Ayahausca healing

Ayahuasca as Medicine

Ayahuasca and Tobacco have been used as medicine by the Shamans in the jungles of the Amazon for many years. As a yoga teacher and fellow yogi I would like to share my experience and my journey in healing this year in Ecuador. Bob McConnell RYT 500hr co-owner of SOYA.

Swami Sivananda said “The paths are many but the Truth is One”. I believe that it may take a few paths 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. 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 shifted my sense of consciousness to a different level.

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

There was a remarkable shift in how we processed our day. Starting at Hazelton we learned 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 about 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 could introduce me to his group after the winter.

But a funny thing happened. I was talking to a friend in my kitchen down in Mexico, and the first time I verbalized my dream to someone 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 was 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 monkeys, more birds, dangerous snakes……that whole jungle thing. Along with great food and accommodations, this was a wonderful place to relax, let go and go inward.

Sacred Journeys and YogaWorking with the plant medicines such as Ayahuasca and tobacco is work. It is like any practice in our yoga – the more effort you 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 about the tobacco and I went through my whole life backwards to the beginning, and back again to present day. It was this process that showed me how situations in life that may not appear to be much in themselves, when all put together can give a lot of clarity to what may be blocking me or 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. 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. This is very similar to the Tantra philosophy, of cleaning and stabilizing the lower chakras to create a foundation for our spiritual practice.

Without going through all the details of my first 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 has stayed with me which doesn’t always happen. Usually I go to a retreat and leave feeling good, but life has a way of grinding you back to reality. This was different, the peace and tranquility stayed through me and continues to this day.

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, which 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……..stayed tuned for next month

AyahuascaBob is leading a Men’s Yoga and Ayahuasca Retreat in Ecuador, January 6th to 12th. Please go A Shaman and Ayahuasca Retreat For Men, for more information.

Yoga in Latvia


filming yoga in latviaNext year will be Latvia’s 100th birthday. An inspiring group of yoga enthusiasts in this beautiful country have taken on the project of creating a documentary about the history of Yoga in Latvia. Since my teacher Dr. Harry (Hari) Dickman was very much involved in the unfolding of yoga in Latvia, I have been blessed to be a part of this.

Hari made quite an impact before WWII with his wisdom of yoga, but once the war occurred the people of Latvia had lost track of him. Since I was his last disciple and had noted that fact in my online bio, Dzintars Vilnis Korms from Latvia tracked me down. As his student, I had loads of information of what happened to Hari after the war, so we were able to put together a very nice picture of his life of yoga.

No one knows where Hari was during WWII, but in 1946 letters began to flow to him in “displaced persons” camps in Germany. He wasn’t able to return to Latvia as he would have been killed by the Soviets, so he remained in “DP camps” until 1952 when Paramhansa Yogananda brought him to the USA. He taught yoga in the Brooklyn NY area up until 1976 when he moved to San Rafael, California. Hari taught me from 1977 to 1979, when he died.

I arrived in Latvia Sept 12th and we went to work the next day, filming interviews in the Department of Philosophy at the Latvian University. Dr. Solveiga Krumina Konkova had written a thesis about Hari and the yoga society, so we enjoyed tea while I shared various bits of information about Hari and my time with him. The Latvian people are so proud of their yogic heritage, and Hari was so predominant as a founder of this yoga society. One of the questions that was asked of me was, “What was he like?” It was such a pleasure for me to tell them that he was a kind man and an amazing teacher of yoga, highly regarded my the yoga masters around the world.

There were so many events unfolding over the nine wonderful days I was there. Dzintars and I visited with the faculty at the State University in the Department of Indian Studies and Culture, sharing stories and materials about the Latvian Yoga Society. We were all like kids playing “show and tell”, sharing artifacts we had about this piece of Latvian history.  Dzintars wife Anita took me to where Hari’s flat was in Riga (there is a new place under construction there).  Baiba Jozepa, who is fluent in English, took me around Riga to see the beauty of the city Hari lived in and we imagined him having enjoyed many of the lovely parks. We visited Hari’s home from the 1930s in Tukums, a lovely rural town. We walked in beautiful forests and ate the food that Hari would have loved from traditional restaurants. We watched a beautiful sunset on the beach at the Baltic Sea where Hari had practiced yoga and took photos of his asanas for Swami Sivananda’s book “Hatha Yoga Illustrated”, published in the 1930s.

