I have dedicated my life to sharing yoga and mindfulness with children, adolescents, families, and educators to foster healthy and happy people, harmonious relationships, and a peaceful world. I have been sharing yoga with young people from preschoolers to adolescents for more than a decade.
I was first introduced to yoga at the age of 17. It was another 3 years before I returned to yoga, but it was that first class that planted a profound seed – the realization that peace was possible. Having experienced symptoms of depression and anxiety since a young child, this was truly a revelation to me. Sadly, no one around me – neither my teachers, parents, friends, nor school counsellors – ever knew that I was struggling with these overwhelming feelings because I was ashamed and afraid to share them.
As the symptoms of anxiety and depression escalated in my early 20s, I instinctually knew that yoga could help. Very literally, yoga saved my life. At 21, I began a daily practice. After being diagnosed with bipolar illness in my mid-twenties, my doctor introduced me to mindfulness practices, which helped me find acceptance in the face of living with a socially-stigmatized illness, and ride the waves of the inevitable ups and downs. I found that practicing yoga and mindfulness relieved the intensity and frequency of dramatic mood swings. It also eliminated the anxiety that I had previously experienced as my mind made up stories of being “crazy” and “out of control.” Instead, these practices allowed me to find that beautiful equanimous stillness at the centre of my being, which I could tap into regardless of the thoughts or emotions I was experiencing. From this place of calm, present-centred awareness, I could choose to respond to the situation at hand with a sense of clarity instead of feeling driven and controlled by my emotions. I only wish that I had had access to these profound tools earlier! It was this wish that motivated me to find ways to bring contemplative practices to young people. As so many symptoms of mental and emotional dis-ease go unobserved in young people, integrating secular contemplative practices into the school day seemed one way to allow universal access to children who otherwise may not have the opportunity to try them.
After taking the Radiant Child Training with Shakta Kaur Khalsa in 2006, I introduced yoga into my English classroom. Of course, students were always given the option to join in or sit and relax, observe, read, or draw. I was amazed to see how many students were enthusiastic about practice and how much they valued their yoga time. By sharing yoga with my students, I also noticed that I was more present, more patient, more compassionate, more understanding, and less frustrated as a teacher, leading to a better educational experience for all.
In 2009, I met my mentor Maalaa, who invited me along her Path of Happiness to assist her with her Kids’ Yoga Now trainings. I transitioned from being a classroom teacher to teaching yoga full time. Since then, I have spent thousands of hours bringing yoga to young people in many settings, including schools, community centers, hospitals, and yoga studios. I continue to hear from children, teens, and their caregivers that practicing yoga has increased their resiliency and overall well-being. Many have shared that yoga has also helped them live more thoughtful and meaningful lives.
Ever the student, I am currently completing my PhD in Human Development, Learning, and Culture at the University of British Columbia (UBC). My research interests include exploring the effects of yoga and mindfulness practices on the health and well-being of young people and educators. My master’s thesis investigated early adolescents’ experiences with MindUP, a mindfulness-based social and emotional learning program offered in many schools around the world. Since 2012, I have worked as a Research Assistant in Dr. Kimberly Schonert-Reichl’s Social and Emotional Learning Lab and, more recently, at the Human Early Learning Partnership at UBC. I have worked on several studies evaluating the effectiveness of mindfulness education programs for children and teens, as well as other social and emotional learning programs, such as the Random Acts of Kindness Program. Currently, we are working a validation study of the Dalai Lama Centre for Peace and Education’s Heart-Mind Index.
I am continually deepening my study of yoga. I have completed more than 1000 hours of yoga teacher training. I offer my profound thanks to my inspirational teachers: Maalaa, Megha Nancy Buttenheim, Chris Chavez, Madhuri Phillips, Gloria Latham, Shakta Kaur Khalsa, Kimberly Schonert-Reichl, and each and every one of my students.
In my free time, I love dancing and singing with my husband and son, relaxing with my two cats, hiking in the beautiful BC rainforest, and breathing in the ocean air at Spanish Banks.