Getting To Know: Our Yoga Teacher Mo!

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You recently moved back from Toronto to Edmonton, how has the transition been?

It has been one year since I landed back in Edmonton after a seven year exploration of Toronto.  It was not an easy decision to leave Ontario.  The creative people, collaborative energy, lush seasons, local food access, and stunning nature nourished me in so many ways.  That said, the pace of the city, while exciting and inspiring, was also exhausting me.  It has been lovely to sink into a slower pace of life in Edmonton.  Both professionally and socially, I feel that there is more S  P  A  C  E  for me to breathe and be.  I’m not sure what the future holds for me here but I’m enjoying being on an unknown path; staying open to what may come my way.

What was your first experience with yoga?

I went to my first yoga class 13 years ago with my partner at the time.  As a former contemporary ballet dancer who had stopped formal training a few years before, I was mostly interested in limbering back up and regaining some range of motion.  I had a hard time finding a teacher I connected with, but when I did I was pulled in much deeper than I expected.  Before long my practice had expanded beyond asana to incorporate a more holistic Hatha yoga exploration of Patanjali’s 8-limbs… both on and off my mat.

Why did you want to become a yoga instructor?

To be honest, I never really envisioned being a yoga teacher.  I am a bit of a body and movement geek and my pull to complete a teacher training was really a pull to focus intensely on study for a period.  When I completed my yoga training I was already teaching hoop dance classes which incorporated a lot of yoga philosophy concepts and movement study, so I knew that more training would only support me in guiding my movement students, regardless of modality.

 What is the most recent lesson you’ve learned from your yoga practice?

After practicing for over ten years and beginning to feel the effects of aging on my body, I have been very focused on slowing down my physical practice to support sustainability in the long run.  Seated meditation has become a much larger part of my daily practice than in the past and I am not practicing in studios as much any more.  I have cycled through periods of home practice before, but this time I’m enjoying cultivating a different discipline around it.  I’ve also learned that, even as I slow down I am stronger than I have ever been.  Connecting strength and grace within soft stillness, of both body and mind, have been major themes for me.

What inspired your passion for movement?

My movement journey started out as a mini ballerina at age three.  I trained as a classical dancer for 15 years before moving away from the dance world.  It wasn’t long after that I discovered electronic music and was dancing my heart out at every opportunity.  A new movement passion was building.  When I picked up hooping eight years ago I quickly realized that I had found a movement outlet that provided me with unlimited opportunity to express myself freely while simultaneously allowing me to tap into and build upon my classical technique.  In those early honeymoon days with my hoop, my passion for dance was ignited like it never had been before.  My yoga practice began to deepen significantly in parallel during this period and, as a result, exploring the edges of my physical and mental training in all areas of my daily living became, and continues to be, a significant focus.

Classical dance, hoop dance, yoga, and dancing under the stars to cell-rumbling music have energized my life in so many interconnected ways it feels impossible to isolate any particular influence!

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You’re an avid hoop dancer. Tell us about your hoop dance journey.

All I can really say that this little plastic circle has transformed my life in more ways than I can describe.  I have expanded my soul through MY dance that I had no idea was dying to escape from within.  I have built incredible connections to talented, loving, playful, curious movement lovers around the world.  I have overcome so many struggles with self-doubt, shame, apathy, and fear… all with support from the spiral. The hoop is with me in moments of joy and moments of despair… never judging, always responding, and with unconditional availability.  This journey, this practice, is love.

 You’ve been rhythm shifting for months now. Can you explain what that is, why you’ve been doing it, and how it’s been going?

For many years now, I have used daily challenges to build new skills, support changes in my patterns and conditioning, and to simply explore prioritizing different things in my life at different times.  When I have taken on annual challenges I have typically chosen a single focus, such as 30 minutes of hoop dancing every day for 365 days.  This year I have decided to complete 12 different 30 day challenges that I am calling my “rhythm shifts”.  My aim is to break patterns and rhythms that are no longer serving and to lay the groundwork for new rhythms to come into focus. Each month I try to keep the previous rhythms in place as I layer on or remove something new.  It has been an incredibly empowering journey.

As part of this experience, I am using public accountability mechanisms by reporting my progress via social media.  If I miss a day, I am required to donate $20 to the Conservative Party of Canada, which has proven to be the greatest motivator ever!  I am almost finished shift 8.0 and I have not missed a single day. This goal -> accountability -> motivation method is something I have adopted from http://zenhabits.net/.  If you’re interested in making big changes in your life, this is a great wealth of resources to help you mindfully move through the world.

The shifts I’ve explored so far include meditation, analog reading, arm balances and inversions, juggling, drinking more water, limited social media, not allowing any clothing on the floor, and handstand conditioning.  I’m not sure what the remaining months will hold.  I try to decide them spontaneously when the next month begins with an honest check in to see what resonates.
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I love life and everything in it. It's fun, and really, it's all about the love.

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