Thursday, 24 July 2014

Yoga Saved My Life

When my yoga journey began, I immediately felt and appreciated the physical benefits of yoga. I was a fitness junkie; I ran marathons, taught exercise classes, and caught onto every new workout program. At the time, I thought yoga would just be a small addition to my exercise regime. I began to notice changes in my body simply by adding one yoga class per week. My knees and ankles stopped swelling when I’d run, my balance improved, my hip flexors didn’t ache anymore, and I was becoming more flexible. Since physical health was my priority at the time, I became a huge fan of yoga for everything that it could do for my body.

A year later, I was still practicing yoga, along with all of my other physical activities, when my whole plan backfired. I was over-exercising and under-eating. At 21, my hair was falling out, I no longer had a menstrual cycle, and I was absolutely miserable. Although it took quite a while for me to admit that my “healthy lifestyle” was causing all these issues for me, I eventually recognized that I had a problem. It was at this point that yoga changed my life.

I stopped ignoring my yoga teachers whenever they would talk about the spiritual component to yoga. My practice stopped being about challenging my body and became my source of peace and happiness. I started reading about yoga, developing a personal practice, and meditating. Within a year, my priorities, my lifestyle, and my sense of self changed drastically. I was healthier in every way; my physical body felt better than it ever had, my relationships improved, my stress and anxiety levels were under control, and for the first time in my life I had a spiritual practice.

When I began the teacher training program two years ago, once again, I underestimated the impact that it would have on my life. Yoga is one of those things where, the more you learn, the more you realize you don’t know. My practice is forever growing, influencing my life in different ways, and teaching me lessons along the way. Yoga has truly saved my life.

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

thank you yoga

Yoga has had an incredible impact in my life and has changed it in many ways for the very best. It has allowed for me to be patient as well as self accepting especially the factors of which I have no control. My practice of Asana’s has helped me achieve balance in my life through my breath and body awareness. I attempt to incorporate yoga in my daily living.

The practice of yoga has helped me maintain mental clarity as well my physical strength. I have a better above all sense of self , a truly deep rooted love and passion for the practice and how it has enriched my life for me. Yoga has been something I have been able to rely on and always be blessed with clarity. A perfect marriage of tranquility, peace and love. Yoga inspires me to be ever changing in every aspect of my ever changing world.

Thursday, 3 July 2014

do not abandon the mat in hard times

Yoga offers lessons that you won’t find in a book. These lessons come to mind when I reflect on why I do yoga. It is amazing to see what people can do with their bodies. Many beautiful and inspirational yoga videos are floating around on the internet. But it is the silent and invisible aspects that can only be discovered internally, and which often go overlooked in passing digital bytes. It is difficult to capture and communicate these things.

I have learned that my physical barriers are often created by my mental resistance. Yoga is great for anxiety but if I jump onto the mat without being fully present, letting anxious thoughts float around as I fall into poses, I will not get very far. The experience will not be pleasant either, desperate rather than tranquil. This has been a humbling lesson that I often have to revisit when I want to give up in moments of frustration.

Using breath as energy is another subtle lesson that yoga teaches. Whenever a friend asks me to teach them some poses this awareness is the hardest part to communicate. If I could go back to tell myself all the things I have learned through my practice (with much more to learn), my past self would probably not understand what I was talking about. Breath opens space, and space is all you need sometimes. Even a tiny bit can make a world of difference. One can teach a pose, but it will always be up to the student to explore that pose individually and internally. That exploration is what makes yoga special for me.

Learning to not push too hard has been more challenging than any physical challenge I have encountered. Yoga has taught me that there is more strength in moderation than in completion. I still resist this lesson at times but it gives me something to work with and this is valuable in itself. This notion of moderation contradicts many years of academic education, and beyond that the years spent immersed in modern society. The push to achieve without stopping to consider what is being achieved has been drilled into my brain. Being able to stop thinking and explore a deeper level of awareness is why I do yoga. (A little rebellion against the system is fun too :)

This year of deepening my yoga practice has confronted me with a lot of truths and valuable lessons. Cycles of enthusiasm, overwhelmed tiredness, resistance and surrender have all come and gone. It is true that nothing ever stays the same. And while this can be defeating at times, it can also be humbling to acknowledge that life escapes definition. Don’t abandon the mat in hard times. It is there to teach a lesson even when you feel like rolling up in a ball of self-pity and letting the tension in your body consume you. I will forget all of these lessons and I will remember them again. And there will always be moments that remind me I don’t know the half of it, or any of it. This wisdom that reveals itself bit by bit through internal exploration is why I know I will always want to keep practicing, questioning, and finding peace in humility. And having fun too, there is always lots of that!

