By Latika Pierrette Claude, SOYA, RYT500

Who am I? What is my purpose on this earth? These fundamental questions rarely come at a younger age when we feel ourselves immortals, life unfolding in front of our eyes like a never ending path. Unless one is an “old soul”, these questions will pop up at a later stage in life. But one would never be too young to address these queries.

The most fascinating and rewarding thing is to find ourselves on the yoga path. Mysterious at first, unfamiliar language, rituals, philosophy are presented to our curious minds. As we deepen our studies, we soon come across the “chakras”: we are taught their meaning, attributes, location etc. Among the hundreds of them (may be thousands?), we particularly get to study seven in our yogic tradition. Vortexes of prana, we receive what comes our way and give out our own transformed energy.

Recently, I imagined the three lower chakras, with earth, water and fire as their element, forming this vessel, this beautiful ceramic pot, as our container. Once well formed and solidly “baked”, this container is now ready to receive the seed of the heart chakra. With our practices, we feed and nurture that seed and watch it climb up expressing our truth, who we really are, speaking words of love and kindness. The vine keeps climbing up to Ajna chakra, the door to the Mysterious Beyond, the third eye opening to reveal unknown treasures by the ordinary mind. Quiet, in the deep silence, we get to feel, see, hear with unprecedented awareness the richness, the secrets of nature, Prakriti”, the eternal movement of the Life Force we are part of.

And then, may be just for a nanosecond (just like Krishna’s and Arjuna’s encounter on the battle field), we get into Union, into Yoga and finally discover who we really are. Yes I am That, That I am. With practice, this Yoga can be sustained and permeate our whole life.

The chakras, an extraordinary system discovered by ancient sages, are made available to us now by our teachers. Even the electronic world opens this Pandora box to any interested and of curious mind. Listen to your teachers, deeply, hear their message, but mostly, sit in meditation and do your work assiduously. Be alert, without your judgmental mind,  grow the seed within in search of your Higher Self. That is who you really are. And then, use this knowledge to be of service around you, your families, your yogic community, your students. A selfless being, at the service of Self and the world.

Latika is a guest teacher at SOYA Yoga Teacher Trainings in Mexico. She is holding a 5 day yoga retreat Chakras, A Path to Self in Ajijic, Jalisco near Lake Chapala November 10-15, 2017.  For more information email or visit her facebook page

Ayahausca healing

Spiritual Pathways

Swami Sivananda said “The paths are many but the truth is One”. I believe that it may take a few spiritual pathways to find the truth, but as long as one path is a platform for the next path, we don’t fall back but we keep going forward to that one Truth, that inner light that is a part of us all.

Through all my yoga training I have had my share of struggles. I didn’t know why. This was true with the Annual SOYA Retreat, the different workshops that Mugs and I have attended, my SOYA 200hr training, the 300hr at the Himalayan Institute. I was totally immersed in the practices. I had a personal practice that I was proud of and it shifted my sense of consciousness to a different level.

But something was still missing. I never felt comfortable in my yoga skin. Then we went to Haida Gwaii!

There was a remarkable shift in how we processed our day. Starting at Hazelton we started to read and understand the totem poles. We began looking at every decision as a moment to pause and see where our intuition would take us.

It was a couple of months after that trip that I had a dream, “a vision”. Usually my dreams are very fragmented and hard to remember. This dream I still remember like it was yesterday. It was me going to a Shaman for healing and using the plant medicine Ayahuasca. I knew that this was something I had to do. I knew a good friend who was taking part in ceremonies, so I gave him a ring to see if he would introduce me to his group when I came back from Mexico after the winter.

But a funny thing happened. I was talking to a friend in my kitchen down south and the first time I verbalized my dream to someone down in Mexico a sequence of events unfolded that were unbelievable. After the conversation in my kitchen I went to my acupuncture appointment and out of the blue he asked me if I ever did Ayahuasca. I said no, but I am planning too. Then I came home and the phone rang and it was a friend saying that they are going to Ecuador in January to work with plant medicines, (Ayahuasca). Naturally I said “Where do I sign up?”

