I’m thrilled to welcome dancer and performer Anya Garnis to the podcast. I met Anya when I took a dance class with a group of girlfriends; the experience was so joyful and meditative. I was touched by her personal journey with mental health and inspired to share it with this community.

You may know Anya as a dancer and choreographer from So You Think You Can Dance, Dancing With The Stars Live, and BBC One's Strictly Come Dancing. After years performing all over the world, Anya has returned to her first passion – teaching, creating The Body Instinct, a program where she helps women feel empowered, confident, and connected through dance, yoga, breath work, and mobility movement. 

In today’s episode, Anya shares her story of growing up in Eastern Europe and studying dance from a young age. She gets vulnerable about her career highs and lows, the pressure of being your own brand, and how she lost and rediscovered her love of dance over the years. She tells us about her physical and mental health battles, and how she came out stronger and more centered. 

We also talk about the healing powers of meditation and the importance of melding movement with mindfulness. As fitness professionals and the faces of our brands, Anya and I connected on so many levels. I can’t wait for you to hear this honest, moving conversation. 

Check out The Big Silence social media feeds today where Anya is helping us kick off our dance challenge! And – as always, don’t forget to check in on your friends this holiday season. In the spirit of support, I’ve teamed up with my friend Jewel again to spotlight the Not Alone Challenge throughout this often emotionally charged time of the year. Learn how you can join the fun:here.

(00:04:44) Anya’s Upbringing as a Child Dancer

  • Eastern Europe, but grew up in Siberia
  • Starting to dance at 8 years old
  • Being sent away to a studio school at 12

(00:10:17) Mental Health & Body Image in Ballet

  • Karena’s toxic experience with ballet 
  • Reckoning with negative comments 
  • Physical abuse at rehearsals

(00:12:19) How So You Think You Can Dance Changed Her Life

  • How one TV-aired comment impacted her psyche
  • Trying to live up to being “the sexy one”
  • Video:Anya Garnis on SYTYCD
  • Performing for 11 million people
  • Being presented with the option of producing vs. performing 

(00:15:58) The Pressure When You Are Your Brand

  • The pressure of being on display 24/7
  • Karena’s journey as the face of a brand 
  • Leaving the biggest job she’s ever had

(00:18:18) Emergency Surgery & Suffering in Silence

  • Ignoring the signs of her illness 
  • The pain of losing your tribe
  • Going from surgery to stage with alternative medicines  
  • The next hurdle: ulcerative colitis
  • Opening up to your community 

(00:25:21) How Stress & Diet Impacted Anya’s Illness

  • Slowing down to manage stress 
  • Addressing her diet to fix her health 

(00:29:00) The Best Thing She’s Ever Done for Her Wellbeing

  • Getting into meditation
  • Understanding her loss of joy 
  • Falling back in love with dance

(00:34:47) Rediscovering Fitness & Dance As Joys, Not Jobs

(00:38:30) Building The Body Instinct

  • Inspired by pain and past experience 
  • Yoga, and tai chi, and breathing
  • Mission statement forThe Body Instinct

(00:43:27) The Power of Dance for Mental Health

  • Freedom of moving your body 
  • Putting intention to movement 
  • Anya shares a traditional Buddhist story

(00:48:03) Bringing Mindfulness Into Movement

  • Infusing mindful practices to Tone It Up
  • Loving the process of educating people
  • Finding value in taking the time for mental wellness

Donate to The Big Silencethebigsilence.com/donate to be a part of the movement to break the silence and make noise with us!

“The Big Silence” theme song written and performed byJames Nicholas Kinney.

Producer, Bobby Goldstein.

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