Thursday, 19 June 2014

giving and receiving

As a yoga instructor I have moments where I waiver between “am I doing the best I can for my students” and days where I can feel pretty confident about what I send out. I personally think that if we ever enter a room and think even for the smallest of moments that ‘I know it all’ and if anyone does not ‘get what I give… It ‘s their issue’, we need to leave the teaching arena.

I am cautiously optimistic about every class that I move into. My variables are of course, my students. How well do we really know them? Their battles? We may never know especially if they don’t feel the trust to come forward and ask questions about their needs. I will walk in with a class prepped and move into the first few poses and realize that even though I began by asking if anyone was new, people are shy. I don’t have the opportunity to be at the front desk so I rely on his or her willingness to wave at me when I ask if anyone is new. Some are too shy to do so. So I find out, if you will, in the field.

At that moment the script is thrown out. Then we move with the room. For me this has been an amazing learning opportunity and completely organic growth. I have learned so much from my students and am eternally grateful to them. My students are and forever will be, my greatest teachers.

I was moved to tears today. I met “Ed” about a year ago. A cheerful soul who has a permanent smile on his face. It was hard not to notice his presence because he radiated abundant kindness. It was about a month after meeting him that he asked me about meditation and its effects on the body and does the physical body need to be in certain positions or states to do it? We had many conversations and exchanges that left room for deeper learning and more intense conversations. Not once did any part of me scream… “This guy is in pain.”

Today Ed came up and thanked me after class. Told me he is going on a one-year excursion around the world. WOW! I ask my students to send me a picture of them in a yoga pose so I can hang it on my yoga room sangha wall. He agreed, and I gave him my email. This is the email I received.

“Thank you again for your guidance during my practice in the mornings yoga classes. Over the last couple months, the lessons I learned from you helped me overcome bouts of drug-induced mental illness and the psychological fallout that came from that.

The compassion, kindness, and humor you emanate is an inspiration and gave me strength to make a full-recovery and embark on the new path I'm heading down. I'm looking forward to continuing my practice and sending you a picture for your wall, of me on some distant continent in a pose you taught me. *hug*”

We do not know what will walk in. We just need to be open to receive it. Humbly and full of gratitude… thank you Ed. What you have just done for me is immeasurable.

Shanti Om - Tally Young
Tally is a certified instructor who currently teaches at a variety of places in Winnipeg.
She is participating in the YCW 200hr Teacher Training

Sunday, 1 June 2014

Turkish delight

the Yoga Centre Winnipeg recently returned back from our latest yoga adventure in TURKEY.

Jan and I, plus 20 willing and adventurous yoga students headed off to Istanbul and the Turquoise Coast.  We arrived to a warm greeting from our tour company: Mocha Tours.
The owner of the tour company greeted us himself. Murat , our warm, friendly  and very organized host whisked us away to a lovely little coffee shop that turned out to also specialize in CHOCOLATE!!! In addition to a wide variety of specialty coffee &teas they had chocolate in every form you can imagine- they even had chocolate spoons.

This would have been enough for most, but then we moved on to our lunch at a nearby fish restaurant. As we hungrily gobbled up the array of options before us, we were surprised by a second course!!! Most of us had already begun to slow down our eating when around came the MAIN course. Just when we could barely imagine taking another bite along came a most irresistible desert!!!

This was our welcome to Turkey and definitely set the tone for our upcoming ten days together- sweet and abundant!

As we left the cafĂ© we were serenaded by the call to prayer at the local mosque, which was broadcast out into the community.  This was our introduction to the 'call to prayer.'   No matter where we were, or what we were doing, 5 times a day we would hear this call to prayer.  No matter what one’s spiritual beliefs, you here the call! How one chooses to respond (or react) to the sound is individual. It struck me as an moment of connection and an opportunity to pause, if only for one breath,  and appreciate my immense good fortune,-not only to be travelling in this amazing country, but for my life and my freedom.

We spent the following 2 ½  days touring the ancient city of Istanbul we had a wonderful guide Yassin, who kindly and patiently shepherded us from one ancient site to another filling our brains with history and culture.! It was delightful, even though our first day was in the pouring rain! Luckily umbrellas were for sale on every corner especially at the tourist destinations!

Our second evening we were fortunate to attend a showing of the whirling dervishes at an old hamam that had been converted into a cultural centre. The show was entrancing, and lulled most of us into a meditative state.

Day three brought other wonders such as the Blue Mosque, the Cistern, and the Spice Market and our introduction into Turkish Delight……Words can not express this adventure!! Let’s just say we all did our part to support the Turkish economy.

