The Dancer Yogi

The first time I met Tanvi Mehra was on a shoot for the fashion magazine Elle. This was around 10 years ago. I was the managing editor of Elle, India, and we were publishing an article about women in yoga. I interviewed around seven women for this article and the only teacher that left an impression on me was Tanvi. Her cosy studio in Bandra, Tangerine Arts, was inviting, friendly and an extension of Tanvi’s authentic understanding and application of dance and yoga. I didn’t see or talk to Tanvi after the Elle shoot but two years ago, when I co-founded India’s first magazine on yoga and vedanta, I knew Tanvi had to be a part of my magazine. I wanted to feature Indian yoga teachers and Tanvi had all the qualities that aligned perfectly with my vision for the magazine. I got in touch with her and this time, our collaboration turned into what I’m hoping is a lifelong friendship.

Working in the yoga space has given me the opportunity to meet Indian and international teachers, and while we’re living in a world where there’s a yoga teacher at every street corner, it’s still extremely rare to find a teacher and practitioner that applies these traditional practices in a modern context without diluting the practice or using short-cut methods to achieve success. Tanvi is that rarity. Her non-sectarian approach to teaching is refreshing and I even had a chance to interact with some of her students and it is through her students that I understood just how much value Tanvi adds to the lives of every person that practises with her. Her teaching and nurturing doesn’t stop after asana class and her students can talk to her at any time - she’s always available for them. It’s not an easy feat to give so much of yourself and what I admire even more is that Tanvi does this without overextending - this beautiful balance of self-awareness and offering just the right amount of energy to your students is proof of her balanced understanding of the practice as both a student and teacher. 

I’m very happy to welcome Tanvi to Indica Yoga and introduce her to you, dear readers…

Sophia: You’re a trained dancer and you studied fashion, how did you decide to make the shift to practising and teaching yoga?

Tanvi: Dancing has been a part of me since my childhood as my mother enrolled me in many different dance classes. I was a part of Shamaik Davaar’s SDPA programme and travelled with his troupe around India for many shows. I then joined a Bharatanatyam class and after a few years of training, I completed my Arangetram. Growing up I was keen to study fashion and even joined a fashion magazine called L’officiel where I worked as a fashion content assistant. After I returned from London on completion of a fashion business diploma at London College of Fashion, I got a job at Melange, a multi-designer store in Bombay.

However, after a year of working in fashion, it dawned upon me that I didn’t belong here and I started to follow my heart, I took up dancing again and trained in Yoga TTCs and begun my journey teaching yoga on my building terrace, at my home, at the neighbourhood gymkhana, at clubs and at studios. After a year of doing this, I opened Tangerine Arts Studio, a multi discipline studio offering classes ranging from yoga to mediation, dance to drama, fitness classes to events. Ever since, I found my purpose and what I truly enjoyed and loved doing. I haven’t looked back. 

Sophia: What are the challenges of teaching yoga in a noisy, busy city like Bombay both in terms of creating a dedicated sangha and achieving a place of stillness and silence in the chaos?

Tanvi: The biggest challenge of teaching in a city is to bring about the discipline, respect, sincerity and dedication that one experiences in a shala under the guidance of a guru. As people are spoiled with choices here in Bombay, with teachers teaching at every corner in every street, students tend to want to bounce from one place to another and as a result, can never truly feel settled in their mind and in turn, their practice is scattered and more on the surface level.  

Often Students are most mesmerised by asana driven goals and instant gratification is a constant need, hence the focus tends to remain on the physical benefits of the practice and quick results. The patience, the hard work, consistency and time required to reach certain goals and to explore the depths of this beautiful practice is lacking as there is no “sthirta” of mind and the speed with which we live our day-to-day routines makes it difficult to let the practice penetrate. 

However, over time, a good teacher can mould and shape a practitioner to experience the stillness and silence yoga brings about that can be found deep within us all. This is what I aspire to bring about through my teachings at the yoga classes and workshops that I teach. 

Sophia: Which aspect of yoga is most suitable to teach people living in a city with hectic lives?

Tanvi: Most definitely the power of the breath and slowing down. Our breath, more than our physical power, is our true strength. If we know how to control the breath, anything is possible on and off the mat. The breath and mind work as one, if a practitioner learns to master mind over matter, this tool can help us deal with all the chaos around and within us. 

Sophia: How do you expand your knowledge of yoga beyond practising asanas? 

Tanvi: Our yoga knowledge can easily be expanded by reading ancient yogic texts. Understanding yoga philosophy by studying in depth Pantanjali’s sutras and the eight limbs of yoga. Incorporating meditation, pranayamas and kriyas as part of a daily yoga practice can help us explore yoga beyond asanas. There is so much to learn, understand and experience if we look beyond asanas. 

Sophia: You were a teacher on Om Stars for a while. What was that like?

Tanvi: My three-month stint working with Om Stars was most exciting and motivating. It was wonderful to see so many students show up weekly for my class. It felt really encouraging and special to hold space and guide so many different levels of practitioners from across the globe. What amazed me the most was the discipline and dedication of students - they would show up 15 minutes prior to class, follow along the class with utmost enthusiasm and attentiveness and they would most kindly and generously express their gratitude after every class before exiting the online classroom. It was wonderful working with the Om Stars team and alongside other international teachers as they were most warm, kind and helpful during my time teaching alongside them. 

Sophia: Tell us about Tangerine 2.0?

Tanvi: I started Tangerine Arts Studio eight years ago. Ever since, I knew this was my calling. I have been harbouring the dream of having a self owned space to run the studio. Finding the ideal TAS 2.0 took us a few years and then getting it ready took over a year. TAS 2.0 is everything I want it to be - it’s full of sunshine, greenery, open spaces and a lot of positive vibrations. It is larger than the previous studio and hence, we decided to be able to partition it into 3 studios at a time and open it up into one large studio whenever need be. We also have a gorgeous patio area where we have set up an outdoor gym.  

At TAS 2.0, we wish to cater to all age groups with an amazing new line up of classes and teachers for toddlers, kids, teenagers and adults alike. There is something for everyone to choose from making it an accessible haven for one and all. As always we want all who visit and enrol for memberships and classes to feel at home, to feel nourished from the inside out and to grow and evolve at our new wellness space. 

Sophia: Your advice to aspiring yoga teachers?

Tanvi: Never stop being a student, never stop learning and practising. Find your authenticity and don’t blindly follow anyone or any trends. Stay true to yourself and stay humble. There is no substitute for hard work. 

Sophia: How has a regular yoga practice affected your life and relationships?

Tanvi: A regular practice keeps me sane and grounded. Cultivating a self-practice, is in my opinion, the single most important aspect of practising yoga as it has helped me feel connected to myself, to have clarity, to deal with all the chaos in a balanced manner and to feel complete within myself without seeking love, confidence and validation from outside. My practice helps me feel whole and helps me be the best version of myself as it energises me and deeply relaxes me at the same time. 

Yoga has helped me love and understand myself more and in turn helped me be more loving and understanding of all around me.  

Sophia: Which do you love more, dance or yoga?

Tanvi: I call dance my lover and yoga my soulmate. Dance leaves me high, it’s my opium and yoga is my healer, my medicine. I can’t choose between the two as they both do very different things for me but one thing is for sure, both yoga and dance leave me feeling extremely joyful and energised. 

Sophia: What can we expect from you next?

Tanvi: All I can say is that I am just getting started and I am here to stay! There is so much I wish to do and achieve. You can expect me to stick around and help everyone reach their highest potential by being my best self. 

To find out more, visit Tangerine Arts Studio