Friday, October 31, 2014

Interview with Yoga Instructor Melissa Tung

Photo permission granted by Melissa Tung

Dr. Will: What does yoga mean to you? What originally drew you to yoga?

Melissa: Yoga is balance. It can be finding balance to your crazy stressed out life, balance to the sedentary work positions we’re in all day, or balance for the vigorous gym/sport activities we do.

I started yoga in 2004 as a way to get physical exercise into my life. Before that I didn't do any kind of exercise and was really intimidated by sports and the gym. Yoga offered a really supportive environment, a group energy but a self practice.

Dr. Will: On your site you say that you "coach your journey and invite you to discover more of yourself". Would you say that yoga is a "spiritual or empowering experience? If so, how?

Melissa: Yoga is definitely empowering as it’s study of Self. When you learn more about your body, your habits, your mental state, you gain the ability to change and shape it. Yoga is NOT a religion and not necessarily spiritual. It certainly can be deep and powerful experience when the mind and body start to connect.

Photo permission granted by Melissa Tung

Dr. Will: Please describe a few of the different yoga practices, their benefits, and whether they are ideal for a particular individual or body type?

Melissa: Yoga can range from strength and core focus like a Power class, to fluid and breathe centered in Vinyasa/Flow, slow and intense like Yin or relaxed and calming in Restorative. So often people will try a class, not know what kind they did, and assume all yoga classes are the same. Even within a type, classes will again largely vary based on the instructor by how and what they lead.

In terms of what type for who, it comes down to goals/needs. The best thing to do is talk to an advisor at the studio and tell them what you’re looking for, as well as what you respond to (do you want to be pushed or soothed?). How active you are outside of yoga can influence this choice as well.

Photo permission granted by Melissa Tung

Dr. Will: Which practices do you teach? Which is your favorite and why?

Melissa: I teach many styles and often hybrids of styles depending on my audience and what’s needed. I trained in Ashtanga Vinyasa so it’s dear to me. I enjoy creating flows and sequences that progress to demonstrate pose relationships, body mechanics or just fun ways to move. I also teach Hot Yoga, Hatha, and occasionally Yin.

Dr. Will: What can your students expect from you? What are your sessions like?
Melissa: A powerful, flowing class with plenty of alignment cues and a relaxed fun atmosphere. I try to express a passionate energy that encourages students to open themselves to push their limits. My goal is for people to leave the class having been challenged and hopefully having learned or tried something new.

Photo permission granted by Melissa Tung

Dr. Will: Speaking of expectations, when considering to practice yoga, which qualities should someone look for in a yoga teacher?

Melissa: Look for someone you connect with. You enjoy their classes, their music preferences, their voice/style etc. Hopefully it’s someone you find approachable and knowledgeable too. Try different teachers (like you would yoga styles) to know first hand what you want. Our assumptions are not always correct

Dr. Will: As a yoga teacher, how are you using social media to reach out to people?

Melissa: I have a website as a central hub for my social media and most importantly, my contact and schedule. I’m on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Vimeo and most recently Instagram.

Instagram has been great for connecting with others from around the world and motivated me to do more in order to post often. My students will get a sneak peek of what I might teach in class and it offers them a gallery of stuff they can request to try in class.

I’ve had strangers see a photo and do their version of a pose then tag me which is great. All the time there are monthly Instagram yoga challenges or games where you tag people to participate, those are fun and help create community.

On my feed @melissatungyoga, I do instructional posts so people can learn or get information. It’s all my voice so you get an idea of how I cue… I’d love to meet social media friends in class one day!

backbends 1 from Melissa Tung on Vimeo.

About Melissa: Melissa Tung teaches yoga in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Join her public classes at YYoga, YogaBe and Equinox. In the summer she teaches in the park and on the lake (paddleboard yoga!) Connect with her at

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