hyperlinks).  The Interactive Leaderboard will keep an eye out for all the latest and greatest posts (make sure you tag #somachallenge and/or #somahouse for it go live).

5. JUST DO IT

Going a full circle to my point #1 -be prepared, but be also  ready to be unprepared. Many  surprising physical, mental  things and emotions might come up during the 30 days. In the end it is  a mind game. Take it day by day rather than getting too overwhelmed with 30 days. It is going to be incredible experience that you will  cherish. Just do it.

See you in the mat and my classes and let’s give each other a high five or a secret wink fellow challengers! We got this.

Follow my 30 days challenge on Instagram siru_yoga.

Psst!.. Stay tuned for Challenge update half way through.