Thara Natalie Shares How She Pivoted From Singer To Yoga Teacher And Reiki Healer — Exclusive Interview

Thara Natalie knows all about the hard work it takes to build the life of your dreams. In her early 20s, she put in the work necessary to make it in the music industry. By 22, she had appeared in music videos with Jay-Z and featured on a track with Fabolous (via MoraFire). Over the next few years, she worked with John Legend, opened for Ne-Yo, and recorded her own full-length album. She toured the world, performed in front of massive audiences, and made the music she wanted to make. But then, as she said, she "hit a wall."

When Thara's passion became her career, it wasn't as fulfilling as she'd hoped it would be. And so she signed up for a nine-week-long intensive yoga teacher training and completely changed her life. Within a few years, she became a full-time yoga teacher and opened her own yoga studio with her husband, musician Jay Sean. She's spent the years since then devoted to creating the life she wants.

In an exclusive interview with Health Digest, Thara Natalie shares her story and explains exactly what it takes to live your best life.

Finding yoga

Tell us a little about your journey with yoga. What brought you to the practice?

My journey with yoga started over 20 years ago. ... I was always one of the youngest in the class because I was 19 at the time. I got taken by a friend, and I will forever be grateful to that friend for taking me. I went to a regular yoga class at some point, didn't connect with it. This friend took me to a hot yoga class. It was Bikram yoga at the time — and I fell in love.

Bikram yoga for me at that time in my practice was crucial. And the reason it was crucial was because it was comforting, and it gave me security. Vinyasa yoga was very scary to me at that time in my life because to walk into a room and not know any of the Sanskrit and not know any of the postures and not know where this teacher was going to take you — that was actually more stressful for me.

So it wasn't pleasant, right? I felt lost. I felt like I didn't know where I belonged. I didn't know if I should be in the class. So it was actually very intimidating, which is the complete opposite of what we want from a yoga class. The Bikram series was amazing for me because it didn't matter who's teaching, it didn't matter where I went. It was always going to be the same. And for me, at that point in my life, that was what I needed.

I suffered with anxiety from high school ... so I had been in therapy. I was very lucky that I was able to go to my parents and share with them that I felt like I needed therapy. And although they did not understand at all what that meant or why their daughter, who they felt was very together and very successful and popular, why would she need therapy? ... Thankfully, they still supported me in getting the therapy. ... But the yoga was just that next level of self-healing, something that I could do. And the breathwork was incredible, right? So often we're just not breathing.

So many of the postures that you would do in the hot yoga series, bringing your head below your heart, allowing that fresh blood to come to your brain — all very helpful for anxiety reduction and stress reduction. So that's where I started. And it started really as a practice for myself for many years. And then about when I was 25, 26, I realized that I wanted to become a teacher.

Beyond the poses

How has your heritage impacted your yoga practice?

That's interesting. I feel like my yoga practice brought me closer to my heritage. And again, it all kind of happened in those same pivotal years. Because growing up in where I lived, I was the only brown girl in an all-, really, all-white school. It is what it is, right? And I had great friends and I have great memories, but I was still always different.

I was still always a little bit misunderstood and I still got teased, because kids tease, and I always used to tell my family, "Don't cook the food in the house. My friends are coming over today." Back then, God forbid my friends were to see me in my Indian clothes. That was not something that we put on a showcase. Whereas now, my friends will beg me to come to an event so they can wear my clothes.

So it's beautiful, the evolution. ... I do believe that my yoga practice really helped me to connect deeper with my heritage and really embrace it and put me in a place where I love sharing about it now. And I love even integrating those teachings into classes when I'm teaching, so that I give students a different depth of meaning than just the basics of the postures.

That actually segues perfectly into another question I had for you. A lot of Western yoga focuses on poses. So how do you bring more of that philosophy and that spirituality into your classes?

So it's definitely been a journey for me to get the students to embrace that, because 100%, the Western mindset for yoga is very physical, fitness-driven. And I like to tease my students. I'm like, "Yeah, we get really toned abs and we get really cute booties when we do yoga." But really the goal is really to quiet the mind. The reason we do yoga poses is to prepare to sit in meditation. We're opening the body to prepare to sit and be relaxed. And people are like, "What, really?" So [they] kind of miss the boat. But I think for me, what I really, really embrace is if someone is coming and getting the yoga in any form, they are going to get the benefits.

