Harmonium & Yoga
Harmonium & Yoga
Introducing Stefanie Tovar
Dallas Yoga Magazine is honored to announce Stefanie Tovar as one of our featured yoga teachers at the Cosmic Yogi Festival on Saturday, June 2nd at the Addison Conference Centre. Keep watching our website for an updated list of teachers and speakers. Let’s learn more about this incredible yogi.
DYM: How long have you lived in Dallas?
Stefanie: I have been in Dallas for about 6 years now. (Wow where did the time go?!)
DYM: Everyone has a story about how they got interested in yoga, what’s yours?
Stefanie: I began practicing Baptiste Power Yoga in 2004 while working as a Performing Artist in Boston, Massachusetts. At first, it was for the sweat and intensity of practice, but soon after a tragic event in life, Yoga became more. It became a lifeline for me and a way to honor my grief. Yoga became a way for me to let myself **be** as I was on my mat and find self-compassion and love.
DYM: I know you are a yoga teacher, what style or styles do you enjoy the most?
Stefanie: I have been teaching since 2008, but more steadily teaching since 2010. I love the practice of Vinyasa Yoga, as I feel it can help us more easily get out of our heads and into our hearts.
DYM: Share with our readers some of the best moments you had while being a yoga instructor?
Stefanie: I still remember teaching a class Christmas Eve in San Antonio…it felt like Church as we all gathered and grounded in celebrating community. I also will NEVER forget the beautiful opportunity that Jennifer Chitwood of Uptown Yoga gave me in presenting sound at One Love Yoga Dallas with none other than DJ DREZ!!!! It was my first time presenting at One Love Dallas and it was an incredibly humbling and affirming experience to work with a Yogi Sound Weaver that embodies Yoga. I was pregnant with my Luna at the time and after our collaborative offering, we were able to have lunch and talk about Bhakti Yoga, Yoga Sound, and Mindful Parenting. That mentoring experience will stay close to my heart always and I will be forever grateful to Jennifer Chitwood for extending the opportunity of what became an affirming mentorship moment with DJ Drez.
DYM: I love it that you are involved in community outreach. You are the founder of a nonprofit organization…will you tell us about Hanuman Homies and all the wonderful events you offer?
Stefanie: Hanuman Homies became a nonprofit entity this past April and focuses on offering opportunities for people to take Yoga off the mat and into the community through Yoga Outreach and Donation Drives. We offer Donation Yoga, on a monthly basis, due to the generosity of The Mat Yoga Studio and offer Yoga when needed at Fundraising and Empowerment Events for non-profits throughout DFW. We are also passionate about collaborating and in our short year have worked with Numerous communities including butnot limited to: One Love Dallas, The Mat Yoga Studio, Vital Fitness Studio, lululemon, Barre 3 Frisco, Grow Yoga Teacher Training, Jonathan’s Place, Family Gateway, Mosaic Family Services, Jade & Clover, Trusted World, and Mesquite Social Services. We also presented with fellow Yoga Outreach humans on the topic of Offering Yoga Vulnerable Communities at SXSW this year!
DYM: That sounds amazing! What motivated you to start this program?
Stefanie: The turn of events in our nation helped me open my eyes and my heart to the vulnerable people in our community. It fueled my desire to inspire action and unity over despair and separation through tangible action. We live in polarizing times. And as we continue to celebrate our free speech we can also choose to find time to unite through values of the heart. Both are so important in these challenging times.
DYM: Do you offer any events for children’s yoga?
Stefanie: Not on a regular basis at this time. We are focusing our Yoga Outreach efforts to serve youth in vulnerable communities. Right now, we regularly serve elementary school aged children in and out of foster care and CPS systems, and will soon also serve Teenaged Youth within the Dallas Metroplex. That being said… I will be offering a Kids Yoga Class at Spark! On Earth Day! More details about that will be released through my website and Facebook Page as they become available.
DYM: Let us know when you have the details and we will post it for you on our social media as well. Do you have any events coming up that you want to mention?
Stefanie: Oh yes! Hanuman Homies will hold a training for individuals who wish to bring Yoga to Vulnerable Communities May 20th from 1pm-4pm at The Mat Yoga Studio! The Mat Yoga Studio also generously hosts $5 Community Yoga for Hanuman Homies every Second Sunday of the month and in April we have LISA COYLE!!! As for myself, I am excited to present at Your Cosmic Yogi Festival in June and more events are on the horizon. I try to keep my websites and Facebook pages up to date in addition to sending out email newsletters so please connect with me via these platforms to spend time with me and the Homies!