It was an amazing time. Being in Ecuador, the birds, the sounds and a beautiful beach to walk on every day. Antonio taking me out on a hike to see Monkey’s, more birds, dangerous snakes……that whole jungle thing. Great food and accommodations. A wonderful place to relax, let go and go inward.

Working with the plant medicines, Ayahuasca and tobacco is work. It is like any practice in our yoga – the more effort put into it, the more you get out of it. It is important to note that Ayahuasca in Ecuador is considered a medicine, and Shamans are legally certified practitioners. Tania, one of the Shamans, said that tobacco was about this lifetime and Ayahuasca is about healing past lifetimes.

I really took to heart what Tania said and I went through my whole life backwards to the beginning and back again to present day. It was this process that showed me those situations in your life that may not appear to be much in themselves, when all put together can give a lot of clarity to what may be holding me back.

With the Ayahuasca, Ed and Tania both said it is about surrender to unconditional love and trust. So I surrendered and put my love and trust in Grandmother Ayahuasca and oh boy, she showed me a few things.

The first Ayahuasca journeys are about cleansing. The first few times there is a good chance you will vomit and sometimes have diarrhea later in the night. But it is a good thing. You feel like you are letting go of what is trapped down in the abdomen. Very similar in the Tantra philosophy, of cleaning and stabilizing the lower chakras to create a foundation for our spiritual practice.

Without going through the details of my journeys, the biggest realization is that I had to get back to the earth. I used to be a farmer, and then a landscaper. I was always outside working the earth in some way. It was after this journey that I emailed Mugs and told her we need to make some changes. It was time to sell the place in the Shuswap and find something that will nurture this connection with the earth again. The week in Ecuador flew by and I really felt I returned home a different person. This stayed with me which doesn’t always happen. Usually I go to a retreat feeling good, but life has a way of grinding you back to reality. This was different.

So…….I went back to Ecuador in May. Having done the cleansing aspect back in January I only vomited once and it came from way down deep. I felt like I was getting rid of something that had been stuck inside me for a long, long time. All my journeys were based on past life times. Understanding the good times but also some horrific times brought into clarity why I feel the way I do in this life time.

These are tremendous tools that the medicines give you. To understand what has created the “samskaras” for this lifetime brings an amazing amount of peace to my life. But, there was more to come.

That was when Grandmother Doreen Spence came into my life. She is an 80 year old Cree Elder who acts like 50 years old. She is a woman of tremendous knowledge and spirituality. In June we did a Traditional Native Teachings course with her in Victoria. It was here that I knew a new path was being laid out for me.

We had a drum journey at this event. There was a bear and he led me to the top of a mountain. Then an Eagle came by and picked me up and took me across the mountains and landed me in the prairies. It was there that my journey became a continuation of one my Ayahuasca journeys and I knew then that the prairies held a special significance for me.

Mugs and I had our summer all planned out. We had our place up for sale, we were going to travel through the Kootenays and Northern BC looking for property. But Grandmother changed everything. She invited us to a sweatlodge in Cochrane. “Of course!” we said, and our plans had to wait.

The sweat was a great experience – so cleansing and detoxifying. We spent a couple of nights at Grandmother’ home hearing her stories and gleaning her wisdom. She is not a fan of Ayahuasca, but feels it does have a role and she seemed to accept that with me going to a Shaman in South America.

We left her place without really knowing where we were headed, and at the same time there were areas that intrigued us. We had a summer of following our intuition, looking for the signs and paying attention. We had faith that where ever we ended up was where we were intended to be.  As a BC boy all my life I could not ever see myself living on the prairies, but when one begins the journey there is no stopping it. When you place your trust in your inner knowledge and the divine knowledge that is within every being that surrounds us in our day, we can’t do anything wrong, because everything just is.

