Annie grew up with a mother who was a dance teacher, and her Latin American roots are an endless source of inspiration for her. “Culturally, dancing is a way for people to express themselves in most Latin American countries and I am very happy to have had this tradition passed onto me,” she says. Annie’s mother Yenny taught Latin Dance in Ecuador, and when the family moved to Clunes in Northern NSW, she taught classes in the local hall for many years. “As a kid, I loved going to ‘help’ her teach her classes and seeing how much people loved dancing and moving their bodies to beautiful music. We still make the most of any opportunity to dance together,” she says.
Annie fell into yoga after signing up for a class at her local gym in Melbourne. “I initially thought would be great to improve my flexibility as a dancer. After just a few classes, I started to notice how different I would feel afterwards, my body felt light and more energised. It was since then I became hooked,” she reflects. Annie has lived in Clunes in Northern NSW for most of her life, and it’s here she lives a sustainable, minimal lifestyle with her family.
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“My childhood was very free and wild. My family has a block of land in Clunes where all sorts of marvellous plants are grown. My most vivid memories as a kid are playing in the garden for hours on end, barefoot exploring, imagining up fantasy lands and harvesting fruit”
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You’ve lived in Clunes for most of your life – tell me about the kind of childhood you had here and what some of your most vivid memories are?
My childhood was very free and wild. My family has a decent block of land in Clunes where all sorts of marvellous plants are grown, some seasonal and some all year round. My most vivid memories as a kid are playing in the garden for hours on end, barefoot exploring, imagining up fantasy lands and harvesting fruit.
You teach yoga – tell me about how you fell into yoga and how it has changed your life?
I’ve always been very active and into sports since I was very little. Moving my body has always had a therapeutic effect on me. During my first year out of high school, I signed up to a gym right in Melbourne’s CBD. They happened to be teaching hot yoga classes there which I initially thought would be great to improve my flexible as a dancer. After just a few classes, I started to notice how different I would feel afterwards, my body felt light and more energised. It was since then I became hooked.
What are some of your favourite poses?
I have to say I’ve always loved heart-opening poses, such as wheel and camel pose, especially since they counteract the tendency to hunch and round through the back and shoulders. I also love the feeling of surrender they instil in me, a reminder to let go and let be. As long as I am living from the heart everything is beautiful.
Do you meditate too?
I do meditate almost daily, and it has completely transformed my life. At first, it was a rea challenge to sit with my thoughts which would race a million miles an hour. But, over time, my mind gradually started to still until enough space was created within me to just be, to touch base with my true essence and not just the version of reality my mind projects. I still have days where my thoughts are busy, but now I am a lot more able to observe a thought when it arises, acknowledge it and let it go. I call it the art of letting go, the art of non-attachment.
How do you practise mindfulness each day?
So, alongside my meditation practice, I love repeating positive affirmations to myself. If I am feeling some area of my life needs a boost, a little bit of TLC, I write up a list of personalised affirmations and repeat these to myself when it feels needed. I am a firm believer in re-wiring the subconscious mind to work with us, as opposed to against us, in every stream of our lives. If you believe it so it is.
What do you think about the biggest misconceptions around yoga?
I feel a lot of people may be unaware that the physical aspect of yoga, that is the poses or ‘asanas’ if you will, is simply a method for preparing the body to be supple enough to sit and meditate for prolonged periods of time. The poses are just one of many techniques of yoga, such as breathwork, repeating mantras and meditation, which serves to still and centre the mind and the senses.
Your mother was a dance teacher in Ecuador – was dance always part of your life growing up? Do you still dance together?
Dance has always been a part of my life since I was little. Culturally, dancing is a way for people to express themselves in most Latin American countries and I am very happy to have had this tradition passed onto me. My mother taught Latin Dance in Ecuador and when we moved to Australia, she taught classes here in the Clunes hall for some years. As a kid, I loved going to ‘help’ her teach her classes and seeing how much people loved dancing and moving their bodies to beautiful music. We still make the most of any opportunity to dance together.
What did your mother teach you about self-confidence?
I learnt a lot about self-confidence from my mother, especially in my adolescent years. For her to have left her entire family in Ecuador and moved to Australia with my father, two young kids and a baby in tow, that takes a lot of courage. I admire how strong and resilient my mother is, and also how kind, loving and generous she is with everyone. She has taught me to love my quirks and differences and embrace what sets me apart as being beautiful.
What did your mother teach you about criticism?
She has taught me to not pay it much mind or expend energy dwelling in it. People will always have an opinion and it is your own opinion and choices that you have to live with at the end of the day. As long as I am doing what makes me happy then that is all that matters.
Tell me about your African roots and how they’ve influenced the person you are today?
Well, I don’t know where my ancestors originated from in Africa, only that they were brought over to the border of Colombia and Ecuador as free people and settled mainly on the coastal regions of these countries. But I know the strength, passion and enthusiasm I have for life originates from my African roots. I will also say my sense of rhythm and love for dancing stems from here too.
What do you love most about African culture?
I love the dance and music culture which has originated from Africa. Movement and sound are such powerful forces and I am so proud to have this passed onto me through my Afro-heritage.
And what do you love most about Ecuador?
I love the diversity of landscapes from the tropical coast, Andes mountain range, Amazon rainforest to the Galapagos Islands. Ecuador truly is a treasure. I also love the big beautiful family I have over there, who are so loving and generous and always make me feel at home.
There’s a lot of information around anti-racism – what messages do you want to see get real visibility?
I would love to see racial stereotyping being broken down and more people waking up to the fact that we are so much more than physical appearances, for us to look beyond the colour of skin and acknowledge the humanity we all share as children of this earth.
What changes do you want to see come out of the #blacklivesmatter movement?
I would love to see more appreciation and recognition of black culture, whether that be here in Australia or overseas. If more art, music, language, history, storytelling, knowledge of the land and other cultural traditions were included more into the mainstream then I feel like this would generate more acceptance and understanding and reduce the amount of ignorance and misleading truths surrounding Indigenous and Afro culture.
Tell me about your relationship with your mother and how she inspires you?
She is my rock and my best friend. She inspires me to be a loving, kind and generous soul. To follow my dreams and passions with fire and never let anyone or anything hold me back from accomplishing my hearts desires.
What has she taught you about life?
She has taught me to be resilient and to be strong in the face of adversity.
You live a very sustainable life – tell me about how you live in a sustainable way and some of your practises?
It was by default that I grew up this way. My father, being right into permaculture and sustainability practices, decided to incorporate these systems into our livelihood when we built our first house. He grows a lot of our own food, we have rainwater tanks, use solar panels and a composting toilet. I love living this way, so eco-friendly, it just feels right, and I couldn’t imagine it any other way.
You have a composting toilet – tell me about how this is better for the environment?
Well as it uses no water, it is a lot better for the environment. Think about how much clean, drinking water is wasted from constantly flushing toilets. Considering we are on the verge of a global water crisis it just seems so unnecessary in this day and age to be using water in this way.
How do you approach food – are you vegan/vegetarian? What kind of food do you eat?
I eat mostly vegan, but I am flexible with this. Since I started cooking for myself, I have always gravitated towards plant-based wholefoods. I also LOVE fruit. My body feels at its best when I eat this way, not to mention I see it is a more sustainable and conscious choice for the animals and the planet.
What fashion brands do you like to wear – what’s your approach to fashion?
I guess the term ‘slow fashion’ is the one I’d most align with. I’m also very minimalist with my wardrobe and rarely buy anything new. Most of the clothing I have is second hand and if it is new then I make sure to buy clothing that is sustainably made and if I can, made in Australia.