I taught a two day workshop to some dedicated yogis. Together we practised and  discussed at length the techniques in the book I wrote to honour Hari, “Letters from the Yoga Masters”. These techniques are all drawn from the letters written to Hari over a 50 year span of time from our great yoga masters of the past. One of the highlights was listening to Hari speak about yoga on a recording that was made when I lived with him. It felt as though he was right there with us, along with the spirits of the members of the historical Latvian Yoga Society.

Over the years Dzintars Korns and some other yogis have gathered many historical documents about yoga in Latvia. This documentary will be so exciting for me to watch so I can learn more about Hari’s past and hear what others have to share. Many people have participated, so my role is just a part of the whole. It is also a great opportunity for me to honour Hari and everything that he gave to me. I would never have dreamed my studies with Hari would have taken me on such an amazing journey of life. Honouring his gift of yoga to me by sharing his teachings is the best way to serve him as his student. Stay tuned for the documentary release date! And you can view more photos of Latvia on my facebook page https://www.facebook.com/marion.m.mcconnell .

Mugs will be holding a book talk on Hari and “Letters from the Yoga Masters” at Banyen Books in Vancouver on October 12th.  Perhaps consider joining her in Costa Rica next March for a week! (only 2 rooms left) She hopes to see you there!

For more information on the Latvian Yoga Society, go to  http://tradition.lv/tradition/ljb.htm .

Anusara yoga

What is Anusara Yoga

WHAT THE HECK IS ANUSARA YOGA? By Kamala Wilkie, E-RYT500, SOYA Lead Trainer, Anusara Inspired Teacher
Kamala Wilkie is an extremely dedicated Anusara Inspired yoga teacher. For well over a decade she has been a Lead Trainer for SOYA in the Okanagan, sharing her love of Anusara Yoga and its heart-opening affects. When someone asks her about Anusara yoga her face lights up and you can tell she is living her dharma. Here is how Kamala describes this yoga pathway for her…
With all the different styles of yoga to choose from, I understand when students are confused about what might be a good fit for them. I’d like to shine the light on Anusara Yoga. It’s usually known and loved for its precise alignment guidelines and classes with heart themes. I have been exploring Anusara Yoga for about ten years and I can tell you that the way Anusara aligns the body in poses has brought a lot of needed stability and healing to my body. I’ve kept coming back for the life affirming tantric philosophy that subtly permeates its classes. Even way back in the day when I didn’t understand how to “scoop my tailbone” I knew I felt more connected to others and better about myself after leaving an Anusara class.
Wanting to learn how to facilitate such a class, I started the path of learning & integrating the specific alignment guidelines by attending Anusara Immersions, followed by Anusara teacher trainings then one on one assessments with a mentor. My seven-year path to teaching Anusara Yoga culminated in receiving my Anusara-Inspired ™ designation last winter. Presently, there are only eight of us in Canada who are licensed to teach the Anusara system (which I have been, every Tuesday and Friday at 9am at Purple Lotus for the last few years).
It’s with incredible excitement that I have the opportunity to share Anusara Yoga in the SOYA 200 hour Yoga teacher trainings that I teach. Students coming to immersions this fall at God’s Mountain Estate, or this spring at Sorrento Centre will have an opportunity to dive deeply into the experience of Anusara. I will offer in-depth detail on how to do your asanas from the Anusara perspective, as well as dynamic, intermediate level practices, and an Anusara restoratives practice. Anusara Restoratives are gentle, although they include more alignment and subtle engagement than our usual Restorative classes. Expect all the classes to be therapeutic and heart opening.
If you are already a yoga teacher you may find the SOYA 200 hour training an opportunity to explore more deeply this style of yoga and its sequencing. We dive deeply into incredible depths with the philosophy studies of the Yoga Sutras, Bhagavad Gita, chakras and the creation of class lesson plans. Our daily practices in mantra, meditation, and pranayama will keep your energy up while you immerse yourself in yoga sadhana, and hopefully find the entire retreat a life-changing experience.
200hr Extended Penticton BCKamala Wilkie, E-RYT500, is a lead trainer for the SOYA yoga teacher training, and will be leading the 200 hour training in Penticton and Sorrento. She is the owner of Purple Lotus Yoga studio in Penticton BC, and a passionate yogini with a deeply dedicated practice of yoga.