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Yoga for natural wellness with Matte Roffe and HANR Yoga

Hannah Bennett - owner of HANR Yoga


embracing yoga for a balanced life

Part two of our Yoga Wellness Feature


In this blog, part two of our Yoga for Wellness feature, we meet Hannah, owner of HANR yoga in Auckland, New Zealand.

And Matte - husband to Paul and Sheryl's son Joel, and a professional dancer, who practises Yoga for dance inspiration and physical flexibility, and also throughout his daily life to provide balance and grounding.

Keep reading to see how these two wonderful people embrace mindfulness and yoga as part of their daily life, and how they ensure their belief in natural wellness extends beyond physical practises to ensure they are living a life that exudes health, wellness.. and balance.

 

HANNAH BENNETT

Owner of @hanryoga  | www.hanryoga.com

 

 

My name is Hannah and I’m from Auckland (New Zealand). I work full time as an E-commerce & Digital Marketer for Bobux International, a New Zealand company who specialise in children’s footwear.

I have a background in dancing which is where my love for movement began. I started Ballet when I was 4 years old which progressed into other styles; Jazz and Hip Hop. Yoga was a natural progression for me once I started looking for something else to replace dancing.

 

 

WHAT DOES THE PRACTISE OF YOGA MEAN TO YOU?

Yoga to me is a lifestyle that isn’t limited to the mat. When I first started practicing yoga it was purely for exercise. It is really so much more than a 1 hour asana class in a studio! Regular yoga practice has taught me to be more respectful of my body and is what keeps me balanced in other areas of my life - it is my “meditation in motion”.

 

HOW DOES YOGA FIT INTO YOUR DAILY WELLNESS ROUTINE?

Prior to my teacher training, I believed having a daily yoga practice was practicing asana (postures) for at least one hour a day. Post-training, having a daily yoga practice means something completely different for me; it’s using a tool of yoga, on a daily basis. Some days I might practice asana or pranayama (breath control), other days it might be meditation or yoga nidra. My daily practice can vary from anywhere between 10 minutes to 2 hours. I’ve learned to listen to what my body needs, whether that’s a strong asana practice or a quiet 15 minutes meditation before work. What matters is that I am showing up for myself every day.

 

 

HOW DID YOU LEARN THE YOGA TECHNIQUES YOU PRACTISE?

I started practicing Vinyasa Flow Yoga in 2016 while I was living overseas in France. I then went on to practice yoga more regularly when I moved to London in 2017. While living overseas, I developed this curiosity and a gentle pull, towards learning more about yoga. I wanted to deepen and develop my own practice. In September 2020, I completed my 200-hour Yoga Teacher Training with the Contemporary Yoga Centre in Auckland. During this time, I also completed my Yoga Nidra Teacher Training Level 1 with Ashram Yoga.

 

WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE YOGA POSE AND WHY?

Downward dog.

When I first started practicing yoga, I dreaded the teacher's cue "...exhale, downward facing dog". Downward dog is both a resting pose and an inversion (meaning yoga poses where the heart is higher from the ground than the head). It is deceptively challenging. It involves using the entire body and requires a lot of strength. Only when I regularly practiced did I begin to crave this pose - in all its complexity! Now I really appreciate the different transitions we can take from it.

While headstands are not my favourite go-to pose, I feel they deserve a special mention. A year after practicing headstands, I was finally able to get "up" into the pose. While I knew the fundamentals of doing a headstand, it was only when I let go of any expectations of myself and I relaxed into the pose, was I able to go up effortlessly. I relished in that feeling of achievement.

To me that's the true magic and essence of yoga and what it's all about. It's a journey, it's about trusting in the process while being patient and gentle with ourselves.  

 

WHAT ELSE DO YOU DO IN YOUR DAILY LIFETO ENSURE YOU STAY HEALTHY AND BALANCED?

Maintaining a well balanced diet, going for walks and reformer pilates. I love the challenge of Pilates and being a form of low-impact exercise, has been amazing for helping me build muscle and strength for an ongoing knee injury. My favourite wellness routine is going for walks with my partner, mum or friends. Walking has always been my go-to if I’m feeling a bit stagnant or low in energy. I always feel better after a long walk outside - preferably in the sunshine.

DO YOU HAVE ANY TIPS FOR YOGA BEGINNERS WHO ARE WANTING TO START ADDING IT TO THEIR WELLNESS ROUTINE?

