I'm a Senior Teaching Ambassador, travelling to Palestine this summer to assist with OTYF's first 200h yoga teacher training. I am also a founding board member of OTYF's Canadian branch, True North Yoga. With True North, I am coordinator for the First Nations Program, currently building an amazing series of classes with the Chippewas of the Thames and excited to see where our involvement can go from there.
How would you describe yourself?
I'm a talker, that's for sure. A talker and a doer, the kind of person that my friends and family spend a lot of time trying to reign in and explain the benefits of this thing called 'down time' to! I'm a compassion junkie, who believes that an open heart is going to carry you all the way - back it up with a little toughness, a little thoughtfulness and a little steel, and it's going to lead you forward just fine.
What is your yoga journey?
I took my first class in Ottawa (at Rama Lotus Yoga Centre) at 17 years old. I practiced through theatre school and especially in my many years of being a starving artist in Vancouver afterwards at Open Door Yoga on Main Street. I always felt right in the studio, I was always moved by the practice.I was in an awful and very very close to deadly car accident in 2011 and the injuries I suffered there lead me to hot yoga for healing. I entered the Moksha Yoga community in London ON, which inspired my decision to train with Moksha at a 500h level last summer. I now teach regularly at Moksha Yoga London, Moksha Yoga London West and Moksha Yoga Stratford.My passion is yoga for addictions recovery. I feel blessed on my journey to have had the opportunity over this past year to have worked in so may recovery communities. I've taught at the Salvation Army's Centre of Hope Withdrawal Management Centre for quite a while now, as well as with Thames Valley Addiction Services' Heartspace Program (for mothers in addiction), at Caverhill Manor Addictions Center and at Turning Point Recovery Home.
Where else have you called home?
10 years in Vancouver was enough to make me identify as a West Coaster through and through, though I was born and raised in Ottawa.
Why have you chosen to work with Olive Tree Yoga Foundation?
It hasn't been roses, these past 30+ years on this planet. There have been some moments of real darkness, real hopelessness and real grief. There has been frustration, loss and an overwhelming sense of being trapped, of being without options. I work with OTYF because I feel that we, and True North Yoga as well, are committed to finding communities where options seem to be few. We use yoga to bust things wide open for the people there. Yoga is a vehicle for inventing brand new possibilities, to open paths forward which were previously blocked. Yoga is a way to touch on a stillness, a sense of peace that seemed untouchable before. Yoga is a practical practice to process trauma and grief, to confront loss, addiction and hopelessness, and to move past those limitations. Yoga is an open road, and our participants as the quickly-transforming travelers. That's why I work with OTYF.
What is your connection to the region in which you work?
While my husband is from the Middle East (Pakistani/Kuwati), prior to my first trip with Olive Tree, I had never visited the region. As a voracious consumer of international news, I've always had 'opinions' on the situations I read about, I always saw myself as 'having a handle' on the issues and being very invested (as the left-wing yoga teaching hippie I am) on how things were moving forward (or not). But I've never been and at the end of the day, I don't know anything first hand at all. I'm sure this trip will reveal to me the true depth of how little I know!My work with First Nations is the same. I'm not aboriginal, and I don't have a personal connection to the community. However, I've always been full of well thought out and often controversial opinions on the matter (ex. when my father became a lawyer for Indian & Northern Affairs with the Canadian Department of Justice, I - at 17 years old - informed him that I could solve all of his cases very simply. "Just pack the white people back on the boats we arrived on," I told him angrily, "send us back where we came from, and the whole problem is solved.") Oh, for the cut-and-dried thinking of youth!A little older, wiser and less agressive now, I now understand my role, in all the communities I work with, to be that of the listener. I'm there to learn. All I have to offer are the skills I bring in as a teacher, and it's up to me to listen to the community members, see where I and the organization can be of service, and find ways to build programs that work, not the way I think they should, but in ways the community will best serve the community and address the issues they feel matter.
What is the best piece of advice that you have ever gotten?
Let Go and Let God (/insert your Higher Power of choice/the natural unfolding of the universe/inner wisdom here!)This is a reminder to me that when I try to control the path of my life with force, it always backfires or becomes so much of a struggle that it's just not worth it. It reminds me to trust the universe, that even when 'bad things' happen, so often the ultimate outcome is one of real beauty and one I could never have envisioned in my own pea-brain. There is something big and beautiful happening here, there really is. The trick is to shut up and trust it. To live in flow. To engage in this moment and this moment alone and trust that the next breath will take care of itself. It's part of what yoga teaches us, isn't it?
OTYF is a 501c3 non-profit organization registered in the United States