Taryn Strong is a Yoga for Recovery teacher and host of numerous women’s retreats across Western Canada & Mexico. Learn how she found her soul purpose and her tips to help you find yours!
Can you tell us a little bit about who you are and what you do right now?
Yeah, my name is Taryn. I live in Victoria, British Columbia. I am a yoga instructor here in town. I am really lucky. I teach some classes around town, some drop-in classes. I also hosts retreats around town mainly in British Columbia, Alberta, as well as in Mexico.
My specialty is yoga for recovery, so I specialize in people that are looking for some extra tools and using yoga as a tool to complement their recovery from either addiction to substances or behaviours. I also have a specialty in trauma-sensitive yoga, so people that are recovering from trauma whether physical or emotional or mental, that as well. I am also very lucky and very grateful to have a job in a medical aesthetics clinic. So that’s a little bit of everything.
What do the words “Soul Purpose” mean to you? How would you define that?
I love “Soul Purpose.” I haven’t heard of that term before until you have mentioned it. I think soul purpose is what we are on this earth to do. It’s what we were born to do. It’s our calling. It’s why we’re here. It’s our purpose.
Do you know what your purpose is?
I am so lucky that I do know what my purpose is. It is teaching yoga. I have been fortunate enough to know that for about 10 years now. I was really lucky to learn that really, really young. Every year and even every yoga class that I teach keeps confirming that “Yes, this is my purpose. Keep going. This is what I am supposed to be doing.”
Do you think that everybody has a soul purpose?
I do think that everybody has a soul purpose. I don’t think that everybody discovers what their soul purpose is. I think maybe some people do know what their soul purpose is but they’re just not interested in pursuing it.
Some people are very content, which is great. They are happy doing that. I do think other people just have different paths that they’re on, where they don’t discover it.
To answer your question, I think everybody does. It doesn’t have to be something really profound either. It doesn’t have to be their job. I think that somebody’s soul purpose could be something really, really simple, whereas other people’s soul purpose might be something a little more in depth.
Can you explain to us what your process was around discovering your soul purpose? How did that come about for you?
When I was in high school and after high school, I decided I wanted to be a make-up artist. So I went to make-up school and I was really lucky to get a job and manage a multi-billion dollar makeup and cosmetics counter for many years.
During that time, I discovered yoga and I found myself. I started teaching it as well. I found myself at my day-job helping people feel really good about themselves on the outside, which was great. It was very rewarding.
With yoga though, I was helping people feel amazing, confident, and just truly spectacular from the inside-out. I just discovered that made my soul sing. Like my soul purpose was helping people discover how amazing, beautiful, and wonderful they are through yoga and through more of a spiritual practice versus cosmetics.
Do you think, in terms of your purpose, you’re living it? How do you know?
Good question. I am very lucky to be living my purpose. I know because every time I’m in a yoga studio, whether I’m taking a class or teaching a class, mainly when I’m teaching a class of course, I know that’s exactly where I am supposed to be every single time.
I can’t even explain it. It’s like an out-of-body experience where I just feel truly mindful and truly present. I just have this calm and this confidence that this is where I am supposed to be in that particular moment. There is nothing else I’m supposed to be doing. This is it.
It’s amazing, really great.
How would you describe your opinion on the relationship between your purpose and one’s finances? Do you believe that we have to choose between money and passion? What is your perspective on that?
Good question. I don’t think we have to choose. I don’t think that everybody’s soul purpose has to be linked to their job or their career. I think for some people their soul purpose can be on a volunteer-basis or being a parent or a dog owner or anything like that.
So I don’t think we have to choose between them. I think if you do decide and if your soul purpose is something that will be related to a career, I do think that you have to be really, really dedicated to your soul purpose, because perhaps the money doesn’t come in right away. There is that cliché—what is it? “Do what you love and the money follows,” or something like that. I think that you really have to remind yourself of that and hopefully, because you are so passionate about your soul purpose, it doesn’t feel like work.
