It is always surprising for me to share how my original aspirations were very far removed from teaching. After what seemed like a successful foot into modelling, I obtained a degree in Theatre Performance. It was my dream to be a Theatre actress. Instead, I grew estranged from the acting world, landed with an eating disorder and a disheveled private life. At 25 years old, I made a life-altering decision and moved to South Korea to work as an English teacher with children. It was in South Korea that I also began to teach yoga. Moving to Korea is one of the best decisions I ever made and from where the healing of my life began.
But I had no academic background in teaching. I also had no knowledge of yoga; its history, practices or theory. All I knew is when I taught yoga, it felt familiar.
When I returned to Canada, I embarked on certified training programs of yoga by living 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 Indian schools. For my research, I sat on the floor, ate with my hands and worked closely with Indian families. My ethnographic project has been used by post-graduate students and educators for future research. As a guest speaker, I lectured at York University, the University of Toronto, McGill and the IYAT conference (International Association of Yoga Therapists) in Los Angeles, California.
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. and I was one of only 7 other students in the shala. It was my 2nd trip to India and I stayed for 3 months to study yoga and travel. I quickly accelerated in my practice but faced a severe injury. Tending to my knee, I used to go up to the finishing room (a room only meant for the closing series) to practice an improv of back bending. Students wondered who taught me but it was spontaneous. Ironically, it was my injury that led to formal training of back bending. I studied yoga back bending, the scriptures and other many yogic techniques with breath control over a 12-year span in Mysore.
True to life, however, the path is not straight. It diverges with an inherent end to everything. Knowing when to let go is a great lesson both in life and of yoga. I eventually moved away from my former teacher and including Ashtanga yoga. Fast forward many years later after a miscarriage at 10 weeks in 2011 and to the birth of my son in 2013, my practice changed again. I meet and gravitated toward studying under Yogacharya Vinay Kumar; the founder and teacher of Prana Vashya.
Both my initial teachers and the practices I had developed were no longer suitable or sustainable. 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 was personally initiated into the practice with a private mantra. My on-going study also lead me to teachers such as Dipa (the only living daughter of the late Dipa Ma) in Kolkata and to finally meeting Shri BNS Iyengar in Mysore. I had known about Guruji (as I call him) when I began studying in Mysore. He was understood as being a great philosopher 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 and philosophy with his guiding light. My most recent trip to Mysore included attending his 93rd birthday.
Becoming a mother is, however, the greatest change to my practice and to the way I live my life. What was once a very competitive personal practice grew into more of what real yoga is beyond the mat and teaching. The heart of yoga is kindness and patience. My little boy teaches me this in his own way every day. Words cannot convey what it means to me to be a mother other than to say it is full of joy, challenges and perennial life lessons.