I became aware of Yogic arts when I was about ten years old. When I was over to play at my school friend’s house, I saw her mother, a tall, beautiful German woman, quietly excuse herself to go into a room in the house for some time. I was never invited into that mysterious room. When the room door would open, it seemed that it pulsated with something I only now understand as the spiritual energy I have seen in yoga studios and meditation halls. After what felt like an expansive, infinite amount of time, my friend’s mom would come out of the strange room and somehow, she seemed magically transformed, radiating, brighter, glowing. I wondered what went on in there. It seemed somehow the fairies were in there helping her with something. All I knew was that I liked it, and wanted to be part of it.
Later I found out it was not magic or mystery that made that room seem so special, but a systematic, disciplined practice and life science called Yoga. She knew that if she did certain breathing exercises, calmed and focused her mind, allowed her body to move into certain positions, she was boosting her life force energy, vitality and sense of inner peace. I later found out she was a long time practitioner of Iyengar Yoga, which I later ended up practicing quite extensively.
At 16, I took my first yoga class while studying at McGill University. It was taught by a Sivananda-trained yoga teacher. I distinctly remember how the world seemed richer, fuller and brighter after the class. Each week, the class felt like a homecoming. I would experience a feeling inside of me awaken, something I felt I had always known and also knew I was missing. Without understanding the fullness of what was happening, I sensed something deep within me growing through this weekly practice.
When I switched to Waterloo University, I continued my yoga classes with an Iyengar teacher, and went deeper into understanding postural alignment. I was in a demanding architecture program that exacerbated the type A personality I have learned to soften and release through my yoga practices. Yoga and meditation kept me sane. Classmates noticed I was doing something to manage my stress, so I started to guide a few peers through yoga postures and breathing to help us cope with our demanding schedule and tight deadlines. I guess you could say that was my first experience teaching, though I resisted any such title.
When I first arrived back in Montreal after university to work in a reputed architecture firm, I sought out a yoga school. At the Sivananda Yoga Center on St-Laurent, I became heavily involved with my yoga practice. I took mantra and meditation classes, advanced asana practices and went deeper into my own personal study. When I heard there was a teacher training program offered in India in a few months, I knew I was meant to be there.
I flew into Madras and had my 23rd birthday in Tamil Nadu, South India. A couple days later, I continued South to attended my first teacher training program at the Sivananda Ashram in Kerala. There I was introduced to a classical approach to Yoga. I adored the whole program and the experience of daily immersion in the practice and study of Yoga. The teacher training program lasted a month, but my time in India lasted a year.
Yoga is immense and also so simple. It comes alive when we practice, when we go within and face ourselves, when we get on the mat and do our exercises and when we bring that expanded spaciousness out into the world and chose to live awakened lives.
One of my favourite sayings by Swami Sivananda is “An ounce of practice is worth a ton of theory.” The saying helps us remember that enlightened action, living awake in the world, is where our true practice exists. We can stay “knowledgeable” in our heads, but if it does not translate into loving and serving more fully, then it really does not mean much. Yoga in this way is a practical life science. It helps us live all aspects of life more fully. Yoga is the art of living.
Because of the broad foundation I received from my Sivananda practice, study and training, I have been able to open to a big vision of Yoga and its many layers and meanings. I brought these riches into the practice of YEM: Yoga as Energy Medicine and into my current show and musical compositions.
To be continued next month
Parvati Devi is the editor-in-chief of Parvati Magazine and an internationally recognized Canadian musician, yogi and new thought leader. As a chart-topping touring musician, Parvati spearheads the Post New-Age musical genre with her independent success hit single “Yoga in the Nightclub”. She founded YEM: Yoga as Energy Medicine, a powerful yoga method that combines energy work and yoga poses. Her critically acclaimed self-help debut book “Confessions of a Former Yoga Junkie – A Revolutionary Life Makeover for the Sincere Spiritual Seeker” is currently in its third edition.