From Istanbul we traveled to the Turquoise Coast, where we began Phase II!

We arrived in a small coastal town called Dalaman. After a 2.5 hr bus ride up winding hills along the coast  we arrived at our destination the Lazy Lizard Inn. We immediately fell in love with the place, the view, AND our hosts Sigi and Mickey. Sigi, a  wonderful cook, kept us well fed with her diverse and delicious meals. While Mickey, kindly & patiently toured us around to all the wonderful sites along the coast and catered to our every need (bathrooms, coffee and bananas).

 Each day we would head out from the Lazy lizard and travel 40 minutes down the mountain and head for a different adventure!! From natural wonders like the Saklikent Gorge, to the ancient cities of Tlos and Patara.

We roamed around the to not so ancient abandoned village of Kayokoy, imagining the lives of the villagers, and what the abandoned structures were once used for.

 We walked on beaches, bathed in the mud, swam in the blue blue sea and some of us even sailed in the sky!! Each of us was touched by a different aspect of this rich and beautiful land.

Oh yes, and of course we did yoga. Yoga was the thread that brought this very diverse group of women together. Yoga was our common thread. It helped us through the jet lag and cope with the aches and pains of sitting on buses. It calmed our nerves, soothed our travel bellies and helped us sleep. Although the outdoor morning yoga was c-c-c-cold, it still magically transformed the sleepy stiff body into a state of vibrancy and set the tone for the day. The evening yoga was a refuge- it integrated the day’s events and brought us all back into harmonious balance.

I am so grateful for this opportunity to see the world and to experience the  beauties and joys of other lands, it gives me fresh eyes and great appreciation for the beauty and wonder of our own city and the beautiful community of people at the Yoga Centre Winnipeg!

Monday, 5 May 2014

Yoga and My Life

I had always been a believer of doing what guides your heart.

However, if you told me 10 years ago where that would have led I may not have believed you! In October of 2007 a friend of mine convinced me to try hot yoga. The only reason I tried it was because of all of the calories I was told I would burn in one class. Wow! Post class I felt awesome and I couldn’t believe how hard it was. It wasn't the defeated kind of hard I had felt when trying other activities, it was the achievable hard and I loved it. From that point on I did as many classes as I could afford to do. I certainly began feeling the physical improvements such as strength and flexibility. My family really noticed how happy going to yoga made me. It wasn’t long before I noticed how it started to change and challenge my life from the inside out. I wanted to simplify, I wanted to experience things I had never even thought about before, I wanted to be a better person and most importantly I wanted to share what I felt with others. I guess the term, taking yoga off the mat now applied to me !

With a little voice in my head telling me I should teach yoga, I continued to try and convince others to try yoga or go to class with me. However, that little voice got louder and louder and was starting to disrupt my daily work life. I managed to push this voice aside convincing myself that being already over 40 there was little chance I could or should teach yoga to others.

Then it dawned on me, isn't yoga for everyone? Why do I feel I wouldn't make a good teacher for someone? I could likely teach beginners,children or maybe children or adults that need a more therapeutic approach to yoga. I then thought wouldn't it be amazing if individuals with developmental disabilities were doing yoga? I started thinking about my previous 8 years of “hands on” experience in the field of social services. I felt very strongly there were many individuals with special needs that could benefit from yoga. I shared my thoughts to my extremely supportive husband who said, “If there was ever a time for you to do something you are passionate about, do it now!” I really was passionate about this and it wasn't a lack of self confidence at all that brought me back to working with an amazing community of people !

Like everything that is meant to be, it just all fell into place so easily. If that fire hadn't been lit almost 7 years ago or the desire to become a yoga teacher not been so disruptive! I would have ignored the signs that I was meant to do something very special with my life. I sought out what I felt would be the best teacher training in order to teach this particular clientele and headed to Massachusetts where the training was held. I left my full-time corporate position of 10 years to get back to working with a group of people I love. It just had a new twist is all! That first week was followed by 4 years of teacher training that have both supported my initial training and allowed me to branch out into teaching “typical children and adults” ! I fell in love with what ever it was that drew me to the mat and kept me there. I know I became a yoga teacher because it felt right and not a day goes by that I don’t appreciate the people that supported the path it took for me to follow my passion.

by Gail Gagne

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

My Peaceful Warrior

I have been practicing yoga for a couple of years now, that is, until April 16th, 2013, the day my mom was diagnosed with ALS. ALS is a motor neuron disease that first attacks the voluntary muscles in the body. The disease makes its way through the body affecting balance, mobility, swallowing, speech and breath and so much more. It’s a terminal illness with no miracle treatment or cure.

