I started this journey when I was 17 years old, after I underwent major brain surgery to remove a tumour. At that time, I was a tiny, 90 pound, straight-A student working 40 hours per week as a Manager at a retail sports store while competing in tap, ballet, jazz, and musical theatre dancing. Seemingly overnight, I was very weak and very sick and my life became a daily practice in fulfilling basic needs. When I was well enough to focus beyond survival, I found myself in the body of a 200+lb. person that I did not know or understand. My life was dramatically different: I had to ask for, and accept, help for nearly everything; I developed long- and short-term memory loss; I could only take one course per semester and planned for my fifth year of high school instead of for graduation; I had to step down from my job; and I was not able to continue dancing with my team of five years. I struggled against the reality that my life had been dramatically altered for a number of years, which were mostly spent bouncing between denial, unfocused and insincere action and passive aggressiveness while I waited for things to return to "normal".
In University, my passion for kinesthetic movement reignited through yoga. I came home to myself and became eager to delve deeper into this practice. I discovered that the truest parts of me had not been altered by this trauma and that I was not lost, just hiding. This understanding brought me back to life. On and off the mat I was - and continue to be - transformed through the inquiry of yoga in ways I could never have anticipated.
After completing my post-secondary education in Health Studies and Education from Queen's University in 2009, I went on to graduate from 200-Hour Hatha Yoga Teacher Training with Mona Warner in Kingston, Ontario. Over the years, I have been honoured to study with such inspirational teachers as Bo Forbes (Restorative Yoga for Emotional Balance), Tiina Veer (Yoga for Round Bodies), Nadine Saxton (Craniosacral) and Monica Voss (Pre- and Post-Natal Yoga).
In October, 2010, I met Jennifer Leeder, who owned Life Yoga and was looking for a yoga teacher for children in her studio. I was grateful for the opportunity to work with Jen and, more so, I felt blessed to call her a friend. Jen succumbed to her lifelong struggle with mental illness in early 2011 and, once again, my life was transformed overnight. After two tragic months of closure in January and February, with the encouragement and blessing from Jen's incredible family and closest friends, I re-opened Life Yoga in March, 2011 and found myself catapulted into my dream life as a yoga studio owner much sooner than ever expected.
As I developed into this yogic lifestyle as a bigger bodied woman, I found that a lot of teachers did not know how to accommodate for thighs that touch or a belly that is always in the way. In 2012, I took a leap and began teaching Yoga for Bigger Bodied Women, which was passionately embraced by the community. This encouraged me to organize weekend retreats for this dynamic group. Teaching women-only created a community where I could inspire, encourage, and support my sisters, while being inspired, encouraged and supported in return. These classes play a part in a self-love movement where women can lovingly and methodically reclaim their bodies. We understand our worth is not measured by our waistlines. As I continue along this journey, I have come to realize that Yoga for Bigger Bodied Women is the greatest work of my life so far.
In the fall of 2015, I was honoured to be invited into the Yoga & Body Image Coalition as a Community Partner for my work and advocacy in the field of yoga as a bigger bodied woman. The YBIC is a collection of yoga teachers, practitioners, experts, educators, activist, writers, artists, non-profit organizers, and advocates. We promote optimal well-being and healthy body relationships through a consistent yoga practice, including physical asana, meditation, and beyond. We are committed to creating safe spaces for bodies of all types, devoid of body shaming, while offering a comprehensive body image education for yoga teachers, community and media outlets.
Also in the fall of 2015, I checked a big one off my bucket list and completed training with Susi Hately and began to immerse myself more fully into the world of functional yoga. This has gifted me with a framework for all of my education and experience where I can create a personalized approach to help clients move out of pain, improve flexibility, enhance strength, and develop the ability to relax on and off the yoga mat.
In 2016, I was blessed to have the opportunity to immerse myself with the thoughtful and resonant Elena Brower at her Art of Attention Teacher Enhancement Module with my dear friend Kristie. Kristie introduced me to Elena's work after participating in her training in 2014, I purchased her Art of Attention book and, later, yoga cards. I was hooked from this magical book and begun to follow Elena with fervour. The foundation of the first retreat that I facilitated at Northern Edge Algonquin was created with inspiration from her transformative collection of beautiful, self-reflective practices. These few days with Elena in April, 2016, helped me engage in the process of creation on and off the mat and more clearly define my voice, my listening, my art, my meditation, and my leadership.
Also in 2016, I became certified as an "Experienced Registered Yoga Teacher" with the Yoga Alliance after teaching well over 1,000 hours of yoga. As a result, I was able to begin working with local Registered Yoga School Amara Vidya co-facilitating 200hr. and 500hr. Yoga Alliance certified yoga teacher training programs. Navigating students through the waters from practitioner to teacher has been an incredibly affirming and fulfilling experience as I funnel all of my experience and trainings into lessons for the next generation of yoga teachers.
Through the practice, I have regained my sense of self - in this body. Each step on my path has unfolded beautifully as I have evolved. When given the opportunity to act, I have done so authentically, bearing my my most vulnerable self and, in return, I have been met with love and support. I am grateful for my history, grateful for where I am in this moment and grateful for my future - however it unfolds.