Meet our YTT Grads: Jessica Encell

YTT 2012 Graduate, Jessica Encell

YTT 2012 Graduate, Jessica Encell

My name is Jessica and I am a 22 year old graduate of the Summer 2012 YTT at the amazing Salt Spring Centre of Yoga.

Where do you live? What do you do in your life apart from yoga?

I live in Santa Monica, CA. I graduated from college (university) in September where I was studying Sustainability and Environmental Awareness. I am currently teaching one yoga class a week (thank you SSCY!), working with the nonprofit 5 Gyres to educate people on marine plastic pollution and playing as a nanny for two beautiful 8 year old identical twin girls.

What attracted you to the SSCY YTT program?

This experience seemed to magically sneak into in my life. It was a wonderful synchronicity that I happened to be visiting my grandparents on the island at the beginning of summer. I was planning to work as a children’s surf instructor in Los Angeles…. until…. My amazing grandmother Phyllis Coleman took me to see the centre and introduced me to Shankar. We walked through the property – which at the time was covered in caterpillars- and as he told me about the program that was beginning in a few weeks I had an inkling that I might not work as a surf instructor after all. I left the centre feeling totally enchanted: the land was magnificent, Shankar was wise, welcoming and humorous, and there was a quote in gold letters from Babaji that really grabbed me, “Dream is real as long as you are asleep. Life is real as long as you are not awakened.”

A few days later I signed up for the program!

What aspect of yoga has had the most transformative effect on your life?

The most transformative aspect of yoga has been the continual changes in perspective and mindset that it manages to bring about. It is relentlessly teaching me to shift states from scattered to aware, rushed to present, reactive to responsive, and is constantly filling me with a sense of gratitude and joy for life.

What surprised you the most about the practice of yoga? How has your understanding of yoga deepened?

Joseph Campbell said, “The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek.” And so it was in the program, where the most challenging aspects, the ones that brought up the most internal resistance, were the most rewarding. For me these were: A consistent and lengthy pranayama practice and the teaching components at the end of the program. It turns out these were the gifts that kept on giving!

Now I have taken these things and integrated them into my daily life. I came to the program with little understanding of the non-physical aspects of yoga but left being most positively impacted by the philosophies and mental tools. It is largely a process of making friends with the mind – whether it does not want to sit still and cultivate focus in pranayama or whether it fears inadequacy and offers self imposed judgment before teaching a portion of a class – the mind is always presenting challenges and the program provided a wealth of tools to meet these challenges with awareness, positivity and a smile. I’ve realized how beneficial a consistent practice is.

Please share some memorable moments from YTT. A favourite memory?

Great conversations and lots of laughs. Before the program began, I wondered if the atmosphere would be somber and serious. Instead, large amounts of joy, laughter, humor and positivity filled my experience.

A few more highlights…

  • Lying in the meadow at night snuggled up with Kandace, Katie and Shaun watching the meteor shower.
  • The surreal feeling of being in a family and community with a group of people that you have only just met.
  • Walking barefoot through the tall soft grasses of the beautiful field before jumping naked – optional 🙂 – into Blackburn Lake.
  • Chetna’s shelf yoga class.
  • Challenging and rewarding daily pranayama and meditation with Divakar
  • Delicious farm fresh meals prepared with so much love (thank you KYs!)
  • Living in the presence of people who are older and have only grown wiser and more vibrant with age. A lot of the elders I have encountered throughout my life seem to have grown stuck and tired with age. At the centre it really struck me how, rather than hardening with time, everyone had blossomed.
  • The amazing and inspiring collection of beautiful wise women – Kalpana, Chandra Rose, Sharada, C.P., Julie, Chandra, Chetna, Kishori, Sarah, Shilpa, Sam – I’m talking to you!

What can students expect from the yoga teacher training at the Centre?
They can expect to have an amazing and transformative experience with compassionate, knowledgeable and down to earth teachers.

I have so much love and gratitude for each and every person in the program who made the experience exactly what it was.
Thank you

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

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.