Tag Archives: Guru

An Homage to Luna Yoga on its 14th Anniversary!

IMG_3113I first came to Luna Yoga in the late summer of 2008. Until that point, I had practiced a much gentler style of yoga with the first teacher I was blessed to find along my journey, Joan Ruvinsky. I was initially introduced to the deeply rooted philosophical teachings that Joan incorporates, but I soon found myself craving a more physical practice. I had quickly formed a home practice after first starting in yoga, and as I found myself attempting more advanced postures at home, I always kept an element of caution to my movement, knowing I needed to find a space where I could be supervised as I went deeper into it. My sister from another mister, Sonia Papasimakis-Collins, was at that time the Store Manager of the Ste-Catherine St Lululemon store and had been telling me for months that I had to come try this teacher whose studio was in Old Montreal, and whose classes were beyond what she ever could have expected from a yoga session.

I hemmed and hawed, super intimidated to actually put my feet down in a studio where I assumed most of the other students had established practices that would leave me struggling to catch up. It was only after Sonia brought her illustrious teacher and owner of Luna Yoga, Jennifer Maagendans, to my home that I decided to just let go of my fears and see what lay in wait for me at the studio in Old Montreal. The rest, as they say, is history.

IMG_2769From my first class, I felt I was home. The energy that spills out of the studio itself is indescribable. In equal measures peaceful and stimulating, I found a missing part of myself within the security of those four walls. I spent the next few months attending classes and deepening my practice while developing a real, true friendship with Jenn, and then with her partner Jason Kent. Sonia had told me that Jason was a tough sell, hard to get to know, but I knew I was on the right track when his response to my calling him Debbie Downer at our first meeting was met with a reluctant grin (accompanied by Jenn’s sheer delight in Jason being addressed as such by a stranger :)).

Little did I know that the events that brought me to Luna would serve as the foundation for the next  chapter of my life, in which I would completely leave my then-career behind with no clue as to what I would do job-wise. Events unfolded that saw Jenn ask me if I would be interested in co-managing her studio, saw Jenn challenge me to follow my heart and pursue careers in the domains that nurtured my soul, and saw Jenn take time out of our workdays to train me one-on-one to complement the Ashtanga training I was doing in 2009. Jenn became the person who, with little pomp or grandeur, illuminated the path ahead of me and simply helped me re-shift my gaze so I could see it as a viable possibility, one that has since brought me to a place where I continually, and on a daily basis, am reminded of the blessings that being true to one’s Self bestows. Jenn challenged me in those training sessions to teach her as a group class, as an individual private class, and as a private group class, but her teachings didn’t end there: she led by example, in every single thing she did and said. She continues to do so, demonstrating how by combining passion, a strong work ethic, and proper attention paid to that which comes naturally can propel one further along one’s dharmic path. She constantly challenges me to be a better version of myself, even when she’s completely oblivious to it.

So what has Jenn been to me? An opener of doors, a pillar of support, the remover of darkness, and the swelling of laughter that buoys my own giggles past the point of control. She believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself, and she continues to be my guru, my mentor, my example, confidante, and friend.

And Jason? Without Jason, I’m not sure Luna would even have gotten off the ground. Jason was a huge support for Jenn when she was first considering opening a studio, and has been ever since. If Jenn has become my soul-sister, then Jason is my soul-brother. A fellow Libran, Jason reflects back to me my own habits and tendencies, and he has grown from Jenn’s partner into a true friend, someone who has helped me, often without even being aware of it, when I most needed it. His heights of sarcasm and jest are matched in kind by the depths of his kindness and sensitivity.

1E0A7408-resizeJenn and Jason are the real deal. They have built up the studio over the last fourteen years with the sheer force of their collective will and focus, creating a home for the teachers they have welcomed into their fold, as well as a space for me to bring my business knowledge into their creation, and then topping it all off with the two most beautiful little boys to add to their brood of yogic misfits.

