As far back as I can remember, I was always pondering the big mysteries of life….who am I? What is my purpose? What happens after death? These questions led me as a teen, first to my mother’s bookshelf (and then beyond) to books on eastern philosophies and metaphysics. I was enthralled with anything that had to do with ‘knowing oneself’. At times life seemed meaningless, nothing really seemed to matter, and I did tailspin into a depression. However, during that time I began a quest, seeking to distinguish what was real from what was unreal, and my values began to surface.
Fast forward to my early twenties, a year after my first child was born… Again these questions resurfaced as I faced an identity shift. Up until that point I had learned to be ‘me’, and now I was faced with the fact that I could no longer just look out for #1. I was a mother with a responsibility to this child and I needed to be a better role model. Still, I kind of struggled with my own existence…is this why am I here? Just to be a parent now? I knew I needed to up my game, to move beyond my self-centeredness.
As these considerations were present for me, I was hearing this word ‘yoga’ being tossed around. Oh, yes, YOGA…I knew this word from all of those eastern philosophy books of my teens! I recalled the yoga written about in those books was not the ‘postural yoga’ we often associate with the word today, and yet, I was still intrigued. I think I need to try this thing called ‘yoga’. I did not know much about the practice at the time, but I knew there was a physicality to it that w.as compelling
And then my friend invited me to come to class with her at this ‘interesting’ woman’s home studio… Margaret Lunam was a very unconventional woman—an activist, an environmentalist, a principled woman, with great generosity and great ferocity! So bold and inquiring— I admit she was a little intimidating. But I made my way into my first class with Barbara Young, who taught a beginner class from Margaret’s studio. Leaving my daughter and husband at home, I took that one class per week and it soon became the highlight of my week.
Something mysterious was happening to me. I was able to really look inside myself. I found attention and focus in and through my body. The time went by quickly as I was able to just be present. This weekly class changed the course of my life. I was amazed how the physical practice seemed to get into every nook and cranny of my body and psyche. I didn’t know I could ache there! I thought all those years of long-distance running had made me strong, but I learned I was very weak, and my mind was scattered.
Yoga allowed me to dive deeply into my own world and discover my hidden motivations, ego assertions, and also my compassionate heart revealed itself. It continues to be a great voyage of discovery on many levels: physical, mental, emotional and subtle. Out of necessity I began to practice at home.
One day my teacher said to me, “Have you ever thought of teaching yoga?”
What? It never occurred to me to become a teacher! Did she really think this was something I could do? I had so much to learn, and yoga seemed endless.
Back in those days, teaching yoga was definitely NOT a career move. There were no big teacher training programs where I came from and if there was anything online, I was not aware of it. I had to travel to Victoria for training for several years and assisted in classes with local teachers, raised my daughter, and then had my second child…all the while holding down a day job at a café.
There were times when I really felt like I was crazy to pursue something that required so much time and money while not promising a ‘career wage’. My friends and family did not understand why I would put so much energy into this pursuit. And because I was not in a training cohort per se, I had to heavily rely on my own inner drive and passion for the subject. I had to learn how to constantly motivate myself to practice. It was non-negotiable. I could not rely on my teachers to give me the answers, which was really a blessing, and it caused me to dig deep on my own.
The philosophy of yoga started to seep into every of my life— work and raising my children became my yoga practice and my kids got used to spiritual practice being an everyday affair. I started to see the spark of divinity within others (and in myself) which allowed me to radically shift my view. I felt better and better about how I was showing up in the world while my purpose started to reveal itself.
As my teaching role continued, and the focus shifted towards helping other people, my own negativity and suffering lessened. Doesn’t mean the challenges did not come…they did. My husband and I split up which was a devastating time of heartbreak and pain. Yoga was with me through that rough time and many more. Yoga was with me through sickness and health. Yoga was with me through fatigue and loneliness and financial strain. Yoga has been my best friend, my constant companion. Yoga never judged, always listened, was patient and quiet and served me endlessly
What drives me to teach yoga, particularly Iyengar Yoga, is that I have seen the results first hand. This practice has helped me to feel at home in my own body. This culture generally has not valued short and stocky female bodies, and yet I have discovered the beauty and function of this machine! Yoga has helped me to accept and honour myself, making time for practice. I have been able to maintain some sense of inner stability and resilience when life has thrown its punches. And what a JOY to witness the self-discovery of students in class and out. I want YOU too to experience that joy, that equanimity, that inner resilience…