Becoming a better person through yoga

Bettering yourself through yoga is possible, says Thara Natalie.

It's funny, because when I talk about this, sometimes people are like ... "What do you mean yoga makes you a better person? That's such a massive statement to make." And so the person who thinks of it as a physical process, they're like, "You're just doing physical postures?" ... But you're meeting yourself.

You're having this moment with yourself where you are battling yourself in certain poses and you're battling your mind space to be like, "No, I can't do this. No, I'm not flexible enough. No, I'm not good enough. No, I'm not strong enough." And then you have to turn those voices off and just surrender to the moment and surrender to your breath and pause. Holy crap, you have to pause, right? And then try again. And then you find this moment where your body softens and your mind quiets and you expand and you're like, "Oh, I can do this." And it's just when you have that moment with yourself.

My heart just expanded, just talking about it, because it's so powerful. When you have that moment with yourself, it shifts what you can expect from another human being. Because we're all one. So the way that we talk to ourselves is ultimately how we talk to other people. We can soften and have more compassion for ourselves. When we're in that yoga room, it's going to affect how we treat other human beings.

So that's my goal ... I know which students want the philosophy from me — and I have very particular ways that I weave it in — and I know which ones don't [but] I have particular ways that I weave it in.

What students can you expect from Thara Natalie's classes

You're all going to get it from me when you come to a class. Over the years, people have learned that when you come to a Thara class, you know that that is going to be integrated. So at some point in the class, you have to be ready to sit in stillness and we're going to meditate. Whether it's at the beginning, the middle, or the end, it's going to happen. And I always remind them that the thing that you think you like the least is usually the thing that you need the most, right?


So I'm always integrating it that way. ... [People] love the hybrid class that we do, which is high intensity. We're doing all the power moves, HIIT training, and then we go into a yoga flow. ... So I'm like, that's okay. If I can get them in the room for that class and I get them on the mat, then I can sneak in the other goodies. So I do a lot of that.

Then now what I'm doing is I'm offering more workshops, which I'm loving because the workshops are really [with] people who 100% are very clear that they want a broader range of learning. So instead of trying to force it down certain people's throats ... I'm going to offer the workshops and those of you who are really wanting and open to learning more will come and join the workshops. It's a nice balance.

Thara Natalie's journey from singer to yoga teacher

How did this switch happen in your life? For some people, signed recording artist to yoga teacher seems like a big move. 

Yes, of course. So yes, I was a signed recording artist. I have songs with people like John Legend and Fabolous. I was blessed to open for Ne-Yo on tour. I traveled Japan, Australia, America, and the UK. And then I hit a wall where this thing that was bringing me so much joy, which was music, was my passion, which I had fought really hard for. Obviously, it doesn't come easy to get into the music industry. To get your parents on board with you being in the music industry — it was a lot of commitment and a lot of dedication and hard work. And then I hit a wall where I felt like music was not serving my soul.

And I think that it's a really important conversation for anyone. And even for me now as a yoga teacher and the owner of a yoga studio, I deal with the same conversation, really, that I dealt with back then. When something becomes your job and you need it to make money and you need it to pay the bills. Right? It's all fun when something you're doing is just because you love it. But then when it needs to meet certain criteria, it can become stressful.

It was really funny because for years I was running a yoga studio. And then I realized I needed to stop running a yoga studio and I needed to start running a yoga business. It's two different things. So I had been sharing the yoga, but now I realize like, no, you have to sell the yoga so that you can make money to continue sharing the yoga.

But back to the music side of things, I hit a wall where I realized my soul wasn't being served in the way that I wanted it to be served anymore. And it was becoming hard for me to turn on the radio because I couldn't just listen to the radio anymore. I couldn't listen to the radio without critiquing every song. And well, "why is this song on the radio and my song's not on the radio," right? That started happening and that didn't feel good. And, of course, there were multiple things over the course of a period of time.

And then there was — and you'll laugh because you're a writer — there was this one article that got written. There was this one article and I'll never forget it, but you know what? Everything happens for a reason. So I'm grateful for the journey. But there was this one article and I was really excited about the article and it came out and they paraphrased me in a way that totally shifted the essence of who I am. And that was just the straw that broke the camel's back.