So if you’re working a full-time job and putting in all these extra hours towards your soul purpose to make it your career, why not? Hopefully it’s something that you can stay excited about. Try not to burnout, which I have done many, many times and I’m learning not to do that.
But some people might just be content with it, not having to do anything with finances and not making any money, and that’s great.
Can you describe a decision that you made in the past that got you on course to finding your purpose and one that you would make again?
I think probably the decision to just follow my heart and keep going, when I started falling in love with yoga and deciding that I wanted to teach. I had this thought and I had this feeling because I have grown up with parents in recovery, that yoga would be this amazing tool for people in recovery.
I talked to lot of different people about it and they all were like, “No, I don’t get it. That’s a bad idea. It doesn’t make any sense.” So there were actually several times where I was like, “Oh yeah, they’re right. That doesn’t make any sense.”
I took a lot of yoga for business courses that talked about finding niche. So I tried to find different niches that might be a little more consumer-friendly, a little trendier yoga and it just didn’t fit. It didn’t feel right. It just wasn’t working at all.
So I finally again came back to the concept of yoga for recovery and doing my own research. I realized that it was something that I was going to have to put in the work to pioneer, because it is quite an underground concept. I made the decision that
“I don’t care if nobody has heard of this. I don’t care if people think I’m crazy. If they don’t understand it, then I’m going to make them understand by just doing it, teaching it and by showing people the benefits through myself and through the students.”
So that was a decision to not listen to what other people were saying and I would do it over again a million times for sure.
Overall, did you feel supported or encouraged or discouraged by your community as a whole while you’re pursuing your purpose?
Yeah. When I decided to pursue yoga being a yoga teacher, I was very encouraged and very supported, which was really comforting. When you decide to do something and people say “Yeah, I could see you doing that, that’s great,” that was wonderful.
But then, as I mentioned, when I was playing around the concept of yoga for recovery, people just didn’t get it. So there wasn’t much support there. But then luckily, a few years after the trying different of niches and none of them feeling right or working for me because they weren’t true or authentic to myself, I did have the support of my #1 fan, who is my mother and continues to be my #1 fan. If it wasn’t for her, I truly wouldn’t be where I am with my yoga for recovery today.
Since then though, having that initial support from my mom, I have so much encouragement and support from all sorts of people, all over and I’m really, really lucky. That’s what keeps me going too.
Can you give us an overview of some of the obstacles that you faced, beyond some people thinking that you’re crazy, in terms of your transition into your niche and your purpose? What were the tough times like?
I would say the biggest obstacle was myself, my fear and lack of confidence.
I always would question myself “Who do I think I am?” because at that time I was this young girl, early to mid-20s. I thought “Who do I think I am to be a yoga teacher, a successful yoga teacher?” because there are a lot of yoga teachers. Let’s face it, especially in Victoria. It’s a very, very saturated market. So I always struggled with the question of “Who do I think I am? I don’t have anything to offer. What are these people—they’re not going to want to listen to this little punk. What do I think, right?”
So that was my biggest obstacle, knowing deep, deep, deep, deep down inside that this was my soul purpose and that this is what I’m supposed to be doing. No doubt about that. Yet at the same time, having no confidence in it whatsoever and all thinking I wasn’t good enough.
So that was the biggest challenge. Then it was the encouragement and the support of my yoga students, family and friends that have helped me overcome that through their support.
I just was so scared. Then people started coming back to my yoga classes and yoga classes grew. Then I started doing retreats and people started coming back to retreats. I was just like, “Okay, this is the thing. This is great.”
What were some of the tools that you utilized to deal with tough times on an emotional level? I guess the concept of having external encouragement of course would be helpful to overcome obstacles, but what would be your internal resources or processes into the emotional kind of internal fears and stuff?
Well, this won’t come as a surprise, but yoga was the tool of course. Just trying to remember to practice what I preach as much as I could. Just practice yoga as much as I could and meditate as much as I could.