As I would come to the mat to practice yoga, my mom was rapidly losing her ability to stand, to lift her arms, bring her hands to heart, to breathe deeply. With every single movement of my yoga practice, I couldn’t help but think of my mom. Then a wave of guilt would flood over me. I could do all of these things that my mom couldn’t. How could I enjoy my practice while my mom was dying? Every time I would bring myself to my mat, so many emotions would start to flow through my body, making it very difficult for me to practice. I just couldn’t bring myself to happy, I couldn’t imagine my life without my mom; my teacher, my mentor, my role model, my MOM!

With the world turned upside down and huge doubt in my mind, I trudged forward and started my teacher training. I longed to feel the excitement of this new beginning, yet my thoughts kept drifting to my mom, to the disease and how this would play out. The workshops started and I went. Needless to say, I put my personal practice on “pause” and really didn’t know if I would ever be able to or want to press “play” again. I didn’t have it in me to practice yoga as my time and energy was given to my mom, holding her hand, praying with her, singing to her and sharing tears with her. As well, supporting my dad, while he helplessly watched his wife, his soul mate and love of his life, slip away, struggling to accept that he couldn’t fix this.

On one of the last days of my mom’s life, I was sitting with her and a few of my sisters in her hospital room when something came over me, this need to do yoga. It felt foreign as I hadn’t felt the urge to do yoga for a long time. So I stood up, and prepared to do a sun salutation. As I moved through the postures, my mom watched me. While still watching me, I showed her Peaceful Warrior and explained how this was and still is one of my favourite yoga postures because it gives me a feeling of strength, beauty and peace. (I think that if one of the nurses had walked into the room at the time, they would have thought I had gone bonkers!)

Then “IT” happened. On November 16, 2013, my mom took her last breath. No more suffering. She was finally at peace. Even with all of the tears and anguish, I am thankful that I was able to walk beside my mom along her journey. I really didn’t think I could do it or had it in me to let my mom go, to witness this part of her life…death. Don’t get me wrong, it was one of the hardest things I have ever done and there isn’t a day that goes by that I am not thinking of my mom and tears fill my eyes. Yet here I am, living, breathing and continuing on. I am moving forward in my journey…struggling to find my passion for yoga again.

Then, a couple of weeks ago, while I was preparing for a Philosophy class at the Yoga Centre, this crazy thought came over me that maybe I could take in a yoga class before the meeting. As the day progressed, I started to doubt myself. Thinking that maybe I shouldn’t do the class, and instead just go to the meeting. Could I do yoga anymore? Could I do a class without feeling guilty, without tears, prepared to let my guard down? Could I do this without my mom? I was afraid and scared of what I might feel. I was torn. I had this voice in my head whispering, “Go to the class, it will help you, trust in yourself, have faith.” And another voice, shouting, “Just gives up! You can’t do this!” I decided to take a leap of faith and go.

When I got in my vehicle, something caught my attention. I found myself mesmerized by the brilliant shades of pink on the horizon. One of my mom’s favourite colors was pink. Call me crazy but I believe she was giving me a sign, reassuring me that I would be ok and that she would be there to hold my hand, to give me strength, beauty and peace…she would be My Peaceful Warrior.

Thank you, Mom
You will always be forever and ever in my heart
Belinda Friesen

This blog is part of a series of writings by the yoga centre winnipeg 200hr teacher training students. Belinda is currently enrolled in the YCW 200hr TT

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Yoga : a life's journey

In practicing yoga I have experienced a change in both my mental/spiritual and physical states.

Mentally I find that I’ve developed an inner peace, a general feeling of well-being and an acceptance of myself and those around me. This inner peace helps me in dealing with stressful life situations, making me pause and take the time to assess a challenging situation instead of reacting quickly or over reacting without thinking.

I suffered a serious injury, broke my fibula, dislocated and tore all the ligaments in that ankle seven years ago. Leaving me with a steel plate and six screws in that ankle. Had it not been for my yoga practice and yoga breath, and knowing that every day was a day closer to better health, I would have had a more difficult time mentally and physically accepting this injury and regaining my physical and spiritual health.

During this time, I was able to continue my yoga practice by adapting poses and doing chair yoga. I believe it was important for me to accept my limitations and somewhat humbled by these limitations to begin yoga again, as a true beginner. This brought a true appreciation of how disabilities can limit you but should not defeat you.

Yoga is part of my life and as I age, I hope to improve my physical flexibility, mobility and grow spiritually throughout my yoga journey.