I said, no, I can't do this anymore. This is no longer serving me. Because I knew that I wanted to share positivity and light with the world, and I didn't feel like I was getting to do that anymore. But like I said, I'm super grateful for that article because it was the thing that I needed to push me over the edge to make the decision.

Changing careers

Thara Natalie details how she made the switch

I made the switch so dramatically because I literally stopped. I let everyone — my family, my producer, and my husband now (he was my fiance at the time) — I let them all know that I was making this decision. It was March and I was in England when it happened. We were in Birmingham, England. I still remember it.

I called the Bikram headquarters in California. And I said, "You guys have a training in September, and I [want] to find out more information about it." And she said, "But we have a training happening next month in April." And I said, "Yeah, but I'm in England right now. That's in three weeks. There's no way that I could do that training." She said, "I'll help you." And she helped me.

I don't know her name. I never got to thank her. And it's always on my heart to go back and find her and just say thank you because I was in Mexico three weeks later immersed in a nine-week training. I had no idea what I was walking into. I was totally blind, completely blind, but it was the best thing I could have ever done for myself.

I think that's how I really made such a drastic switch ... I immersed myself in something else. So it was like I became a new person, right? That was it. I jumped in headfirst and did that for nine weeks.

Returning to the music industry in a new way

Thara Natalie on returning home

[After the training], I came back and I got engaged. And then I wound up getting back into the music industry — funny enough. So everything has its journey. So I went back, but on the other side. I went back as a manager. It started as an assistant and then that grew into manager. And then I did that for a few years and then

I hit another wall. I hit another wall — and I love sharing all of this because I always say to people it's not linear, right? The journey's not linear, and you see someone and you see their success or you see their happiness. And you think that it was always that way or you think... You don't realize all the ups and the downs and the highs and the lows that they went through to get to that space.

So, I hit another wall and I was... I can tell you exactly where I was again. I was in Florida, it was April. And I was doing spreadsheets for a tour for some artists that we were managing. And I was sitting behind the computer doing the tour spreadsheet, and I had that moment where I was like, this is not my calling. Yes, I'm great at it, and yeah, great, I can crunch numbers and I can sit here and I can be organized for all of you, because I'm good at being organized, but this is not what I was put on this earth to do.

I called my partner at the time and I said, "This is the last tour that I will manage." So again big earth-shattering decisions, but it was okay ... And that partner is still my partner and I still work with him and I still co-manage my husband, Jay Sean. So I'm still in the music industry, but just in a very different capacity, and very much in the capacity that I choose. Right now, it's very much in the capacity that I choose.

And then we decided to open the yoga studio. ... Finally, that's how we got to opening our own studio.

Yoga is an 'incredible gift'

Thara Natalie explains why she opened a yoga studio

I really wanted people to experience the benefits that I had experienced — to realize that you didn't have to suffer, to realize that you don't have to live in pain. That yoga is this incredible gift that if you just show up consistently over time, you're going to see the benefits. ... It's not just about going to the doctor and having the doctor prescribe us medicines.

There is a time and a place for all of that, and I believe that all of these modalities can work together so beautifully. And I'm so ecstatic that now doctors are prescribing their patients to go do yoga in addition, so we're working with them. It all works together — it's [synergistic] ... that's what brought us to the studio. 

And then I did that for a few years and then I hit another wall, and that's where Spirit Warrior came from. So I have the studio and I love the studio, but like you said, there's a lot of physical focus in the yoga studio.

Spirit Warrior allows me to really, truly do the hard work that I want to do, the healing work that I want to do for people. And the people who are coming to a Spirit Warrior event, that's what they want, right? That's all they want. So it's such a beautiful dance to get here.

The importance of continuing to be a student

I'm also a yoga teacher and one of the things that I've found is that my personal practice changed a lot when I started teaching. Have you had that experience? What is that like for you, especially running a yoga business, as you pointed out?

Yeah. It has changed a lot. It did change a lot and it constantly is always changing. But one of the first things that I did realize happened, and I'm sure you can attest to this, when you become a teacher, suddenly you're teaching so much and you're not practicing so much. And that's really difficult.