On July 13, our community will celebrate Luna Yoga’s 14th anniversary. The studio they originally started with limited funds and maximal dreams 14 years ago has grown into a force to be reckoned with, with its own sold-out Teacher Training Program, as well as classes and workshops that reflect the diversity of the students who call Luna Yoga home, all the while maintaining its grassroots feel and sense of real, true community. Luna has students who have been around since before the studio opened its doors. This is more than a testament to the studio’s location or teachings: it’s a testament to Jenn and Jason.

If you’ve got a glass handy, raise it to these two, whose drive and ability to weather the toughest of storms has kept Luna’s doors open for well over a decade. If you don’t have a glass, then close your eyes for a moment, and silently send them a kind thought. They continue to show how doing something for others always brings you to where you need to be, and they do so with respect, intelligence, and grace.

Happy anniversary to you both, J & J, and to the entire Luna family, past, present and future!

Of This, I Am Sure

FullSizeRender (1)Three and a half years ago I woke up from having a dream while visiting my extended family in England and immediately wrote down its contents because I knew it was somehow necessary. I then wrote about it in the blog post Repairing My Cabin, but, in a nutshell, I felt that, through the dream, I had been called to India by a sadhu or guru there waiting for me (visit the post from 2013 to read the details of the dream).

I spent some time yesterday with my friend Nadia and our teacher, my guru, the igniter of my mission and life’s work, Joan, and towards the end of the visit we got to talking about India. I’ve never been, and to be honest, don’t really feel the pull to go. Regardless, I found myself relaying the contents of the dream I’d had all those years ago and told them that I suspected that I had been called to Mother India and had so far ignored that call. Without batting an eyelash, Joan explained to me exactly what that dream meant. She explained to me that for whatever reason, my family stemmed from the yoga lineage, and that I had been the one to answer the call. She explained to me that I had been initiated into the lineage on an astral plane. She explained that what the sage had handed me was my mission to devote my life to this lineage. She explained to me that my immersion in the water was my baptism, and that I had answered the call by devoting my life and career to this path I’m on. The second she told me this I understood, with a peaceful certainty and finality, that I really am the vessel for a divine will that is greater than any words could attempt to describe.

I thought I had chosen this path I’m on as a way of doing what I love to do as a career. I thought I was taking a massive risk to pursue my passion and not settle for a well-paying, secure job with benefits that everyone would approve of. I thought it was all up to me. And then I started having moments of teaching where words were coming out of my mouth and I didn’t know where they were coming from, nor where the knowledge they were conveying was coming from. I started to get students coming up to me after class telling me that it was like I was talking directly to them. And this continued to happen. Often. Really often. I began to not remember what I had said after a class was over, hoping the right words came out and I didn’t offend anybody. And then I started to understand my role as a vessel.

The universal law of Divine Proclamation states that “the ability of an individual to express, speak or proclaim in behalf of the Divine Forces is in direct proportion to the ability of the individual to cease expression, speech or proclamation in behalf of the self.” I was living this law. I had stopped speaking on behalf of myself and found myself speaking on behalf of forces greater than us. And it now happens almost every time I teach, speak publicly or write.

Joan’s presence in my life is so profound from a teacher-student point of view that I really can’t find the words to describe it. I have no doubt that there is a transfer of energy, of information, of insight and of wisdom that I get from her, often without a single word being spoken. This blessing of having a teacher for sixteen years who infuses my life with worth, vital information and clear direction is something I will take to my grave with me. I have never felt so filled with purpose, so sure of why I am here and what I am supposed to do with this time. And I have never been so certain that I am carrying out my dharma as a vessel for the divine. Of this, I am sure.

