Monday, 21 December 2015

Ashtanga invocation and closing chant

Shivaun Berg our Ashtanga teacher at the Yoga Centre Winnipeg, wanted to share some information about the chants and invocations used in the Ashtanga Practice.

We thought this would make a great blog post, and a handy place for people to access this information.


Before beginning any ritualistic practice or endeavour such as asana, meditation or pranayama practice, studying, etc., it is traditional to state your intention (sankalpa), what you are about to do and why. Chanting focuses the mind and helps to remove any obstacles to the task to be undertaken. The production of sound and vibrations within the body has a calming and peaceful effect. The meaning of the words is secondary and simply feeds back into the vibration so that the sound itself becomes sacred and mysterious. Chanting gathers the mind and brings it closer to the immediate experience. 
Richard Freeman says the best part of chanting is the residue that remains when the sound stops. Chanting is an energetic form. After the chant, take a deep breath, sit in the form and bask in the residue.

Sri K. Pattabhi Jois chanted the Ashtanga Invocation/Opening Chant before asana practice. The first half, the opening of the Yoga Taravalia by Shankaracharya, was taught to Guruji by his teacher Krishnamacharya. It states our intention to bow or surrender, for our own benefit, to the feet of the guru/the teachings. And then expresses our wish that this practice will ease our worldly suffering (samsara) and ignorance/not knowing (moha). 
The second half is a tribute to and description of Patanjali, the ascribed author of the Yoga Sutras, and is often recited separately at the beginning of study of this text. 


vande gurunam charanaravinde
sandarshita swatma sukhavabodhe
nihshreyase jangalikayamane
samsara halahala mohashantyai

abahu purushakaram
shankacakrasi dharinam
sahasra shirasam swetam
pranamami patanjalim

English Translation
I bow to the lotus feet of all gurus.
The awakening happiness of one's own Self revealed.
Beyond better acting like the jungle physician,
pacifying delusion, the poison of Samsara.
In the form of a man to the shoulders,
holding a conch, a discus, and a sword,
with thousands of white heads,
to Patanjali I salute.


The Mangala Mantra is a very old chant from the Rig Veda. It is traditionally chanted at the end of practice, sealing in the work of our practice and bringing it to a peaceful close. The closing chant wishes peace and happiness to the world and offers up whatever benefits or merits we gain from our practice to those who need them. 
Shanti (peace) is chanted three times at the end. The first shanti is for peace from personal suffering, physical or mental aches and pains. The second shanti is for peace from suffering caused by other sentient beings. The third shanti is for peace from suffering caused by universal events that affect us all, like weather and the environment.  

swasthi praja bhyah
pari pala yantam
nya yena margena
mahim mahishaha
go brahmane bhyah
shubhamastu nityam
lokah samasthah
sukhino bhavanthu

English Translation

May all be well with humankind.
May the leaders of the earth protect in every way by keeping to the right path.
May there be goodness for those who hold the earth sacred.
May all the worlds be happy.
May this country be free from disturbances, and may the righteous be free from fear.

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

one family

This blog is a copy of a recent post on Facebook......

Recently i was asked by a journalist about students who come to our yoga centre..... She wanted to hear from students who, were not young, beautiful, able-able bodied, middle class women...while i deeply respected the intention of her article..... This was my response...... (It did not make the article, but it speaks strongly to the truth of the yoga centre winnipeg...those who teach there and those who practice there alike!

The people who come to the yoga centre winnipeg range from ages 8-85. However the practice of yoga (not just asana, but also meditation, and self study), helps people connect with their true nature which is ageless. In that respect, all our students are young. 

At the Yoga Centre Winnipeg, practitioners come in all shapes and sizes. But to us beauty shines from within, awakened through the practice of yoga and accepting oneself unconditionally. So, all our students are beautiful. 

Our classes cater to both men and women, but as we relate to finding balance within, we all learn to embrace our inner feminine and masculine energies.

While most students fit the category of "able bodied" yoga helps individuals relate to themselves through the union of the body mind and spirit. Yoga students learn to make friends with their physical bodies, accept limitations, and experience themselves as whole. 

I cannot say the socio-economic status of our students but, the people we teach say the benefits of yoga are invaluable. What is learned can be taken home and practiced for a lifetime.
Most ethnic groups and cultures are represented at the Yoga Centre Winnipeg. However, we are committed to relating to students at the level of the heart and not the colour of their skin. To us, we are all one family.


