Sharada’s February Update

The big maple tree on the mound in the fog.

The big maple tree on the mound in the fog.

Although the weather is still wintery, there’s a touch of spring, of newness in the air. It’s a bit chilly, but the days are getting longer. The darkness of winter is not always something we’re grateful for, but without it we wouldn’t be able to experience and enjoy the gift of the light’s return.

The farm isn’t yet displaying its abundance, but the abundance is there in the form of seeds, just as abundance is always present in seed form even when we can’t see it. Spring seeding is beginning in the propagation greenhouse in preparation for the explosion of growth in the coming season.

Although the Centre’s resident community is still small, it is also about to begin growing. Two new people will be arriving (may already be here when you read this) to contribute their skills in the office, as registrar and programs manager.

In the past months a number of renovations have been completed, notably the drywall in the basement and the waterproofing of the dish room. There are, as always, other items on the never-ending list, but the big ones at the top of the list are being checked off. Everything looks great.

Cailin training Laura, our new registrar

Cailin training Laura, our new registrar

We are on the lookout for a small pickup truck in good condition, to serve the needs of our farm both for on-land use and to take produce to Salt Spring’s famed weekly Saturday market. If you have one you’d like to part with or know someone who has one to sell, please contact the Centre office. Also, take note that we still have space for some enthusiastic karma yogis for the first term of our KYSS program, March 17 – June 3. If you know of anyone who would love this opportunity – or if you would – check the Centre’s website for details.


Tara and Jack gardening in the fog

There are a number of features in this newsletter I invite you to read. This month’s founding member profile is of Mayana Williamson, whom many of you will remember from her many years of involvement in Dharma Sara and the Centre. The Meet our YTT Grads article features part two of Laura Harris’ wonderful ‘diary of a yogi in training’, describing her experience of the second session of YTT to her graduation. We’ve added another new feature this month as well: Asana of the Month, focusing this time on Viparita Karani – legs-up-the-wall pose.

This year’s Shiva Ratri, the Night of Shiva, an all-night vigil of chanting and ritual in honour of Shiva, the destroyer of illusion, is scheduled for March 10 through to the morning of March 11. Find details on our blog. Don’t be daunted by the prospect of staying up all night chanting; you are welcome to come to all or part of the night.

Reading month at the Salt Spring Centre School

Reading month at the Salt Spring Centre School

February is a very busy month for the Salt Spring Centre School – reading month and off-screen challenge (probably harder for adults than kids!). Reading month for kids isn’t the same as reading week for university; it’s more of a competition, working in teams, to see who can read the most books – and remember the facts, for the final Battle of the Books quiz, an event the kids love. Two other Centre School traditions also fall in February. On Hundreds Day, the hundredth day of the school year, you can find collections of one hundred items of all kinds throughout the school, contributed (and counted) by the kids. Also, Lunar New Year is celebrated in early February, with the traditional dragon parade and a noodle lunch, complete with chopsticks.

As we move from winter into spring, may our lives open to growth and abundance.
With warm wishes for continuing light in our lives,

Offering to God

babaji-1999Offering to God: A tribute to Vishnu Ma and a teaching for all of us from Babaji

A number of years ago, one of Mount Madonna Center’s senior residents, in fact the oldest resident in the community and a longtime student of Babaji’s, asked Babaji about her sadhana practice. She was in her early 80s at the time and concerned about her spiritual progress. Babaji’s answer moved her deeply and she shared it with her fellow yogis. Vishnu Ma passed away a few years ago, but is still dear to our hearts. Babaji’s response to her still touches the heart and offers hope to the rest of us.

The following are excerpts from Vishnu Ma’s letter from Babaji:

Just live happily and offer every breath of life to God.

It’s ok to live in comfort and desire physical comfort if you offer it to God. Whatever comes to you, accept it and offer to God.

I understand how you feel because I am also old. I forget names and numbers. You will say ‘How to love God? I have no devotion. My mind goes to the world.’ I will say ‘Don’t worry. Offer, offer, offer to that divine existence who is unseen and formless.’

Everything is fine. Keep your mind positive in all situations.

May God bless you.

