Tanya Pillay was born in Durban, South Africa, to Tamil parents, but found her karmic connection in Canada, where she grew up. Based in Toronto, Pillay combines her love for acting and penchant for hypnotism to pursue both careers successfully.
But it hasn't been an easy ride. Pillay leaned towards acting since childhood but discovered hypnotism only after her father's death. "As an only child, I was too easily privy to my parents' frequent bickering and stress. I was also the sole subject of their adoration and hopes. I think it was this intensity of life that nurtured my need for restorative practices. Hypnotism was the catalyst for my search for answers and empowering modalities. I started practicing in October 2007 after completing my training and practicum," says Pillay, founder of Hypnosage, a centre that offers consultations, workshops and one-on-one sessions.
Like many South Asian children, Pillay had her share of trials before she embarked upon her journey as an actor and, later, as a certified hypnotist. "My father hoped I would prepare for a career in health sciences, and I showed every promise of doing so until the chemical formulas and mathematical equations gave way to rehearsals and performances. I compromised with an education in rhetorical criticism and resulting career in technical writing and usability, which eventually gave way to rehearsals and performances. My father was never happy with this trend but still came to every performance," recalls Pillay, adding, "My father didn't live to see me pursue hypnosis, but he always felt I could do more with my life than acting, so I can only hope he's proud of me now."
Proud he must be, because Pillay helps her clients combat everything, from overeating and shyness to phobias and fears. "Hypnosis is like a mental massage because relaxation is a key element of the experience," points out Pillay, whose sessions normally last an hour. "My clients have experienced lasting results with stress relief, procrastination, confidence, sales and client interaction, sleep habits, releasing fear, decision making, financial management, creative obstacles, eating patterns, smoking cessation, and maintaining fitness, among others," adds Pillay.
Take Karim Ismail, an author and speaker, who was trying to cope with his inability to sleep on planes. "It was becoming a major issue, given the number of long, overnight flights I take annually, all of which would leave me catching a cold or sinus infection due a compromised immune system which was a result of lack of sleep and recycled air in planes," explains Ismail.
He gives due credit to the one hypnosis session he had with Pillay, which solved the problem. "This was in 2009, and I took a flight to France that very evening - and was actually able to get some sleep on the plane. What's more, I felt very relaxed about the whole issue of sleeping on planes, and immediately on arriving in Paris, I went ahead and booked an overnight flight to Kathmandu from Toronto. It has been such a relief, and has saved me a lot of time, cost, and aggravation," says Ismail.
Pillay gets a fair share of South Asian clients as well, and is happy to see that the once-conservative community has become more open to this form of healing. In fact, for those who thought that such an unconventional therapy would not have many takers consider this: Pillay sees about three clients per week and conducts at least one workshop every month.
"My [South] Asian clientele is roughly proportional to the population of Toronto: about one in five. I get higher numbers of South Asian participants signing up for my workshops, and I've been hired to conduct workshops for newcomer and youth groups with at least half of the participants being South Asian," elaborates Pillay, who charges CAD$80 (including tax) for an hour-long private session.
Pillay is well aware that hypnotism comes with a fair share of skepticism and biases from people, and has learned to take these in her stride. "A huge misconception about hypnosis involves uncertainty about who is in control and providing the content. My approach is always grounded in reminding clients that they can choose what feels right for them, and facilitating a process of tuning in to one's own higher self, or wise mind. In this way, a client's own beliefs are their only limitation," she explains, adding that her being a woman should not and doesn't seem to influence her clients in either direction. "Gender is much less relevant than the ability to create a strong interpersonal connection. Clients choose me because they feel I 'get' them or they connect with my disposition and philosophy. I've experienced the necessary traits for a good hypnotist, such as patience and a compassionate attitude, with both male and female hypnotists," Pillay points out.
Kelly Wilk, a reflexologist and reiki practitioner in Toronto, can vouch for Pillay's method. "Tanya is a very skilled, intuitive practitioner. In our sessions, she makes me feel comfortable and safe. She is always able to facilitate a journey in which I came away with very useful information about myself and my state of well-being," she says.
However, despite the awareness, Pillay admits that there are still people who approach her with distrust in their eyes. "I offer free or by donation hypnosis sessions at a monthly street festival, and each time someone approaches simply to tell me they're afraid to look into my eyes or they're not sure if they can trust me. I can only dispel any myths for those who are willing to listen, and present myself as an ethical practitioner," she says.
The negative experiences don't bother Pillay, and it is perhaps hypnotism that helps her stay positive as well. She urges people to open their minds and experience the healing powers of hypnotism for themselves. "Individual beliefs and understandings aside, I ask anyone considering whether hypnosis is a valid method of self improvement to also consider the body and mind as the vessel and cockpit in which we experience life. If we can accept that the mind controls the entire body, accessing the mind with beneficial and clear messages certainly can't hurt," she says.
That is perhaps the right way to look at this method of alternative healing.
By arrangement with WFS