I first met Tanya in one of my Comparative Literature classes at New York University. In addition to being gorgeous and self-possessed she is a brilliant teacher who genuinely cares about people.  The photo above taken by James Meade is from a shoot she did with CLAM Magazine. This is my interview with her:

Where are you from originally?

I was born in Philadelphia and raised in London, Guinea and spent most of my childhood in Cote d’Ivoire. My mother is from Cote d’Ivoire and my father is American.

How have your travels as a student and with the UN influenced you?

Traveling and living abroad in my formative years definitely influenced me. It helped cultivate awareness and curiosity of the greater global community that we are a part of living in West Africa.  Being surrounded by countries in conflict such as Sierra Leone and Liberia sparked my interest in political science, global affairs, human rights and languages.  I love to learn new languages and hopefully I will pick up more in my lifetime. Interacting with people around the world in their own languages is something I have always wanted. My recent trip to the United Nations Headquarters in Geneva was an opportunity for me to meet some influential people and learn more about what the UN does and how it works. It allowed me to get a better sense of where I stand and where I would like to stand in making a difference in the world.

What are the rewards of being a yoga and meditation teacher?

The personal reward is a better sense of self and a healthier mind and body. I’m doing a year-long training with the School for Compassionate Action (schoolforcompassionateaction.org) where I learn the tools to work with at risk youth, trauma survivors and people with chronic illnesses.  We all have the ability to heal; our bodies and minds are amazing and powerful. The reward is that I am a constant student as well as being able to impart tools and humbly offer guidance to people so that they may find it in themselves to heal-if they find a little more peace and calm in their day, find that they can focus or have more energy then there is value in the work we do.

Who inspires you?

It sounds cheesy and cliché, but all the people who work hard to make a difference in the world and who fight for and with those who are often not heard.

What are you most passionate about?

Our bodies and minds have a language of their own. Yoga and meditation give us the tools to figure it out.  I’m passionate about all things related to holistic healing-mind body and soul. You cannot treat just one of those things. Healing is about tapping into all three and recognizing that they are all connected and related. I’m passionate about and looking forward to working with and learning from women and children in under-served communities all around the world. I’m hoping to continue my studies. I will probably have to create my own degree in social work, counseling, human rights and holistic wellness. But that is exciting to me. I think it is important to note that some of the work we are doing crosses over into all these fields of studies. It would be interesting to see how holistic healing will become incorporated into the established higher education degree programs in the years to come.

Tanya will soon be launching a blog and can be reached by e-mail at yogaunderthebaobab@gmail.com to arrange private and small group yoga sessions.