Founding Member Feature: Mayana Williamson

Mayana, part of the Centre family

Mayana, part of the Centre family

When I saw the blue poster, I knew my life was about to change. It announced Dharma Sara’s first Yoga Centre on 4th Avenue in Vancouver, and when I read it I thought, “That place is going to save my life.”

It was 1976, I was a musician and a teacher, and I had studied music at UBC, travelled around the province playing cello in a string quartet, lived communally with people I loved, learned yoga from a book and practiced it every day. But I was lost, and after a brief marriage during my student years I knew something was missing, I just didn’t know what.

Mayana playing for a Vancouver “Music in the Hospitals” tour - 1974

Mayana playing for a Vancouver “Music in the Hospitals” tour – 1974

I went to Sunday Satsang not knowing what to expect and found a room filled with warmth and friendship. Sharada walked right up to me when I came in the door, and said, “Hi, I’m Sharada!” with a big, welcoming smile. I felt part of the group from the moment I walked in.

I loved chanting, loved the ritual, and loved the community. Most of all I knew I was in the right place, knew Baba Hari Dass was my teacher and was excited to meet him when he arrived in the summer for what would be the second annual DS summer retreat. What was it like to meet Babaji? My heart cracked open and tears poured down my face when he walked through the arrivals door at the airport. I loved him instantly.

A group of us moved into the Trutch Street House where I lived with my sister Mandira, Anand Dass (AD), Kalpana, Lakshmi, baby Shyam and five other adults. We lived together as “family” and it was an extraordinary time as we fit together the lives of ten people who had yoga and Babaji in common and not much else! Learning to live together began a process of smoothing out our rough edges that would continue for many years. AD chanted OM every morning at 5am in front of the big puja table in the main room with anyone who got up early enough to join him.

Wedding fire ceremony - 1977

Wedding fire ceremony – 1977

I met Bishambhar when he came to choir practice at Trutch Street and we were married in 1977. The wedding was at a temple in Burnaby and the reception in our Centre behind the first Jai store. The next year Radhika was born. I loved being a mother, yet continued to be challenged by a back injury that had kept me bedridden most of my pregnancy. I had major surgery and doctors couldn’t explain why I didn’t recover in the months that followed. In my search for answers I met a healer who had been through something similar. From her I learned there are many dimensions to getting well, and I knew if she could do it then I could too. Learning to heal myself was another spiritual awakening for me.

By the time I was well Bishambhar and I had separated, the land scouts had found property on Salt Spring Island for the Centre and work had started to get the building ready for programs and retreats. Radhika and I stayed in Vancouver making trips to the Centre whenever we could. We continued to have Satsang in Vancouver. I taught music and we lived with Satsang folks at the Laurel Street House, and then with Chandra, Al and their boys Ramesh and Gabe. AD thought it was a miracle that my back had healed. I told him it wasn’t a miracle, just a lot of hard work, yet recently I’ve come to think we were both right.

Our children grew up together. Radhika and Ramesh - 1984 and 2007

Our children grew up together. Radhika and Ramesh – 1984 and 2007

I loved parenting with other moms. Sharada, Chandra, Sadhana and I all had babies around the same time and whenever we were together those kids had four “Mums”. It was common to hear someone say, “Go ask Mummy Sharada” or “Mummy Chandra will help you with that”. Adults got their work done and children were happy. Radhika told me a few years ago, “You always knew which one was yours. That was the one you went home with.”

Right from the beginning whenever we were at the Centre I worked in the kitchen, and after we moved to the Island in 1987 the kitchen continued to be at the core of my karma yoga. I loved Rajani’s women’s crews and later cooking with Vasudev. Once when I wavered about what I should be doing for my spiritual development Babaji told me, among other things, “The Centre is there for your karma yoga.”

I took charge of the kitchen, first for summer retreats, then year-round. The kitchen became the centre of the Centre for me. My private moment of the day was in the evening after everyone was in bed and all was quiet. I would go to the kitchen to do a late night check and look at the next day’s plans. After the organized chaos of the day the hush was palpable. We once had tee shirts that said, “Find peace at the centre.” I found peace in the kitchen.

