Name: Talia Peretz
Sign: Aquarius-Pisces cusp
Swank: Yogini/ New York City-based yoga instructor
When I first stumbled upon this yogini’s Instagram a year ago, I was completely taken aback by her level of strength, agility, and flexibility. Winning the USA Yoga New York Regional Competition and placing 5th in the National Yoga Asana Championship in 2013, Talia Peretz, a 26-year-old New York City-based yoga instructor, takes her practice to a whole new level. Read on as Talia explains to us the importance of communication, how yoga, unlike popular thought, is more than just striking a pose, and how love is the gateway to success in this week’s Family Swank.
Mass Appeal: How old were you when you started practicing?
Talia Peretz: I get asked this a lot and it’s hard to say. It depends on how loosely I define “the practice.” I was always moving, stretching, and dancing as a kid; I did it naturally and it was also nurtured by my mother who was and is a yogi. She started teaching me some yoga poses as well as breathing and meditation techniques when I was six years old. Yoga was there essentially my whole life, but I wasn’t too interested in asana (posture) as a kid or as I was growing up. I loved looking through my mom’s books on anatomy, chakras and astrology: I was very interested in figuring myself out. I practiced gymnastics until I was 10, became an animal activist and vegetarian at 11, and then devoted myself to classical ballet until I was 17. It wasn’t until I was 22 that I began going to yoga classes daily. At 23 I became a full time teacher.
MA: What made you want to teach?
TP: I wanted to research myself and learn more about “yoga,” so I went to yoga teacher training to immerse myself in becoming a better student. I am very much a student every day, still curious and always in search of new depths. I’m lucky enough to share my experience and love with other students; it gives me a deep sense of service.
MA: As a yoga enthusiast, I’ve been fortunate enough to take one of your Flow into Flexibility classes at Yoga to the People II, and though I am already very flexible, I felt sore the next morning. In the class we focused on marrying flexibility and strength: what do you think is the key in properly balancing the two?
TP: As in any “marriage,” a back and forth communication is important. Each partner— in this case, strength and flexibility— should feel heard and desired. But maybe it’s pleasure… joyfulness that is the key to balance. After all, if we are to spend a lifetime, or more, with a practice, it should feel good; lead us to happiness, bliss and realization. There is even peace in feeling sore if we allow ourselves to feel and know that sensations are a lot like messengers— the need to be heard, not blamed. Rest fully when you need rest; practice with your whole heart engaged. If a pose, teacher or person challenges you, let it be an inspiration for growth. Never think, feel, or act like a victim. Practice with joy and allow for the little shifts as well as the big transformations.
MA: How do you apply yoga to your daily life outside the studio?
TP: I’ve learned to breathe and relax under the great pressure of both a deep backbend and deep love. I’ve learned to find myself: confident and at ease, even when upside down, even when things seem to make no sense. I don’t need to be practicing a posture to be practicing yoga. The word itself (meaning to yoke or put together) is so big, so full of potential and so able to encompass the practice of all things done with love and in the name of endless realization.
MA: What have been the hardest obstacles you’ve had to overcome in your practice?
TP: I’ve had to learn to feel like it’s my first time feeling: with a great attention. I’ve also had to learn to feel like it’s my last time feeling: with great passion.
MA: On your Instagram, the two hashtags in your bio are #dodifferent and #loveandalliscoming. What do those phrases mean to you?
TP: That’s so cool that you noticed that! #dodifferent is about taking action. It’s not enough to just “think different;” I want these thoughts to be put into action. Next time you have an idea, at least write it down, sketch it out or tell someone about it. Cultivate a practice of DOING. #loveandalliscoming is just a reminder: love, practice love, and you’ve already aligned yourself with success. Do all things with love and you cant go wrong… everything else will fall into place.
MA: Who are your biggest inspirations, in and outside the yogasphere?
TP: One of the reasons I live in New York City is because it provides me with endless inspiration. There are so many types of beautiful people, so many types of sad people; all shades of angry, weird, rich and broke. The diversity is endless. I find it all very inspiring. I experience a little bit of myself in everyone… I fall in love a little bit every day.
MA: What asanas does your morning flow consist of?
TP: I might start off in a seated butterfly pose, releasing the head downwards for a deep neck release. Then I’ll spend some time breathing in a plough pose, decompressing the spine. From there, I like to work on waking up my abdominals with some boat pose variations. I’ll make my way to a downdog, float to forward fold, move through some sun salutations, and then continue into standing lateral stretches (half moon), a standing backbend, and a deep forward fold like hands-to-feet-pose. I like to also open my hip flexors with some low lunges and splits. And of course I’ll go upside down on my forearms and hands.
MA: How has yoga transformed your mind, body, and soul?
TP: My practice helps me gain awareness of and remove the barriers that I have built up around my brain, mind, body and soul. I can sometimes become attached to a barrier, make reasons why I need to keep it. And that’s ok too as long as I’m not lost in that attachment, and as long as I know it’s there. Transformation is achieved through sustained observation.
MA: Throughout your Instagram posts, you never forget to thank all your followers and yogis who come out to take your classes. Why?
TP: Because I feel so complete after I teach. I want to tell everyone, so I do! “Thank you, thank you, thank you, for practicing with me and giving me the chance to be me.”
MA: Do you have a favorite style of yoga?
TP: No, not a favorite style but I do have things I like when I go to take a yoga class. I like it when the teacher gives freedom for students to work at their own level and does not impose conformity. I like specificity and clear alignment and breath cue. I like when I know the teacher is teaching from experience. I like passionate teachers. I LOVE to be challenged.
MA: Aside from practicing #yogaeverydamnday, how else do you nourish your body? Do you have any favorite foods or other physical outlets like dance or, I don’t know, boxing?
TP: I love that hashtag, but #yogaeverydamnday does not necessarily mean “asana every damn day” to me; I take days off asana sometimes. I like to try different things like lyra or silks or just lying around watching the clouds. My favorite food is avocado.
MA: If you could give a large group of people a talk about the benefits of yoga, what would you say?
TP: I’d just pop into handstand scorpion.
MA: What are three things people don’t know about flexible, fierce, and fearless Talia Sutra?
TP: 1. I have three brothers and I was always the first one ready for school growing up! 2. I don’t like onions, garlic, cinnamon, very hot or very cold foods. 3. I’d really like to ride a motorcycle everywhere.
Hit Djali up on Instagram (@djalibc) if you think you’ve got swank!