Wednesday, 29 April 2015

My Yoga Journey

“Mom. If you can breathe you can participate in a Relax Deeply class.” Holding on to these words, spoken by my son, I began my yoga journey at Yoga Centre Winnipeg in 2009.

At the time of that conversation I was struggling with the onset of rheumatoid arthritis. I had difficulty holding a pen; signing my name was very excrutiating. I was unable to raise my hands up over my head. I hobbled up and down stairs clutching on to handrails. The touch of fabric on my skin was painful and I was unable to tolerate the wearing of jewelry. I was exhausted all of the time.

I knew that I my path to well being was going to be a long one but I was prepared to give myself time. The Relax Deeply classes focus upon deepening the breath and allowing gravity to do the work as participants relax into well supported poses.

From the moment I rolled out my mat for the first time I found yoga to be a very private, personal experience. Each class is comprised of people of all ages and of many levels of yoga experience and expertise. Instructions are clear and options are given for adaptations or for ways in which to deepen the challenges of the poses. Participants bring their attention inward as the poses and the breathing help to create spaces for our bodies, minds and spirits to relax and to open.

Over the last several years I have expanded my yoga experience to include, at various times, Yin, Kripalu, Vinyasa and Beginner classes. Without fail I always learn something new about myself and about the yoga experience in every class that I attend. It is wondrous and I am so thankful for these opportunities.

I am also deeply grateful for the quality of the teaching at the Yoga Centre. All of the teachers have taken an extensive teacher education program. The evidence of the high standards can be found in the consistent manner in which all classes are conducted. Classes are extremely well planned and professionally taught. Teachers are eagle eyed and provide subtle assistance or direction to individuals as required. Humour and kindness unto ourselves are qualities that are encouraged!

To conclude my own story... In the autumn of 2014 my daughter decided to run for the position of school trustee in the civic election. Over the course of 6 weeks she and I walked to over 7000 homes on her campaign trail. It felt wonderful! Of course I continue to be challenged by issues related to the rheumatoid arthritis. However, my yoga practice has given me the strength and the freedom to live an active and healthy life. Namaste!

Betty A.

Yoga Centre Love

I've been attending The Yoga Centre regularly for over 2 years, and after trying a few other yoga studios, found that the Yoga Centre has a variety of classes that are accommodating to my needs. And in the past when I was looking for more physically challenging classes, the Yoga Centre also had what I needed then. But most importantly The Yoga Centre is a place that combines quality, expert instruction with what yoga means to me.

The Yoga Centre is a place that is large enough to offer a wide range of classes in different styles and at different levels, and in a variety of times to suit my schedule and needs. But it is small enough to have a warm feeling of a welcoming community. I feel that the teachers are aware of, and attentive to, my particular needs and strengths, which may not be the case in a larger studio. And the friendly, warm front desk staff add to that feeling from the moment you arrive.

The instructors at the Yoga Centre have an incredible breadth and depth of knowledge, and are always adding to this knowledge with ongoing training and upgrading. Many of the instructors have decades of experience. I love that there is always an emphasis on deep awareness - of breath, mind and body, in all the classes. The master yoga teachers have helped me immensely, to deepen and expand my own practice, in a way that I could not have done on my own. The detailed and expert instructions repeat and reinforce skills and habits, and also introduce new and different ways of expanding my practice with every class I attend. The instructors help to create a feeling of ease and comfort along with this expertise. I feel safe and at peace as I am moving through the poses and growing my practice.

I've also been attending Jan's monthly Yoga Philosophy class for a few years, and love the insights and the inquiry that she leads me to with her teachings. While I read and study yoga on my own, the instructions, discussion and guidance from these classes help me to connect asana to philosophy in new and challenging ways. These teachings help me to connect body, mind and spirit in class and in life, and to better understand what yoga truly is.

I love that you can start at the Yoga Centre at any time, and do not need to wait for the next session to begin if you need to be away for awhile. And the prices are excellent. It would be hard to find such good value for such top-notch, quality instruction anywhere else!