Mayana preparing for dinner – 1994

In the early days Babaji told me, “Do music.” Music had always been my life and my livelihood, and in kirtan my heart opened when I sang to God. I played harmonium and gradually led more kirtan, my voice refining as I gained confidence. In productions of The Children’s Ramayana—a musical with more than 70 children, a choir and a band—I found another place to throw my heart into music, teaching actors their songs, singing and directing the choir.

Backstage with Guha at a Ramayana performance - 1995

Backstage with Guha at a Ramayana performance – 1995

Singing for Bhakti Night – mid 1990s

Singing for Bhakti Night – mid 1990s

Every summer we prepared for Babaji’s retreat visit with great excitement. During the retreat, time seemed suspended. We worked hard running the retreat. We enjoyed quiet focused classes, the sweetness of kirtan in Babaji’s presence and the fun of tea-time on the mound. When the day came that he was to leave, everyone gathered in the parking lot to say goodbye. But some weren’t ready. We jumped into cars and headed to the ferry to visit in the parking lot, then onto the ferry where we gathered around his car for more, and finally to the airport for the last sweet moments as we waited for the boarding call, and then waved as they boarded the plane.

Mayana, Anuradha and Radhika waiting for the ferry with Babaji – 1984

Mayana, Anuradha and Radhika waiting for the ferry with Babaji – 1984

Waiting for the ferry – 1993 (Mayana bottom right)

Waiting for the ferry – 1993 (Mayana bottom right)

One year at the airport we found ourselves on one side of a wall with Babaji on the other. The top half of the wall was glass, so we could see him waiting to board the plane. But the line wasn’t moving. We watched Karuna and Bhavani and others chatting with Babaji and waited to wave them off. Babaji turned, looked at us for a long moment and then ducked down so we couldn’t see him. A minute later he popped up with a look that said, “Here I am!” He was playing peek-a-boo with us! Just the way we did with our children when they were small. It didn’t matter that we weren’t children. Every time he popped up we laughed and were as delighted as two year olds. We imitated him and there was peek-a-boo and laughter on both sides of the wall. “Play,” Babaji has told us again and again, and that day was another reminder of how easy it is to play anywhere, anytime.

I am blessed with Babaji’s teachings, and with the Centre as my spiritual home. Chandra said it eloquently: “Babaji shone light on the teachings of classical Ashtanga Yoga for us all and gave us a path for life.”

In December, 2008 Kurt and I married and we have been away from the island to be close to his work. We hope to spend some extended time at the Centre in the future.

In December, 2008 Kurt and I married and we have been away from the island to be close to his work. We hope to spend some extended time at the Centre in the future.

Meet our YTT Grads: Laura Harris

Laura has generously made available excerpts from the diary she kept while attending the 2012 sessions of our 200 hour yoga teacher training. Part 1 was published last month, and Part 2 is published below.


Diary of a yogi in training – Part 2

Thursday August 9
I arrived at the Salt Spring Centre of Yoga for the second half of my yoga teaching training, carrying my backpack stuffed with tent, sleeping bag, 2 tarps, air mattress, and clothing. I found a bed of fresh straw in the meadow camp ground on which I set up my teeny tiny tent. Awoke about 2am to a glorious night sky – the Milky Way draped across the heavens. Made it worth crawling out of my warm sleeping bag!

A small group of does and their fawns (still with spots) make their home in my camping meadow. They are quite unconcerned with our comings and goings; a gentle daily reminder of our close relationship to the natural world. It felt good to get back to our first asana class of the second session. I practiced handstands against the wall and it was harder than I expected to get my feet up in the air…not ready for Cirque du Soleil! In Sanskrit, the word asana translates as seat or posture. Asanas are biomechanical actions such as standing, sitting, bending, twisting, inverting, reclining and balancing. Our lecture today was on the physiology of the stress and healing responses, presented by Dr. Hamsa Wright, a physician of integrative medicine at the Inspire Cancer Clinic in Vancouver. She described the health benefits of breath work (pranayama) and yoga asana (poses) to the nervous system: the sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight) calms and the parasympathetic system (rest and digest) activates, slowing heart rate, breathing, and relaxing the endocrine glands, slowing the release of stress hormones. She wrote: “With regular sadhana (spiritual practice), resiliency to stress may improve and this reduces the risk of disease. If disease does occur, yoga practice can lessen its impact and aid the healing process.” Notes, teacher training manual.