This blog is part of the continuing series of blogs written by students in the Yoga Centre Winnipeg 200hr Teacher Training Program

Sunday, 30 March 2014

A Yoga Convert

I often hear stories of people who had a “love at first sight” experience with yoga. I have to admit though that I did not instantly fall in love with practicing yoga. It wasn’t as if I attended one class and decided that it was what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. Far from it. A college classmate dragged me to a hot yoga class early one Saturday morning. I was tired and hungover. By the end of the 90 minute class I wanted to crawl into a hole and sleep for the next week. I decided that yoga just wasn’t for me.

It wasn’t until several years later that I gave it another shot. I had decided at the time that I didn’t enjoy running, wasn’t fond of weight lifting, and just couldn’t get into cardio kickboxing. Perhaps yoga could get my lazy butt into shape. I first came to yoga only concerned with tightening my buns and trimming my waistline. Little did I know what I was getting myself into.

When I started taking classes on my lunch break I would return to work with extra energy. One class a week slowly increased to two or three. During my first pregnancy I began practicing at home by stretching in the evenings and during my second pregnancy I focused on mediation in anticipation for childbirth and delivery. Practicing yoga on a regular basis was not something I had planned or thought much about. It just kind of happened.

It wasn’t until I became a mother that I began to understand the deeper lessons that yoga offered. Like most new moms I was lost and overwhelmed, I felt overtaken by the role of motherhood. I struggled to find my footing and regain a sense of identity outside of caring for my children. The practice of yoga gave me space, a quiet moment to reconnect with who I was at my core. When I lose myself in the fast pace of everyday life, quiet meditation is there to center me again.

I had started attending yoga classes strictly for fitness but found that over time it has transformed everyday living into a spiritual practice. I don’t think of spiritual in terms of the supernatural. To me, living spiritually means taking the time to nurture yourself emotionally. Finding a quiet moment while washing dishes to immerse yourself in the miracle of running hot water in my kitchen or feeling joy while reflecting on a day spent with my family. Those have turned into spiritual moments for me.

I, like many people, lose those moments when I am not fully present in my life. My mind often gets carried away with a never ending “to do” list or feels like I am not getting a break from my children. I am now finding joy in tasks I used to agonize over. Bedtime is no longer about struggling to get kids to sleep (geez kid… can’t you see I have a kitchen to clean?) but surrendering to a family snugglefest in bed.

While the physical benefits of yoga are undeniable they have taken a back seat to the emotional journey I have embarked on. My asana practice helps to ground and reconnect me with living in the moment. One breath, one movement at a time. It awakens me to the sensations of my body and blocks the distraction of thinking too far ahead in time or reflecting too deeply on the past. Despite our rocky beginnings, I am a yoga convert.

Krista Heimpel
January 2014

Krista is currently enrolled in the Yoga Centre Winnipeg 200hr Teacher Training Program

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

My Yoga Journey So Far

Just over 5 years ago, I went to a weekend Yoga retreat and was amazed after that weekend how great my body and mind felt, how relaxed and unstressed I was when I returned to my daily family and work routine.   It took me several more years to realise how important the self-care that I obtained through Yoga was to me and gradually started increasing my number of weekly Yoga classes to maintain my self-care.

Upon my recent retirement, I enrolled in the Yoga Centre – Teacher Training 2 year Program with the premise in mind that it would keep me physically active through another facet, allow me to focus and learn more about myself, deepen my own practise and the possibly of teaching Yoga.

The Yoga Centre – Teacher Training Program so far has been such an awesome learning experience for me.  I realize that I know so little about Yoga, about myself and am so motivated to learn more.  As I deepen my practise I am learning to physically challenge my body in a very non-competitive manner and that it is important to appreciate the process and practise the Asana (postures) and that it is not just about  the perfect attainment of the Asana.   I am engaging in exciting and challenging learning experiences within the Yoga Centre teacher training program, under guidance of excellent educators and through all the different Yoga classes and levels.   Also as I work through this program even though there is so much to learn I feel the Yoga Centre is providing me with quality role models, instruction, tools and feedback to be an effective Yoga teacher that will help me lead students forward and draw out their self-care which I feel is very important.

Yoga is increasingly becoming a very important part of my daily life.   Yoga is teaching me to keep my life in balance, reduce the worry, it’s okay to be still, be forgiving to myself and others, be grateful, provide service and much much more.  

I am passionate to enjoy my life and to help others enjoy their lives as much as I can.   Through Yoga with a healthier body and positive mind; I believe this can be accomplished with total understanding that there are always life challenges.

