Welcome Anaar Shariff, Yoga Instructor, Infant Massage Teacher, and Storyteller!

Anaar Photo

It’s hard to describe Anaar’s many talents in so few words!  I met Anaar way back when I was a summer student before I attended Occupational Therapy School.  I was then fortunate enough to be her colleague at Peel Infant Development for eight years.

Originally a Registered Nurse, Anaar was an Infant Development Consultant for 21 years.  Now, in “retirement”, she gets to showcase her other talents through her private practice as a yoga instructor, infant massage teacher, reiki and reflexology practitioner, and storyteller/storytelling ‘coach’.

With our first Telling Stories Workshop coming up on June 26th, Anaar’s got stories on her mind!  She has answered the three questions I asked of her with that in mind, and gave me a glimpse into how storytelling became part of who she is.  Here’s Anaar’s story:


I started becoming interested in storytelling more as an adult after my marital separation, about 28 years ago. A friend of mine was with a storytelling group and invited me to come along to one meeting. I went and I was hooked, I wanted to learn this wonderful craft that others did with such ease.

Little did I realize that listening to and telling stories was already in me from my very young days when my grandmother told us stories. and I had been doing this for longer than I cared to remember. I watched and I listened to different ways of running storytelling groups to help adults to tell stories.

In 1991, I emigrated to Canada, 26 years ago, after living in the UK for 25 years. I knew no one except my sisters, who looked after me and my 2 kids, and they took me to the mosque where I could meet other people. I introduced myself to the leader of the mosque and ‘spiritually’ sold my meagre storytelling skills and began to tell stories to the children every Friday. Those children, now adults, still refer to me as the storyteller!

In Toronto, I attended many storytelling workshops through the storytelling school of Toronto and have listened to hundreds of professional storytellers at various venues. I have had storytelling gatherings at my house where I have invited professional storytellers to do their craft.

I continue to tell stories to adults, but mostly to children and of course my grandchildren. The stories are in my head and I’m not ashamed to say that I weave whatever happens in my day or life, through my stories.

1. What has been (or is) a big hurdle for you, personally, in developing your business, and what has helped?

A big hurdle for me has been in convincing groups, parents or other adults the importance of storytelling to one’s cultural identity, preservation of family stories. I try to emphasize that by continuing the oral tradition you forge empathy, friendships and trust in your immediate and adopted community.

By volunteering to do storytelling to children and adults at different mosques in Ontario, I was able to feel accepted in my new community and my new country. I use storytelling with my grandchildren and my family. I know my grandchildren used to ask for stories when they were younger, they still do. I hope to tell stories for a long time to come.

2. What has been (or is) a big accomplishment for you, personally in your business?

Following my instincts and and doing what I felt was the best path for me in achieving the best health for myself and my family and not being afraid of who I was.

My path into the alternative and complementary health began when my children were babies and I made the decision to follow this route. Sometimes that still feels as though I am speaking a different language at home as well as professionally and perhaps occupying a different planet?

3. What has been the single most helpful shift you’ve made to continue to feel your life at home still reflects your values and priorities?

I’ve always found it difficult to separate my personal values and priorities from my professional work as a public health nurse or as an infant development consultant. Being able to meld my alternative skills into my practice has become my philosophy. This has been a gradual process over my adult life.

A big contribution in this shift came about when I became a mother and then a grandmother. Becoming a mother was by far the biggest factor and a shift in my philosophy. What I knew as a health professional, what I needed to learn as a mother and what I would do instinctually were disorienting dilemmas or learning platforms for me.

I returned to work as a public health nurse after becoming a mother to a renewed understanding of parenting.

Anaar leads classes in Richmond Hill, Ontario and can be reached by email at anaarshariff@gmail.com


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