You don’t need to be flexible to practice yoga. That’s the most common thing I hear when people tell me they want to start practicing yoga - they’re not flexible enough. Yoga is for everyone - it’s about keeping an open mind and being gentle with yourself.

 

WHAT DO YOU DO BEFORE OR AFTER YOUR YOGA SESSION TO ENSURE YOU FEEL COMFORTABLE AND MAINTAIN THE BENEFITS THROUGHOUT THE DAY?

If I’m practicing at home (which has been a lot in 2020/21) I make sure I have a quiet space to practice. I live in a small apartment with my partner so often I try to time my practice while he’s at work. Self practice is my quiet time. For me it’s personal, therefore, a quiet place allows me to focus inwards without any distractions. 


MATTE ROFFE

Professional Contemporary & Ballet Dancer, and husband of Joel Steens | @matte_vaux

 

I am a professional Contemporary and Ballet dancer with a career spanning over 15 years, I have recently moved to beautiful New Zealand after being with The 'Australian Dance Theatre' for 7.5 years where I was fortunate enough to travel around the world performing at some of the most beautiful and prestigious theatres and festivals.  

As a professional dancer yoga has always been a huge part of my development and training as well as playing a huge role in my mental preparation to be able to perform on stage in front of thousands of people and not lose clarity and focus.

I have really enjoyed the exploration and evolution of what "yoga" means to me and the development of how it has benefited my life, my career and my relationship with this beautiful and spiritual ancient practice. As a young, energetic and perhaps a little naive dancer, yoga was once something I found purely as a physical practice and a way to become fitter, stronger and more flexible. It wasn't until I matured as an artist and person that I truly came to understand the true benefits and scope of yoga. It is as much about the mind and spirit and centering ourselves as it is about the body and the physical practice.

 

 

To truly reap the benefits of yoga, a holistic approach and an awareness of all elements working in a beautiful harmony is the key. It's not just a workout to get a hot body or look cool on Instagram cutting shapes.

A great quote is "Yoga is not about tightening your ass but rather getting your head out if it."

Since leaving Australia in 2019 I have been enjoying living in The beautiful Mount Maunganui with my gorgeous husband and his beautiful family, and indulging in a quieter and slower pace of life. I am still heavily involved in the arts and enjoy teaching dance at many different schools, academies and institutes all over New Zealand, whilst also enjoying the creative process of Choreographing my own contemporary dance works.

 

 

It has been so lovely to have more time to focus on my yoga practice and yoga studies, I have found a new love for teaching yoga and passing my knowledge onto my students. I am constantly staying curious and always investigating the traditional teachings of yoga and mindfulness to become a better teacher.

I try to bring my in-depth knowledge and understanding as a dancer into my practice and classes, I believe it important that I bring my experience with movement and dance into my yoga style because it has been such a huge part of who I am and it has developed into a yoga style that is really authentic to me. I am fortunate enough to teach at wellness centres, gyms and dance schools throughout the week, here in The Bay of Plenty, and I am so grateful to have the opportunity to guide to so many beautiful and trusting students, that have taken the time out of their busy days to do something so beneficial for themselves.

To have the opportunity to listen to their bodies and for one hour, to completely switch off from the chaos of life and be driven by sensation, indulgence and to have that acute observation of the questions: What does our body need? How does our body feel? What do I need to surrender to the universe and what do I need to take with me that will serve me purpose to find peace and to be free from suffering in my life?

 

 

WHAT DOES THE PRACTISE OF YOGA MEAN TO YOU?

The practice of yoga for me is to create space and openness in the body. It helps to condition the mind just as much as it tones the body. It brings oneself back to the breath and to be present in this very moment. When we connect our breath and our acute awareness of mind, body and soul it brings us to a sense of utter oneness to the universe. It takes us out of "I"ness and "me"ness and brings us to a state of connectivity to everything that is beautiful in this world and beyond. The practice of yoga is said to be over 5,000 years old and to be supported by that legacy and the teachings of these incredible ancient traditions is such a unique and precious gift.

Yoga is a huge part of my life even after stepping out of the spotlight of being a professional dancer, I still try and maintain my yoga practice everyday in some form. I enjoy the discipline and tradition of yoga and to have the moment to get into my body. I specialize in Vinyasa, Ashtanga and power yoga which is a hybrid of vinyasa and Ashtanga elements.

