Yoga to me is the catalyst of an inner revolution that changed my life and it continues to encourage me to evolve into my highest and fullest potential. I practice from the center of my heart to tap into my inner teacher. Yoga to me is my peaceful way of activism. It is my movement and response to answer a higher calling. Yoga is beyond the physical aspect and the asanas but a way of living to align my life into a path of selfless action.
What made you decide you wanted to immerse yourself in a yoga teacher training program?
After a brief period of clarity at the end of a four day meditation workshop, I knew that I needed a physical side to my meditation practice. I discovered yoga for the first time through a VHS tape of Gurmukh, right away I knew it was what I was meant to do. Last year, I moved to Vancouver from Toronto to further my practice by becoming a yoga teacher. I wanted to change my life. I knew that there was a better way to live and a way of life that has purpose.
For you, what was the most challenging part of the program?
The most challenging part for me was realizing I was changing at very rapid speed and knowing there was no turning back. I had been a regular Kundalini practitioner but was practically brand new to Hatha. I had to set aside my ego and give myself over to the process of being a student again. I had to accept that I was diving into the unknown – delving into something that I was not really good at. To me the yoga teacher training program (YTT) was both challenging and humbling. It felt like I was starting all over. As cliché as it may sound, YTT was when my life really began.
You are a known installment in the yoga community for your selfless service, how did you come up with the idea of Karma Teachers?
I was inspired to start Karma Teachers right away, as an extension or a progression of the YTT program. Karma Teachers opened about two weeks after we graduated. I knew I had to keep the momentum going and fortunately, I had a dozen other newly graduated teachers that were brave enough to step on the mat and teach from the heart.
It started as tiny idea that blossomed into a community of yoga teachers who constantly make a difference by promoting the act of selfless giving through their own example by teaching yoga as a part of their Seva. (Seva in Sanskrit means selfless service). I was not alone in my wanting to share the life changing effects of yoga: to my fellow soon-to-be teachers, I asked the question of “Would you be willing to teach for free?” the response was a resounding “Yes.” A couple of days later I was walking around the downtown eastside. I was in the middle of West and East Hastings, the poorest postal code in Canada with the highest concentration of drug use – and I realized that this is the street where the most transformations can happen. Not only did I find the studio location on the third floor of “The Phoenix Building” at 45 W Hastings St., but I also found the center of my heart.
How is Karma Teachers different than many other yoga studios in Vancouver?
Karma Teachers is the only free yoga studio in the entire Vancouver that is completely volunteer taught and run. We accept donations to support the cost of renting a space and insurance, but it is not mandatory. In the past six months we have offered more than 200 classes and have hosted more than 60 teachers. Our space offers valuable freedom for brand new teachers who want to gain experience and well established teachers who we encourage to teach without restriction in their creativity. We hold fund raising events like the Yogathon and Kids Yoga Teacher Training for Rainbow kids and Autism awareness. We have introduced hundreds of brand new students to yoga, students who you would never imagine to be in yoga studio. Our open door policy really means that it is for everyone. I have taught the homeless, LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transsexual), Kids with ADD, ADHD and Autism and I really, really want to reach out to more people.
What are your future plans for you and your yoga practice and teaching?
I am launching Karma Teachers in Toronto this September and I am also going to teach at the Yogathon. Inspired by Gurmukh and Gloria Latham, various dance therapies and Kids teacher training, I started a new kind of yoga called Ecstatic Yoga. I have gotten a really life affirming response from my weekly groups of students and I want to further explore it and fully develop it to meet the needs of a new generation of yogis who I think will change the world.
My biggest dream is to open up a Karma Teachers in every city in the world to encourage others the path of selflessness. I have a million steps to take. I know that as long as I am on the right path and grateful and reciprocate to the yoga community, I will somehow get there.