Vanessa Racinet is a world traveler, a neighborhood resident, and an instructor at Yoga Garden on Divisadero. Originally from Carlsberg, Germany, she has lived in San Francisco for the past five years, and in our area for the past three, after traveling the globe for about a year.
She’s also trained as an Occupational Therapist, and sees yoga as a unique way to blend her two passions. We caught up with her over a cup of tea and chatted about her practice and philosophy on life in general.
Why did you move to San Francisco?
“Because of the city itself. San Francisco was my first destination on my travel-around-the-world ticket. It was also my first destination because I did my yoga teacher training here. The minute I stepped into the city, it felt like home. I then traveled around America, Canada, Central America, South America, Australia, and Asia. Then I came back to Germany but I missed San Francisco so much I decided to come back and give it a shot.”
How long have you been practicing yoga? How did you get into it in the first place?
"So I did the training eight years ago before my travels, and then every time I’d run out of money, I’d teach yoga. I was also teaching while I lived in Australia for three months. I got into it originally when I was back in Germany, living in a little town called Kaiserlautern when I was 18.
"I was training to be an Occupational Therapist and I was so stressed during finals that a classmate told me I should do yoga. I hated my first class and never thought I would do it again. Then I moved to Frankfurt for my first OT job and I tried it again, and I got really hooked on a studio and started doing it on a regular basis. After that I went to travel and did my teacher training in San Francisco.”
Are you still an Occupational Therapist?
“I don’t work as one currently, but I’m still trained. Back in Germany I was working with mentally ill people—people with depression and schizophrenia. While I did that, I automatically integrated breathing techniques I learned from yoga when people were having a meltdown. That’s when I got the idea to combine Occupational Therapy with yoga. OT is all about helping people with disabilities, physical or mental, find there way back into society. Yoga fits in because if you have a physical or mental disability, they both influence the other and yoga can help you with those kinds of disabilities and stresses, to be more present and to have better functionality in life.”
Tell us about what you do at Yoga Garden.
“I’ve been there for two years now, and before that I worked at Equinox. I teach Vinyasa and Hatha. I’m currently teaching six days a week. But I also teach private lessons and do corporate. For all my classes, I integrate my knowledge from my OT training and yoga therapy training. I want to prevent injuries in my class, so I give very detailed directions and information, and I always give adjustments while I still lead a vigorous practice.”
Do you have a general philosophy behind teaching yoga?
“My philosophy is that we should adapt “India Yoga” to “Nowadays Yoga”, where we integrate all the facts about the culture that we live in. It's fast-paced, with tons of technical distractions, people are mostly sitting all day, not moving around, leading unhealthy diets or lifestyles. I want to take all of that and create a healthy, safe, and challenging practice.
"Yoga was invented in India by men who lived mostly in ashrams, living very healthy, and having no distractions. Because we live in a different culture, it’s not possible for us to just shut everything down and out. We need to take account for that difference. In the same way, there are differences between the female and male skeleton, and we have to take that into consideration.”
So what, specifically, are you doing in your classes to promote this philosophy?
“I tailor my classes to whatever the students need. I always give options to make it easier or to step it up a bit.”
Do you think that yoga’s rise in modern popular culture has somehow hurt its original intention?
“No, because I think it’s whatever we make of it. What you make of it as a teacher and what you make out of it as a student. I have encountered many different studios, and I only saw a couple studios where they were really overbearing and putting people in danger because they expected different poses from students, but their physical ability wasn’t even close to it.”
That said, what are your feelings on beginners taking Bikram Yoga?
“You know what? I only took it once and it wasn’t for me. But everyone has to decide what styles they like, and that’s what I think is good about having so many different styles.”
At the end of the day, why do you do yoga, personally?
“I love the way it makes me feel. I feel more grounded, I feel more focused, I feel happy and connected with myself and the world.”
If you are interested in a private lesson, or a business looking for group services, you can contact Vanessa through her website. To join a group class, head on over the Yoga Garden's website for class schedules and more.
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