Sarah’s deep reverence and curiosity for yoga took her far from her comfort zone. Leaving behind a successful yoga and massage business in Toronto (she even gave Justin Trudeau private yoga sessions), she followed renowned teacher Simon Park to Sydney and started anew.

Joining Sydney’s BodyMindLife family has become an integral part of feeling at home. At the BML studios, Sarah is the go-to teacher for detailed alignment, peak pose focus and intuitive hands-on assists.

While living her dream to discover more about yoga, the last two and a half years since leaving home have also come with big challenges.

Heartbreak has tested her, and depression and anxiety have often resurfaced. But, through even greater immersion into asana and pranayama, the lessons she’s learned have now become some of her greatest gifts.

Here, Sarah open-heartedly shares her experiences, including how humbling it is to teach, how she emerged out of her recent darkness and why she’s so passionate about sharing what she’s learned.

Canada To Sydney

My whole purpose of travelling across the world was to be better at what I do, to learn more about yoga and healing. Before I moved here I had a successful business, a great following of massage and yoga students which took a while to build. I even used to give Justin Trudeau private yoga lessons because his campaign office was below our yoga studio.

So people ask, ‘Why did you leave?’ At the time I was following a great teacher, Simon Park, and when he told me he was coming to Australia, I was like ‘cool, I’ll go there’. I’m glad I did because I wouldn’t have been able to dive into yoga completely and learn as much as I have.

Being a Modern Yogi

I think being a modern yogi is being able to keep the calm, the connectedness to yourself that we find in a retreat setting or on vacation while we move through our daily lives. It can be easy to feel great and find enlightening moments when I am in nature or on a retreat, but how do we keep these feelings throughout the day to day?

The reflection of the mat into life is about being mindful, noticing when we get distracted or pulled by a thought or old habit, all this practice that we’re doing on the mat is constantly teaching us things about ourselves – if we watch it.

But it’s really when you’re ready to receive a message or the teachings that you start to listen to your body a little differently.

Learning From Teaching

I feel like I’m still learning – always learning, which is a great feeling. It’s sometimes overwhelming in that I almost never feel like I know enough! This can play into my shadow sides at times. But trusting I am giving the best I have is the real yoga for me, and trying to drop all those voices that say ‘you are not good enough’.

I’ve also learned not to take things personally. If someone comes in and doesn’t love your class, they might be going through something that day. With massage, I learned ‘this is what I have to offer, I’m not going to be anybody else, people will know when it is not authentic’.

People come back for what they need from what you have to give, a balance between the poetics and the alignment or who knows, everyone can get different things from different people.

It shows through when a teacher is coming in to share something. That is why I would go back to that class, you can really get that from someone even if they’re a brand new teacher that they’re just smiling, excited and want to share something, it’s really special.

Lately I’m learning to surrender a bit, not trying to be perfect or have the most amazing class every single day. As a teacher, maybe you’re feeling a bit down or you didn’t get the best sleep the last night and you’re thinking ‘oh my goodness how am I going to teach today?’ I try to drop the expectation and find I walk out feeling even better than when I walked in. To share something I love, I really am so lucky.

Teaching Intuitively

I feel like my hands are like a second pair of eyes, they can feel things. I love to be intuitive with touch and connecting to students and friends. Some things I am not sure how I know but I trust when my intuition is saying something.

With energetics – it’s easy for me to see it in postures, it’s like, you could see someone walking down the street and you can tell if they’re closed in or guarded or they’re going through something. It’s that same idea, when I’m walking around the room, I’ll gravitate or go into certain spaces and I know I need to stay away, they might be going through their own process that day.

The Beauty of Asana

In my practice, and I notice in other people’s practice when they’re paying attention to their breath and moving slower, it just looks like a dance, it’s a beautiful wave-like dance, fluid movement that’s going through them, even if it is just moving from triangle pose to half moon, you can make the transition mindful so that you have a better body understanding and are focussed to get into the balance.

Awakenings From 200hr Teacher Training

When I see someone coming into a 200hr training they’re saying, ‘I just know there’s something more to it and I need to know what that is.’ And usually when we go over the 8 limbs and the yamas and niyamas, they’re saying ‘Oh my goodness! This is the stuff, this is why I keep showing up on my mat. I’m becoming a better version of myself.’ 200hr kind of changes your life a bit and you start to do things differently.