Judy McMullen

Judy is currently enrolled in the Yoga Centre Winnipeg Teacher Training Program her contribution is a part of a series on How Yoga Changed My Life, submitteed by the 2013/2014 YCW TT participants

Tuesday, 25 February 2014


My journey to Yoga began when I sought out a gentler form of exercise. My body was starting to feel the effects of years of high impact aerobics and I knew it was time to start listening.

When I was pregnant with my daughter I had done quite a bit of prenatal yoga and I remembered how wonderful that felt. I decided to try a class here and there and quickly developed a passion for it!
Not only was Yoga offering me a kinder, more gentler way to still get the exercise I need but I quickly began to see many other positive effects……. other than just physically.

Anxiety has been something I have struggled with for years. Through my practice, I have found tools within myself that I didn’t even know I possessed. It has offered me a calmness that is always accessible to me…… I just need to slow down, breathe and turn my awareness within. The more I practice, the easier it becomes.
The more I practice, the more I craved the calmness and serenity it offered me; both on and off the mat.

My teachers have taught me to really see and feel things as they are in the present moment, even though they may be uncomfortable. I cannot always control things, and that is alright. For these lessons I will always be grateful.  I find the philosophy and teachings associated with yoga to embody the person and belief system I want to attain.
I found this mantra by Mario Duguay to be very powerful:

Attain Serenity
I no longer let myself be swept away into the turmoil of my
mind and emotions.

From now on I let go of all stress, tension and worry so I may  
attain Harmony and serenity.

I will do one thing at a time and savor each moment.

My practice has offered me a new outlook on life. To me; I would say Yoga has been life changing! I am so excited to be walking down this ever developing path personally as a practitioner and as a teacher, sharing my passion.
No matter how crazy or anxious I feel…… When I walk through the door at The Yoga Centre, I am presented with the smiles and greetings of so many wonderful, strong and inspiring individuals who share the same passion as me. It warms my heart to the core!

Thank you!
Shannon is completing her second year of the Yoga Centre Winnipeg 200hr Teacher Training Program

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Yoga is my journey for positive change.

In my yoga class, our instructor gives us variations or choices of what yoga pose to do at that moment.  Depending on how we feel that day, we choose to start in Sukhasana or Virasana, we can do a wall stretch or Adho Muhka Svanasana.  We can do Baby Cobra or Urdhva Mukha Svanasana.  My yoga practice has helped me to find variations or choices in my daily life.  I choose to feel gratitude instead of unappreciative, feel strong and balanced instead of weak, feel energized instead of depleted of energy and feel relaxed instead of anxious.  I get this from doing yoga.

Practicing yoga has improved awareness within myself as well as those around me especially in Sukhasana or Virasana.  I am better equipped with dealing with arthritis in my hips and emotions such as anxiety and impatience just by finding my breath and perhaps forward folding into Uttanasana. 

My arms and hips feel gratitude as I do a wall stretch or Adho Muhka Svanasana, and I feel strong and grounded in Tadasana.   I find strength, balance and confidence in Trikonasana, Vira II, Utthita Parsvakonasana, Vira I and Parsvottanasana as I have come a long way since my first Triangle pose.  I feel release in my hips and peace of mind as I move into Prasarita Padottanasa.  I find my breath again in Tadasana.

Sura Namaskara B gives me the challenge, heat and energy that I enjoy. I feel tension releasing out of my back body and core so I want to do it again – Sura Namaskara B.  I like to cool down in Setu Bandha, relax and do some twists while I lie down on my mat and prepare for Viparita Karani  and Savasana.  I think to myself  “I am happy and at my best when I am being active, being kind and helping others. ”  

Through yoga poses, I have developed a sense of self empowerment.  I have discovered the courage to look inward and appreciate myself as well as those around me.  And I strive to live a life of forgiveness and compassion instead of being angry; being grateful instead of unappreciative; and live to help others instead of being selfish.  Yoga is my journey for positive change.
This blog is part of the continuing  series of blogs written by students in the Yoga Centre Winnipeg 200hr Teacher Training Program

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Why I Do Yoga

Why do I practice yoga?
Simply put I practice yoga because it makes me feel great.  I could go on an on forever about the benefits I see with a regular commitment to yoga, but I will keep it short and explain a few benefits from being introduced to yoga that I feel now occurs in my daily life.
For starters, yoga has shown me a very important exercise I never really saw as an “exercise” before, breathing.  Even just breathing and concentrating on my breath during a meditation just for a minute has had me realize patience and calmness in myself.  The obvious positive benefits from yoga I feel worth sharing is the way you feel after and during a practice, whether that be a hardcore hot yoga class or a more relaxing class either one gives you that amazing feeling everyone should experience at least once!

