Friends and Teachers
“Watch your thoughts; they become words. Watch your words; they become actions. Watch your actions; they become habits. Watch your habits; they become character. Watch your character; for it becomes your destiny.”
– Upanishads –
[dropcap]O[/dropcap]ne of the best things about yoga is the people you meet and what you learn from them. I feel very fortunate to have practiced with great teachers and students alike. Many of us are not in the position to do yoga full-time as a business endeavour or a full-time job. Instead, it’s one part – though a very important part – of our full lives. By incorporating yoga into our lives, we create a deeper, more meaningful place for ourselves within this interconnected world.
To honour my connections, I welcome a celebration and recognition of my students, colleagues and teachers. Please feel free to enter the worlds of these extraordinary people. If you’d like to me to link to your own website, write me!
[dropcap]M[/dropcap]y very first yoga teacher was the beautiful Neena Shahani, who lives, practices and teaches in Vancouver, British Columbia. I credit Neena for teaching me presence and breath work, which allowed me to finish a PhD thesis! I owe so much to this woman for that, and especially for her introduction to yoga. Love. Love. Love.
[column size=”one-half”]When I arrived in Halifax, Nova Scotia, which, for those of you who don’t know, is literally across the country of Canada (3,804 miles/6122 kilometers), I had the good fortune to land on the gorgeous shoreline of the Aspotogan Peninsula. Cathy Guest welcomed me into her heart and into her studio, the Sail Loft Yoga Studio. By studying the eight limbs of yoga philosophy with Cathy, I found a way to reconcile my Christian upbringing, my need for asana practice and my desire to live well. For me, yoga is a physical practice and also a spiritual one. I believe the two work together. That doesn’t mean that I changed my faith to Hinduism or Buddhism. Rather, I believe that the principles of the eight limbs can be found in any religion. Yoga is my way to ‘perfection in wisdom’ by creating a place that allows for awareness and change— in body, mind and spirit.[/column]
[column size=”one-half” last=”true”]Not only am I thankful for her teachings of Ashtanga Yoga, but Cathy gave me my first opportunity to teach yoga by substituting for her. How generous is that?! Cathy also gets credit for re-igniting my passion for cycling. She and her fab husband, Philip, run Freewheeling Adventures, a rockin’ local-national-international adventure travel company.[/column]
Mi Guapo and I now live in Southern Oaxaca, Mexico for several months each year. I’ve been diagnosed with severe arthritis in my knee and the warm weather, the salty sea and OF COURSE, my regular practice of yoga has kept me mobile and (mostly) pain free when I’m there. When we first arrived, I practiced with the wonderful Mario Corella of Rancho Cerro Largo. Then, the beautiful—inside and out—Kine Røst found me through our mutual friend, Javier Gomez Huesca, who along with his partner Paco, runs the fanfriggintabulous La Provedencia in Zipolite.
Kine asked me to teach a class that she’d attend as a test of my teaching abilities, and as the saying goes, the rest is history. I will be forever grateful to Kine for taking a chance on me. Forever. She invited me to be one of the first yoga teachers of a new yoga studio that was in the process of being built. That beautiful space, Pura Yoga, gathers amazing yogis from all over the world, but it is Kine whose energy permeates the space. Trained and certified in Critical Alignment and Therapeutic Yoga, Kine guides her students, including me, under the moniker of Yess Yoga. If you are ever in Oslo, Norway during the spring and summer, I totally recommend you find out where she’s teaching. You won’t be sorry. Better yet, come on down to Zipolite, Oaxaca, Mexico and discover the studio that she built. Not only is Kine an incredible teacher, she’s also an amazing, award-winning graphic designer. Do you like the Blue Lotus Living logo? If so, check out the rest of Kine’s work!
To get to this point on my yoga teaching journey, I’ve had the good fortune to learn bits from different yoga teachers, and all of them have had an influence on my larger understanding and practice. When working with my research partner, Danielle Fuller, in Birmingham, England, we practice with her Ashtanga teacher, James Critchlow. Not only am I grateful that he keeps my friend and colleague healthy and sane, but he was the first teacher to get me into Marichyasana D! I’ll never forget that day. Eoin Finn’s workshop focused my teaching and life mission. He taught me that it’s a.o.k. to love your students, this practice and this life. He also affirmed my profound feelings of connection between nature and yoga. I am grateful. I am also grateful for Kathryn Budig. During a workshop at Halifax Yoga, Kathryn re-ignited my love for this practice. At the time, I was taking myself and my yoga a bit too seriously. With her Aim True talk and her ability to teach me to be calm while trying to do Vrschikasana (!), I created a process in my life that gave greater significance to self-forgiveness and self-recognition of my zeal for excitement. Yes, excitement in yoga! I learned about meditation styles and found my own from Joanne Seviour. Sherry Zak and Coeli Marsh led a teacher’s workshop that sparked my interest in obtaining my certification. Because of timing, I wasn’t able to do their program. Instead, I applied for and was accepted into Halifax’s Ashtanga Yoga Shala program.
For 300+ hours, I was taught by Hart Lazer of United Yoga Montreal. Not only did Hart teach me to teach Ashtanga influenced by Iyengar, he gave me the confidence to teach well. Along with Angie Birt and Seth Daly, Hart’s wisdom and guidance changed my body and my mind, for the better, I believe. Not a day goes by that I don’t hear Hart’s voice.
This is how we started our practice (translated by his teacher, Ken McLeod):
THE FOUR INSTRUCTIONS OF GAMPOPA
Let my heart turn to practice.
Let my practice become a path.
Let this path dissolve confusion.
Let confusion become wisdom.
Nice. Thank you, Hart.
[column size=”one-half”]Do you love this website as much as I do? Check out my friend Tinta Raue’s work. She’s not only a fantastic web designer, she’s also an amazing photographer. Tinta is incredibly easy to work with: She’s funny, super smart, multi-lingual and has an uncanny ability to understand vague ideas and work magic with them.[/column]
[column size=”one-half” last=”true”]One of my besties, Linda Pannozzo, graciously gave me the go-ahead to use “Blue Lotus” when I told her about my idea to take my yoga teaching one step further. I know she had some ideas for what she would do with the name and the symbolism, and yet, she let me go ahead. She’s like that. Giving and kind. She’s also an award-winning journalist and writer. Check out her book, The Devil and the Deep Blue Sea. She is, as they say, “a game changer”.[/column]
These are studios where I’ve practiced, and where I’ve felt welcome. If you’re in their vicinity, consider practicing there.
Halifax Yoga – Halifax, Nova Scotia
Sail Loft Yoga Studio – Hubbards/Birchey Head, Nova Scotia
Amy’s Healing Touch – Chester Basin, Nova Scotia
Laughing Lotus Yoga Center – New York, New York
Moksha Yoga St. John’s – St. John’s, Newfoundland
Moksha Yoga Victoria – Victoria, British Columbia
Pura Yoga – Zipolite, Oaxaca, Mexico
Rancho Cerro Largo – San Agustinillo, Oaxaca, Mexico
If you are travelling through Canada, and you’re looking for a studio, be sure to look at the Yoga Directory Canada website.
“Lotus” adorns the walls of my university office. It’s the work of James Tracy, another student at Pura who resides in Vancouver.
She reminds me of the beauty a teacher learns from her students.