The Yoga Centre really is a place that for me, is the heart and soul of yoga

Karen G

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Love Yoga

It's out the door at 5:30 in the morning for a jog along Wellington Crescent to Assiniboine park and back every other day. Usually about 8 to 10 kilometers, all year round. Heading out into the pitch black at 25 below zero sometimes takes a mental effort, and time to suite up. But those endomorphines that kick in around kilometer six or seven, and the place that they let you go; (Listening to the breath going deep into the lungs, feeling the muscles in the legs working, but
also being more aware of everything around you at the same time. The blackness of the sky, the
sound of the feet hitting the ground, the rhythm in the arms and legs, feeling the seasons change) makes it oh so nice.

For a long time (20 years maybe) it was gear on and go. No warm up stretches to start the run, just get into it before you changed your mind. What stretches there were would come later. Then sometime in the fall two years ago, there was this soreness at the side of one knee that
ended up affecting the hip, then the shoulders as I tried to run through it. The body tries to
avoid the pain by adjusting in subtle ways, which of course throws off the running style.
That led to a visit to the sport medicine clinic and advice to maybe try another sport, like
swimming, to ease the pressure on the legs. Running out the back door to the Park and back,
doing half an hour of core work, free weights and stretches, then jumping into the shower was
the thing. There would not be any swimming on the agenda here; so it was to the physio and a
stretching program every day, before and after running as well as before retiring for the night.
So the stretching began, and while doing the stretches the thought crossed the mind that
maybe everything should get involved, not just particular parts of the body. Yoga maybe? One
of the physios had mentioned it, but it didn't register at the time as something that was
particularly interesting. But the idea had been planted and it grew. So where to go? Driving to
yoga didn't seem like the best of ideas so a place was looked for close by. Yoga Centre Winnipeg
was walkable, and an investigation via the web site began. It seemed okay with the beginner classes about right for a runner trying to get flexible. The site not being too esoteric about the life changing effects of yoga, just "Here is what we do, how we do it, come join us" and the fact
of driving by it for the last 25 years and it still being there seemed like a good recommendation.

So it was off to class with a yoga mat, black t-shirt and a pair of warm up pants borrowed from
the son who is on the track team, and wondering what lay ahead. First you meet the lady behind the counter; helpful and smiling with a slight Scandinavian accent, easing some of the tension prior to the first class. With a try before you buy price of admission for the class things were going smoothly. Then it's into studio A for a first attempt at yoga amongst a group of strangers, yet all here for the same reason, which took away some of the strangeness.

Before the class actually starts there is a self-imposed routine of stretching so that the runners muscles get somewhat loose, which takes about fifteen minutes. Always being early lets one
get in the zone, yoga being a mental as well as a physical activity, with the quietness of the
studio and the change from street clothes into the practice ones assisting the focus to what’s to
come. With the warm ups done and a grounding to the studio, things were about to get

At the Yoga Centre, the beginners classes usually start with “ Come to sit with a long spine, whichever way is comfortable”. That meant sitting on the floor cross-legged. For a runner at a
first yoga class, there is no way in which that can be comfortable, so it was knees up and a spine
the wasn’t as long as it could be as it was curved forward. What a start. Then it was “hands
together, thumbs to heart space” followed by an ohm or two. That was manageable, but the
long spine thing was taking it’s toll and it was a relief to stand in ‘mountain’ pose, which is
standing upright. Though standing upright in yoga is knees over ankles, hips over knees,
shoulders over hips, shoulders down and away from the ears, head over shoulders, hands to
the sides, feet pointed straight ahead and breath. Who knew standing upright could be so
complicated. The thought was that it was all good, then the instructor says “ everything should
be in alignment including the feet, so just check to make sure.” The feet parallel to another
pointing straight ahead, no problem, except on the check the left foot was out of alignment by
about 8 degrees. Interesting fact about the self.

