Meet Bailey. She discovered a love for yoga after years of feeling unhealthy. She travelled to India to become certified as a yoga teacher. She now uses the practice to stay motivated and help others reach their goals. This is her story.
Bailey loves to get comfy and curl up with a good book. In fact, she loves it so much that she became a Librarian. She currently works in a hospital where she helps other health professionals find the resources they need to better care for their patients. She enjoys the variety of research she is able to do and finds that she is always learning something new.
Bailey also grew up in a small northern Ontario town. She studied Archaeology during her undergraduate years and then obtained a graduate degree in Library Science. After some time in southern Ontario, she returned north where she worked for an archaeological firm. During her time there, she also volunteered at the local library and was eventually hired part-time. As she gained more experience through working and volunteering, she applied for a Librarian position in another city and was hired on full-time. She eventually discovered a passion for yoga and that brought her to where she is today.
A Defining Moment
In her personal life, Bailey found that she had experienced some struggles with weight. Thinking back on her teen and early adulthood years she says, “I was quite heavy growing up. I loved my junk food. I also hated exercising.
I would buy gym memberships and say ‘I’m finally going to do this’ but I would go once and then say to myself ‘I hate every part of this'”.
She vividly remembers a time in her early twenties when she had visited her doctor. He told her, “if you don’t change something now, life is going to be hard for you”. She says, “I was 22 years old, overweight and wasn’t taking care of myself”. While she wasn’t very fond of this doctor, she says the message stuck with her.
“Meanwhile,” she recalls, “a friend of mine mentioned to me that she really wanted to try hot yoga. I didn’t know what it was but I said OK I’ll go and try it. Well, we accidentally ended up in a 90 minute advanced hot yoga class. Big mistake. I, for one, was very conservatively dressed and also very ashamed of my body. I showed up wearing thick full-length pants and a men’s t-shirt in this class and was sweating out of places that I didn’t know was possible”.
Remarkably, after feeling that way during the class, she says that after she stepped out of that room, she immeditaely felt exhilarated. Something she hadn’t felt in a very long time. Bailey says, “the next day, I went back and got a 3 month membership and that summer I kept returning, once a day and sometimes even twice a day”. Bailey had discovered something new in herself and found a form of exercise that she really enjoyed. She laughs and says, “we only went to the beginner one-hour classes after that. I stayed clear of the advanced classes”.
Finding Her Mentor
When she moved away to begin her Master’s degree, she found a yoga studio in that city where she could continue taking classes. After graduation, she took a job in a small northern Ontario town which, at the time, didn’t have a yoga studio. She says, “I didn’t know what to do. So I went to the gym and started learning how to like the gym. Then finally a yoga studio opened up there so I went to it and the woman who was teaching yoga became my sort-of pseudo mother“.
Around the same time, Bailey was also experiencing some difficult emotions. “I was going through a bad breakup at the time and my yoga teacher was there when my family couldn’t be. She kind of took me under her wing and really pushed me to do different poses and I eventually worked up to a 90-minute class. She did something called Ashtanga yoga which I had never even heard of. It was a very traditional Indian-style yoga that has been practiced in India for over 2000 years”.
Bailey found herself unable to let go of her emotions from her relationship. She was very upset and finding it was affecting her both mentally and physically. She says, “I remember going to this yoga teacher and saying to her ‘I just don’t know what I’m going to do, I don’t know how I’m going to get through this’.
She told me, ‘you need to do something for yourself. Pick something, let it be crazy and find something that makes you feel really awesome'”.
Bailey says this had become one of the most memorable moments of her life.
After confiding in her teacher, she went away for the weekend with her friend who had travelled to Australia for some time when she was experiencing a stressful time in her life. Bailey says her friend told her she needed to “find her Australia”. So after spending some time reflecting on how she was going to move on, she thought about how much she loved yoga. She remembers, “pretty much early on when I first started yoga I always thought that I would love to teach it. But you know, you always say things like ‘I would love to travel the world’, but it doesn’t usually go that way. But I thought to myself, and said ‘you know what, if I’m going to do this, I want to go big'”.
Taking the Leap
So Bailey did some research and looked into places where she could learn to become a yoga teacher. She recalls, “I started looking at some places in India. There were some that didn’t appeal to me, but then I found one called Himalayan Yoga Valley. They had a school in India, Thailand and Ireland, and they taught Ashtanga Yoga! So I emailed them and they sent me back all kinds of information. I felt very safe choosing this school”. She says, “I put in my application but was dealing with some back injuries due to bad posture and chronic sitting at work, so I had to have approval from my physiotherapist first”.
