From my very first yoga class at age 21, I intuitively knew that something potent and meaningful was speaking to me. My body and mind were awakened to this tradition and the path opened up for me. I was young, and as I learned about myself I was discovering my dharma. As I enter into my 30th year of teaching, I reflect upon many things including the idea of dharma. What is dharma? Are you are living and fulfilling your dharma or truth? And why is this important?
It is my belief that we have our own stories to write in our lifetimes, our own dharma to follow. Dharma is a word without direct translation, is nearly indefinable and like many Sanskrit terms, the word dharma has various meanings. “Living one’s dharma” implies that one is living in a way this is in accordance with the laws of nature and destiny or simply doing one’s duty or what one is meant to do. For some, it may be a struggle to define oneself without allowing that power to be held by others. As we mature, we seek the truth and desire to live a life that feels genuine and meets our unique life purpose.
As parents and teachers, it is very important to help young people develop self-awareness and self-acceptance while teaching them to listen to the messages of the heart. This supports them in following their authentic path. By pursuing my interests and passions, my three university degrees and various jobs have been interconnected and the stepping-stones of my career path have aligned leading me towards my true north. Sporadic, strong and sometimes startling realizations occasionally occur that reinforce for me the understanding that thankfully I am truly living my dharma.
My intention is to continue to actualize what I believe is my dharma: to help and inspire others on their path by healing, teaching and empowering them to live their dharma. However, the more that I study and teach, the more I realize how very little I actually know. So I maintain my ongoing yoga, mindfulness and creative practices, studies and research to support my learning, and to teach yoga and provide therapy with as much knowledge and understanding as possible. As an artist, yogi, teacher and therapist, I am very grateful to share the wisdom from these timeless traditions with my students.
My studio is small and intimate. Desiring to embody yogic values, I made the decision years ago to sustain this kind of studio in order to live my yoga and follow my dharma as best I could. The experience in my studio is personal, authentic, safe and supportive. Most importantly, small classes enable me to really know my students personally and to develop a trusting relationship with each one thus supporting their journey in the best possible manner.
Very recently a young boy of ten years made the difficult decision to transition into the teen class in spite of the fact that he would be leaving the familiarity and comfort of the kids class and become the youngest student in his new environment. It is my belief that the confidence that he has demonstrated reflects in part what his yoga practice has given him since he began practicing at five years of age. I have witnessed this kind of self-assurance and poise in many students over the years from young to old. I have also seen how yoga has empowered many students to make very important and life-altering decisions.
The practices of yoga and private yoga therapy within the matrix of a supportive relationship provide the means to bring out the best in each practitioner. A student who is a university professor and has been attending my classes for over fifteen years attended the Art of Transformation Intensive that I facilitated this past July. She shared with me that she was so inspired by it that she has since created a new space in her home filled with canvases and paints and is very excited to be developing and expressing her creativity.
Assisting in the Medical classes in India over the years has greatly enhanced my learning and this combined with my training and experience as a psychotherapist has further enabled me to actualize my dharma. In my private yoga therapy practice many individuals have been deeply touched by the transformative power of yoga to help heal various issues encompassing the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual realms. I had been working privately with one woman for several years in her home. She had suffered a brain injury seven years previously and hadn’t driven in all that time. One week she surprised me and drove for the first time in all those years – to attend a class in the studio!
In addition to loving my adult classes and private yoga therapy work, I am very proud to have pioneered children’s yoga in Canada eighteen years ago, including teen yoga and parent child yoga. Sharing yoga with a very young child and remaining her teacher as she transitions through teenage years and into adulthood is nothing less than a magnificent gift. In my current kids class, I realized that a young girl was the third generation in a family to study with me. I had first taught her grandmother years ago and then her mother as a young unmarried woman and again when she came back for prenatal yoga to support her through two pregnancies.
Herein lies the testament that I am actualizing my dharma for I have been so fortunate to be able to share yoga and touch the lives of people ranging in age from four to eighty-eight years. Several of my adult students have stayed the path with me for years enabling me to teach them across decades and through their different life stages. Teaching and providing yoga therapy with students covering such a vast age or life span is definitely one of the many blessings of living my dharma, or following my path and I am so grateful for this.
Having observed the proliferation of yoga and the varied yoga landscape in mainstream society over the years, I have been both amazed and dismayed by the varied presentations or styles of yoga, the crass commercialization and marketing of it and the lack of quality teacher training or experienced instruction. To become a certified Iyengar yoga teacher, teacher training is a minimum of three to five years yet I frequently hear about someone opening a studio with only two hundred hours of yoga training. I often joke that my first yoga mat was the black rubber under padding of the carpet for cars. Yoga clothes had not yet entered the fashion industry, and the women that I was studying with then were the age I am now.
Although Thanksgiving is a day of giving thanks for the harvest, it is also an opportunity to give thanks for the blessings in our lives. What if we treated every day as a day to give thanks? Having developed a daily practice of yoga, mindfulness, creativity and sitting in gratitude or a mindful reflection of appreciation, I quite often engage in reflection, introspection and self-expression. This includes expressions of gratitude which happen much more frequently than on the one day set aside for it. Even if you are still seeking your true path, yoga is an amazing practice in which we learn to develop awareness, sensitivity, stability, self-compassion, intuition and many other positive benefits. Through the practice of yoga we learn to be truly present and in the moment, to open an armored heart and receive its messages, to focus on the gifts in our life, and then perhaps become better aligned with our dharma.
“My karma is my dharma.” – Ram Dass