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My Yoga Path

My original aspirations were very far removed from both teaching and education. After what looked like a successful foot in the modelling and acting world, I obtained a degree in Theatre Performance. My passion to become an actress grew from the big dream to feeling desperate, estranged and with an eating disorder. At 25 years old, and after spending a few years waitressing and auditioning for many acting gigs I never got, I made a life-altering decision to go to South Korea to work as an English teacher. It was in Korea where I began to teach yoga as something new to try.

It was 1995. 

At the time, I had no academic background in teaching. I also had no knowledge of yoga.  But it felt right and being in Korea was where the healing of my life truly began.   

When I returned to Canada, I embarked on certified training programs at the Sivananda ashrams. I still consider Sivananda my first teacher and made my way to India to learn more.  For me, learning and teaching are intrinsically linked.  As an adult student, I returned to university; obtaining a Masters of Education while also working as a teacher in the Toronto school private sector.  My thesis dissertation was on Yoga for children in India. During the research, I sat on the floor, ate with my hands and worked closely with many Indian families.  As a guest speaker, I have shared this work at York University, the University of Toronto,  McGill and at the International Association of Yoga Therapists in Los Angeles.  

 

By far, the most pivotal shift along my path was studying directly under Pattabhi Jois in Mysore in 2000.  Practice was at 4:30 a.m. I was one of only a few other students in the shala. It was my 2nd trip to India and I stayed for 3 months.  

I quickly accelerated in my practice but faced a severe injury.  Tending to my knee, I used to go to the finishing room (a room only meant for the closing series) to practice back bending.  Students used to wonder who taught me, but it was spontaneous.  Ironically, it was my injury that led to more formal training of back bending.  I studied back bending, the scriptures and many yogic techniques including breath control for well over a decade. 

True to life, however, the path is not straight, with an inherent end to all things.  I eventually left my former teacher and including Ashtanga Yoga. Fast forward a few years later and after a miscarriage at 10 weeks in 2011 and giving birth in 2013, my practice changed again.  I meet with and began studying under Yogacharya Vinay Kumar; the founder and teacher of Prana Vashya.

 

Looking back, the teacher I had and the practice was no longer sustainable.  I had to step back to move forward and sought out formal studies of meditation.  After a chance meeting with Swami Veda Bharati in 2009, I underwent silent retreats at the Sadhaka Grama Dyhana ashram in Rishikesh and received initiation with a personal mantra. My self-seeking also lead me to teachers such as Dipa in Kolkata (the daughter of the late Dipa Ma) and to meeting Shri BNS Iyengar in Mysore. I had heard about Guruji when I first began studying in Mysore. He was understood as being a true, great philosopher and it was said, “If you want to meet God,” then go to Guruji. I have since received the direct teachings of pranayama and philosophy under his guiding light.  

Becoming a mother is, however, the greatest change to my  practice and  life. What was once a very competitive, intense and personal practice grew into a more measured and balanced one.

When the heart of real yoga is kindness and patience, it is my little boy who teaches me this daily.

Words cannot convey what it means to me to be a mother other than to say it is full of joy, challenges and perennial lessons.

 

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 was and is 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 classes. It was a great honour 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.

TYW served a niche within the Toronto community by offering only 6-week programs in Hatha Yoga, special backbending and meditation courses. Each program limited the class size from 5 to 7 students. It was this kind of intimacy from which I learned Yoga in India and where I developed my original teaching model from.

 

Over the years, TYW raised money for many charities by offering classes by donation. TYW supported:

  • 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 Schizophrenia
  • OSPCA, Ontario Society for Animals
  • Redwood Shelter for Women

In 2012, I closed TYW saying good-bye to the physical school I built.  I had been looking to fulfill deeper, more personal aspirations and dreams. It was not easy to change the direction of my life after turning 40, but maintaining the status quo did not feel right. I now divide my time between Canada and Europe and teach on a freelance basis. 

The greatest teaching of Yoga is a reminder in how life is not static but moving. The techniques are a means (not an end) in letting go and letting in.  And, to continually review the questions:   

What is my purpose? What are the lessons? How do I stay the course? 

Today, I carry the name of The Yoga Way offering Yoga retreats, workshops and online classes.

My 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. For there are so many ways to help. I began teaching English at a school called Pragathi Vidya Kendra. Pragathi, a private (non-for-profit) school in Mysore, South India in 2004. It gives me great joy to be able to continue to call them my friends and visit them. 

 

Yoga in School, Pragathi Vidya Kendra, India   

 

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 is  the home for many children who coming from a deprived or poor background would otherwise not be able to have such an education. The school is directed and maintained by the principal, headmaster, teachers and a board of trustees, and including relying generous donations from outsiders. One of best parts is that the school provides a Holistic Education from the Pre-K level to the Xth Standard (Grade 10 in North America). Their curriculum is meant to focus not only upon academic achievements, but addressing the mental, emotional 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 the Ist Standard to the Xth Standard attend weekly yoga,  meditation and chanting classes. It has been my pleasure to combine English speaking into their lessons and to attend their many functions showcasing their wonderful achievements.