Prominent yoga nidra teacher Tracee Stanley has received praise from leading figures such as Arianna Huffington and Oprah Winfrey. Here, she tells OM about her work, which is rooted in helping individuals activate their inner radiance to make wellness and empowered living accessible for all.
How did you first get into yoga?
When I was living in South Africa in my 20’s, I had a moment of spontaneous meditation while watching a sunrise. Something happened at that moment that I had no words for, but I understood that there was a place within me that was full of clarity, peace, and bliss, and I wanted to know this place. After speaking to a friend about my experience, he guided me to several books on meditation, yoga, and spirituality. My journey began with yoga’s philosophy, and then later, I was introduced to yoga asana and kriya through Kundalini Yoga.
How would you describe your own teaching style?
My teaching style is emergent. As yoga teachers, we can always have a plan of what we want to teach, but we must inevitably teach to the needs of the time and those in the room. What I have learned in over 20 years of teaching is that my practice, study, and the act of consistently taking the seat of the student has allowed me to create alchemy in my classes that arise from all of the tools and practices that I have practiced and embodied over the years.
Embracing nature and ritual is also very important in my teaching.
These are easy to forget about when we are accustomed to practicing in a studio environment. Fostering a relationship with nature will help inform your practices in very magical ways. The elements that exist in the natural world also exist within us, and a relationship with nature deepens our relationship with ourselves. Creating a foundation of ritual and devotion invites us to soften and surrender into grace — a vital ingredient in transformation.
Yoga career highs so far?
I have had so many extraordinary experiences teaching around the world, and each one has been enriching. One of my favourite experiences was teaching yoga and meditation to thousands of women on Oprah and Gayle’s Girlfriends Cruise to the Bahamas a year or so ago.
Being in the company of so many women who showed up with a singular purpose — to live their best life and show up in all moments as their best self was incredible. I taught very simple pranayama, gentle movements, and yoga nidra. What I observed was that everyone truly needed to rest, so we practiced a lot of deep relaxation techniques.
A woman in her late 70’s on the ship shared with me that she had never given herself permission to rest before my class. That is my best teaching moment yet.
Any advice for new yoga teachers starting out?
My best advice is to practice consistently and keep a journal of all the practices you do and their effects. The yoga ‘training’ isn’t over just because the teacher training has ended. Yoga teacher training is just the beginning of the journey. It is essential to seek out the source texts for the practices and yogic wisdom you share. When wisdom is disconnected from the source, it becomes information and becomes devoid of true knowledge. Stay curious and a forever student. Connect with a group of friends who are interested in practicing and sharing experiences and resources.
What do you know now that you wish you'd known when you started?
I was lucky enough to have a teacher who advised us: “Don ’t quit your day job.” I opened a small yoga studio while working as a film producer in Hollywood. And when I eventually did begin to teach, that advice allowed me to develop my voice and style as a teacher. A steady income that wasn’t attached to my yoga classes freed me from teaching classes to make everyone happy, which is never possible anyway.
What do you say to people who think they can't do yoga?
Yoga is not about physical prowess. Yoga nidra is a full system of yoga in itself, and it is generally practiced in Savasana while the body remains motionless. The truth is that if you can breathe, you can do yoga and yoga will never get old. When we honour Patanjali ’s eight limbs of yoga, we are reminded that yoga is much more than physical postures.
What do you do when you're not doing yoga?
For me, yoga is a way of life. Yoga informs my gardening, cooking, walks in nature, star gazing, and my family relationship. This concept is something that I talk about in my book Radiant Rest. I call it the Householders Flow: it’s a way of infusing the whole of your life with awareness and practice, especially when you feel like you don ’t have the time and space to practice. It ’s the kind of reverence for yoga that weaves through the day, and as a result, we wind up feeling held and supported by our practice as opposed to it being one more thing that we have to check off of our to-do list.
My new book Radiant Rest - Yoga Nidra for Deep Relaxation and Awakened Clarity is available for presale. I’ll be doing a free 40-day Sadhana club to go along with the book release; we ’ll be diving into ritual, practice, and nature.
Tracee Stanley’s forthcoming book, Radiant Rest: Yoga Nidra for Deep Relaxation & Awakened Clarity (Shambhala Publications) is now available for pre-order. Find out more at radiantrest.com