Tabatha Smith: Healing through Yoga & Meditation
Healing through Yoga & Meditation
“I have always loved nature, hiking and reading. Yoga has been an important part of my life for nearly 20 years now. Through yoga and meditation, the sacred connection I found through nature as a child found a container that I could take anywhere.”
By Ian Browne Shamrock News - photo by Emma Wise Photography
Meet Tabatha Smith
I was born and grew up in Northern California, in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains. As a child my family and I would go camping and hiking and fishing. We spent a lot of time in nature. I would wander the hills around my childhood home collecting blackberries, catching salamanders and having grand adventures. We were lucky to be surrounded by beautiful forests and creeks and rivers. When I finished high school I moved to Portland, Oregon for university.
I started studying yoga in my first year at university. I worked in hospitality as a barista and waitress the whole time I was studying. Toward the later part of my degree, I spent one term of uni on an exchange program in South Korea. While I was there, I met the man who eventually became my husband. After four years at university, I finished a degree in Psychology. From there, I moved to Brisbane, Australia, sight unseen.
I continued to practise yoga, though my professional life moved from hospitality to Human Resources. After a few years of working my way up the ladder and getting very proficient at moving papers from my desk to someone else’s, I decided a career change was in the cards. I then went and studied to become a primary school teacher. Once I completed my Grad-Dip in Early Childhood Education, my husband and I took off overseas. We spent six months travelling Thailand, India and Nepal.
When we finished our Asian adventures, we moved to the States for a time. We worked and travelled there for a year, at which point I got pregnant with our first child. Due to the extreme expense of health care in the States, we returned to Australia. My son was born and then two years later we had my daughter.
I have always loved nature, hiking and reading. I enjoy travelling, though now with two small children I do decidedly less of that. Yoga has been an important part of my life for nearly 20 years now.
What brought you here to the Northern Rivers?
“This area was so appealing because it suggested a different way of life.”
The first time I visited the Northern Rivers was probably about fourteen years ago. I loved the lush scenery and the laid back and alternative vibe. The cities of Australia (and maybe everywhere) seemed so full of people keen to talk about the latest garbage on television and iPhone release. This area was so appealing because it suggested a different way of life, more connected to what I deem truly important about life – people, nature, community. I knew from that first visit long ago that I wanted to live here one day.
That one day took nearly twelve years to achieve. Once my children were a bit past the baby stage, my husband and I knew we wanted to move somewhere outside of Brisbane. We wanted something other than the suburban life for our littlies and ourselves. We both had always loved the Northern Rivers area and when we realised there was a Steiner school in Mullumbimby, that cemented the Shire as our move forward. We’ve been here for over two years now and we have landed into the community in a way that just feels right.
I love the easy access to so much beautiful nature – beaches, rainforest, fresh water creeks, waterfalls. I love the sense of community. I love the general respect for difference. Everyone is doing their own thing and that’s okay. There doesn’t seem to be as much pressure to conform.
Photo by Melinda Andreas
Describe some of the facets associated with yoga & meditation. How does it benefit society?
“If you deeply connect with your practice, you will feel the Divine is present with you.”
I was originally drawn to yoga for the physical practice. I liked the flexibility and strength I was building in classes. But there was always something deeper to it than that. It is often said that one comes to yoga for the physical practice and stays for the spiritual practice, and this certainly rings true for me. I didn’t grow up in a religious home, but my connection to nature always felt sacred and important. Through yoga and meditation, the sacred connection I found through nature as a child found a container that I could take anywhere.
Yoga and meditation foster this connection for many, I believe. In a country where church attendance is falling dramatically, yoga and meditation offer us a connection with the sacred. While there’s no guarantee that a one-hour yoga class will facilitate a mystical experience, there is a good chance that if you deeply connect with your practice, you will feel the Divine is present with you.
The ability for yoga and meditation to be deeply healing is also present. When we connect to our body, mind, heart and spirit, healing can be fostered. Research and anecdotal evidence are emerging for the power of yoga and meditation in helping people heal from and live more fully with depression, anxiety, PTSD, Complex Trauma, as well as physical pain, be it acute or chronic. The power of choice making in a class is so important so that the healing and transformation that is experienced doesn’t belong to the facilitator, but the practitioner.
I feel like I have to also mention that there has been trauma inflicted by yogis in the yoga world. A teacher with integrity will always lead you back to yourself, rather than usurp your personal power.
What has this part of the world taught you about yourself; humanity, yoga and meditation?
This part of the world has given me a home, a place where I feel I belong, even though I have not been here for a long time. It’s not all bunnies and rainbows, the dark side of human nature is as present here as anywhere, but there is also a beautiful sense of community here that I value very highly. It’s the kind of place where you can sit down at a coffee shop and strike up a meaningful conversation and I truly love that.
Have you furthered your studies of healing here?
I have continued to study, though the training courses I’m enrolled in are predominantly online at this time. What I am learning here is through my direct experience with the people who come work with me and generously share their time and learnings. For me the best way to learn is to listen deeply to those I am honoured to work with.
Are you happy with where you are at in terms of your work life
I have been very lucky when it comes to work/life balance. My husband is the main bread winner, which was always the plan for us. He earns more than me, so it just made sense for me to do the majority of the child-rearing. Now that my youngest child has started school this year, I am assuming a more active role in financially contributing. The only challenge has been that many people want to take a yoga class outside of school/hours! But we continue to negotiate this challenge. And it is so important for me to be home with my littlies as much as I can.
Why is Ralf your ‘coffee guru’? ( ‘In joke’, he is a shared pal)
Hee hee. He makes a mean cup of coffee and keeps up friendly chatter while he’s at it! And he’s so good at remembering names and always notices when I’ve had a haircut!
With your work in yoga and meditation, are you surprised to be where you are now, or did you hope for more?
I did my undergraduate degree in Psychology, originally with the aim to be a psychologist. The more I learned about the field, the less inclined I was to want to be a practising psychologist. To me there seemed to be something important missing. It took me years to realise that “missing thing” for me was the body, the somatic felt sense. It has taken me a few years to get here, but using yoga and meditation in a more therapeutic sense - rather than just to tighten abs and asses - feels right and in line with the way I have always been headed.
What is your goal? Where will healing and supporting others take you to in coming years? Do you intend to stay in the region and grow?
I would like to expand my work with the most vulnerable amongst us. I have personally seen and experienced the transformative power of yoga and meditation. Within us we each have an innate drive and instinct toward healing. Yoga and meditation facilitated well and with the aim to empower can be truly life changing. In a trauma sensitive or aware yoga or meditation class, the importance is not on the teacher or a peak pose or peak experience, but rather on fostering a connection to Self. A favourite moment from a recent class I taught was when I looked around and noticed that everyone in the class was doing something different and each was deeply immersed in his/her own practice, each person was honouring him or herself.
How can folk contact you for advice and support?
I have two Yoga for Stress Relief six-week courses starting 15 May, one at 9:30am and the other at 6:00pm. Before each course, I meet the client for a one-to-one. This initial meeting allows me to understand how to best support the client and to offer some personalised practices. From there we meet once a week for six weeks.
People can also contact me for ongoing one-to-one support with meditation coaching or yoga:
Email Tabatha @nourishedsoulnow.com
Photo by Emma Wise Photography