Saraswati, a master asana instructor, appeared at our physiology lecture in a full body suit, hand-painted to illustrate the central nervous system (brain and spine). The amazing body suit was created by Kalpana, one of our faculty. As Saraswati demonstrated different yoga poses, we could easily see how the spine would move. At the next two classes, we watched demonstrations of asanas by instructors in in body suits depicting the cardio vascular, gastro-intestinal, endocrine, respiratory, and immune systems. One health benefit of yoga to body systems is the principle of pose-counter pose. For example, the squeezing, or compressing action of one pose, like a twist, followed by a release or more open pose results in organs being “rinsed out” and then re-filled with fresh blood. (Think of a squeezing out a sponge then putting it in fresh water.) No wonder we feel stagnant when we sit without moving for long periods of time. Enjoyed a swim in Blackburn Lake, yoga in the Pond Dome, the outdoor classroom/studio, and for lunch, a delicious bean dip molded in the shape of a heart, fresh-picked-on-site blueberries, and bliss balls (it was desert night!).

Another very hot day. Attended a back bend clinic. Began preparing for my pranayama practicum. Pranayama practices (breath control) are based on the mechanics of normal breathing: inhalation, short retention, exhalation, and a short retention of breath after exhalation. The practices slow down the breath, calming the mind, and preparing one for concentration and meditation. The purpose of pranayama is cleansing one’s inner space, quieting and stilling the mind, balancing one’s energy, and developing concentration for meditation.

Late in the afternoon, I was privileged to participate in Arati, a Hindu devotional ceremony for the changing of the light at sunrise and sunset. All five senses are engaged : sight( candles), smell( incense), hearing( constant ringing of a small hand bell, chanting, and music), touch (receiving of a blessing in the form of a bindu, an orange-colored mark between the eye brows, or third eye ), and taste (a small handful of dried fruit and nuts). This is a form of bhakti yoga, the yoga of devotion, performed to honor and worship deities and the Master Teacher, Baba Hari Dass, founder of the Salt Spring Centre of Yoga. Interesting and moving to experience this beautiful ritual.

The afternoon theory class introduced Ayurveda and Yoga Asana – looking at how specific poses help to balance the doshas. Ayurvedic dosha theory describes individuals as predominantly vatta, pitta, or kapha in nature. One’s dosha is influenced by many factors including diet, lifestyle, habits, climate, season, aging, and emotional state. Yoga poses affect all 3 doshas in varying degrees, depending on the natural emphasis of the pose. For example, grounding, cooling, restful poses like child’s pose or seated forward bend are calming to an aggravated pitta or vatta dosha and asanas that generate heat and movement like standing balances or the Sun Salutation Series are antidotes to an aggravated kapha dosha.

Today was the hottest day of the year so far on the island, giving new meaning to the term “hot yoga”. Would have loved to have had a popsicle (any color).

I completed my pranayama practicum early this morning. Many yogis went into town today for the world famous Ganges market. A feast for the eyes, with produce displayed like art and stalls brimming with jewelry, pottery, glasswork, woodwork, soaps, weaving, baking, cheeses, chocolate, and the ubiquitous tie-dyed clothing. Everything at the market is local and handmade or raised.
After supper, we celebrated the completion of teacher training with a talent show and yoga dance-rave. After a lot of laughs, a few tears, soda pop (!) and chips (!!) – organic, of course – I fell into bed after midnight, exhausted and exhilarated.

Laura Harris

Laura Harris

Graduation ceremony (more tears and laughter), many good bye hugs, one final organic, vegetarian, fabulous meal, prepared with love by the karma yogis, and it’s over. After 200-hrs of training and 4 weeks of immersion in the ashram and yogic lifestyle, I return home to put my learning to practice. Baba Hari Dass wrote a note to each of us: “You go home with the knowledge of yoga. Now the question is what to do with it. 1. Practice it. 2. Share it with others. 3. Teach to learn because learning never ends.”