My family and friends tease me, I only teach—I only read a part-of-me, self-help and spiritual books and only watch documentaries like that, I rarely watched real documentaries. But those really, really helped me to peel away the layers, to just stay really focused and to just stay really strong emotionally so that I could stay dedicated and focused to what I was doing.
There were many, many times where I wanted to give up. In the beginning, there weren’t any yoga students coming except my mom. That was really, really hard because, like I said before, I knew that yoga for recovery is the thing. It’s going to help so many people. But week after week, it was me and my mom.
So I just tried to stay as grounded as I could by yoga, meditation, reading, etc. We live in a beautiful place so lots of time in nature as well is very helpful.
What’s different about you now that you’re living in your purpose, versus who you were when you weren’t?
I just feel like I can be myself. I feel comfortable in my own skin. I think that finding your purpose and living your authentic life is—I am so grateful that I’m able to do that. I just have this confidence now.
Like I said before—I feel like I’m repeating myself—just to be myself, whereas before I was trying to be like other yoga teachers and trying to fit in that world that is full of yoga teachers and that just wasn’t me. People didn’t want that anyway.
So now I’ve gotten permission from others to be myself as a person and as a yoga instructor. Because of that, I have given myself permission, which is a really huge thing.
Because I was a girl in my teens and 20s with no self-esteem, I didn’t feel like it was a wise idea to be my authentic self because my authentic self wasn’t good enough. So to finally feel really comfortable in my skin, it’s really—I just feel so relaxed, really strong, focused and dedicated more than ever.
How has the impact that you’ve had on the world changed since you’ve been living your purpose?
Well, I am lucky with my yoga teaching that I get to help not only mainly women. My yoga retreats are for women in recovery but I also have men that come to my classes.
I am so lucky to be a conduit that helps them. I just guide them. They do the work but I just guide them and help them peel away the layers to find their authentic true selves and to do the spiritual work that they want to do, so that they can be as shiny and as vibrant as possible.
I try to make sure that every yoga class I teach—even if it’s just a one hour drop-in class, I try to make it as life-changing as I can or just as inspiring as I can. So that people before and after class just leave feeling of strong, balanced and grounded and just so much better not only physically but mentally with open bodies and open hearts.
That’s my intention every class. Sure, you win some, you lose some. Sure that doesn’t happen every class but I try.
I love to see people after class, the change in them, and see them leave the studio or leave the retreat just so much more ready to face whatever they’re facing.
What would you prescribe as ingredients for people who are seeking their own purpose right now? What would you recommend that they look at or start taking on through habits or things like that?
I think that one thing that they should do is listen to their heart and not listen to other people.
Don’t listen to the ‘shoulds.’ Let’s get rid of the word ‘should’. What society thinks you should do, what your parents think you should do, what whoever thinks you should do, ignore it. It doesn’t matter. Get rid of it. I think we all know deep down inside what it is that we would want to do, what our soul purpose might be. So if you think you have a lead on what your soul purpose is, follow it, try it out. It either works or doesn’t.
I think for us to be able to really listen, we have to meditate. I think yoga really helps as well so that we can quiet the mind. I always say that in class. Quiet the mind chatter, so that you can truly deeply listen to what your heart is trying to tell you or what your soul is trying to tell you your purpose is.
I think, don’t stress. You don’t have to figure it out today. It could happen 10…20…30 years. Like I said, you might not ever know if you figured it out. But don’t put pressure on yourself to try to make it really, really profound because it could be something really, really simple.
So tools: just meditate, listen to your heart, eat healthy meals, get lots of rest, spend time in nature and do lots of yoga.
If anybody wants to take your yoga class, how would they find you?
Yeah, I have a website tarynstrong.com, which is t-a-r-y-n and then strong.com. My schedules are on there. I do drop-in classes around Victoria and I also offer retreats across Canada and Mexico at the moment. So I would love to see you either in class or at a retreat. That would be wonderful.