Heartbreak, Depression & Anxiety

I went through a breakup just before Christmas last year and I didn’t realise how much I had depended on that person for the feeling of family, and realised how much when you’re away from home or being a traveller you do start to make these connections with people and if it’s taken away or someone has to move away you’re like ‘oh wait, I didn’t realise how much I was depending on them’.

But my biggest struggle has been depression. I saw it surface again recently but I pushed it down. I pushed it down and I masked it with other titles like anxiety, heartbreak and exhaustion from overworking. I closed myself off from connecting to people. I thought I would try to ‘get over it’ – to not affect anyone with my poison, like it was contagious.

“I had to take my own medicine. And don’t we all need to do that when we hear ourselves giving advice we should probably take?“

When Darkness Surfaces On The Mat

I got to the point where I was resisting yoga a bit because it was showing me too much and I wasn’t ready yet. It was really uncomfortable, I would get quite upset. Or when teaching I’d start to talk about a philosophical lesson and as I was saying it I had to choke back tears. That’s the moment ‘taking your own medicine’ is probably what you need to do, but I just couldn’t, I knew what I needed to do but it was hard to just show up. It was a block.

It’s a blessing and a curse to be a yogi in a way, because you do feel sometimes a bit too much. Other people can go through stuff, like my best friends can go through a breakup or whatever and it’s like, ok, yep, done and I don’t feel like I have that opportunity. If it’s coming up, I’m feeling everything and it’s all there and it’s hard to stay vulnerable.

You want to be able to keep your heart open, and time is a great thing, but that’s what the mat showed me, it’s just like anything else, it’s a practice, it’s how you handle the transitions in between the big stuff, how gracefully you take that next step, make that next movement into something, like in the practice, sometimes you want to rush through the warm up, you want to skip that core work because that’s the bit you hate or whatever it is. But those are the important things because that’s what’s leading you on your path, there’s beauty in the uncomfortable.

Shifting The Darkness

I looked for other people who needed help and tried to help them to make myself feel better, as if I had a purpose, or could forget about my hurt. It helped a bit but it was not sustainable. I saw myself getting a little darker a little more closed off and it was not until I realised what I was doing that I knew I needed to change something.

It started with a mental shift. I didn’t want to allow myself to close off, so I reached out to friends and family, not always to talk but to shift a pattern, a negative story that was in my head.

I went for runs on the beach and I picked up a stronger pranayama practice. Basically, I had to take my own medicine. And don’t we all need to do that when we hear ourselves giving advice we should probably take?

It is still a process but I can feel the shifts and it adds to what I hope to share with others so that they don’t feel stuck in that place.

These feelings come up still, especially when I am feeling alone in another country. But I am so grateful for this practice, for the gifts it has given me. It’s the place to turn to when I feel like the dark clouds start to get a little heavier; to see this growth like rain watering seeds, and knowing that the sun will come back out again.

I am still trying to understand what I’ve been through and like everyone, some days are good and some days are tougher. But even that cloud or darkness will shift as I learn to understand it. My shadow side today might feel different in a couple years. I think it’s right not to put yoga teachers on a pedestal. We actually use our own experience of these things to share and help others feel like they are not alone or broken.

Connection Through Self-Care

It’s important to maintain the little things that are for yourself. It could be as simple as beauty routine (which can be a beautiful thing to have). That meditation ritual in the morning can sometimes stop when you get into a relationship. Every single time when I say to myself ‘something doesn’t feel right’ I go ‘oh yeah my meditation slipped for a couple of days’, so it’s always the first thing I remember to do again after I’ve forgotten my rituals.

When I feel disconnected I go back to the little rituals that bring me back to myself, meditation, journalling. When I say yes to too much work, suddenly my day off disappears. I lose my ability to even be a good friend, it’s like I’m not there anymore. And I don’t like that version of myself she is not as clear and the clouds get a little darker.

You can only be good to someone else if you’re feeling at your best right?

Offering Her Gifts

I have always wanted to run retreats or help people in these types of situations where they feel stuck including anxiety, depression, heartbreak or blockages. I have experienced them quite strongly and then experienced the power of yoga: pranayama, meditation and asana practice to help bring clarity. It’s about seeing how things are happening energetically to us first and if we don’t address them it might show up in a physical way.

And with yoga, you don’t own it, you’re just sharing what teachers before have told you. I’m sharing what people have passed to me and now I’m passing to other people.

This article originally appeared on http://www.pravayama.com/ and the publication’s Yogi Files which offer a glimpse into the word of inspiring, shining examples of modern yogis.

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