Read Part 1 of Laura’s YTT experience.

Laura Harris is a professional yoga teacher and owner of Hatha Wellness Yoga in Saskatoon. To learn more about Laura and her yoga classes, please visit , call her at (306) 292-7534 or send an email to

Asana of the month: Viparita Karani

Viparita Karani (legs-up-the-wall pose)
Viparita = inverted, reversed; Karani = doing, making

Viparita Karani

Viparita Karani

Viparita Karani is a wonderful yoga posture and a favourite of mine, one that I share with students any time of the year. This asana is particularly refreshing in the long dark months of winter. It is a nice inversion alternative
 to savasana pose and it’s calming for the mind and gently stretches the back
 of the legs, neck, and low back.

Benefits of  Viparita Karani

During the winter season when mild depression can affect some 
people, this asana practiced daily from 15 to 30 minutes can 
bring an overall grounding sensation while balancing the nervous 
system and introduces relaxation response. Tired legs and feet will
 definitely feel restored after Viparita Karani.
 The restorative nature of this posture gets blood flowing to parts of 
the body that need it, making it good for many ailments, including
 arthritis, menopause, high and low blood pressure and respiratory 

Getting into the pose

To begin you’ll need two firm folded blankets or a firm bolster for 
support placed about 5-6 inches from an unobstructed wall. As
well, eye-pillows can be used for over the eyes and forehead. If 
you are stiffer in the hamstrings you will want to place the props 
further away from the wall, no more than 10 inches. To start, sit
 sideways on the middle of the prop with your right side close to the 
wall. As you begin to exhale turn to the right and let your legs
 move up the wall as you lower your torso and shoulders to the 
floor, looking up to the ceiling. Keeping your pelvis centred on 
the prop and comfortable for the lumbar, keep your legs relaxed 
and settled against the wall. Let your arms rest on the floor slightly 
lower than your shoulders or resting overhead on the floor. Your head should be positioned so that your forehead is slightly higher
 than your chin. For additional comfort use a small rolled towel for
 under your neck (without letting the head tip back) while following 
the breath slowly. Find the quietness of your belly and the
 spaciousness around your heart as well as the sensation of feeling 
held. Other props that you can use are a heavy blanket for covering 
the torso or a sand bag for the soles of the feet.

Coming out of the pose

When ready to move out of the pose, slide away from the wall 
coming off of the prop, and rolling onto your side. Take a few soft 
slow breaths before lifting up while exhaling.

Variations on the pose

Here are some variations to make this asana your own. Bend
 your knees and bring the soles of your feet together (like baddha
konasana) with outer feet against the wall. As well, try elevating
 the lower legs onto a chair with a foam block under your hips and a
 thick blanket under your calves. Alternatively, use what you have
 to support the lower legs horizontally and the feet touching the wall
 and a blanket or sand bag on the legs.

This is my favourite winter asana to help restore and strengthen mind
 body and breath. Include Viparita Karani in your personal yoga 

About the instructor

Peter BarragonPeter Ashok Baragon graduated from SSCY’s Yoga Teacher Training ten years ago  and has been teaching in Vancouver and West Vancouver ever since.  He enjoys teaching at community based centres for the variety of participants and the opportunity to offer different styles throughout the week. Rooted in classical ashtanga yoga and hatha yoga, he also teaches yin, restorative, chair-yoga for seniors and power flow vinyasa. Teaching for him flows from a place of love, compassion and gratitude.

Shiva Ratri 2013

ShivaSunday, March 10, 2013

Join us at the Centre for Shiva Ratri, an all-night vigil of chanting and prayer.

The day begins in the morning with the making of 1008 clay lingams, representing sahasrara chakra, the lotus of a thousand petals. The evening celebration will begin at sundown (6:30 pm) with arati, followed by kirtan to Shiva, mantra yoga, stories and asanas. There will be two pujas, one at midnight and one around 5 am, ending with arati. Then the lingams are carried to the pond and offered into the water.

If you are planning to make lingams and offer at one or both pujas, you must begin your fast by Saturday 8am and continue through the all-night Shiva Ratri celebration.

For further information, to register for a room, to sign up for lingam making or offering at either the midnight or 5 am puja, please contact Rajani: or 250-537-9537.

