2021 marks my 20th year of teaching Iyengar Yoga. It’s caused me to pause and think back to when I started on this great adventure. In 2001, the Kelowna Yoga House opened to the public. For some time, our Iyengar community had been making a transition from Margaret Lunam’s studio, temporarily to the Buddhist center, and finally, to our new building. I was very active in this process, helping out where I could. I joined the KYH board of directors, made phone calls, showed up for various volunteer projects, like placing the cement blocks along the pathway and in the back parking area. It was an exciting time to be erecting a building specifically for yoga, as most yoga in Kelowna then was conducted from home studios and rec centres.
In 2001 I was the new kid on the block, and the evening schedule at Yoga House was full — there was not a slot open when I could teach a class. At that time, my children were young; I had a 1 year old and a 5 year old, and I was juggling being a mother with my daytime job and ongoing training towards Iyengar certification. I did do some substitute teaching then at the Yoga House, but I had to forge my own class at the YMCA that year. The YMCA class was in a fitness room, which did not have the serene ambiance of the Yoga House, but it gave me great experience, and a year later I was able land a class on the KYH schedule. My classes were small in those days and I was an unknown, but I was guided by BKS Iyengar’s words, that you teach whoever shows up, and if no one shows up, you practice!
During these 20 years I have seen many students come and go, my children have grown and there have been life changes galore, but the thing that has remained constant in my life is my love of yoga. My interest in yoga has never waned, and I often think of yoga as my dear, constant companion. Being naturally curious with a passion for research, I have always wanted to “get to know yoga”, in all its various facets. This seemingly boundless subject has goaded me on to continue my studies in a multitude of ways. Yoga is vast—too much even for one lifetime.
I’ve had incredible teachers along the way, including my first, Barbara Young, who ignited that fire within me, and who posed the question to me after a few years of regular practice: “Have you ever thought of teaching yoga?” No! It never even occurred to me until she said it!
When I decided to join in teacher training, I made a fortuitous connection with the Victoria Iyengar Yoga Centre, and Ann Kilbertus served as my mentor over many years. I was also so fortunate to have training from Shirley-Daventry French, who was a direct student of BKS Iyengar and one of the first Iyengar certified teachers in Canada. In those days, no one in Kelowna was yet able to train teachers in the Iyengar method, so I set about to travel back and forth to Victoria, as many others did at that time. Margaret Lunam, who had the Iyengar studio in her home (pre-Yoga House), surprised me with her generosity again and again. She sponsored me for workshops, giving me monetary gifts now and then, knowing I was a financially-strapped young mother. Thinking back, she must have seen that strong spark of interest in me. When Barbara Young moved to Ottawa, Deborah Lomond became my teacher, and later my friend, practice buddy, and peer. I should mention too, that somewhere in there I met Doug Bauer, who became my ‘partner in life’. We have always delighted in our shared passion for yoga.
It is a very humbling experience to think back over these 20 years. I feel like I’d like to apologize to a lot of students in the early years! I recognize that I have made many mistakes out of ignorance, and my approach was not always been skilled. However, it takes time to develop, and I would like to acknowledge that everyone who showed up in my class as a ‘student’, also showed up in my class as my ‘teacher’. Very early on I discovered that this was/is a reciprocal relationship.
In this role as ‘teacher’, I have received great abundance. It’s been a mirror to see and understand myself, and it’s enabled me to relate and empathize with others from an extraordinary variety of life experiences. The feedback I have received has been invaluable in shifting my perspective and allowing me to mature. Being a teacher, of any subject, puts one into a position where one can truly be of service. I feel I’ve grown into that gradually over the years, due to the open-mindedness and open-heartedness of the students who have come along.
You (if you’ve been in my classes) have shared with me your ‘aha’ moments, your joys, and much laughter along the way. There have been so many tender moments, and even some tears, as we have connected in moments of grief and sorrow. You shared with me your frustrations, your desire to transcend, and to heal…both physically and spiritually. It is with immense gratitude and love that I thank you all for your continued support. You have allowed me into your life, and I truly am humbled! I am so grateful for YOU. You have enriched my life in ways you may not have imagined.
Often yogis don’t feel like they belong in society, because the path of yoga is not easily understood by many. It is very different trajectory in life. For me to have been able to surround myself with yogis and aspiring yogis has filled my life with constant inspiration. I have been able to see how this practice allows one to grow old gracefully, and how it has been a lifeline when dealing with all kinds of challenging life circumstances. We can have some equanimity and peace.
Yoga has taken me India many times (7 so far and one trip cancelled because of Covid) for study trips at the RIMYI. It’s taken me all across Canada for workshops with amazing Canadian and international teachers. I’ve been invited to teach in many other communities, and have been welcomed into people’s homes and hearts. Through the Iyengar Yoga Association of Canada I have served in different capacities: as an assessor, mentor, and volunteer, for example. I have made a great many friends, even through the assessment process, as I have gone through five of them myself in different locations across Canada (Calgary, Montreal, Toronto and Victoria x2) .
Teaching Iyengar Yoga requires a great deal of commitment, serious practice, time, money, and a relationship with the mentors and connection to the source. I’ve continually had the good company of others who are similarly ardent. As I consider these 20 years, I am overcome with gratitude for this good company. I am filled with wonder and immense gratitude for every single person who came to one of my classes. You are the greatest teachers of all.