My name is Melanie - most people call me Mel - and I feel honoured to be teaching and practicing with the unique Align Yogi Crew - your vibe really does attracts your tribe!
What first brought you to Yoga?
Wow, um, not so sure how to condense this story! Let’s just say I’ve been drawn to the spiritual, and the mind-body connection for as long as I can remember; spatial awareness; expressive movement; dance; feeling into this miraculous vehicle we know as the body. I fell in love with Yoga long before I commenced my practice.
I longed to be a dancer, yet a childhood trauma altered my mental state and resulted in self-loathing as I entered adolescence. My body responded psychosomatically. To cut a long story short, I battled a rare neurological condition which paralysed my peripheral nervous system on and off from age 15 to 23(ish). I endured long stints in and out of hospital and lost count of the surgeries (still evident on my scarred body which I learned to love and respect through the practice). I was often treated as a “guinea pig” with various ‘new’ medications and treatments. I was deeply depressed.
My mother and aunt introduced me to meditation when I was 16 through a workshop presented by Dr Ian Gawler who healed himself of cancer utilising meditation and creative visualisation. I tried to meditate, yet my negative mind-set derailed me all too often.
It’s probably no surprise those earlier life experiences led to a very dark period of addictions that I battled throughout my early adulthood. Although the neurological condition burnt itself out when I left WA in my early 20’s, the emotional damage remained. Yet I soon connected the dots, realising my body obediently played out the self loathing I had unconsciously programmed it to manifest. This was my first real sense of evidence for the mind-body connection.
I moved to Melbourne in 1992. It was here that I attempted my first yoga practice. At the time it was clear I was pretty drug affected, and so I was urged to leave the class before it started. I recall feeling mortified and dejected. And so I put yoga on hold for another fifteen years! I sometimes wonder if I’d been permitted to remain in that room would I have healed sooner? Yet I firmly believe Divine Wisdom allows all experience to shape the Soul; an integral part of every Soul’s Journey.
When & how were you inspired by the practice ?
During my late 30’s I experienced lower back pain and discovered I had a common condition known as spondylolisthesis. This led me back to Yoga. I practiced with Kim White and immediately felt inspired by my own sense of that mind-body connection. I’m home!
How did yoga practice shift you and from there why did you get inspired to teach?
Yoga was my first real experience of truly feeling at peace with my own body; to a place of acceptance. I immediately felt the yearning to immerse myself in teacher training not long after I took up regular practice. I wanted to share with others what Yoga did for me! Kim encouraged me, too. At my usual place of work I was soon asked to bring the healing benefits of Yoga to a residential rehabilitation setting for those affected by addictions.
From what perspective do you teach and what lights you up as a teacher?
I have been an addictions counsellor for the past ten years. Research around Yoga as a healing component to recovery from addictions is finally catching on! Witnessing others emergence from darkness into wellness; embracing a lighter way of being; physically, mentally, and emotionally. Observing improved quality of life; raising the vibration; the mind-body connection; the incredible power of belief; establishing, developing, and evolving self; all of which Yoga so gently nurtures. That’s the stuff that lights me up as a teacher - feeling into the body - we are truly spiritual beings having a human experience.
Your study, background and continued learning?
I conquered addiction in my early 30’s and pursued a tertiary education, completing a BA; a double major in psychology and addiction studies. Much of my counselling practice includes mindfulness-based CBT; essentially “self-talk”; known as Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT, as in the word ‘act’).
I then ventured into a personal inner-voyage to study teaching meditation, chair Yoga, and holistic counselling. I only recently embarked on my Ashtanga YTT through 8limbs in Leederville with two very highly reputable teachers, Monica Gauci and Gregor Maehle, whom I return to further study with whenever I can. My journey as a teacher will always continue as a student. I am dedicated to deepening my own practice, my understanding of human anatomy, and the mind-body connection. I continue to merge Yoga with holistic counselling/coaching/bodywork services. My next study venture involves an ever-increasing interest in Yoga Therapy and Anatomy Trains. And of course always deepening my own practice. I have recently added Indian Head Massage to the mix! Just ask if you would like to book this experience.
What do you do off the mat ?
I am currently building my own brand of holistic coaching which draws on the tools of Yoga, meditation, mindfulness-based practices, psychotherapy, and lived experience. I work with a reputable alcohol and other drug treatment service. My role involves assessing individual suitability for entry into a mode of residential rehabilitation known as a Therapeutic Community, facilitating information presentations and support groups, and case management. And I somehow juggle all of this with parenting my teenage son. In fact the reality, and my mantra, is; Yoga keeps me sane!