Owned and run by Nancy Volante, Imagine Yoga is a sanctuary for wellness-based in Ridgefield, CT that provides online and in-studio yoga classes, reiki therapy, meditation sessions, and playshops. Nancy opened the wellness studio to share and care for what she loves – asana, movement, meditation, conversation, and building community through the creative process. Today on the podcast, she opens up to Tesa Baum about the zigzags she had to go through to manifest her life transformation, healing, and cleansing from chaos to structure.
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From Chaos To Structure With Nancy Volante
I’m going to be speaking with Nancy Volante. Nancy has an MFA in interdisciplinary arts. She’s a Certified Movement Specialist and yoga teacher. She opens Imagine Yoga to share and care for what she loves, movement, meditation, conversation and building community through the creative process. She loves to cook, travel, garden and spend time with her family while she’s always maintaining her personal yoga practice and education. I’m looking forward for you to read her most impactful zigzag story. Welcome, Nancy.
Tesa, how are you?
I’m great. How are you?
I’m happy you’re on and I’m excited to hear the story you would like to share. I’m curious if you want to share your most impactful zigzag story with us or anything that comes from the heart.
It’s funny because I try to, in these situations or anything that for me is creative, to be intuitive about it. I didn’t know what I was going to share. I had no idea, but before we came out, I went and got my glasses at the eye doctor with my husband. I don’t even know what brought it up, but I started to tell him in my late twenties I was living up in Woodstock. I was professionally dancing at that time. I met this woman who was working with a Native American medicine man. Somehow, we started talking. I can’t remember because it’s been long, but I ended up going there Thursday through Saturday and being part of this healing center, which I learned so much. It was great. I dance in New York during the week and then I’d be up there on the weekend fulfilling this hole that I’ve always had for energy, for healing and for things that are unseen.
Here’s the zigzag about it. I was up there and I met this woman who worked in Hudson and she had a facility for children with disabilities. That was the full scope of autism, mentally, physically, emotionally challenged, the whole thing. She was a physical therapist and we met and this was in Hudson, New York. She said, “I’d love for you to come to the center and teach the children some dance.” I said, “That’d be great.” I went there. I had no idea what to expect. Tesa, I never worked with this population ever, but I’ve been always drawn in my life to working in different communities with different populations so I just did.
I went in and there was a big group of children there and I started to do my thing and it was so powerful, their energies, particularly the children that I was working with that had autism. I knew nothing about it. I was 28 or 29. They pulled me into their world. It was incredibly powerful. It was a whole other space and energetic. When it was over, I was ungrounded, in another place. The woman came up to me and she said, “I can’t have you back. We want to take the children out of their world and you brought them more.”
You related and connected to them well, you let them lead.
I left. I got into my car, I got so lost, and it took me forever to get back to Woodstock. I was taken aback by the whole thing like, “How could I have something that I wasn’t trained to do?” I said, “I’m never going to work with this population again.” When I was 45, I was a teaching artist in New York City, the zigzag and, I have been teaching for years, teaching dance and theater. I got hired by an artistic organization and met this woman, Jennifer Rein. She said, “Nancy, have you ever worked with special ed?” I said, “No. I don’t have any training.”
It was a grant. She said, “We’re creating the curriculum. I’d love to have you.” I said, “Okay.” She gave me a class that week and she goes, “Pick out some materials from the closet that you would like and go.” This was in the Bronx. I picked out two rolls of tape. Two rolls of colored painting tape. It was either blue or yellow or blue and green. I can’t remember exactly the colors. This was a middle school of children with autism. I walked in, I sat down and I listened to the teacher. I’m 45 so I’ve been through a lot of stuff going on. There were only six children because that’s how it was. I sat down and two rolls of tape. We created tape maps. I started creating like, “Let’s put a line here.” We would walk on it, we would dance through it. Long story short, I went back and we had a meeting with my colleagues and I said, “I picked these two tapes and we made tape maps.” They were like, “What?” It became part of the curriculum.
They were blown away by how smart this was. You were given the opportunity again. In hindsight, do you feel that you originally did it right? My first impression was you got it right the first time and it was someone else doubting you.
That’s the journey. It was somebody else doubting me and I connected into that doubt.
I pretty much feel that that was a test because you were young and impressionable and you felt that everyone else had the answers, but because you were in tune with the energy, they should have given you another chance. Even if they objectively looked at this is not going anywhere, you knew that you felt the connection with them. Is that true? You did feel you have that.
You needed the validation, so twenty years later, you were given a second chance, the wiser, more mature you. If you could say anything to your younger self now, what would that be?