My point is that learning from my lovely wife, Erich Schiffmann, Tantra, Ayahuasca and now Grandmother, everything becomes part of our tool box. I am not just a yogi; I am not just studying Shamanism; I am not just working with Indigenous spirituality. I am the totality of everything I have learned. There are four colours to the medicine wheel, Yellow- (Asian), Red- (Indigenous), Black- (African) and White- (Caucasian) . It is said that when the four colours come together there will be peace on earth.

When the fruits of our spiritual practices come together, will we become enlightened? I guess that could be another article.

Bob McConnellBob McConnell co-owner of SOYA is offering a special retreat for Men in Ecuador January 6th. Come to the jungle and expand the mind. Go to A Shaman and Ayahuasca Retreat for Men.

Friendship: Not Beyond Words

Friendship: Not Beyond Words, by Marion (Mugs) McConnell

Have you ever had a friendship that was always there for you? Maybe they don’t live nearby, maybe they aren’t the same age or generation, but they are the best listeners the minute you reach out to them. Years go by and each time you get together or chat it is as though no time ever passed, you just pick up like you were talking yesterday. Or you don’t need to say anything at all.

A friend that doesn’t judge you about your decisions, but can offer feedback in a positive way that becomes constructive. A friend you can count on. A friend that reaches out and sends birthday or Easter wishes, or sends their love every now and then, just because.

I met my friend almost 40 years ago on a Greyhound bus in 1978, right after I had met my teacher Hari in person. I was on my way to the Sivananda ashram in the Bahamas to do my yoga teacher training. We talked endlessly about our lives even though there were quite different. We parted ways in Salt Lake City, but stayed in touch all these years through letters and rare visits.

Well, I lost my friend this summer. He passed away after a battle with cancer. No matter what we learn about death and afterlife through yoga, it cannot take away the sorrow we must work through when we lose such a good friend. But sometimes other friends know what to share with you at the perfect moment, like my friend Helen, who sent me loving words from Annie Besant of the Theosophical Society. (Thought Power Its Control & Culture by Annie Besant, 1903)

Besant teaches that loving thoughts and conversations with those who have passed are incredibly important and helpful for them to make the transition more quickly to the worlds beyond. She says that if we realised just how helpful our thoughts and words are to them – if we had any idea how much comfort and happiness these provide for their transition, no one would ever be lonely through this process.

Her words bring to light the importance of something we often feel silly about doing – talking to those who have left their body. So I am talking to my friend and sending him good thoughts as often as I can. I want him to know just how much I valued this friendship we shared for so long. I want him to know how much comfort his presence, even from a distance, meant to me. And I wish him the very best for the next phase of his existence, whatever that looks like.  I know it will be a good one, because he certainly touched many hearts over his 79 years on this earth.

Om Namo Narayana, my friend.

friendshipMarion (Mugs) McConnell, E-RYT500, is a founder of SOYA and their yoga teacher training. She is the author of “Letters from the Yoga Masters” andhas been studying yoga for 44 years.

Yoga Benefits

How can we benefit from Yoga?

How can you benefit from Yoga? Offered from Natasha Scott, SOYA lead trainer.

“If only there was something we could do to reduce stress, improve our mental and physical health and just make us feel better!!”
“If only there was an ancient practice, tested and refined over thousands of years that could help us.” Wait, there is. If you haven’t guessed it, I’m talking about yoga.
Natasha Scott from Starlit Yoga in Penticton, answers questions on Yoga for Pharmasave in Summerland, BC.

Yoga does offer strength and flexibility, it also has a calming effect on the nervous system which I believe is one of its greatest gifts. Walking is amazing as well. What is different is the focus on breath and movement, bringing you into the body with purpose on purpose. We spend much of our time in our minds and living just outside our bodies, dragging it from one appointment to the next.
Yoga offers us the gift of the moment.
Yoga is much more than movement. When you bring awareness to the breath, to the body, to the moment, we start seeing things differently.
And although self exploration is a solo mission on your mat, being in a calm healing room guided by a teacher who has walked this path and is cheering you on is much different than a walk.
I will say that if you go for a walk after a yoga class (and I highly recommend you do) you will see the world around so much more vibrantly.
Like you’re seeing it from your heart with presence, instead of being completely distracted by the dialogue of the mind.
Do both!

