Tatyana Souza on Motherhood and Yoga
I relied on prenatal yoga to get me through my third trimester. My body felt so uncomfortable as it grew each day and the baby shifted. Pregnancy is such a special and transformative time, but it can cause a lot of physical pain and anxiety. I craved yoga and looked forward to my weekly prenatal class. Now that I’m a mom, I need yoga more than ever! Milo is 16 pounds and between all the snuggles and breastfeeding, my shoulders and neck need the extra TLC.
Tatyana Souza found yoga when she was pregnant. She fell in love with the way it made her feel connected to her body. It didn’t take long before she realized that yoga was much more than a hobby. In a way, it was her life calling. Becoming a mother changes you in ways you don’t always expect, and for Tatyana, it compelled her to make some big changes. Tatyana left an established career to become a certified yoga teacher and open a community-focused studio in Brookline. Now, Tatyana and her husband co-own two yoga studios, Coolidge Corner Yoga and the newly-opened Sadhana Yoga in the South End. We caught up with Tatyana to learn more about what motivates her, how she spends her free time, and what she loves most about yoga.
Have you always been a yogi? How did you first find yourself on the mat?
I found my way to the mat on a consistent basis during my pregnancy with my first son. I had dabbled in a few classes up to that point, but it never stuck. Once pregnant, my body didn’t resonate with the workouts I was doing, so I decided to give yoga another go. Maybe it was the instructor or the group, but this time I really fell in love with yoga and looked forward to each session. Believe it or not this was a Forrest Yoga practice, which is a far cry from prenatal yoga. Back then prenatal yoga was not very widespread. I worked with the instructor one-on-one for a few sessions so that I could learn how to modify the yoga postures for my changing body, and then attended regular classes and kept with the group as best I could. I was so excited to come back to this class and the community after giving birth. It became a very special time when I could re-group, re-charge, feel like myself, and get to know my body again. I quickly realized that the practice was so much more then a physical workout; it really helped to increase my capacity to be a new mom and a wife. And it gave me the fuel I needed to stay up another night with a newborn!
Before starting your own studios – Coolidge Corner Yoga and the recently-opened Sadhana Yoga – where were your favorite places to practice?
Before opening Coolidge Corner Yoga, I was a regular at Back Bay Yoga and its sister studio, Sweat and Soul Yoga (both of which are now Yoga Works). I started my practice in a little studio in Newton Centre called Samadhi and then followed other Forrest Yoga instructors to Back Bay Yoga. Eventually, I also did my teacher training at Back Bay Yoga.
Opening a studio seems so daunting! How did you make that first leap?
Before opening Coolidge Corner Yoga, I was working full-time as a research scientist in the pharmaceutical industry (at Pfizer). After having both of my boys and completing yoga teacher training, my priorities really shifted. As a mom, it was hard to leave the kids and go to work. My connection to my work also shifted after yoga teacher training. My passion to help people feel better and be healthy (which initially led me to science and the pharmaceutical industry) now had a new perspective. In my personal experience with yoga I saw profound mental and physical benefits. I was less stressed, stronger, leaner, and making better food and lifestyle choices. My yoga practice was leading me on a path to be my best, healthiest, brightest self for me and for my family. I quickly realized that it wasn’t necessary to take pills to feel better; lifestyle choices and habits could make you feel better and set you on a preventative path.
Once my career was no longer in line with my heart’s passion it was very hard to justify leaving the boys and going to a job where I no longer felt inspired or aligned with the mission. The decision to leave the pharmaceutical industry became a bit more clear every day. As I was preparing to leave I also began teaching yoga classes and realized how much I enjoyed it. The wheels were set in motion. I had my husband’s full support, since he could see how unhappy and torn I was. Once I left the industry, we quickly started to look for a space to rent in our own neighborhood, Brookline. At the time, the area was lacking a yoga studio. My vision was to open a local yoga studio to support all of the other parents in our community who were in my shoes. To have a communal place that was convenient, cozy, and provided great yoga instruction so that people could go back to their lives lighter and brighter.
You co-own the studios with your husband. How do you find balance in your relationship and make it work both at home and at the studio?
My husband and I are partners in the business, but he also has a full-time job in the finance sector. I run the day-to-day operations and manage the staff for both studios, while my husband manages the accounting and taxes. We make all key decisions together. He is also a great sounding board and reality check when I need it, and extremely handy, which is a big plus! We do disagree from time to time, but try to see the bigger picture together and not let little things bog us down. At home it’s very easy to jump right into business talk, but we quickly realized that sometimes those conversations are tense and not the best when we are trying to hang out with the boys. So we made a decision to “talk shop” during the business day via phone call meetings, or later in the evening after the boys go to bed. Otherwise, business talk could consume our family time entirely. I also make a habit of not checking my phone or email once I get home and being completely present with my family. I think limiting work talk to concrete chunks of time—as opposed to all the time—is essential.
We love that you have two little kids at home (we can definitely relate). What kid-friendly activities do you recommend in the city? How has having kids changed you?
My favorite things to do with the boys are, of course, visiting Boston parks and playgrounds (especially the new one on the Esplanade). We usually pack a picnic and head into the city to play and hang out at the Boston Common, Boston Public Garden, or the Esplanade. This summer we hit every outdoor movie that was kid-friendly. In colder months, the museums are great. We love the Children’s and Science Museums, as well as the Aquarium.
Having kids has really inspired me to be my truest and best self. After the boys were born, it became very clear and important to me that I align my job with my life mission. I want to be a role model for them and show them that you can make a living doing what makes you feel happy and what you are most inspired by. I also want to show them that you can follow your dreams and be true to yourself.
Coolidge Corner Yoga in Brookline is known for its one-of-a-kind family yoga program. Can you tell us a little bit more about the philosophy of the studio and the programs you offer?
Both studios are designed to be a welcoming space for all members of our community to practice yoga. There are many young families in both Brookline and the South End, so we offer prenatal, baby and me, and kids yoga from tots to teens. We also have gentle yoga classes for the aging population and yin and restorative classes for stress relief. Both studios also offer affordable $5 community classes. At Coolidge Corner, we cater to busy families by providing kids and adult yoga classes at the same time. We try to offer classes at convenient times for busy working families. We plan on bringing kids yoga programming to the South End in January.
As we head into the colder months, are there any rituals that you do that make you feel warmer and brighter (and happier)?
Yes! Getting even five minutes of sunshine on your face when the temps are above freezing can go a long way. Also a daily abhyanga practice—a light, quick, 5-minute oil massage post-shower. It wakes up your whole body, warms you up, and keeps your skin hydrated during the dry winter months. Of course, yoga. And, lastly, we try to enjoy the winter by getting outdoors and skiing, snowboarding, and sledding whenever possible.
Lastly, if you had a free day to do whatever you fancied – where would you find yourself? What would you do, eat, etc?
Free days are so rare, but amazing! In the summer months I would meet up with a friend and go paddleboarding on the Charles, or sneak in a lunch with my husband (without the kids) downtown. We both love Cocobeet, which serves organic, vegan foods and smoothies. You can find us picnicking and lounging in any green space downtown. In the colder months, I would meet a friend for a pedicure, wander the MFA, or go to a yoga class outside my own studio. Maybe catch a daytime chick-flick.
Thanks so much, Tatyana! We can’t wait to catch a class at one of your studios.
Image credit: 1/ Kaitlyn Ferris, 2/ Savanah Loftus.