Sammy Veall is both driven and inspiring. She was a model and aspiring actress when a devastating accident left her with burns to 35 percent of her body. During her long road to recovery, she discovered hip hop yoga and has opened Yoga 213 studios in both Melbourne and Sydney. Sammy is a brand ambassador for Libra’s I Am Fearless campaign.
I understand you suffered 3rd degree burns in an accident & this changed the direction of your life…. ultimately leading you to find yoga.
How was yoga instrumental in your emotional & spiritual as well as your physical recovery?
Yoga played a huge role in the recovery from my accident, and continues to play a huge role in my overall emotional and spiritual development. Yoga as a practice physically healed the scars on my legs and allowed me to walk freely again where as yoga as a meditation and way of life healed me emotionally and spiritually. Because I was lucky enough to open my own studio, my healing continues every day through teaching others and being involved in such a happy community.
Who would feature on a typical playlist for a hip hop yoga class?
Biggie Smalls, 2Pac, Warren G, R Kelly, Kanye West, Mase, Common… the list goes on.
I have read that your motto is “to be happy”… what does that mean to you?
It means the world to me and is something that I live by every day. This motto was passed from my grandpa to my dad and then to me. I am grateful that I had this way of thinking introduced to me at such a young age, so that I could build my life, actions and thoughts around it. When I was 18 I got the words tattooed under my right arm, and after completing my yoga teacher training at 22 years old I knew I was going to base my teachings and businesses around it too.
How has your own experiences allowed you to access a deeper level of empathy as a teacher?
I hope that I do give empathy. Because yoga is such a personal experience its hard to give every person exactly what they are after. I think through my experiences I now know not to take anything too personally and that everyone is on their own journey to be happy and you need to respect that. I try and offer up a new way of thinking in my classes and then sit back and allow others to be as they are. In the end the only real teacher to another person is themselves.
Who do you look to as a role model, and/or who inspires you? Why?
My family and my partner have taught me to be kind and I look up to them for that. My guru Steve Ross has taught me that there is nothing to worry about and I seem to get inspired by colours and nature more than I do people.
What is the philosophy behind Hip Hop yoga?
Taking the tradition of yoga back to its natural state – Happiness. We remove the need to perfect the alignment or the body and instead aim to create a sense of freedom and happiness in the mind. The music allows the student to let go and also makes it way less serious and intimidating. By adding music to our classes we are opening the door to people that would have never originally tried yoga. We have a lot of students that come for the music and stay for the yoga. Some even get so emotionally and spiritually shifted that they end up quitting their jobs and becoming yoga teachers and living much happier lives.
Have you been met with any negativity or criticism from traditional yogis? If so, why do you think this is?
When we opened in 2013 we were met with a few comments and judgements of course. Anything that is new will always receive this attention. I think that in today’s world there are so many different interpretations of yoga, some more out there than others, and I guess because we play loud music we were immediately labelled untraditional. But what we are actually aiming to do is to take yoga back to its original state – happiness. Yoga is meant to be joyful, happy and a celebration of life and thats what Yoga 213 is all about.