One of the biggest conversations that I have with my teachers: You still have to practice and you still have to make time to be a student. It's still just as important. That's why a few years ago I went and got my 300-hour [yoga teacher training] because I wanted to be a student again.

I needed to be filled up. We're constantly, as teachers, giving, giving, giving — we're pouring from our cup. But if we're not refilling, then we're not going to have anything to give. So I've gone through that many, many times, that experience and, yeah, it's a constant check-in with yourself to kind of pull back.

For instance, I'm not teaching nearly as much as I used to. I'm teaching mostly privates and I only teach one scheduled group class a week right now — one, which is, for me, mind-blowing. And then potentially I wind up subbing. That's always going to happen because as a studio owner, you have to be ready to sub ... that's always going to happen.

I realized that in the past two years during the pandemic, I had given a lot of myself in a lot of places. We were teaching outdoors. I was teaching on Zoom. Then the studio reopened, I was teaching privates at people's houses. I really realized I had become a yo-yo. I had become this yo-yo for everyone. And then guess what was happening? I was getting home at the end of the day for my kids and I was tired. And I didn't have the energy for them that I wanted to have. And I had to really step back and realize this isn't working.

It's great that everyone loves Thara. That's wonderful! And I'm helping everyone else. But what about the people inside my four walls, right? I have small children, and I'm like, this is not okay. They're the most important people to me, and they're going to grow up. And then I'm going to look back and be like, oops, I was so busy serving and helping everyone else that I missed out on paying attention to them.

So it was, again, another really beautiful check-in moment. But ... if I didn't have these tools — like the yoga, like the Reiki, like the meditation — if I didn't have all these tools, I don't know that I would've had the need to pull back. So it's all really, really important because it's only because of those practices that I'm able to pay attention.

Feeling the Reiki energy

Let's talk about Reiki. For people who aren't quite familiar with it, can you just explain a little bit about what Reiki is and what tradition you come from?

Yes. So I come from the Usui Japanese tradition ... I come from the Usui tradition. Reiki is energy healing. So we are all energetic beings, right? So the same way that you could think of a friend and you're like, oh my God, I haven't spoken to Luisa in so long. And then an hour later, Luisa calls you. Your tendency is to say. What a coincidence. I was just thinking about you." But from a Reiki standpoint, I would say to you, no, it's not a coincidence. Your energy pinged her energy. And that's why she called you.

That's so incredibly powerful — which can be really incredibly miraculous power or also it could be like a little bit scary power, right? But I see it as the most beautiful, miraculous power that we all have if we just learn how to tap into it.

Thara Natalie explains Reiki healing

So we've all gone through so many different things throughout our life. You'll go through a traumatic experience in your life or you'll go through a really positive experience in your life. So let's think about a really positive experience that you go through. So whenever you smell a scent, it immediately brings you back to that time. And then immediately that energy that you felt at that time will wash all over you and you'll feel that same joy again, right? So that's your energy.

But then on the converse, we could have a negative, traumatic experience. And then that energy is also lodged within our body. And the phone could ring and it could be a person who you went through an experience with and immediately your entire body just shuts down. You are completely back in that space in a matter of milliseconds, right? Again, that energy is stored in your body when we've had these experiences. 

So if we can heal those experiences and we can clear those blocks. The same way that we do that through the yoga practice, we heal blockages to create clear pathways, then we take another level and now we add the Reiki in and we can clear those blockages and help you to actually move forward. Because so often we'll be doing all the things, we could be doing the therapy, we could be doing the yoga, but you're still feeling like there's still something stuck: "I still can't get through this. I think I'm ready to let it go, but I'm still feeling it in my body." So the Reiki energy can help you to heal that. So it's really beautiful, yeah.

Thara Natalie's first experience with Reiki

Beautiful. When did you come to that practice? How did that happen for you?

So that practice came to me a few years ago. Reiki energy was something that I was a little bit ... I didn't understand it. So I wasn't really interested in it, right? Because I'm like, oh, I don't know if I want someone else touching my energy. That's weird, right? I was like, I got to protect my energy. But then my friend got certified, so I felt safe because it was someone that I knew. So since I felt safe with him, I was totally willing to allow him to work on me.

