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The Yoga Way

The Yoga Way is a yoga school that I founded in 1997. When I founded The Yoga Way (TYW), it was with the vision of teaching progressive classes and offering personalized instruction.  My motivation is and was to put the needs of the student first. While running the school, I teamed up with a medical doctor and physiotherapist in a downtown Toronto rehabilitation clinic. I learned how to apply the exercises of yoga to treat and heal physical injuries. For 15 years, I ran TYW independently. It quickly became a haven for students looking for more than drop-in classes or informal teaching. It was a great honor for me to develop the school and I am very grateful to every single student who studied with me for either a short or longer period. For without any of them, TYW would never have been born and the vision to teach yoga as a life-time practice would also not have crystallized over the years.

TYW served a niche within the Toronto community by offering only 6-week programs in classical Hatha yoga, special back bending and meditation courses. Each program limited the class size from 5 to 7 students. It was the foundation from which to offer more detailed teaching and structured learning. This kind of intimacy is the same way I personally learned yoga in India and where I developed my original teaching model from.

Over the years, TYW actively raised money for charities by offering yoga classes by donation. These are some of the various causes I supported and personally care about. One of which is teaching English to children (ESL) by bringing awareness to the importance of helping children have a better education in 3rd world countries.

  • Pragathi Primary & Secondary School, India
  • Women’s Assault Help-line
  • Riverdale Hospital
  • Sri Lanka Tsunami Relief Efforts
  • Assaulted Women’s Help-line
  • The Canadian Red Cross
  • Scotiabank in Support of Epilepsy
  • Ascent Magazine Publishing Fund
  • WoodGreen Community Centre
  • Japanese Crisis, Red Cross
  • Mount Sinai Hospital
  • The Kidney Foundation of Canada
  • Sheena’s Place, Toronto
  • New Leaf Yoga Organization Yogathon for Schizonphrenia
  • OSPCA, Ontario Society for Animals
  • Redwood Shelter for Women

In 2012, I closed TYW saying good-bye to the physical school I had created and developed. I became engaged, later married and moved to Europe. Shortly afterwards I became a mother to a little boy. When I made these changes, I had been looking to fulfill deeper personal aspirations and dreams. It was not easy to change the direction of my life especially after crossing 40, but maintaining the status quo didn’t feel right either.

I feel the greatest lesson of yoga lies in facing the way life is about change. Accepting these changes in order to meet your destiny and fulfill your dhrama is a huge learning curve in which there is no end to learning, and to the law of change.

Today, I carry the name of The Yoga Way in my teaching of retreats, workshops and classes around the world. Yoga is both the way and the way is yoga.

The Path

My original aspirations were far removed from teaching and Yoga. After what looked like a successful foot in the modeling and acting world, I obtained a Fine Arts degree in Theatre Performance. It was my dream to become a theatre actress. Instead, I grew estranged from the acting world,  landed with an eating disorder and a disheveled personal life. At 25 years old, I made my first life-altering decision and moved to South Korea to live and work as an English teacher for children. It was in South Korea that I began teaching yoga. Moving to Korea is one of the best decisions I have ever made and from where the healing of my life began.

I had no academic background to begin a career in teaching. I also had no knowledge of yoga; its history, its practices or its benefits. But when I taught yoga, it felt familiar to me and thankfully none of my students questioned my credentials.

When I returned to Canada, I embarked on formal training programs of yoga where I lived at the Sivananda ashrams in Canada and the United States. I made my first trip to India in 1999.  For me, studying and teaching are intrinsically linked. To deepen my teaching, I returned to university as an adult student; obtaining a Masters degree of education. My thesis dissertation was on Yoga for children in the Indian school system. I sat on the floor, ate with my hands and listened to the dreams and concerns of many Indian families in Mysore.  My ethnographic research work has been used as a resource for post-graduate students and educators. As a guest speaker, I presented my findings at the University of Toronto, York University, McGill and the International Association of Yoga Therapist’s conference (IYAT) in Los Angeles.

 

By far, the most pivotal shift along my path was studying directly under Shri K. Pattabhi Jois in Mysore in 2000. This changed my practice forever. Practice was at 4:30 a.m. and I was one of only 7 students in the shala. It was my 2nd trip to India and I stayed for 3 months to travel and learn yoga. Even before seeing me practice, Jois told me many things about my abilities on the first meeting; all of it was true!  I quickly accelerated my practice but faced a severe injury as well. Tending to my knee, I used to go to the finishing room (meant for the closing series) to practice an improvisation of back bending! It was my interest and injury that led to more formal training of back bending.  I studied back bending, the yoga sutras and other yogic techniques for well over a decade in Mysore. 

True to life the path is never a straight one. It diverges with an inherent end to everything. Knowing how to let go is a great lesson both of life and yoga. I eventually moved away from my former teachers and including Ashtanga yoga. Fast forward many years later after an initial miscarriage at 10 weeks in 2011 and to the birth of my son in 2013, my practice changed again.  I gravitated toward studying under Yogacharya Vinay Kumar; the founder and teacher of Prana Vashya.

 

No longer were my previous teachers or the practices I developed suitable or sustainable.  As well, I stepped back to seek deeper and formal studies of meditation.  After a chance meeting with Swami Veda Bharati in 2009, I underwent silent retreats at his ashram in Rishikesh and obtained initiation with a personal mantra (chant). When Swamiji passed away in 2015, I sought teachers like Dipa, the only living daughter of the late Dipa Ma, in Kolkatta. I also finally meet with Shri BNS Iyengar in Mysore. I had first heard about him when I began studying in Mysore. He was known as a great philosopher of yoga and it was said, “If you want to meet God,” then go to Guruji. He is my teacher now and from whom I have received the direct teachings of pranayama under his guiding light.

Becoming a first-time mother, however, is the greatest change of all to my practice and including the way I live my life. What was once a very competitive personal practice to beat my best slowly grew into an extension of what real yoga is all day long. It is not limited to the countless hours I used to spend on the mat. The heart of yoga is kindness, compassion and patience. My little boy teaches me this in his own way every day. I cannot write in words a full account of what is it to be a mother other than to say it is full of joy, challenges, difficulties and perennial life lessons.

 

 

Philanthropy

It’s often said that the real work of life is that which is done for charity. It opens the heart, clears the mind and is a great reminder of gratitude. I definitely feel this is the case and especially when I am in India, there are so many ways to help and to serve. My way of giving back and contributing has been by teaching English to children. I have taught both informally and formally at a school called Pragathi Vidya Kendra. Pragathi is a private (non-for-profit) school in Mysore, South India. It is an honor for me to continue to call them my friends. I began working with them in 2004; teaching their children to speak, read and write English.

About Pragathi Vidya Kendra

The word ‘Pragathi‘ means progress, ‘Vidya‘ knowledge and ‘Kendra‘ school in Sanskrit. It is a primary and secondary high school that was established in 1993 as a “non-for-profit organization.” It’s the home for many children who coming from a deprived background would otherwise not be able to have such an education. It is maintained by the principal, headmaster and a board of trustees and along with generous donations from outsiders. The best part is that the school offers a holistic education from Pre-K to the Xth Standard (Grade 10 in North America). Their curriculum is meant to focus not only upon academic achievements, but to address the mental and spiritual aspects of every child, and student.  Yoga has been a key aspect within their curriculum being also taught as a mandatory subject for the last 15 years at the school. All the students from Ist Standard (Grade 1) to the Xth Standard attend weekly yoga classes.