Before I started practicing, my lifestyle was very much one, I guess it was kind of standard, like Canadian-American guy lifestyle. But I was always very physical, into types of sports like snowboarding, rock climbing, mountain biking. I always loved being active.
I heard about yoga as a type of, what I thought was just exercise, and I was trying to look at different forms of things that I could do to stay healthy. Actually, I was in Edmonton one day and I was walking past a yoga studio, and it said Ashtanga Yoga. I thought it was just a regular class. I went in there and it was Rameen Peyrow. He was running the Ashtanga program in Edmonton there. I walked in, so I walked into like a Mysore room.
I could tell there was a difference in that studio actually. It was like "This isn't like a fitness place," You know, they had a picture of Krishnamacharya on the wall, who I didn't know who that was at the time. I could feel the difference and I was like "Oh, okay". I was starting to clue in that there was levels and differences within this thing called yoga.
Practice of Ashtanga has benefited my life in many different ways. It keeps unfolding as the years and years go on. I think maybe the reasons you start out in the beginning aren't the same reasons that you keep going or that you have now. It's kind of hard to know what you’re in for. Maybe that's also a good thing in the beginning, because you go through a transformation. It works very subtly and slowly.
I guess one of the biggest benefits for me is that it just gives this space every day to look within using the structure and the system of Ashtanga in order to watch what’s going on in my mind. It's going to show you how you lived the 23 hours before. If you didn't get enough sleep, you're going to know it. If you weren't eating properly, you're going to know it. If you're sitting at a desk all day, you're going to feel it. It's this thing that keeps you honest. You have to make sure, especially as you get older because you get away with less.
There's different types of injuries you can go through, right? Like some that are very straight forward like a broken bone, you have an end date. It's like "Well, it's probably going to be healed by this time". But when you go through something that you don't know what the cause is or where it's coming from, like a back injury, which is the one that I went through. That's where it can be really scary because it's like you don't know what’s hurting it, what’s helping it and how to fix it.
Basically in your practice you're given postures and you keep getting them. Then at some point you get to your last posture with you and your teacher and you have to work there. Then it's assumed "Well I'll just keep working here and I'll get the next posture". You never think "Oh, well actually maybe this time you're going to go back the other way". That started to happen to me. It was like all of a sudden I started to lose postures. I couldn't do them anymore. Ones that I had been able to do before. It was harder and harder and harder. I kept going down, down, down. My back started hurting more and more, so right there you're really faced with the challenge for the ego especially, because if you've identified at all as good practices being able to do postures, then now you're going into the shallow, you can't do the postures.
This is the part where I'm going to learn. I'm going to get past this and then I'm going to understand it more. Keeping that motivation is really difficult. Luckily I had the support of my community at AYV, and especially Fiona, my teacher. She was there saying "You know, you'll get through this. Don't worry, you'll figure it out", and stuff like that. From that spot, from laying on my back breathing and then rebuilding my practice right from the very beginning, up until where I am now, it's completely changed. It's a whole new experience than to what my practice was like before that injury.
If you go to that spot and all of a sudden you can do Surya Namaskara B, it'll be the best Surya Namaskara B of your life because you appreciate it so much.
Yeah, it was different practicing in Alberta because it's not widely, at the time, it's getting different now, but at the time it wasn't widely accepted to do yoga. None of my friends were doing it. There were no yoga studios around me. Now that I look back those five years of practicing by myself, it actually gives me such faith in the process of what a yoga asana can do for somebody. It allows you to listen to yourself and act independently of external circumstances.
So, I started doing yoga and it made me make decisions in my life to move to a place where I could have a community. So, you just start and then you just see what happens.