There is no charge, but a donation to cover costs would be appreciated.

We hope you will join us! All are welcome.

Learn more about Shiva and Shiva Ratri here.


Dharma Sara Membership

We invite those who share the goals and ideals of Dharma Sara Satsang Society and the Salt Spring Centre of Yoga to join as members of the society. For former members, it is time to renew your membership. Read more about the mission and vision of Dharma Sara and how to join or renew online on our website. Your support and participation are important to all of us!

Introduction to Ayurvedic Yoga Therapy

We are delighted to offer a new program news-sandra-sagarmurti-shottonin 2013 focused on how to bring the therapeutic benefits of yoga and ayurveda to individuals and groups in many different contexts, supporting health challenges and lifestyle changes. This program may be of particular interest to YTT 200 graduates who wish to expand their knowledge base and enhance their teaching skills. Join us and see if Yoga Therapy might provide a new direction in your yoga path. This exciting opportunity will be facilitated by Sandra Sagarmurti Shotton E-RYT 500, an Ayurvedic Yoga Therapist and founder of Island Yoga Vista in Nanaimo. Sandra has been practicing and teaching ayurvedic yoga therapy for 16 years and has a wealth of experience to offer. Find out more…

Sharada’s January update

I hope you all had a peaceful holiday season and are ready for another spin around the sun as we begin this new year. As it turns out, the world didn’t end on December 21 and here we are. I remember the same forecast about the millenium, and that also went right by. It turns out the only world that can end is the one created by our minds.

Life is quiet at the Centre, but the next program season is just around the corner. Meanwhile, classes continue as does satsang. On March 10 into the morning of March 11 we will gather to celebrate Shiva Ratri, an all-night vigil of kirtan and pujas. Because Shiva Ratri falls on a Sunday this year, there will be no satsang that day; instead people are invited to join us at 7:00 – or anytime thereafter, throughout the night – and sing Shiva kirtan. There will be more details in the February edition of Offerings, so stay tuned.

We are also reinstating the weekly Free Introductory Yoga Classes that we offered years ago. The classes will be held from 11 am to 12:30 pm on Sundays, January 6 – March 17. The focus will be on instruction and practice of pranayama and asana as taught by Baba Hari Dass, and will be led by a rotation of the Centre’s YTT grads. These classes are open to everyone at all yoga levels.

As part of the continuing series of founding member profiles (which I think of as old member – OM – profiles), this month we feature Rajani Rock, who lived at the Centre for many years, still lives on the island and is still involved at the Centre.

In addition, we are delighted to introduce some of the grads of our Yoga Teacher Training program, beginning with part one of Laura Harris’ wonderful YTT journal, “Life of a Yogi”.

All of us here send warm wishes to you for a year filled with peace, well-being and love.

May we be filled with loving kindness,
May we be well,
May we be peaceful and at ease,
May we be happy.

In peace,

Meet our YTT Grads: Laura Harris

Laura has generously made available excerpts from the diary she kept while attending the 2012 sessions of YTT. Part 1 is published below, and you can
read Part 2 here.


Diary of a yogi in training – Part 1

July 3
Arrived on Salt Spring Island by float plane, a noisy and exhilarating 20-minute flight from Vancouver Airport, in a 1956 Beaver Haiviland. The Salt Spring Centre of Yoga, where I will spend the next 2 weeks as part of a 4-week yoga teacher training certification (YTT-200hr) is nestled in a valley about 10 minutes from Ganges. I came here to have “the ashram experience”, surrounded by nature, immersed in the yogic experience, eating healthy meals, and doing lots of great yoga. At least that’s what I thought I needed.

July 4
Up at 5 am for my first session of pranayama. The practice of pranayama is regulating the breath in order to calm the mind, the guiding principle being a peaceful breath is linked to a peaceful mind. We learned the yogic breath today: a full inhalation and complete exhalation, maximizing the volume of air brought into the lungs. An hour of pranayama techniques was followed by a short meditation, then – chai tea! No food (except the wonderful milk-tea) is taken until after the yoga asana (poses) class, meaning, the first meal of the day is at 11am. A snack is served at 2:30pm and supper at 6:00pm. The food is lacto-vegetarian or vegan which means no meat, fish, or eggs. And no coffee either. The meals are just over-the-top good: fresh, organic, healthy and delicious. I will not lose weight here.