Then came the poses, wall stretches first, then lying on the back and leg stretches with a belt, then onto hands and knees, or ‘tabletop’ as it is called in studio A. Nothing untoward so far,
except for the leg stretches, which again for a runner are not the most pleasant. The next pose
from tabletop had the endearing term of ‘downward facing dog’. The instruction was “curl the
toes under, strengthen into the arms and legs, lift the hips bringing the chest toward the
thighs”. She said what, and just how is one supposed to do that. Okay, just do what she said.
Now one is looking at the feet upside down, as the top half of the body points down and the
bottom half points to the ceiling, the head between the arms forming an upside down ‘v’. Of
course, after analyzing the pose while being in it, the arms start to shake from the fatigue,
waiting for the instruction to release. It doesn’t come, and instead the instruction is “and don’t
forget to breathe, two more breaths.” How is one supposed to breathe in a position like this.
And so it went. Different poses through the months, insights into the anatomy (the pelvic bowl
for instance) and an awareness that the breath is as important as the pose itself. “This is not a
strength workout, or a competition. Listen to your body and it will tell you what it can do.”
Finally the realization that a pose not only has a form, but also a posture. “Warrior two is not a
surfing stance, both legs are strong, hips facing forward at an angle, head up, front knee over
ankle, back foot firmly on the floor.”, and the favorite “belly button toward the spine”. All this
and more as time went by, taught by different teachers but all with the focus on the breathe
and a level of practice suitable for the participants. Each pose demonstrated, with variations for
level of difficulty, “If this is not where you’re comfortable, then try here or here.” so that
people who also run to Assiniboine Park before dawn, and others, could work up to it.

After a while, the lady with the Scandinavian accent behind the front counter gets to know you if you are a regular and greets you by name as you arrive for class and asks how you are. “So
far, so good.” is the usual response. And it has been good as some of the poses have been
worked into the core workout after runs. The plank, full fold, half fold, warrior two, standing on
one leg arms intertwined, leg on the back of a chair arms up chest open, with the closing pose
for the whole thing the endearing “downward facing dog”. After a year of Yoga Centre it
actually has become a ‘resting’ pose.

What does all this have to do with a Love the Yoga Centre contest for which this was written. Not much, as love is a pretty strong emotion and whether it can be attributed to how one feels
about yoga and the Yoga Centre would be subject to debate. But it evokes something, much
like running to the park does in those early morning hours. The walk to the studio, the change
of clothes, the stretching ritual before class, the class itself, the walk home all figure into that
feeling. The walk home being ‘different’ than the walk there both physically and mentally. Does
the sky look bluer, the snow have a different sound, the leaves greener. How does the body
feel; lighter, more supple? All those things and more as the thoughts peruse the last hour of
study. The teacher who, as she talks you through a pose, sometimes closes her eyes, making it
seem like she is visualizing her own bone structure being brought into place without conscious
effort “thigh bone back, shin forward”. The corpse pose and the relax that it brings,
incorporating the practice into the mind and body. The ‘strangers’ who have been through
what you have during class, making them not quite the strangers they used to be.

That and more. Does that make the feeling evoked by all that yoga loveable. Perhaps the
reader can decide, being a more insightful and dispassionate observer. Can one say that’s what
is loved about the Yoga Centre, or is it like walking down an unknown path and when asked
how it’s going, the answer can only be, “So far, so good.”

Tuesday, 21 April 2015


Hello Yoga Centre Winnipeg. You are dearly missed by me right now as life has not allowed time for yoga this past half year or so. This time away has made me appreciate more than ever why I love coming and why I need to get back at it!

In a way, YCW came to me. While at retreat doing a lot of personal seeking a few years back, I was encouraged to come to YCW to "try" yoga. I had intended to for many years but somehow, this was the time and the prompt I needed.

I started with Candace's beginner class and was immediately sold. I loved her considerate approach and commitment to developing our understanding of proper techniques and body awareness. She is a talented and patient woman.

Over time, I was ready to advance and found a home in Cathy's class, where my ever improving practice brought me personal pride, offered sanctuary, restored my clarity and provided me with strength during a significant transition time in my life. The thought of that class pulled me through the week at times and the daily intention that Cathy offered seemed to always resonate perfectly for me. I was healing.

Aside from the fact that YCW is offers exceptional yoga instruction, I love coming to YCW because it became a part of me and my personal journey. It is a welcoming, nurturing environment where transformation has happened for me. There have been many magical, serendipitous moments for me at YCW and I think of getting back there every day.

Hope to see you again soon!



why I love coming to the Yoga Centre Winnipeg

The #1 reason I like coming to the Yoga Centre Winnipeg is because you all make me feel …I BELONG HERE.

My life sometimes resembles a rat-race, a dog-eat-dog world  of rushing, pushing, shoving, worry, stress and keeping up with the Joneses.

I love coming here --- a safe, serene oasis, if only for an hour, soothing my mind, body and soul.

