I love how yoga can work very subtlety on all levels. Initially, as a beginner, you go in looking for a good stretch, a way to relax, yet you leave with so much more.
Hmm, about me, good question, where to begin with what is relevant?
Well, growing up, I was the perfectionist kid, and if I wasn't doing something perfectly or as good as someone else I quickly gave up, said "I can't" and moved on to the next thing.
I was however, lucky enough,to have found horseback riding in high school, and that gave my life much meaning. But for the most part, I was a bit of loner and quite happy to sit on my own, or watch TV. Now that I look back, one of my favourite places to sit was by the lake looking out at the water - meditating.
I was often afraid to do things and go after something I wanted, preferring instead to sit by the sidelines - or just work hard, quietly, in the hope that someone would notice me.
I rarely went after something or felt truly inspired to do something. I finished my degree in Anthropology at Carleton U not knowing what I would do with it. In a vain attempt to make use of my degree I took another three year program at Algonquin College in Applied Museum Studies hoping that this certificate would give me accreditation and purpose. But I left that program with less of a direction than when I went in. I was deflated as I could not really put down what I wanted to do with my life.
This feeling pervaded me for most of my twenties, and as a result, I took any job that came up for fear of being unemployed (and worthless). As such, I was very depressed and put much of my energy into the accumulation of material goods, and other means to self-medicate – namely food and TV.
I was frustrated, why was I not happy? I do have a job after all, right? This lifetstyle resulted in steady weight gain as not only was I eating poorly, but also zero exercise. I was in kind of a state of denial for a while and it wasn't until I hit the age of 30, at a doctor's appointment, that the reality struck that I had somehow morphed into a size 16 and 150 pounds; which is quite a lot for my frame at 5'4. A real couch potato.
Something at the doctor's office thankfully snapped inside me and I made a decision to change something. I felt that making some huge commitment to join a gym and cut out all food was not realistic. I decided to cut out and reduce the amount of bread I was eating to see if it made a difference - a baby step. Through that one simple act, over six months I lost 8 pounds. Pretty good for not changing anything else.
I then read through many diet books and after much research decided to give the South Beach diet a try. It was very logical and something in it resonated inside me. I could envision ordering at restaurants and being out with friends - still having a life. Within about 3 months after being on this diet, I was losing weight and feeling better. What I really liked about this diet is that it encourages you to be aware of how you feel after you've had some form of carbohydrate – like some people reported feeling hungrier and more craving after rice, others after bread etc.
It was time to find an activity. During my "directionless" time, I had tried a few yoga classes at community centres with friends and remembered really liking its non-competitive and solitary nature. Perfect for an introvert like me!
In 2003 from advice from a friend, I signed up for classes at Rama Lotus Yoga Centre seeing this as ‘something to do" so I could then return to the couch. I had no idea when I started the impact it would have on my life. In fact, it reminds me of a funny saying I've heard from a few of my teachers "Welcome to Yoga, it will ruin your life." But all for the best, it took only a couple of months, my desire to practice steadily increased and I found other benefits emerging. I was dealing with stress better, breathing better, nicer to people, more patient, calmer and generally happier. My body started to feel alive again, and it had a huge effect on my state of mind.
By 2005 I had taken my first training in KRI Level 1 Kundalini Yoga, and had begun teaching soon after; ironically in hatha style classes - this all thanks to my teacher-friend Ichih Wang who insisted that although I was certified to teach hatha, I was definitely qualified.
In 2008 I completed another 200 hour program in Hatha-Ashtanga with Basia Going, Julie Salter, David Jewitt and Mike Mah at Santosha Yoga Centre. This past June (2010) I have recently returned from a 200 hour month long intensive in Boulder CO with Richard Freeman at the Yoga Workshop. Throughout the years, I have also taken numerous workshops/trainings with various teachers in various disciplines of yoga: Paul Grilley, Sarah Powers, Mark Darby, David Swenson, Beryl Bender Birch, and Gurmukh Kaur Khalsa to name a few.
After four years, I took the leap and left my job with the Federal Government, this about a month before finally reaching indeterminate status. This was in December 2007, and at the time I was working for DFAIT (Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade) working in Invest in Canada Branch.
Thanks to the support of husband, Mike Block, I am now teaching yoga on a full time basis. Although, teaching has its own challenges, I could not imagine doing anything else in my life. I feel grateful every day to be able to teach, it is a privilege, not a right.
My husband and I are also the co-founders of http://www.omtownyoga.ca/ a not-for-profit, non-commercial website designed to bring the yoga community together.
Yoga has given me a new life, a great community of friends, inspiring teachers, and endless opportunities in which to learn about life on the physical, emotional and spiritual levels.
Thank You for reading!
Article originally published Thursday, April 19, 2010, in the National Post. Yoga for weight loss. Soothing the mind, toning the body. By Linda Nguyen, CanWest News Service (kind of funny though that they spelled my last name wrong - holts)