I have realized yoga has given me a better approach to myself, both mentally and psychically.  For a long time I have not been happy with many things about myself and yoga has helped me understand my body better and appreciate myself the way I should and with that followed a happier me :) 

As cheesy as it can sound yoga can help you see things in yourself that you never knew you had for example the gentle/calm sensation during a meditation and experiencing total stillness throughout your whole body is a crazy feeling, sure you may think sitting still is very easy and thats what I had thought until I practiced and I was very wrong!! Complete stillness even during a shavasana can be very difficult but when you do experience that it is easily the most relaxing feeling in the world.  An important thing to note with my experience in yoga is my posture.  For the longest time I have had the absolute worst posture and with yoga I have seen improvement in my posture as it make a great difference.  In my opinion I practice yoga for many reasons.  I'm not the type of person to go lift weights at a gym or run on a treadmill for an hour instead I would rather spend that hour doing a work out I enjoy.  Not only is yoga a great work out on many levels I find so many positive outcomes.  A big positive outcome I find yoga helps with is stress.  After having a long day of either work, school, or anything for that matter a yoga class is the best way to end your day feeling rejuvenated, stress-free, and all around happier.  

Like I said you can go on about the positive outcomes of a regular commitment to yoga but I thought I would share the main reasons I enjoy yoga and the advantages I receive from it.  Like I said those are my top reasonings in practicing yoga, the perks that come along with that just make it that much better.
Regan Martin
Regan is enrolled in the Yoga Centre Winnipeg 200hr Teacher Training Program

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

waking up to my life

My yoga path started about 25 years ago when I crossed paths with a friend of my brother who was seriously into all spiritual work. Since then, yoga always stayed with me in my heart however I wasn’t able to pursue for endless reasons. I was basically avoiding to accept the fact that whether I practice yoga or not, to me, life was harsh, a daily struggle. So at some point of my life, I convinced myself to disconnect from yoga and kept it as physical exercise. It was a kind of ignorance allowing me to live in a kind of trance state. I did not want to awake up.

And one day, as any miracle does, yoga came to me.

Since then Yoga has changed my life…and it is still changing my life every day. Finally l did realize that life is supposed to change and yoga helps me finding the center, bring an awareness of myself that encourages me to sail through these changes everyday.

This understanding of connection between yoga and life has allowed me to reconnect to my yoga journey, what a blessing! I’d never forget the day when I rediscovered four corners of my own feet! Then I could stand tall.

Strange enough, Yoga makes me feel more grounded. I am more aware of details of my daily routine and able to enjoy the simplicity…could we call that mindful?

At first, learning to listen to your own body accepting its limits was the hardest thing to do and yes, some days it even did hurt. But as my ability to focus grew, more I was able to free the tension. So on day, I decided to apply this in my daily life! I do practice yoga because I do feel like I live more fully than ever.

I was really interested in connections between yoga and life in general, because yoga is more than just a simple exercise…each practice is about struggling in fighting my own physical challenges, acceptance in order to let go, relaxing, centering, remembering to breath, embracing who I am…to me yoga teaches me to be humble and yet a clear awareness of self. Yoga became a part of my life!

Since yoga is more than just a physical exercise for me, I am interested in spiritual part of it as well. I believe that one of the spiritual practices is about learning constantly (these days I am completely drawn to Buddhist spiritual teachings), and there is so much to learn. The basic learning that I merely understood involves awareness of my inner self, body and mind.

For that, I have started to dedicate a little time in my daily meditation, trying to understand the loving kindness and mindfulness. Even that single discipline is helping me to understand my own breathe, and how to sit tall, the basics to be present.

Finally, I truly believe there is a strong correlation between physical yoga practice and spirituality.

For me, I need to find the balance between how I am practicing asanas on the mat and how I live my life everyday to enable personal motivation. It is like my inner and outer balance I seek through and with yoga on a mat…

 Cassandra Lanyon
 Cassandra is currently enrolled in the yoga centre winnipeg 200hr teacher training program

Monday, 27 January 2014

the Journey

I started yoga when I was pregnant in 1999. I remember one partner exercise where we had to let go of our arm to let the partner move it around. And I could not do it! I could not let go of my arm! This was a really difficult exercise for me and I still think of that when I ask my Shiatsu clients to let go of their arm, leg, head so that I can do the work instead of them. We did a similar exercise last week in class where we had to trust our body into the hands of two fellow students. At the second go I almost enjoyed giving myself and my fears up. But there is still a lot of work to be done...