And I had knee pain. I had knee pain that had become so severe that I actually went to an orthopedic specialist. I had an MRI done and the surgeon was hysterical because he had the nerve to tell a yoga teacher that she needed to do more lunges and more squats. And I was like, "Did you not hear what I told you? I'm a yoga teacher. I'm teaching 10 yoga classes a week. I could not possibly be [doing] any more lunges or squats. I don't need to strengthen my knee. There's got to be something else."

I was so frustrated. I went and spent this money and time and had these X-rays and MRIs done ... and we made no progress. So I went to my friend for Reiki. He did the Reiki on me, and when I came out of the session, he said, "Is something wrong with your knee?" And I was like, "Yes. How did you know that? That's weird." Because in Reiki, they don't touch you. We don't touch. So we're just scanning the body. So I'm like, well, why are you asking me about my knee?

He said, "Well, I think that there's something that you are not moving forward on. There's something that you need to handle that you haven't handled. Is there someone that you need to talk to, like an old thing?" So ... I thought about it, all these things. ... I said, okay, maybe this was the thing that I need to deal with. So he had advised me that even if you can't speak to the person about it, write them a letter. Even if you're not going to send it to them, just write it out, tell them everything that you need to tell them.

Within a week, the pain moved, which had never happened. It moved from my right knee to my left knee. So then I texted him ... and he was like, "That's great! It's moving, that means it's working because we got to move it so we can get it out." So four sessions later, the pain was gone. The relationship is now 500% healed, which is so incredibly beautiful for me.

[And] everyone has their own thing. So for some people, it's their stomach. Some people get a headache. For me, it's my knee. So whenever my knee gives me little twinges, that's my poke, poke Thara, there's something you need to deal with. And then I pause and I have to figure out what it is in my life that I'm not taking care of. So that, for me, was mind-blowing because this was something I had been dealing with on my own and not making any progress.

So that was it. I was hooked.

Becoming a healer

Thara Natalie says she's following in her grandfather's footsteps

It actually took a student and my husband — again it's the little angels in your life, right? — so it was a student and my husband who were like, "Why aren't you getting Reiki certified?" And I'm like, I don't know. I don't think that it was something I could even do. I hadn't looked into it. I thought maybe it was something passed on through a family lineage. I didn't really understand it. So, of course, at that point I immediately looked into it, found out that I could in fact be certified. And I did it.

Fast forward now to a few years down the road. It's funny how it only clicked, probably, two years after I've been practicing. Now, my grandfather was also an energy worker. It wasn't Reiki, but he was an energy worker. And he had taught me about energy from when I was 8 years old, but I never connected the dots. So it's all been this really beautiful circle for me that, in essence, it was passed down to me in some way. So it's a really beautiful connection that I get to have to my grandfather as well in the practice.

Well, that's beautiful.

Yeah. So, yeah, now I love it.

Quarantine was amazing for Reiki because we started doing virtual healing, which again, mind blown, like what? You can do this from a distance? But yes you can, because, like I said, it's energy. So once I set my attention on the person, that's all that's necessary. And now I have clients that I work with everywhere — all over America, England, Dubai, Singapore, Australia. There's no limits to who I can work with.

And it's always really funny after the first session because we'll finish the session and they'll get back up and they'll look at me and they'll be like, "Okay, that was crazy, right?" They're like, "I definitely felt you, there's no question about it." And then I'll tell them things that may have come up or things that I was told to tell them that they need to work on. And then they'll just look at me again and be like, "Okay, this doesn't make any sense. How did you know that?" And there is that element of, I call it, a little bit of magic, in the best way. We have to believe in magic and we have to believe in the miracles of this life of what we are, right?

Giving the gift of Reiki and yoga

Reiki has many uses, according to Thara Natalie

My brother-in-law is in England, and I was there over the summer and he had a shoulder problem going on. So while we were there ... I said, "I'll just work on it for you while we watch TV." And he's like, "You don't need me to go lay down?" I'm like, "no" — because I knew he was not really going to want to do it that way. So I'm like, "No, it's fine. Just sit here and we'll watch TV and I'll just work on your shoulder while we all hang out."

I did that a few times over the course of the time that we were there and he was just here in December and he's a total believer now. He still was raving about the healing that I was able to do for him, for his shoulder.

So it works on everything from physical ailments to the emotional healing. It's amazing for helping you if you have a goal that you want to work towards. You can really use it for just about anything.