I would say thank you for taking that risk. The lesson and the learning is, we doubt ourselves and we doubt ourselves from what the outside world is saying. I was young and impressionable, but those long years in between, I ended up working and being a curriculum writer for this particular grant called Everyday Arts for Education. I worked on it for fifteen years and I and my colleagues train thousands of teachers to bring the arts into special ed. We teach people that one shoe doesn’t fit all. We wanted to give the special ed community and the teachers that were teaching the special ed community a chance for both of them to have a voice and to take these children for who they are. Also, in understanding who they are, teaching them some skills to be part of this world.
It seems that you were leading in the most beautiful way. Especially when you are younger, you listened. It’s like you learn I’m the zigzag. Yes, you should listen, but the biggest thing to listen to is yourself. It’s your own intuition. I know it brought back a memory for me when you were talking about how you were in tune with the kids. I was in a group for many years. It was a spiritual group, a Kabbalah group. We’ve always explored different exercises. It was energetic exercises and there was such a significant experience that it’s bringing back a memory because you always are open and in tune with energy, but we were testing out how open we are.
We paired off with people in the room and none of us at that point knew one another. It was a stranger that I was partnering with. Do you know that old-time exercise, the mirroring? We were mirroring the energy of the other. There was a person that was in the receptive mode and there was a person that was the giver. At first, I was the person receiving the person’s energy. The question was, what are you receiving from the person’s inside? Not what they project out to the world, not the personality, but what do they feel inside?
That was the exercise. I began moving to the right. First, I touched my stomach and then I touched my heart. I intuitively knew to touch those areas. I was moving to the right and then I was moving again to the right. I found myself spinning. It relates to your story with dance and movement. I felt myself I was going with the energy and I was spinning. At the end of the exercise, my partner shared with me that at first she was thinking in her mind, “I wish I could get pregnant.” The second thing she said to herself was, “My mother-in-law is driving me crazy.” She began singing Ring Around the Rosie. That’s when I was spinning. On the outside, people had no idea what we were doing but we were linked. We were in tune with one another. We were doing a dance. That’s clearly what you were doing with these kids. That person didn’t know how in tune you were.
[bctt tweet=”One shoe doesn’t fit all.” via=”no”]
I didn’t even know if I was in tune enough, but it’s amazing that you bring that story up because that’s exactly what we were doing, the mirror game. It was all about hands. I’m going to hold my hands up. This is the dance we were doing in a circle. We were on our bellies in a circle and we were all facing inward with our head and our hands were here. One of the children must have started this. Children will do this in order to regulate.
If we’re all moving our fingers, it feels good.
That’s what the physical therapist was jumping out of her skin. “What is she doing?” She’s doing what they always do.
She didn’t know. A lot of times people follow a structure and more creatives, we go with nature. It’s not always a definitive way to do things. It’s listening and that’s the way nature works.
Out of that, in retrospect, the work that I did for fifteen years with children with profound disabilities, this was part of a pose that I put up on my Instagram, a pigeon. It’s where you meet yourself. When you’re working with people, it’s like, how do we meet each other where we are? We can authentically move from there. I didn’t give myself a chance to explain to her because I didn’t know I was being guided. Give a little bit more patience and chance for structure maybe to come out of that because structure will always come out of chaos. She thought it was chaos, but chaos is a beautiful thing.
It may look like it’s chaos, but things sometimes have to start moving. If it’s moving and then a form and a structure come out of it, I think it’s the creative expression. I love that you have your dance background because it’s such a beautiful way to look at everything because we need movement, especially now in this world. Many people feel so frozen and stuck in time. That’s what I was drawn to during COVID. It was moving myself more, doing more cardio and jumping up and down, and not feeling so still. In terms of my exercise, I did a lot of Pilates and stretching, and that’s what I was drawn to for years. It felt great. The minute I was quarantined, I felt that I wanted to move my body. It’s interesting.
That’s why I love talking to you, Tesa, because it does zigzag. Now I understand why I brought this up. The zigzag to that is you do all this movement and you come into a form and it’s different throughout your life. This is the culmination of the story. I own Imagine Yoga. I’ve always done yoga, but I don’t consider myself 100% yogi because I’m a mover, a dancer and an artist that does yoga. When this beautiful studio fell in my lap, that’s another story. I was like, “This is a yoga studio.” This is part of me. I don’t talk astrology too much, but I do have that part of structure in me. It’s a yoga studio, so it’s yoga. It didn’t fit me 100%. I had to break out of the boundaries and you helped me. Yoga is movement. You have to be who you are.