DYM: You also play the harmonium, that is such a beautiful instrument that many people in the United States have never heard before. How and why did you choose this instrument to learn and play?
Stefanie: The harmonium is such a sacred instrument! I felt drawn to learning more about the Harmonium and Bhakti Yoga after experiencing teaching from my Bhakti Teacher Sean Johnson of Sean Johnson and the Wild Lotus Band. I had experienced Kirtan before from many other teachers, but Sean’s approach drew me into the Path and Practice. Sean leads over a week long Bhaktimmersions at his studio in New Orleans in which one would have the opportunity to work on harmonium, percussion, or stringed instruments. I learned the basics with Sean at this Immersion with a borrowed harmonium and was forever changed. Within a week I had my own harmonium and fell deeper in love with the practice.
DYM: You have an amazingly beautiful voice and sing while you play. Were you nervous when you first started singing?
Stefanie: The first time I played Savasana and sang I was at a Hot Power studio in the Frisco area. I knew that I was taking a risk by playing and offering mantra in class. A thought entered my mind that this choice could get me fired from teaching at this location, and I knew that ultimately I needed to follow my heart, despite my fear and nerves regarding my first share. The singing itself was less of a source for nerves as the harmonium is like a collaborator and partner.
DYM: How and when did you realize you had a talent to sing and chant?
Stefanie: Singing has been a true source of healing and known as a strength for me since I was little. When I practiced Kirtan with other facilitators I witnessed the healing benefits but through great containment. Sean inspires an unleashing of playful love in his Kirtans, and I finally felt like I could offer my full self to the practice with his great encouragement.
DYM: Does playing this instrument and your singing benefit your personal yoga practice?
Stefanie: Oh, it absolutely does!!! Sometimes I begin my home practice just playing the harmonium, as often times I can feel the breath in the instrument, which reminds me to find my deep breathes. My Bhakti Practice also helps me to remember that the Sacred can be realized in the present moment, and taking that awareness with me on and off the mat.
DYM: How do you incorporate the harmonium and your singing in your classes?
Stefanie: I offer harmonium and voice in Final Relaxation as there is just something about the harmonium that inspires deep breathes and relaxation. I love the opportunity to share love with the students in class with voice. I hope it helps them feel loved and held. Some students come and rest in Childs Pose most of the practice for the chance to rest in Bhakti Savasana, and I say by all means come! Please come if only for Savasana! (Smiling)
DYM: What is the main misconception people sometimes have of yoga?
Stefanie: That you need to be a certain way to practice Yoga like being thin or flexible.
DYM: What do you say to them to change their perceptions?
Stefanie: Please come to practice as you are! For me, Yoga is about acknowledging all that is without imposing shapes upon oneself as way of self-discovery and self-love. I hope for people to find permission to *be* all that they are on their mat…and fall in love with the fact that we are all perfectly imperfect.
DYM: So very true! Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers about yourself or about yoga and meditation?
Stefanie: I hope to share time and space with you all sometime soon. Whether on the mat, practicing next to you, under your guidance, or in sharing mindful sounds in person or virtually. And if my perspective and approach does not resonate with you, PLEASE continue searching! Yoga can be interpreted so many ways, so find what speaks to you.
DYM: Stefanie, thank you so very much for being a part of our magazine this month. We are so excited to have you at the Cosmic Yogi Festival in June leading a yoga class and then playing and singing. It’s a wonderful way to introduce yogis who have never heard the harmonium to something new.
More information on Stefanie Tovar:
You can find Stefanie teaching at a variety of places in the Metroplex including The Jewish Community Center in Dallas.
Hanuman Homes Non-Profit: www.StefanieTovar.com/outreach
LINKS/Ways To Connect
For Yoga and Music
Email Address: [email protected]
Web Address and Social Media Links
yoga website: stefanietovar.com
Linked In: linkedin.com/in/stefanietovar/
Shine a Light Info/EP Album
Stef on Spotify
Stef on iTunes
Stef on Amazon
For NonProfit/ Hanuman Homies
Email Address: [email protected]
Web Address and Social Media Links