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.