When I was a kid, I was never a dancer, but I took lessons all the time and I always loved modern dance. I found that to be more of a free movement. I want that more than the structured ballet or tap. I always loved that feeling of openness and the expression of the body moving where it needs to go. The zigzag is the intuitive path. “This feels right so I’m going to go where it feels right. If this feels wrong, I’m going to go somewhere else.”
It’s always food for living. We always say food for thought, I want to say food for living. When I said chaos and there’s always structure that comes out of chaos, that’s the reverse too. We can be structured and then chaos comes out of that because as a dancer, I studied ballet for years. That was my structure that I needed to do in order to break free.
We always need the feeling of education or the base and the foundation.
What I was getting to where I am now post-COVID. We’re not post-COVID. What I meant by that post-COVID is where I’m at in my zag.
I love that you’re saying that you’re either zigging or zagging. How do you feel the zig and zag? I feel the zig is more of the movement and the zag could be the pause.
We talked about that when we were in the midst of this transformation that’s still happening. I needed to find structure because I had a lot of things happen. My father passed away. A lot of endings. I was like, “It’s yoga,” but I’m not 100% yoga. When I had talked to you and I talked to my husband, because my body was talking to me. He said, “Nancy, you’re too tight. You’re holding everything in.” There’s my zag, but I zagged it. As I started to let go, or I’m going to use this other phrase, I had cranial sacral healing and it was all about dissolving into yourself.
It wasn’t about how we use the word all the time surrender, letting go, because that happens over and over again, but we can use it in our head. This is what I got from that healing. What is it like to dissolve into yourself? I felt that for the first time ever in my life. How do you dissolve into yourself? That’s when I began to feel like, “It’s okay.” It’s okay to bring who you are without appropriating anything to another movement.
That’s the pivoting and shifting. We’re always shifting. We’re always going in another angle. I like the image of dissolving into yourself. I love that because that’s a different type of release.
I respect yoga. I respect everybody that teaches anything traditional. I changed the name to Mindful Flow & Movement. It could be more of who I am. This is the zig and zag. The zig from that 28 years old, which is the Saturn return, I have to say. I’m zigzagging and hitting many zags. These seven months of transformation and healing and cleansing was a big zag.
Most people felt that. It was a mass consciousness of let’s put the world on pause. In different parts of the world, everyone had different rules and regulations. Here where we are in Connecticut, luckily we had a little more movement. We were able to go outside because the weather was nice. Also, our numbers have been low. It’s interesting to see everything unfold and to see how we feel personally and how we are much forced to change our ways.
That’s where I am now because I respect the way my last zig happened, the studio coming too. I never asked for it. I never thought I would want a studio because it’s structure. I had to learn how to move within that structure without getting caught in it. Now I’m starting to zig.
You’re zigging and you’re going with the dance, which I love, but I think it’s also respecting that’s happening and reflecting on those earlier days. That moment in your life you didn’t want to acknowledge. It was shame in a sense because you were let go. If you’re now coming to terms with it like, “I was onto something.” I was asking, looking at how you had the grant and people were listening to you and you did have the recognition from the outside to be proud and say, “Yes, I’m doing this.” Wouldn’t it be nice to say, “I tried it originally and it didn’t work,” just to be transparent in life? Anyone listening and any feeling of shame that may come up because you were rejected or let go and fired, and you made a mistake. I don’t think there are any mistakes.
It’s hard to think that in the moment, and that’s why life is the zig and the zag.
That feeling of that divine flow when it’s happening. I told you, we always have these magical days. Often when you and I speak, we have like, “Everything is flowing.” I had a couple of coincidences happen in the morning where I was feeling great. Everything seems to click. There were people’s names that came into my mind. I met them one after another. Everything began to transpire the way I thought it was that day. It was an interesting day. I knew because everything was going so easily and smoothly that day that anything that happens was part of it. Any mistake that happened, I knew that I was divinely guided. If we could live that way, we don’t always have that realization that it’s all supposed to be the way it is. It’s remembering again and again. Sometimes it’s obvious and everything seems to go gracefully, but when it’s not going gracefully, trust that intuitive pull that we have, that zigzag, because we are divinely guided.
[bctt tweet=”Structure will always come out of chaos.” via=”no”]
It’s easily lost sometimes when we get to the emotional lens of either shame or rejection. We come in with things that we get triggered and nobody likes to be rejected. Somebody said to me once or I read it, “Rejection is the universe holding you safely.”