July 5
Today we began Shat Karma, or practices of cleansing the body, with an introduction to the neti pot. Neti, or nasal cleansing, involves pouring warm, lightly salted water in one nostril and letting it drain out the other. Many health benefits, as Dr. Oz and Oprah have publically attested. Neti will be part of our daily morning routine, along with other shat karma techniques. The afternoon and evening theory sessions for the next few days are anatomy, taught by a physiotherapist who is a long-time yoga practitioner and YTT graduate. The overlay of western science on the eastern spiritual practice of yoga is fascinating. So much is offered by both systems.


YTT Graduate, Laura Harris

July 6
Introduction to Ayurveda; discovered I am of a predominately pitta dosha (positive qualities of mind: articulate, intelligent, enthusiastic. Negative qualities: irritable with anger flare ups, aggressive, prone to pride). Oh well, I can always balance my dosha with proper diet and yoga asanas! Ayurvedic cleansing diet and lifestyle offers a holistic and natural approach to maintain optimal health. Worth exploring further, I think.

July 7 & 8
Had an emotional meltdown on Saturday night; couldn’t relax and fall asleep after another very full day. Feeling vulnerable and overwhelmed by the long days, new people; not really sure why I’m here. It’s just way more intense and affecting me at deeper levels than I expected. Got it sorted out by talking with one of the very kind (and still awake) yoga teachers. Moved from a shared room into my own room Sunday night and slept like a baby. Many of us are hitting some kind of personal “wall” and it’s manifesting in different ways for different people. Interesting.

July 9
A daily highlight for me are the 2 yoga asana classes; in the morning we can choose between a beginning or intermediate level class while the afternoon session is an asana clinic where we cover 2 to 4 of the 28 classical poses then practice-teach them to one another other. The yoga teachers are exceptional: their teaching style is clear, concise, and often entertaining. I have had classes in: flow, power and restorative yoga, clinics on back bends, head and shoulder stands, and learned how to incorporate props (blocks, blankets, and straps) for added comfort and safety.

July 10
Today we were in silence (no talking) until 2:30pm. I could finally hear myself think after days of listening to instructions, theory, and general chattering. What I noticed when I observed my thoughts during the silence is the chattering of my own mind. Yet my inner self feels very settled and calm. This evening we enjoyed yoga in the “Pond Dome”, a large outdoor classroom with sides opened up to the surrounding meadow with sky, forest, mountains, birds and deer in the background.

July 12
The asana clinic today was Savasana (Shuv-awwsuna), a reclining pose lying on the back on the floor. Savasana is how we “seal” or conclude a yoga practice. It teaches us how to let go of tension in the mind and body, focus on our breath, turn the mind inward, and relax deeper still. Interestingly, Savasana is known as the most difficult pose because of the challenge of truly being still in mind and body. Savasana can give one the experience of being in meditation.

July 13
Last evening we were privileged to be part of Kirtan, a spiritual musical event where the musicians and audience engage in call and response to the words of the songs, many sung in Sanskrit. There were over a dozen musicians accompanying our voices: cello, violin, guitars, mandolin, flutes, drums, and percussion, creating a lovely, exuberant, full-of-life experience .

July 15
Returning to Saskatoon tomorrow. Looking forward to my family, garden, cats and familiar routines, wondering how I will maintain my new habits of daily pranayama, meditation, yoga, and vegetarian eating. I am leaving with a full mind and even fuller heart. My key learning from the past 2 weeks: yoga is a teacher.

July 16
Home for 3 weeks and back to Salt Spring Centre of Yoga for the second half of YTT-200hr!

Continue to Part 2

Laura Harris, MSc is a wellness professional in Saskatoon with over 25 years of experience as an instructor, facilitator, and coach. She is the owner of Harris Wellness Consulting and Hatha Wellness Yoga. For more information about Laura and to find out locations, times, and how to register for her yoga classes, please visit or call her at 306 292-7534.