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How I Came to Yoga

From being a lazy student to teaching yoga in South Korea (An excerpt from my M.Ed. thesis on Yoga, 2006). 

Also published on My Life Yoga ~ Check it out here      


I came to yoga with no understanding of its meaning or history. Wearing a full-length fur coat I took my first yoga class with a friend at university. I cringe at the thought of tihs today. What I remember about the class was lying on the floor and laughing like a hyena; I am sure to the chagrin of the teacher. It was nto until a few years later that I became remotely interested in yoga. I was able to take free classes at a yoga centre in exchange for working as a receptionist. Nevertheless I had no "real" interest in yoga and would describe myself as ignorant.

By "real", I am referring to being interested in the theory behind the practice and understanding yoga as a life path. After a brief introduction and dabbling from class to class it gradually fell to the way-side. Like many people, I was drawn to yoga for physical reasons; I thought I would get a great workout. I did not consider yoga as a way of life or a body of theoreticial implications. My 'real' interest in yoga was only ignited when I left Canada and moved to South Korea; a pivotal point in my life. I lived and worked in Seoul, Korea, for 2 years as an English teacher including living with Korean families. Living with the Korean people really allowed me to have a first-hand experience of daily life in the context of their traditions. While in Korea, I wandered in and out of Buddhist temples. I sat for hours in the temples watching people doing the sun saluations, praying, sitting and/or looking at me looking at them. I would sit for hours staring at the back wall of one of the main temples in which Buddhist heads had been hand painted as a collage of art work. Other wonderful moments were siting on a crowded bus and looking at the biggest sun I had ever seen. It was exactly like the picture books; an orange ball blazing in the Asian sky. 

In Korea, I was searching for the meaning of life and trying to find answers. Unwittingly, I had packed a yoga book that ironcially became my teaching manual. Purchased from a health food store in Toronto for fifty cents, I threw it in my bag thinking that I might do some exercise! It was written by Sonya Richmond on yoga as therapy. I read a section of the book, practiced a few of the postures and I decided I would try teaching it. I rented out the main level of a Lutheran Church in Seoul for several hours each week. My classes were mainly filled with European women and other parts of Asia including North America. No one asked about my credentials and several students tape-recorded their sessions. When I returned to Canada in 1997, I decided to take a yoga program at an ashram in California. One program led to another one until I realized that I needed to go to India. During my first trip to India, I was immersed in a program with dailiy meditation at 4:30 a.m. and 6 hours of pranayama (i.e., breathing exercises to direct the flow of energy). 

Today, I have a much deeper background as compared to my half-hapzard start. In 1997, I founded The Yoga Way, a school for structured programs that provides individual attention and teaches yoga as a progressive series. It is Toronto's only school for programs and not drop-in classes. As a part of an on-going pilgrimage I have returned annually to India to study under my teachers since 1999.

My journey in yoga has not been a straightforward one. There have been many twists and turns including an evolution within the traditional styles of Sivananda yoga, Ashtanga to AtmaVikasa. No one in my family (past or present) had any interest in yoga. My grandmother's question, "How's the yo-go going" is case in point. I was frequently faced with doubts, criticisms and fear. Why didn't I get a real job, why didn't I focus on something more secure and why India again? However, I steadfastly pursued my passion in which Yoga has become the vehicle toward a fulfiling and self-created life.  

All Copyrights Reserved, 2009. The Yoga Way, Toronto, Canada.