Tens of thousands people took part in mass yoga sessions to mark the first ever International Day of Yoga today. More than 35,000 people in the Indian city of New Delhi have attempted to set a world record for the single biggest ever yoga classes held at one venue. A similar feat is expected to take place in New York’s Times Square.
Here in London free classes have been held at the Southbank and Alexandra Palace. Brixton Blog recently caught up with a talented actress who currently combines a busy career on stage, screen and radio with life as a certified Vinyasa Flow Yoga instructor.
Nina Toussaint-White is a former star of BBC1’s Eastenders and Holby City and the founder of Clapham-based YogaSaint. Nina believes yoga has a lot to offer to young actors and individuals looking for ways to centre themselves or manage their ‘mind chatter’. Here the Brixton-based actress, who is due to star in the Etienne Sisters at the Theatre Royal Stratford, discusses her experience on Eastenders and how yoga has influenced her life as an actor.
“I’ve had a very successful acting career but there have been lull periods in between different jobs. My role on Eastenders (as Syd Chambers, a girlfriend of the deceased character Bradley Branning) was perhaps the most challenging role I’ve worked on to date. It was a huge job at a very young age dealing with the way your life changes and people starting to recognise you when you are out and about.
“People working on the show were wonderful to be around, but it was so fast-paced that unless you had a role as part of one of the main families on the show you didn’t really have anyone to talk to. Some cast members who were part of a family of characters would form strong bonds as groups.
“People were lovely but because things were so busy I occasionally found it lonely on the job. There were times when I found the mind chatter or anxiety taking over. Rather than worry about the acting I would start to worry about whether I was liked. Because it was such a big show and I had literally just come out of drama school it was a big deal. So I think at that moment in time yoga would have been a massive help.
“I’ve been practicing yoga for eight years mainly for its physical benefits. Since hitting the age of 29 it’s become more than a form of exercise. Last year I went to India and had an incredible experience. Yoga has become an integral part of my life. So much so that when I turned 29 I decided I to become an instructor and headed to Bali to train there. Since then I’ve been developing YogaSaint slowly and I’ve started holding classes here in this beautiful space known as the Synchronicity Studios. I practice a style of yoga known as Vinyasa Flow. When I went to Bali I trained with 33 yogis who had been studying Vinyasa for years. It’s all about the asanas (better known as yoga poses) blending together almost like a dance.
“I want to provide people who come to YogaSaint with this fusion and run sessions that can work for anyone. I want classes that work like an arc, starting with calming centring poses before moving into warm-ups, back bends and sit-ups. I want people to have options of taking on a mix of easy and challenging poses.
“I’ve also developed yoga sessions for actors because as an actress I believe yoga can benefit people who work in the industry. In drama school you might have people who criticise your every move because you are learning how to shed layers of yourself in order to become a good actor.
“You can be wrapped up in cotton wool in drama school and then you go back into the real world and it be a shock to the system. The amount of ‘no’ responses you get can either make you thick-skinned or it can push you to give-up. I know a lot of people who have done this because they can’t cope with the rejection. Yoga can be wonderful, spiritual way of helping to manage this. For me it’s been amazing to use it as a mind tool in acting as well as everyday life.
So how does someone who might end up doing long stints performing on stage or screen, combine this with life as a yoga instructor?
“So far because it’s been a fairly quiet period acting wise and everything has been about yoga. But I do know that things can be like a rollercoaster with my acting life and I’m due to star in the Etienne Sisters at the Theatre Royal in September. Fortunately I know so many lovely instructors and wonderful experts who helped me when I trained in Bali. We’re like a little team.
“So when things get busier with my acting, so long as I’m overseeing the running of YogaSaint I can turn to them for support. I was in Bali for three weeks and it was an amazing, intensive experience. We were in a remote location and I didn’t really see that much of the island, as everything was focused solely on training. We had two half-days off and one whole day where we went up a mountain. It was strange because whilst I was there, I received calls about six auditions for acting roles.
“It reminded me of that saying ‘when you wait for one bus six come along at once’. I got on the phone to my agent because I wasn’t sure I could do it all. In the end it all worked out. For me it’s going to be a balance of combining my work on the Etienne Sisters with my work as a yoga instructor. I’ll run my evening classes during the rehearsal period, and when the show goes on tour I can run my day sessions. Teaching yoga is a spiritual way of doing good for people. I would urge anyone who is curious about yoga and its benefits to take it up.”
To find more about YogaSaint visit http://yogasaint.squarespace.com or follow @yogasaint_ on Instagram.