Vinyasa- is a flowing movement based yoga where you time every breath with every movement seamlessly and all the poses are strung together in a flow-like state. This style involves some beautiful standing series' often followed by sitting series' and inversion. There is a lot of room to play in a vinyasa style class and a great style for people that like to be more active with their yoga but not as physically demanding as Ashtanga, Bikram and power yoga.

 

 

Ashtanga, (which Is my favourite style) follows the same sequence and series of poses and expressions in a precise order, where you hold each pose for 5 rounds of breath. It can be quite physically demanding and is a much more vigorous style of yoga than say a Yin or Hatha style yoga. Ashtanga yoga will help increase your stability, strength and agility and it is a great mental workout as well. The reason I love this style of yoga is because there are so many variables in the world, so many things that are uncertain, chaotic and out of our control, so to have that constant routine that never changes is so grounding and so centering that it helps to balance us. It can be quite challenging at times, but is so revealing about our true most inner selves, because the way in which we deal with these discomforts and challenges in our yoga class is believe it or not the same way we deal with these discomforts and challenges in our day to day lives.

To have an opportunity to observe these habits and learn our triggers is such a gift. It creates incredible moments of self growth and brings balance and focus to everything we do. If you surrender into your yoga practice and really lean into it, you will become so present and find moments of mental clarity, pleasure, indulgence and peace and this will serve you in your life to overcome obstacles and resistance because you become familiar with your own patterns and habits.

 

HOW DOES YOGA FIT INTO YOUR DAILY WELLNESS ROUTINE?

Yoga is a daily practice for me and the spiritual teachings of yoga, the mantras and traditions are something I carry with me into all aspects of my life. For me the basic form of yoga is to be present in our lives, to keep our eyes open our hearts open and our minds open. To have kind thoughts, speak kind words and have a kind heart.

I try to practice yoga for myself everyday, It doesn't always happen, but it is important to be kind to ourselves and not punish ourselves if we fall out of routine every now and then. Life is full of resistance and we will face many obstacles. It is how we deal with these difficulties in life that will create the real and everlasting moments of self growth.

A typical day for me when I am not teaching yoga classes in the morning, I will wake up enjoy a large class of lemon water and desperately try and not reach for that coffee straight away (often the urge to drink coffee straight away wins, haha).

I have a sequence that I have formulated that really works for me and will trigger me to be proactive for that day and will often charge me, especially when I am feeling unproductive and a little sluggish that day. I will start with a intention setting deep breathing series in Balasana (child's pose) This is the moment I will set my intent for my practice, what is my approach going to be today, what do I need to surrender or relinquish and what will I take with me into this day that will serve me purpose? What is my goal for today? What am I grateful for?

After I have set my intention I will start with a core activation series to warm myself up (particularly important in winter) before moving into the Five Tibetan Rites, then transition into a small Chant before starting My Tradition Ashtanga-Vinyasa practice. I will finish with Savasana and a deep meditation to let all the hard work and benefits wash into me. I always finish my Yoga practice with a moment of gratitude and to remind myself to have kind thoughts, speak kind words, have a kind heart and may we have peace, peace everlasting peace.

On days that I am teaching morning yoga classes, I will use my drive to the yoga studios to set my intent and approach for what today's focus will be. I always have a theme or a conscious approach to what I want my students to focus on, as well as setting their own personal intent. For example today's class I urged my students to focus on the sensation of the movement when they are in the poses and transitioning deliciously into another pose, to move like liquid, to get out of their minds and into their bodies, to ask themselves how this feels on my body? How can I push through the discomfort and find the pleasure and indulgences of these gorgeous poses? I remind them it's not about what you look like it's about how it feels. This is why I seldom will practice yoga in front of a mirror.  

 

 

My approaches to performing my own practice and teaching my yoga practice are quite different. When it's my own practice I go very internal, deeply internal and it's a very indulgent process and a moment to check in with myself and re-set. When I am teaching I am very aware of my students and try and make it about their needs and what they need today; A big reason why yoga is so popular is because it gives you a moment of escapism and to forget about what is happening in the outside world and to have a moment where you don't have to think about what is causing you suffering in your life at that moment. As a teacher I think it's really important to create a safe space that is inviting and free from judgement so my students feel free and liberated to trust the process and to surrender into the process, which in result will give them great clarity for the things that are perhaps causing them suffering.