After getting the necessary paperwork completed, Bailey went back to her yoga teacher: “I let her know that I was going to travel to India to become a yoga teacher and she just came out and said ‘Bailey! When I said do something crazy for yourself I meant, like, dye your hair or something!'”. Despite sharing a good laugh, her yoga teacher was very supportive. Bailey was pleased with her decision and was looking forward to what was about to become an unforgettable life experience.
For the next six months before her trip, Bailey worked closely with her yoga teacher. “She told me that it was going to be an intense training course, so we worked on strengthening my back muscles, and increasing my endurance”. Spending much time at the studio and going to the gym, Bailey was able to build up more of her strength and confidence before heading off to India.
Off to India
She began her very first solo trip by flying from Toronto to Frankfurt, then to Mumbai and finally to North Goa where she took an hour ride in a taxi to a little place called Mandrem Beach. “It’s right along the coastline, I could see the ocean from my hut”. She recalls the first night she stayed there: “I spent a little more money to stay in a concrete hut and that seemed to work out for me because a lot of other people had bugs in their huts. I had cockroaches in mine but we kind of came up with a truce that if they only came out at night after I went to bed I wouldn’t kill them. There was one that did come out and I killed it and left the body behind as a message to the other ones. But the other thing was my hut was extra cool because it was concrete so I had, like, a million geckos living on my walls. They would sometimes dart out in front of me and scare the living bejesus out of me but they would eat the cockroaches. It was really awesome, actually, and worked out well for me!”
A small fishing village, Mandrem Beach was about a half hour walk to Arambol which is considered the nearest town. Bailey says, “only in the last five years or so did Mandrem become more of a tourist destination, so everyone there is just really appreciative of the tourists. At the few restaurants we visited, all the staff knew us by name. The women on the beach selling the wraps and jewellery knew us too”.
She recalls the long days that her group spent in the yoga studio: “We woke up at 6 a.m. and did one hour of meditation to start the day. We were not allowed to have any back support. We were sitting on the ground cross-legged, and in India you’re not allowed to show the soles of your feet to the person teaching you. It’s considered disrespectful. So we always had to have our feet tucked underneath us and you were very limited in the amount of postures you could put yourself in. We were allowed to have pillows and I remember on day one everyone had, like, one pillow and one block, but by day ten we were so uncomfortable we had like ten pillows and a bunch of blocks trying to sit up straight”.
“From 6 a.m. to 7 a.m. we did meditation, then we had a snack, then a two-hour yoga practice, then we had breakfast, another two-hour lecture, lunch, another two-hour lecture, snack and then another two-hour yoga class”.
“We were going all day from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. six days a week for about a month”.
She continues, “every morning from 6 a.m to 11 a.m. we were silent and on Thursdays we were encouraged to be silent the whole day. It felt weird at the time but it wasn’t until recently while I’m now living with my boyfriend, that I realized I was having a hard time talking to someone in the morning. I felt like I had to fill the silence all of a sudden. It was one of those things that I loved from India. I didn’t have to talk to anyone during that time and it was wonderful!” Her yoga teacher, Lalit, had been practicing since he was six years old. He embraces yoga wholeheartedly. She says he really loved the practice and loved what it represented.
Bailey jokes about how much this whole experience changed her. She says, “yoga teacher training is a funny thing because if you talk to anyone they will tell you that it was probably the best experience of their life but if you go into the play-by-play it actually sounds horrific. It is an intense experience, both physically and emotionally. You are constantly in pain, you are constantly ridiculously emotional… I mean I cried for hours. There was one point in time I started crying and the teacher was like ‘why are you crying? why??’ and he was being funny but it was true. It was kind of like the ongoing joke in our group. We would be doing a pose… ‘aaand Bailey’s crying'”.
In all seriousness, Bailey believes that her emotions came from a place deep within her that she was holding onto. “For me, I started this whole yoga journey because of a bad breakup so I had never really let go of that relationship,” she says. “A big part for me was dealing with that and accepting that it was over and realizing I’m much happier now”. She continues, “In yoga it’s actually considered that some poses are supposed to let go of certain emotions. So if you’re doing a backbend, wheel or even a bridge, you are opening up your heart centre. It is believed that you have different energy centres called chakras and so if you are opening up your heart chakra, all of these emotions associated with it can suddenly start pouring out”.
It’s All Connected
She reflects on her own beliefs and says that “even though I don’t chart my life based on the chakras and the teachings behind them, I do feel that in some way it does make sense. You know, like I’m holding onto a lot of stress and that stress translated into lower back pain for me.
Once I let go of those feelings, my back pain went away.