What is the most unexpected benefit of yoga that may surprise people?
Yoga sneaks up on you! Physically yes with strength and mobility… but personally I have found that it’s the lowered stress levels.
The things that used to floor me with stress just don’t anymore.
Moving to a place of response instead of reaction is a thing of beauty. But its baby steps, you don’t really notice much is shifting, until some big fork in the road comes along and you handle it.., just fine. That’s awesome.

Have you ever seen people improve their menopausal symptoms with yoga (perhaps by improving their overall fitness)?
In the last decade of teaching yoga I have heard the most amazing health benefits happening due to yoga. The relief to menopausal symptoms can be part of overall fitness and to slowing down and loving and nurturing oneself. As women we DO so much and many have a fear of getting old.
If we can learn to love ourselves in all our stages of life that will affect every single system and cell in our bodies. Self care is a huge part of healthcare and learning to be Gentle and compassionate to ourselves is the beginning. Love and Kindness are the foundation of Yoga.

Any tips on how to pick a suitable yoga class?
Really, the stars have to be in alignment!
My advice is try many. It has to be the right style, with a teacher you connect with, on the right day, at the right time for your schedule.
There truly is Yoga for everyone.
So if you try a class and don’t like it, try a different one, don’t be shy.
Once you find your style, teacher, and class it will move you in the most wonderful ways.

Do you have a fascinating story about someone improving their health with yoga?
I have so many. I am trained in Chronic Pain Yoga and run Recharge classes to help calm the nervous system and keep movement.
I have had students write letters about their entire lives changing due to yoga. That their families and friends comment that their attitude to life is different… how huge is that?!
When we can reconnect to happiness again our whole body responds.
I have also taught Prenatal Yoga for the last decade and have seen huge health benefits, the biggest being the space of yoga for moms to be meeting and gaining friendships that last a lifetime.
And also for the last decade I have been teaching Kids Yoga of all ages in the school district. Pretty amazing to have youth tell you about their anxiety and depression and how breath work, movement, and meditation are having a wildly positive effect on them.
It’s the kind of stuff that is “Break your heart open” amazing.
This is a portion of an informational post by – a compounding pharmacy that make up specialized medications that a “regular” pharmacy can’t. Used with permission from Tim Dryer.

Organic FoodNatasha Scott, SOYA, E-RYT500, is the owner of Starlit Yoga in Penticton. She is a lead trainer for SOYA 200 hour trainings. .

Love Teaching Yoga



By Cindy Szekely, E-RYT500, SOYA

After completing my 500 hour yoga teacher training with SOYA, and gaining my E-RYT500 (experienced Registered Yoga Teacher) in 2009, I was invited by SOYA to co-lead the teacher training program in Prince George.

In this venue I was able to find my own voice to share these teachings with others. Every question a student asked took me deeper into my own understanding of what these philosophical concepts meant to me personally. Every individual student taught me more about how I would adapt an asana for their specific situation. All the techniques and concepts I had been taught were becoming integrated more deeply by being a teacher of teachers. This has been a very rewarding path in my life.

So, here are my 5 top reasons why I love Teaching Yoga for SOYA’s Extended 200 Hour Yoga Teacher Training

  • SOYA’s curriculum takes you way beyond yoga asana or the physical postures. The teachings are rich, thought provoking, and life changing
  • SOYA really does encourage each new teacher to find their authentic self. We give you the tools so that you can make the practice your own.  No two teachers look the same!!
  • Completing the training over 4 months gives you more time to integrate the teachings. Offering the training on weekends makes this training accessible for people who are working and unable to take extended periods of time off.
  • Students complete the training with the ability and confidence to start teaching right away. You will create six lesson plans that you can use to teach a beginner yoga series!!
  • As a lead trainer I continue to learn and grow with each new group as they begin their journey to becoming a competent, unique, yoga teachers. So grateful!!