With my daily Yoga routine, because I do a more dynamic style of yoga I try and do my own practice more in the morning. My style can be quite an invigorating style and can make you feel quite energised, thus not always appropriate to do when your day is coming to a conclusion.

 

 

In the evenings a Yin style yoga class would be ideal, Yin is a much softer style where each pose is held for anywhere between one to 10-minutes, it's great for calming your mind and body down, it is a much more passive and gentle style of yoga and a great way to unwind and re-set. I have an incredible friend who teaches Yin and Nidra yoga classes and I try to attend at least one of her classes a week in the evening. It's an amazing opportunity to release any tension and relax.

For me it is so crucial that I get out there in the community and support other Yogis and get to other Yogis classes and learn from them, share with them and talk with them. It's so deeply important to embed myself with like-minded people and to learn from them and their knowledge and share my own knowledge and aid in each other's beauty, uniqueness and what we all have to offer. Yoga is just about community as it is about our individual practices.

We never stop learning and the best teachers are the ones that stay curious and keep investigating and investing into their own practice.

 

 

HOW DID YOU LEARN THE YOGA TECHNIQUES YOU PRACTISE?

I have been very fortunate to have learnt from many incredible yoga mentors, teachers and spiritual guides throughout my journey in dance and yoga. I have had some incredible teachers especially at my time in dance companies who were very hands on and very inspiring, knowledgeable and were real yoga purists and traditionalists.

I am constantly researching and attending workshops and other classes when I can to further my knowledge not only for my own practice but also for my own teaching techniques. I try to attend at least 2/3 classes a week of other teachers' classes around the bay, because for me it is so important to keep exploring and to keep investigating and researching to better ourselves, to constantly keep learning so we don't get stuck in our own ways and old habits. I also don't want to forget what it's like to be the "student", this is something I feel makes me a great teacher because I know what it's like to be in their shoes and the trust they place with you to guide them.

I am so grateful to have had some incredible mentors and I try to bring the spirit and knowledge of their teachings and wisdom with me into all my classes, to carry the legacies they have passed down to me and to respect the ancient traditions. I feel them there in class with me, their incredible energies, love and kindness supporting and guiding me.

 

WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE YOGA POSE AND WHY?

Shirshasana (Head stands) There is some much room to play in this beautiful pose. Inversions are natural energy supplies to the body, it's an amazing balance of focusing the mind and strengthen the body and its often nice to get a different perspective on the world from time to time, haha!  

 

 

I also love Savasana (Corpse pose) which believe it or not is the most important pose in Yoga. This is an incredible pose that you need to take advantage of and not underestimate its amazing benefits and properties; The amount of time people dismiss this pose, especially when it's their own practice at home, because they feel they don't have 5 minutes to spare in their busy day to lay down with their eyes closed to find stillness and silence and completely surrender is baffling to me. By not doing this pose you are completely missing the purpose of why you are practicing yoga. This beautiful expression is where all that hard work you have just performed has a moment to wash over and into your body and embedded it's benefits into you. This is where you will find peace and to surrender all that is causing suffering in your life, to find the power in your vulnerability. Please do not underestimate this pose. 

 

WHAT ELSE DO YOU DO IN YOUR DAILY LIFE TO ENSURE YOU STAY HEALTHY AND BALANCED?

Balance is such an important part of my life and something I have always struggled with, I feel like my life is in a state of constant oscillation. That's why I love yoga, it centers me and grounds me and helps bring me clarity and routine. For me routine, routine, routine is key and crucial for me living a happy and healthy life. There is nothing more than a cluttered mind loves then to disrupt the system and send your routine into chaos which will send you life into a state of chaos. You will therefore feel you are losing control and invite suffering into your life. I can not stress the importance of having that structured routine that works for you in your life.

I start the day every day making my bed, I know it sounds like a very small and mundane task, however I truly believe a messy space equals a messy mind. By making my bed every day I can say I have already achieved something and it creates that small drive to achieve more of your goals.