I’m having trouble conveying what is in my heart right now, but I’ll try to do my best here: Joan shows me what a real teacher is. A real teacher is one who awakens the student to their spirit, to their path, to their reason for being alive on earth, to their individual dharma. A real teacher ignites true understanding that is felt on a somatic level, not memorized from a textbook. A real teacher transmits what the student needs to know to then be able to find themselves undeniably aligned with forces greater than anything they could have ever considered as possible. A real teacher gives the student their life, illuminated and brilliantly meaningful.

Joan has done this for me for almost two decades. I hope that by accepting what was given to me in my dream years ago, I not only honour the example set by Joan, but that I leave at least one person understanding just how deep this student/teacher relationship roots itself. I hope that I affect at least one person as deeply as Joan affects me. I hope I serve as purely as she does.

Thank you Joan.

 

Guises of the Guru

As a yoga teacher, I have often been perceived as having attained an ongoing state of enlightenment, one that has brought me out of this human body and ego and that sets the example of where all yogis aspire to be. Let me take an opportunity to shatter that perception 🙂 I am as much of a work in progress as anyone…I consider myself to be a student who teaches, someone who is always seeking and learning, with the aim to pass on that which I find pertinent and relevant to living a conscious, productive, inspiring life. As part of my learning curve, I find myself being taught lessons and being offered insight from all over the information spectrum…from people I know, and those I don’t, from animals and humans alike, and from the whispers of intuition I find myself hearing every now and again.

Last week, for those of you who weren’t already saturated with the exposure, U2 spent a few days here in Montreal to give 2 shows to 160,000 people, and while in town, they stayed at the St James Hotel, which is a few blocks away from Centre Luna Yoga, where I spend most of my working and practicing hours. I was coming to work on my scooter and stopped at the red light right on the corner of the hotel, where about 100 people were staked out, waiting to catch a glimpse of the band members, and the anticipation was palpable. The mood seemed edgy, like people were ready to pounce when finally they would be afforded the luxury of seeing the band for a few seconds. As I drove by, my first thought was, “Don’t these people have something to do? Don’t they have a job, or somewhere they’re supposed to be?’ It was a moment of real bewilderment for me, and absolute judgement. I was 100% judging the people staked out there, while being completely incapable of understanding why they would waste their time like that to catch a brief glimpse of people they didn’t know and probably never would. I wondered what they could possibly be getting out of the experience, aside from a sore lower back and sun stroke. Then I got to the studio and shared the experience…and I got schooled.

My fellow Luna Yoga teacher (and certified Jivamukti instructor) Dawn Bailey was already at the studio when I arrived and after I sat down, I shared with her what I had just driven by, and expressed my astonishment at why those people would be hanging around like that, which led into a rant about our irrational fascination as a society with celebrity. I ended my comments by asking, “Why would someone choose to just waste their day like that?”, and Dawn replied. And I found myself speechless. Dawn answered my question by saying that as much as she understood my point of view, she could honestly say that if she knew that Jivamukti creators Sharon Gannon and David Life were staying at a local hotel, she would probably hang out waiting to see them as they walked in or out on their meanderings. She told me that the opportunity to be privy to their aura, to the energy they exude, would be worth every second of hanging around waiting to see them. And in that second, having heard her words, I understood. I understood that the people I look up to and with whom I’d love to spend time, those whose energies I find attractive and inspiring, are my U2. I don’t think that I would ever find myself waiting patiently to see one of my idols walk by me, because I have something inside me that drives me to want to meet them on a more professional level, where I’m not just a gushing fan showering them with praise. Nonetheless, I understood Dawn’s remarks, and it showed me something. It showed me that I’m still very quick to judge. It showed me that my gurus may not be shared by others, and vice versa, but that doesn’t devalue these people’s abilities to remove darkness in the lives of their followers. It showed me that those who have accomplished incredible things and who inspire the world with their magnificent energies are able to infuse that energy into other by simply being in close proximity. That is makes a difference to those ready to receive it. Most of all, the experience showed me that I’m still learning, and I hope I never stop.

Thank you for being a teacher for me, Dawn 🙂