I also think it’s our core feelings about ourselves, our beliefs, it’s on the outside. If you feel that you’re not great at something, then it’s going to be reflected on the outside. It’s your core belief about everything. You felt like a novice, and I’m going back to your original story. You were a little bit embarrassed. You’ve never done this before. You were afraid to get it wrong. That person reflected that feeling on the outside to you. If you stood your ground and said, “I was okay. I did it okay.” If you gave yourself a pat on the back a little and said, “I was doing in this way for a purpose. I was feeling the energy with these kids. Give me another chance.” Maybe they would have listened to you a little bit more and even get a second chance to say, “I did do it once before. I want to make sure. I’m still pretty new at this, but I have a lot of creative ideas. Are you open to listen to me?” Without the shame of any of it because that’s what we would love to tell anybody starting out now. Trust yourself. That’s why I love going back to my younger self because we have so much to teach our younger selves.
The younger self has so much to teach us. It’s like this movement.
I do love what you’re showing me and you’re showing me your hands like a balancing act up and down and now it’s like a movement. I also wanted to say that now I maybe a little bit too abstract in the comment, but like you said, everything is circular. We could speak to our younger selves. We could also guide our younger selves. It goes back to hand in hand. However, I do believe that time is not linear. Time could be circular. That’s a very big concept for everyone to understand. The more we look at it that we could whether or not we believe in healing our younger selves, but if there’s energy to it. If that younger self relaxes a little, it is helping all the parts of you.
We have all these parts of ourselves that are guiding us through life.
Any other idea that’s popping into your head or anything you want to share with the world? I see there’s much change going on in the studio. Personally, you’ve had much. Is there anything you want to share about any classes that you’re offering now or anything you want to highlight?
I want to highlight that I’m very grateful that Imagine Yoga came into my life. The name came to me two years before I even had this space. I’m grateful that I’m on this journey. I wanted to get off the journey. I’m done. I want to get off and there was no getting off. There’s only going through. I’ve gone through, but what I want to say about Imagine Yoga is that it’s a space that holds energy. It’s a space that holds community. It’s a space that holds creativity. We do yoga there. We do movement. We do new moon and full moon circles. It’s energetic and in this new transformation of it. I’ve had to go through this. I’m grateful for it. Now I’m understanding it. I was blessed to feel what’s dissolving.
I love that image of dissolving. It’s a space for different teachers to come through. I know you said that Reiki classes are coming through and I’m excited to teach in the wintertime at your space.
I can’t wait to have you. I would want to say to who’s ever reading, Tesa has been involved with Imagine Yoga from the beginning. She’s done some beautiful workshops there. To be continued. I honor that. Thank you.
Any work we’ve done together in that space has been incredible. The visualizations, the work we have done, I feel that we’ve moved mountains.
It’s always fun and creative. You understand dissolving into yourself. I do think that you do.
You taught me something because I feel it. We always reinvent ourselves and that is the movement the way you’re saying that. It’s like the Big Bang when the world started. This is what’s coming to my mind now. If it does end, supposedly it’s going to be like a vacuum. We’re all coming in again. That’s movement. Millions of years from now, that’s what they’re saying. Scientifically, that’s what’s going to happen. If you look at it, that expansion and the contraction, that’s the breathing.
You say something, it’s reinventing. I got something. I’m going to talk from my perspective. Sometimes I feel like reinventing because you did something wrong or because you failed. In reinventing, what I got is more of the expansion but reinventing is maybe we have to come back to contract.
If you look at CNN, that’s the way the movement is. It’s letting go of any shame of the constriction because when we’re contracting and we’re taking that new inhale, there’s no shame in breathing. There are no mistakes and I believe there are no failures. I truly believe we’re here to learn, we’re here to expand, and we’re here to come back to connect and come back to the center at all times. Nancy, I love what we’ve discussed. I always feel like it’s a learning experience. Our conversations are interesting. We take each other’s sentences.
It’s a great dance, Tesa.
I’m excited to come to the space and looking forward for everything to move along with COVID and blessings to you and everything that you’ve created.
Thank you. The same to you, Tesa, because I’ve seen you grow and reinvent. I’m grateful for this opportunity to be able to express one of my zigs and zags. I’ve learned a lot.
Thank you for sharing this story. It was beautiful. I’ll speak to you soon.
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About Nancy Volante
Innovative, ambitious, forward-thinking community-based artist, Arts in Education Consultant, and Certified 200-Hr yoga teacher. Fifteen years of experience in the areas of project management, teaching and designing art-based interdisciplinary curriculum programs in education. Designing classes and workshops for different therapeutic movement modalities and community gatherings.
My passion, experience, research and focus is to bring communities together through the healing arts and yoga. Encouraging the development and exploration of building a yoga practice that is relevant to different populations. My vision integrates the creative process with the practice of yoga to embrace self-expression and collaboration. My objectives are to work with community-based organizations, cultural organizations, yoga studios and schools to develop partnerships for connecting the art of yoga with the creative process.
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