My whole life I’ve been struggling (still am!) with myself, my body, the way I look, the way I talk. There is really not much that I like about myself. Yoga gives me the opportunity to be with myself and look at things, practice not to judge but work with what is there. The approach in Shiatsu is actually very similar. Try not to judge, don’t force anything, being without intentions.

After my son was born I kept on going to classes once per week. I really liked it but when we moved from Germany to England I couldn’t continue. When we moved to Winnipeg in 2007 I went to some yoga classes in a Community Centre. The teacher recommended the Yoga Centre Winnipeg and that was it. I started coming to classes, after a while I started to work at the desk and this year I finally enrolled in the Teacher Training.

During my first Spring Sadhana in 2013 I realized that it is possible to change things in your body if you practice regularly. The same is true for life. Most of the time the changes are very subtle but they can have a huge effect.

Yes, it is nice to finally be able to do a pose that you have struggled with for a long time but it’s all the other things you learn in yoga that have so many implications on the rest of your life. Accepting people/things how they are, not judging yourself or others, being patient and humble...

For me yoga has turned from a physical exercise to a journey of self-acceptance, letting go, not judging myself or others – every day over and over again! The more I try the more I realize that this journey will never end. And that’s good. I think.

 Simone Karrasch 
Simone is currently enrolled in the yoga centre winnipeg 200hr  teacher training program

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

the gift of yoga

At the age of three, I thought I wanted to be a ballerina. My mother enrolled me in classes at a local community centre and at the end of the session, the teacher informed my mother that I would have to repeat the level again. I think I didn’t “get” ballet because I was really doing yoga. Does the picture not look like a budding yogini?
In the early 1990s, a friend invited me to a yoga class during a period when I was going through a stressful situation. I had dabbled in doing yoga at home and attended a few classes in my younger years but neither the style of yoga nor teacher captured my interest. This time was different. After that first and subsequent classes, I felt more relaxed, able to deal with the things I needed to deal with, and became more aware of my body, my own needs, and enjoyed the community spirit. I went on yoga retreats to Mexico, and to Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health to do seva for free room, board, and yoga several times. Yoga has helped me become the person I was meant to be and continues to provide tools for me to use when facing the bumps and more difficult situations that life brings. To my surprise, I was drawn into combining two precious areas of my life, yoga and children, into a career. I have taken several certifications for teaching yoga to children and have dropped time in my other career to pursue this livelihood with much joy. Now I feel most fortunate to be in teaching training for adults. It has brought a more serious side to my teaching and I hope to teach seniors and beginners in the future. Yoga is truly a gift and I look forward to it being an integral part of my life for many more years to come.
Cathy is currently enrolled in the yoga centre winnipeg 200hr  teacher training program

Sunday, 12 January 2014


This word came up in a class I attended recently and maybe its just the holiday season or maybe I haven't heard it in a while but something about the word struck me. The instruction was "Try to find joy today."   Where do you find joy?

 Sure it can be in a yoga practice knowing that you are doing something good for your mind and body. It could be from your family and seeing their smiling faces everyday. It could be having that first cup of coffee in the morning. It may be one or all of these things. 

 For whatever reason it really made me think about finding joy in my practice and in my life.  As I was thinking about this December 14th came around and it was BKS Iyanger's 95th birthday! 95 years and still teaching and practicing. How is that for inspiration!  He must have some joy in his life and determination. 
So I decided to ask others I put the question onto a social network site "Where do you find joy?".  I got various answers such as: within, laughing children, pets, as well as, some funny answers such as "she lives in transcona" (which i interupt as humour may bring people joy).  

Then I start to really think how can I find joy? I feel joyful in yoga class and in part that is the physicallity of the asana practice, in part that is the community and small interactions with other practictioners before and after class, and in part the ability to grow and change. I have taken to journalling and that has helped me reflect on some of these more intuitive goals that happen sometimes unconciously.  I looked back on a document I wrote when I first started practicing regularly and I read a goal of mine "to hold crow pose for 3 breaths". Its 4 years later and I still can't... and I laugh at the thought that, that was important to me then. 

Then it hits me. 

I get joy from the ability to recognize my own growth and looking at how we are all ever changing beings and it is fascinating. This lights my fire and pushes me forward.  We are taught to be ambitious and gain sucesses but real joy for me come from using yoga as an opportunity for self exploration.  It may have took me 4 years to figure this out and I wonder what I will think when I read this 4 years from now.


Sally MacDonald

Sally is currently enrolled in the yoga centre winnipeg 200hr  teacher training program