Other reasons I like coming to the Yoga Centre Winnipeg:
because of the great workshops and variety of experienced teachers,
the like-minded people and yoga community,
the studios great location and class times,
and of course the very reasonable fees.

Brenda P (YCW200 Hr Teacher Training)

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Why I Love Coming to the Yoga Centre Winnipeg (continued)

This one addresses the changes in the Yoga Centre Winnipeg over the many years
(27+) we have been offering yoga in the Winnipeg Community

First and foremost, I appreciate the excellent standard of teaching. The instruction is precise, informed and clear. Secondly, I value the individual attention the teachers with whom I have studied provide me as well as others in the class when we need it. It is done gently and with each student's particular needs in mind. I have noticed a change in the culture of the Yoga Centre since first coming in the early 90's. I have experienced what appears to be a more caring, gentler approach to students resulting in what is for me a richer quality in the relationships between teachers and students as well as more effective outcomes for the students.

When I first started, I found the teachers encouraging and precise in their teaching but very edgy. Now, I find the same qualities exist and added to them, an atmosphere of compassion and thoughtfulness I had not experienced in quite the same way before. Accompanied with this approach, there continues to be consistent and persistent reminders for each of us to pay attention to our bodies and the messages we are receiving from our bodies at all phases of the practice: as we enter, stay in and come out of poses.

I had experienced injuries in the past from what seemed to me to be a combination of over zealous perfectionism from some of the teachers that only increased my own self-imposed competitiveness. I now experience a gentler more student-centered approach which helps me take responsibility for myself in a way that results in a much healthier practice. I find each teacher I have had since returning to the Yoga Centre has respected my decisions as to what poses I can do and how far to push myself. This in itself has helped me grow in learning my limitations.

Overall, the Yoga Centre has been a place of learning for me as well as providing many opportunities for me to learn about my body and every other aspect of my being. It has become a place of what I would call an "unpressured community".

I am not so anxious to "win a 1 month unlimited pass" as I am to take the opportunity to thank Jan and Shauna in the leadership you have provided to change the culture so that everyone, in particular myself, can practice and learn yoga in a way that allows for compassion and congruency.

Specifically, I want to thank Candace for the excellent way in which she prepares for and teaches our Friday morning Beginners class.

Thanks to everyone.

Why I love Coming to the Yoga Centre Winnipeg

We asked our students to tell us why they loved coming to the Yoga Centre winnipeg- all of the answers have been very beautiful and inspiring, but we decided to post some of our longer ones on our blog.

The next series of blogs are from our members. We post them with much gratitude for their deep and thoughtful sharing and appreciation!

I have a long history of scoliosis and have lived with chronic back, hip and leg pain for many years. There were regular visits to a chiropractor and then visits to a massage therapist which really helped control the issues but they kept telling me that if I don't do some stretching, as in yoga, I am going to seize up!!!! I was terrified to practice yoga as I thought it would hurt my back again since I had a very bad experience with yoga at a community program. My daughter who is a yoga teacher in Vancouver searched out suitable studios for me to go to and decided that Yoga Centre Winnipeg was just right for me!

Then I started the process of persuading and encouraging myself to attend a class at the studio. Accomplishing that was a major feat! I was terrified to say the least! I decided to give it a try and it has changed my life forever! I spent one year in a beginner’s class with Jan and she taught me so many things and was an amazing influence on me, always encouraging and helpful especially for pose modifications for my back. In fact I did not want to move on to any other class because she made me feel so comfortable and my back felt so good. It was fabulous. With encouragement from her that I could do this, I did move on to many classes with a range of poses and difficulties that I would work on. This has been such a positive experience for me with positive outcomes. I have also taken meditation classes with Shawna which was life changing for me as I have never done anything like that before and it has helped me deal with so many issues in my life. I have also recommended it to many people I know. Also I have participated in Kirtans which I so love and have learned about the spiritual side of yoga and myself. The breathing techniques have also helped me immensely in my day to day activities.

For many years now I have attended Yoga Centre Winnipeg on a regular basis and have become a much better person physically, emotional and spiritually for it. Yoga is part of my life now and for the future, it maintains me physically at home and at the studio. I take it with me when I travel and it is much better than taking pain medications. It is not a "fad" yoga at this studio but rather a lifestyle change and I am so grateful that I have found this wonderful paradise on earth with such knowledgeable instructors that have helped me so much. Thank you.

Yours in Yoga
Karen B.