I think it’s all interrelated, like Western and Eastern medicine. They can co-mingle if they wanted to. If you look at the yogic system of the body your chakras are based on where there are major glands in your body. They all kind of co-relate in a way. When I’m teaching now, I find a balance between doing the poses and talking about the body in that way”. She remembers one of her teachers in India was an Ayurvedic doctor which is a type of naturopath that practices Indian medicine. She says he was phenomenal. “He based a lot of his practice on Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine. He held my pulse and knew right away that I had back pain, poor circulation and dietary issues, which were all true, especially the fact that I’m gluten-intolerant”.
As for where she hopes to go with her teaching, Bailey says, “there are people who are professional yoga teachers. I always say that maybe one day I’ll actually go there. I’m always going to be teaching yoga because it is something that I really like doing. But when you look at some of these people who are professionals, it just blows my mind what they can do. But that’s because all day everyday they live and breathe yoga. The fact of the matter for me is that my career is a Librarian and yoga compliments that but it’s not the focus. I kind of use that to make yoga more accessible to people. I’m also coming from someone who had back pain and was overweight. It’s reflected in my practice and teaching. A lot of people who come to my classes are people who sit at a desk all day and they like that yoga is so accessible to them”.
Bailey has taught at a few yoga studios and now she’s at a place where she finds herself happy and surrounded by likeminded people. “It’s a nice little community that we’ve created. Here I am able to grow and feel like I’ve been able to adapt my practice. It’s probably the best experience in my three years of teaching. I’m hoping that will direct where I go in the future”.
Bailey says that as a yoga teacher, she must participate in continuing education courses through the Canadian Yoga Alliance; the organization that certifies and governs the profession in Canada. Currently, she’s certified in Ashtanga yoga but she does find she also enjoys other styles of yoga.
Bailey advises that you don’t need to travel very far to become a yoga teacher yourself. She decided to travel to India but she says that there are also courses available in communities across Canada. Hers was an intensive training course over the span of a month but she says that there are courses available where you could attend one weekend a month for a year and become certified that way. She mentions that you could become certified in one style of yoga and then branch out into other styles if you prefer to later on. You’re not stuck teaching that one style all the time. She says to ensure that whichever course you choose, that it is certified through the Canadian Yoga Alliance.
Reflecting on where she’s at right now with her career and with teaching on the side, she says, “I like the balance that these two paths offer me – there is no chance to ever get bored! They complement themselves almost perfectly for me and my lifestyle”.
“I am habitually lazy. I could sit on the couch all day every day if I could; but teaching yoga forces me to get up and do something. The people I teach inspire me to be better. So I go to classes and it’s really become that push that I need”.
Bailey feels like even though she had changed her life from the person she used to be, she says “I always think that deep down I would really like to just stay on the couch and eat chocolate. But I know that yoga is good for me. I am proof of the benefits. I also have a personal trainer now and I continue to work out at the gym. I’m probably in the best health now than I’ve ever been”.
She admits that “once I started losing the weight I went a bit too far in the other direction but now I’m back at my happy medium. I can still eat what I want and not feel bad about it. I know that it’s all in moderation. I know what I need to do and what works for my body. There are some days when I know I should to go to the gym but I would rather do a yoga class instead, or vice versa. I’m at a point where I understand my body a bit more”.
Her advice for making the decision to become a yoga teacher is this: “I had people I was training with in India who had never taken a yoga class before in their life. They were just travelling through India and thought this sounded pretty cool. So don’t feel like you have to be amazing at yoga to become a yoga teacher. I’m not by any means amazing at yoga but I know how to teach it. I know how to explain it, how to do modifications and how to read people’s bodies.
I can’t stick my leg behind my head, I can’t drop into the splits and that’s fine.
I’m just starting to get the hang of handstands after six years of doing yoga. Working out at the gym helps me with that. You just kind of have to want to do it and just go for it”.
She says, “many people shy away from yoga because they feel they are not good at it. I tell them, it’s a dark room, everyone’s focused on their own mat and you just have to go, breathe and move. Let go of thinking you look silly because everyone’s doing the same thing. But know that it’s going to feel good at the end”. She also advises, “don’t stop with just one yoga class. You may start with a power flow and think ‘this sucks, I hate this’, and then go to a hatha and think ‘wow I really like this'”.
Bailey has taught Ashtanga yoga, hatha, restorative, aerial and power restore. She hopes to continue teaching yoga for as long as she can. She would like to set a goal for herself to be able to do the splits by the end of the year 😉
Get in Touch
If you are interested in becoming a yoga teacher, trying yoga for the first time, or have questions, comments or feedback for Bailey, she welcomes you to contact her via email or in the comments section below.