How do you find yourself typically using both Reiki and yoga with the people that you're working with one on one, is it more physical? Is it more emotional, or is it everything?

I'd say it's a combination. I love doing the full moon Reiki workshops. Those are really special because we'll do the sound healing, we'll do the meditation and then I'll walk around and do a little bit of Reiki on each person. So that's really, really special.

And then I think just infusing it in the classes is amazing as well because it just puts everyone home. It's this really deep meditative state as they're flowing when we have the energy there. So that's been really beautiful to watch. Yeah, I use it in all different ways. And then if I have a private client who I know has a discomfort somewhere, I'll use it for them at the end of a session.

Setting intentions in the new year and beyond

Since it's the new year, what do you find around this time works the best for setting intentions and manifestations. I'm usually not a resolutions person, but intentions and manifestations hit a little different. So what is that for you?

Yes. Same page. I always say as yogis, we set intentions every day, every time we get to our mat. So we're lucky because we don't have to wait for the new year because we are doing it every day. So I think that that's a really big gift that the yoga practice gifts us.

But, of course, listen, I still love January and I'm still all about the new beginning and that opportunity to check in — to check in with yourself and see where do we want to go? So one of the things that I am loving doing, and I really recommend, is waking up a little bit earlier than normal. I'm waking up about a half-hour earlier every day ... so that I can do either [my] gratitude journaling or my intention setting, my meditating, before anyone else is awake. So I'm really starting my day with intention.

Today that didn't happen because [of] the kids. It was a snow day so the kids were off, which was really nice because I got to sleep in a little bit, but then we all woke up at the same time. And I can tell you the difference in the day, right? It was a little bit manic for a moment. And I had to step away and be like, you know what? I need a moment because I didn't have my moment this morning.

So I think it's really special to carve that time out. And if doing it early in the morning is just not going to happen for you, then pick a time, but really pick a time that you're going to carve out whether it's the middle of the day or at nighttime to really intentionally sit down with yourself.

'Manifesting is intentionality'

What manifesting really means, according to Thara Natalie

I love to share this stuff on intentions and manifesting because I've been doing it for 15 years. I started manifesting 15 years ago and a lot of people don't understand manifesting. They think that it's woo-woo. And they think that, "Oh, so if I wish for a red Lamborghini is my red Lamborghini going to appear on my driveway? Well, I did it and that didn't happen. So manifesting doesn't work, right?" And I'm like, no, no, no, you don't understand, that's not what we're doing, right?

Manifesting is intentionality. It's showing up for something every single day. Consistency and putting your energy in. Connecting your energy to that thought every single day. And then you have to put the work in behind the intention ... it's not just magic, it's having an idea, having a thought, consciously thinking about it and then creating the plan: What do I need to do to bring this intention to life? Here's my plan, here are the action steps. And then every day, showing up to those action steps. I think that's such an important part of it. It's not just, like, throwing it out to the universe. It's a very intentional process.

Deepak Chopra shares this and I love it: 'Think of your intentions like seeds.' So we have to plant the seeds. We have to make sure that they're planted in a good place so that they're going to get enough sunlight. We have to nourish them with fertilizer and we have to nourish them with water, right? So we have to make sure that your seeds are planted and they're getting all the things that they need to come to life. And then there's an element of surrender. We can't dig up the seeds to see if they're growing. We have to step back and have faith that we've done all the steps, we've done everything right and now we have to go, "Okay, I surrender. In a few weeks, I'm going to see those sprouts."

So that's my tip on intentions and manifesting — and just knowing and remembering at the end of the day, that what's meant for, you will find you. So even if you put all of your best intentions and all of your manifesting skills into place and it doesn't come to fruition, know that it wasn't what was meant for your highest good. So don't be disappointed! Actually, see it as a moment of gratitude and just open yourself up to what that next opportunity is.

Because that's where my life has been. I think it's funny, as we wrap it up, that's where my life has been. If I hadn't started my career as a singer, I wouldn't have met my husband and I wouldn't have my two babies, right? So although I may not be singing at this point professionally, every part of my journey was so important.

Sometimes we get so wrapped up in the end game, but just stay with it, keep putting out goodness and positivity in the world, and just know that your path will find you.

You can learn more about Thara Natalie and follow her journey by checking out her Instagram.