Talia Sutra is one of those people who you just want to hang out with, in the hopes that some of her megawatt energy will magically rub off on you. Growing up in Israel, she witnessed the healing abilities that yoga and meditation had on her mom, both physically and mentally, and later discovered her own love for finding meaning on the mat. With a spiritual upbringing to ground her and a deep appreciation for the power of a good savasana, she transformed her own life and now helps others transform theirs. We sat down with the yogi goddess (and new mama!) to chat about the profound influence that her parents had on her, the many benefits of starting a yoga practice and what inspires her every day.
How did you get into yoga?
I am naturally attentive, and I have many memories of making distinct decisions in my early childhood, but it was my realization and commitment to a plant-based diet at age 11 that initiated me into yoga. I also grew up around yoga asanas, crystals, plants and books on chakras and energy because my mom sought alternative healing alongside her chemotherapy treatments.
My dad, a very grounded and spiritual man, comes from a profoundly humble and godly Kabbalistic family from Casablanca in Morocco. I grew up with amazing fairytale-like stories of the magical abilities and healing powers of my Moroccan ancestors and loved observing my dad in his daily prayer practice. Despite his seemingly endless work (he was mayor of Tiberius, where I was born and lived until age 10), he had a practice of prayer three times a day and an open door policy at home (visitors and guests all the time), he observed fasts and did frequent silent meditations.
From the time I was six years old until I was about 10, my mom battled lymphoma on and off. She received the best medical care in the world, but my parents both stressed the importance of positivity, prayer, meditation and love above all. I never feared for my mom… It’s hard to explain, but she was brimming with joy and inspiration throughout her sickness. She was busy, too, starting nonprofit organizations, writing, teaching and inspiring thousands. Even when she healed, she continued practicing yoga.
In New York, when I was 11 years old, I would walk from my ballet school to the little yoga center across the street and make it just in time for the guided deep relaxation in savasana. I never told anyone about yoga, meditation or my religious-y upbringing because I felt embarrassed by it and thought I was weird enough being the only vegetarian in school.
By the time I was at the School of Visual Arts studying Fine Arts, it had been a long time since I had even thought about yoga, but after a difficult break up, I wound up at an interesting yoga studio called Yoga to the People. It was there that I felt a deep calling to study and devote my life to yoga. I was terrified to admit it even to myself, but I soon started dreaming of teaching.
We love reading your inspiring thoughts on Instagram. What advice or words of wisdom do you have for people looking to start yoga?
Starting a yoga practice is extremely challenging. Yoga is a thought-provoking, heart-stirring, self-inquiring practice. No way around it.
Are you ready to feel more? To become vulnerable and more sensitive to others? Are you ready to notice yourself in sudden bursts or long stretches of awareness? Are you ready to wake up? To know yourself? To forgive yourself? Even to LOVE yourself??
To start a yoga practice is to step outside your comfort zone and to be set (painfully at first) free. Only start if that’s what you want.
You’re a new mother! How do you juggle that with teaching yoga?
As a yogi, I am committed to an active practice of kindness, moderation, non-harm and truth, regardless of external changes. In many ways, giving birth allows for a personal rebirth as well, so I embrace my new role and give thanks for my newly enlarged heart, much greater patience and actual ability to GIVE. Being a mother to Akiva strengthens my commitment to be my best self; the time I do get on the mat is made much, much more sacred than I could ever explain.
Who inspires you in your own yoga practice and why?
I, like most people I know, am always taking in a lot of visual information and stimulation. Staying centered and not swaying too much with the winds around me is essential for me as a (somewhat traditionalist) yogi and as a creative. I started documenting my yoga practice more than five years ago, and that is what I continue to do. I am inspired by simplicity and purity in all its forms—in asana, nature, art, verbal and written articulation—and I am inspired by truth because it makes me feel alive.
What Instagram accounts are you most inspired by right now?
I can never get enough of the ballet visuals—I love all the photos from @ballerinaproject_. I also love following @veganbowls for beautiful pictures of fruits and veggies. And I have so much admiration for @emmawatson and her sustainable fashion account @the_press_tour.
For more inspiration, keep up with Talia on Instagram.