From There to Here – My Journey to Becoming a Yoga Teacher

From There to Here – My Journey to Becoming a Yoga Teacher

Here we are. The launch of Yogawakening… Wow.  If you told me five years ago that, at the age of 50, I would be a Yoga Teacher, I would never have believed you.  Five years ago I was a partner in a downtown Ottawa law firm with a very busy practice and no thoughts of ever leaving it. I had two of my four children while in law school, and two more in the early years of my litigation practice.  Life had been busy for as long as I could remember it.  It would be safe to say that every day when the alarm went off beside me, I felt like it was a starting pistol.  Confrontation and stress were a way of life.  Although I was able to get myself to everything I needed to do, nothing felt like I gave it all of myself.  I was spread so thin that I barely existed in any moment.  Yes, I did exercise.  I belonged to the gym and I took the occasional yoga class.  The reality was that I was never present fully in any moment, or so it seemed. Savasana was the 5 minutes at the end of a class where I thought of all the things I had yet to do in the day. Focus on breath? That was crazy talk.

In 2009 my life changed dramatically when I married the love of my life, Peter.  Ours is a long and messy story, but it is our story and we are so blessed to have lived it.  We practiced law together and although some would find working with their spouse less than ideal, we thrived on it.  Our offices were right beside one another and I found Peter’s presence in my work life comforting and motivating. I enjoyed my files for the most part, and in particular my clients.  I still consider myself fortunate to have represented some extremely remarkable people who endured far more than most of us can ever imagine.


However,  I was having an increasingly difficult time managing the stress that went with my work life.  I didn’t tell anybody about it.  I was quite convinced it was just part of the job and part of my life and there really wasn’t any choice.  My mother had been diagnosed with Alzheimers some years before and although declining rapidly, was still living at home, being cared for by my father.  I didn’t see her as much as I should and in many ways my busy life let me avoid what was happening to her.  Life was a whirl wind and although I was happy in my home life, was finding myself increasingly short tempered and irritable.  Moments of joy and peace were very fleeting.


familyWhen my mother went into long term care in 2012, I struggled to carry on but her illness had a profound effect on me.  She had always been so energetic, competent, inquisitive and active.  How she – of all people – could have this terrible illness, with no ability to slow it down terrified me.  Everything that had been once been important to her no longer was.  All of her likes, dislikes, passions and interests were turned upside down.  The only thing that she hung on to and still does was her ability to connect with people.  Her essential loving and warm nature remained.  What I observed was that all of her “roles” – victim crisis coordinator, nurse, mother, daughter, grandmother, sister and wife – had disappeared for her.  All of the responsibilities that went with those roles as well as the identification with those roles was also gone.  She was just her, Gillian.  It changed me.


 running I had been involved with a new business that was heavily focussed on health and wellness.  In the process of building that business, I too strove to be healthy and well.  I have been a vegetarian for over three  years and eat primarily a plant based diet. I became more physically active and worked out regularly as well as squeezing in yoga as much as possible.  I decided to leave my practice in early 2013.  My business was going well at the time and I was feeling drawn to a healthier way of earning an income.  Being a lawyer had never defined me and I wanted to spend more time with my teenage daughters and with my mother.  In 2013 I decided it was time to really challenge myself and take a crack at doing some things I had never done before and was not particularly well suited for either.  Although I had run until my early 30s in had been some years before I had as much as jogged down the street.  I swam, very occasionally and never, ever got my hair wet.  I knew how to ride a bike but didn’t own one.  So what to do?  Do a triathlon.  I was turning 50 and I wanted to be in the best shape of my life.  Still a little Type A? I think so.  I joined a triathlon club and bought a race bike and a wet suit.  My coach used to say do something every day to scare you and I did.   In the summer of 2014 I did two sprint distance triathlons and won my age group both times:) The second challenge I had placed for myself was to do yoga teacher training with Louise Cameron.  My propensity to be successful at yoga was about the same as it was for triathlon.  I am rather “unbendy”.  I couldn’t do any advanced poses and didn’t exactly have what I viewed a yogi personality to be.  Not to be deterred, I started my YTT training in the fall of 2014.  It was life changing.  Much of what Louise taught had nothing to do with the intricacy of a particular pose.  Although we covered all of the “bread and butter” of yoga, the training for me was about taking the accumulated wisdom and experience of my life lived up to that point and doing something with it.  Connecting with my self and with those around me was really all that was important.  Being a yogi was not a “type” at all.  It didn’t require perfection in mind, body or spirit.  It required an understanding however that all of those things are related and connected deeply.


So here it is.  I’m 50.  I have a life messily lived and it is likely a long way from over.  I believe that we are all on this journey together and we are best off sharing it.  I spend a fair amount of time with seniors and believe that mental and physical activity and emotional warmth and connection are integral to a long life of quality.  As much as I love my Valentinos, it is my yoga mat that brings me strength, comfort and vision.  Yoga isn’t about how well you can do a particular pose.  It is so much more than that.  Moving your body in an energizing and safe way will make you feel better.  If you feel better about yourself you will do more.. and so, a positive cycle commences!  Take one step today in a healthy direction.  You will be better for it.