Love teaching yogaCindy Szekely is SOYA E-RYT500 who has focused on learning Yoga Therapy and deeper studies in Chakras. She is a lead trainer for SOYA teacher training in Prince George.

Yoga Documentary

LATVIA, and a Yoga Documentary in the Making

By Marion (Mugs) McConnell

 I have wanted to go to Latvia since I met Dr. Harry (Hari) Dickman, my yoga teacher. He spoke so highly of the beauty of this country since it was his home prior to WWII. He was never able to return. Now it is a reality, and I will be going there in September. A group of yogis and historians have invited me to work on a yoga documentary about Hari and the Latvian Yoga Society, which he established in the 1930s.

Yoga DocumentaryNext year is Latvia’s 100th birthday, so the documentary will be released in celebration of this little piece of Latvia’s history. Many do not realize that yoga was long-ago established in Latvia due to a strong group of enthusiastic men and women, Hari being one of them.

Regular society meetings were held to study the teachings shared mostly by correspondence from yoga masters in India. Sometimes yogis from India visited the society and taught them in person. Hari taught yoga on the beach, and after the war, he taught in the German displaced persons camps where he lived.

Yoga DocumentaryMany of these teachings and stories are shared in my book Letters from the Yoga Masters, with personal anecdotes added by the writers of the letters.  I will spend a couple of days leading a workshop to share these techniques as they were presented in the letters.

There is more information on the Latvian Yoga Society here The site is in Latvian and English. If you have any interest is seeing this documentary after its completion, please contact me at and I will be sure to let you know how a viewing can be arranged.

Marion (Mugs) McConnell

Author of “Letters from the Yoga Masters”

* Photos used courtesy of Dzintars V. Korns

Ardha Chandra Chapasana

Ardha Chandra Chapasana by Kamala Wilkie

Out my craving for backbends and all things sweet, may I present Sugarcane Pose (Ardha Chandra Chapasana) for all you yogins wanting a more advanced balancing pose to chew on.

Sugarcane is in the Half Moon family. If Half Moon is accessible, why not satiate your sweet tooth and add on this delicious backbend?

But first, some prep for the main course. Half Moon Pose (Ardha Chandrasana), Dancer Pose (Natarajasana) and Bow Pose (Dhanurasana) as well as any quadriceps stretches will help prepare your back and your balance for the robustness of Sugarcane.

If the backs of your legs are tighter, have a block handy close to your standing foot. A strap could be useful if grabbing the foot is inaccessible however, in my experience, the pant leg is a better runner up to the foot.

1. Enter your Half Moon Pose and steady yourself by pressing both legs to straight and scooping your tailbone while gazing at your focal point (drishti) with ravenous determination. (Gaze down is easier, gaze up is harder for balance).

2. Reach back and grab your foot that’s in the air with your free hand. For tighter bodies it’s easier to bring the knee toward the chest in order to grab the foot.

3. Once the foot is caught, stage one. Scoop your tailbone, draw your heel in toward your bum and extend from the front of the top hip out the bent knee while opening your chest skyward. This can be a pretty yummy quad stretch in itself.

Stage two, kick your foot into your hand so your heel moves away from your bum while lifting your chest forward and up, reminiscent of Bow Pose.

To dismount, I like to exit via Half Moon (Ardha Chandrasana), Angle Pose (Parsvakonasana), Warrior 2 (Virabhadrasana 2). Slow and steady.

Why is this nugget of goodness part of my daily practice? Here are some of its nutrients: Sugarcane strengthens and tones the standing leg, works balance and co-ordination and opens the shoulders and quadriceps. Thread it as sequence in Half Moon (Ardha Chandrasana) to Sugarcane (Ardha Chandra Chapasana) to Dancer Pose (Natarajasana) for some added spice.

Kamala Wilkie is a SOYA, ERYT-500 and Anusara-Inspired™ 200hr and 300hr lead trainer for SOYA where she delights in dissecting and making available advanced poses like Sugarcane (amongst other great modules!) Join her at the SOYA 200 hour teacher training immersions each fall, or the spring extended program at