 

 

Everyday I try to learn something new and something that excites me, whether this be about mindfulness, buddhism, zodiacs and astrology. I have really been enjoying listening to Brene Brown at the moment and her studies on The power of Vulnerability. I have a reflection Journal that I try to write in every day about my different findings, new philosophies, thoughts and researchers, anything and everything that inspires me and brings me joy. It's great to have something that I can refer back to when I need a reminder about how beautiful the world is.

I try to laugh every day, dance everyday, treat everyone with love, compassion and kindness. I try to meditate every day and enjoy this beautiful life and the beautiful people around me. I am so grateful to have such a loving and generous husband and his beautiful family here in New Zealand and my own incredibly supportive and beautiful family back in Australia.

Like many people will always struggle with finding balance, but that's kind of the essence of life... That life is not about reaching a point but to enjoy the process and journey and to be really in it. To flow with it, be flexible and adapt with it. The worst thing is to punish yourself over things and be overwhelmed with guilt. we need to enjoy life.

Yes at times we probably drink too much or don't always eat healthily or didn't go to the gym that day, but we should be so grateful to be alive and be able to go to the gym or not go to the gym to drink a beautiful red wine or have a super healthy green smoothie, to watch absolute trash on tv or read an incredibly inspiring and enlightening book. This is true balance and all this is relative to finding balance. Sometimes we need the bad stuff sometimes we need the good stuff, like with anything in life it's all about moderation. 

 

 

DO YOU HAVE ANY TIPS FOR YOGA BEGINNERS WHO ARE WANTING TO START ADDING IT TO THEIR WELLNESS ROUTINE?

To find a yoga that works for you. there is a yoga style for everyone, it's important to find one that will serve your needs and your purpose. Whether it be more restorative and resetting like Yin, or a deep meditative state and sleep enhancement style like Nidra, Or perhaps something more dynamic and movement flowing like Vinyasa, or a more rigorous and challenging style like Power yoga or Ashtanga.

Maybe this is something that changes daily or maybe there is a style that you are drawn to and it's the only style you practise. Be kind to your approach especially if you are new to yoga, set your intent, find your why, find your purpose and have realistic expectations, no one has ever turned up to their first yoga class and been able to execute advanced yoga poses straight away. It's also important to find a yoga teacher that you connect with and enjoy, there is no point in going to a class with a teacher you do not vibe with, this will just create frustration and a block for you.

 

 

I am so grateful to have yoga in my life and believe everyone can benefit from its amazing properties, I guarantee there is yoga for everyone and it is a great way to meet new people as well as finding mental clarity, develop strength and balance as well as flexibility. But, at the end of the day have fun with yoga. Yoga is meant to be enjoyed and isn't always this really heavy spiritual practice with incense and candles and everyone chanting standing on their heads (but it can be if that's what you are looking for).

It's important to remember that Yoga isn't about being able to do really cool moves and making really cool shapes and doing hard poses because yoga isn't about reaching a point, the purpose of yoga is TO DO yoga! To practice yoga, to be completely in that moment of experiencing the sensation of it.

My biggest tip is to just give it ago and I promise you will love it.

WHAT DO YOU DO BEFORE OR AFTER YOUR YOGA SESSION TO ENSURE YOU FEEL COMFORTABLE AND MAINTAIN THE BENEFITS THROUGHOUT THE DAY?

Whether I am doing my own practice or teaching a class I always try to set an intent and my approach to give myself or my students a single point of focus. I love to use incense and candles to create a space and make my practice a sensory experience. When I am teaching a class I will use music and my sequences are almost choreographed and supported by my music. When I am performing my own practice I will generally do it in silence, which is a more traditional setting. I will always give gratitude to my practice after I have concluded and will often do a 15-30 minute meditation after. I will often write down moments of reflection in my journal, I will often reach out to loved ones if they have appeared in my meditation to let them know I am thinking about them and I am grateful to have them in my life. for me it is really important to start and finish my practice with a sense of stillness and calmness and to give gratitude.

 

 

I am so grateful for what yoga has taught me and how it has helped shape me as a dancer, performer and a human being. It has really enlightened my views on the world and I carry these teachings in my heart with me everyday and make it part of my life purpose to be kind, compassionate, and loving to myself, the people around me and the world. To be open and free from judgement and above all to strive for peace, peace everlasting peace.

 



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  • How does Yoga work for a gentleman in his 80’s whose joints are less subtle? It does seem to be more for younger agile people. Thank you. Barrie

    Barrie Geens on

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