Our Centre Community: Glenda Saraswati Garcia

Beckoned by a Teacher and a Community

Saraswati

Saraswati

You might think that the remote, cold, north of Saskatchewan is a most unusual place to find a yoga Guru, but in the winter of 2008, that’s exactly what happened to me.

Living in Northern Saskatchewan

Living in Northern Saskatchewan

At the time I was living in La Ronge, Northern Saskatchewan, working as a dietitian and enjoying a sweet and humble yoga inspired life. Earlier that year, when I arrived for my post as Regional Dietitian, I had wasted no time to share my love of yoga, and in turn, to establish a yoga community. I started off by teaching fitness classes on the weekends at the local elementary school. Actually, the fitness classes were yoga classes in disguise, and the students were no fools to my trick. When I told them that I was actually showing them how to do yoga poses, which required not only physical movement but also connection with the breath and mind, they were quite interested and surprisingly started to ask for more. I openly started teaching yoga in the evenings at the community centres, and even managed to convince my boss to allow me to hold classes in the boardroom of the small hospital I worked at. I quickly became known as the “yoga lady” (there were no other yoga teachers in the area) and was teaching classes several times a week, and holding weekend workshops regularly. I also began teaching yoga programs for children in the schools, and later went on to create a diabetes prevention curriculum for elementary schools based on yoga and nutrition.

With a group of yogis in the North

With a group of yogis in the North

Though I had been practicing asana for several years and had taken a 200 hour yoga teacher training, my own practice was just developing. As I dove into teaching a community of dedicated students, I realized that to serve them well I needed guidance. I feverishly read books on yoga and was diligent and dedicated to my daily practice, but I felt a void that needed to be filled by a teacher. There was only so much revealed wisdom that I could conjure in the cold, remote north! Luckily, one morning as I sat reading at my kitchen table, I remembered an excerpt from a magazine article that I had read a few years before. The article had been about Yoga Retreat Centres, and the excerpt had mentioned Mount Madonna Centre (MMC). It was barely a paragraph long, but it stated that the centre had a Guru teaching onsite. That morning I felt summoned to Mount Madonna Centre to meet Baba Hari Dass, even though I knew nothing about him. For some reason, I thought that he could help fill my void for guidance.

Mount Madonna

Mount Madonna

For the next six months I worked hard to arrange my life so that I could spend two months taking part in the Yoga Service and Community (YSC) program at MMC. In June of 2009, I arrived at Mount Madonna Centre and instantly knew that I had arrived home to my family. That first day I had dinner in the Community Building with Babaji and felt completely at ease. I knew that I had found the teacher that would guide me in sharing yoga with the world.

Devotion at Mount Madonna Centre

Devotion at Mount Madonna Centre

I filled my cup of knowledge with yoga, and after the two month YSC program returned to Northern Saskatchewan to continue teaching yoga. Empowered by my teacher and his teachings, I began to teach pranayama and meditation. To my surprise, these offerings were well attended and frequently requested. I will never forget the class when one of the native elders of the community came up to me after a discussion and said this about Ajna Chakra: “you know, that is the same point on the forehead that we concentrate on in our traditional rituals.” I realized the universality of the practice and why it could be so well accepted even in the remote north.

Mask making for ytt 500

Mask making for ytt 500

At the end of 2009, I returned again to MMC, this time for 6 months. During this time I was able to become even more integrated in the community and to learn even more about yoga. I was able to experience a variety of yogic celebrations, ceremonies, rituals, and classes. I also embarked on furthering my yoga teaching skills by enrolling in the first modular YTT 500 program at the centre.

Burning of masks at tantra ceremony

Burning of masks at tantra ceremony

That year while enjoying my time at MMC, I met Lakshmi McPhee from the Salt Spring Centre of Yoga (SSCY). She encouraged me to come up to Salt Spring Island and visit the yoga centre. She presented such a wonderful picture that I simply felt I had to go. That summer I ventured to the Salt Spring Centre and took part in the Karma Yoga program. Similar to my arrival at MMC, when I stepped onto the property at the SSCY, I felt Babaji’s presence and knew that there I was also home.

8 teaching ytt at SSCY

Teaching YTT at SSCY

 YTT at SSCY

YTT at SSCY

The following year I returned to SSCY as an assistant for YTT. It was such an honor be a part of that program, to see the transformation that students go through as they integrate the teachings of Babaji. The YTT programs at SSCY and MMC are so special, and I feel that it boils down Babaji’s inspiration. Though he is no longer teaching for these program, his presence is felt. I have had the amazing fortune of teaching at several YTT programs and am continuously amazed at the power of his teachings.

Ramayana preparing to be Sita

Ramayana preparing to be Sita

7

Birthday at SSCY

In 2011 I decided to move to Victoria, BC in order to be closer to my SSCY family. Since then I have dedicated myself to being of service both at SSCY and MMC. Additionally, I have dedicated myself to sharing yoga and starting up little yoga communities wherever I go. Upon moving to Victoria I started a workplace yoga program for the hospital I work at. I started humbly with one class per week, but filled up quickly and had to turn people away. The program successfully expanded to ten classes per week! Many of the students have been practicing with me for three years now, and we have created a community of yogis at the hospital. Babaji’s teachings present a foundation that resonates with the students and I am so honored to be a medium through which these teachings can be shared.

I feel that I have been blessed in being called to the teachings of Babaji and to the centres that he has inspired. This calling not only allowed me to further my knowledge and practice of Yoga, but it also united me with my spiritual family. The people at MMC and SSCY are my brothers and sisters and I love them immensely. In 2012 while at the New Year’s Retreat at MMC, I was also blessed to connect with Piet, my wonderful partner in adventure and fun. He is a beautiful soul who is a long-time member of the community, and devoted student of Babaji. We seem to be on the same path.

Piet and I

Piet and I

This year, Piet and I decided to become more involved with our SSCY community. He coordinated the 40th Annual Community Yoga Retreat (it was a blast!!), and I became a member of the board of directors. We have many plans for the future, and our connection to our MMC and SSCY families is always integral in them.

SSCY Board, 2014

SSCY Board, 2014

I am eternally grateful for that morning in La Ronge when I found my teacher and my community. With a heart full of love, I look forward to a lifetime of involvement!