Ida, I have to tell you, when I first started teaching you were like a legend to me. You could do all these crazy postures, and you were (and still are) such a strong, direct woman. To be totally honest, I think you actually intimidated me. Now, nearly eight years later, we’ve both grown, and we’ve shared many vegetables and backbends. My intimidation has shifted to admiration. Tell us what you think about finding a sweet space between assertiveness+strength and feminine grace?
Besides being an epic yoga teacher, seminar leader and general shining role model, you also have extensive history with the Hatha Yoga Championships, as a competitor and a judge. Can you tell us what these experiences have taught you about yourself? How have they aided in your own personal self realization?
I am the five time Western Canadian Hatha Yoga Champion. I competed all 5 years internationally and placed in the top 10 ten all five years (10th, 3rd, 5th, 3rd, 2nd). My final year of competing, 2009, I placed second internationally, earning me the silver medal.
Being in skimpy clothes all the time, and being in a little onesie in front of hundreds of people can be scary. Have you struggled with your body image over the years? Would you share some of that history with us?
I have had many different body types in my life. Sounds crazy, but it’s true. I was never a skinny kid, I was always the chubby little kid and then the girl who develops early and have always had curves. I never got an eating disorder at a young age or was ashamed about the way I looked. When I started doing Bikram yoga I started to care more for my body because I was using it in a different way, and started looking at it for 90 minutes at a time!! When I started doing the competition my body began to change. In less than a year I went from hips and boobs to skin and bones. I had no idea it was even possible for me to be skinny, I just never thought I had “that body type”. (Turns out I do not have that body type, fyi, which is why I do not look like that anymore! I believe a healthy body is the one that is easy to maintain and functions in fine form with ease.) This new body was so different from anything I knew before so I enjoyed dressing it in all the things I didn’t ever feel comfortable in before and loved what I was able to do with it in the yoga room! I believe that when people are in the yoga room they are the truest expression of who they are. There is no hiding in the yoga room…from yourself or anyone. Because of my years of practice, I feel very comfortable in skimpy clothes. I have always called myself “the people’s champion” because I have a “normal” body and have still managed to awesome things in the yoga room. So, accepting my body as perfect has been a challenge, but a totally mandatory part of my life. It doesn’t matter what I am wearing in the yoga room, I always feel comfortable, everyone is who they are so there is no judgement on physical appearance or anything. I remind myself of this EVERY SINGLE DAY.
How has that relationship with yourself changed over the years?
Gosh, it’s changed so much over the years. Part of what is happening for me now is my age (at least that is what I am attributing part of it to!). I am 39 now, and honestly I don’t want to spend any more years of my life’s energy thinking that my bum is too big or that my thighs shake when I walk! There are so many more things that I want to spend my time and energy thinking about that now I am super in love with myself!! Haha, seriously, it’s true. I think there is a line between confidence and ego and a balance between confidence and humility. I choose thinking I’m awesome over nit-picking which part of my body I want to change.
Ida, you are a beautiful girl, stunning really. You have been affecting change and spreading your love of yoga for years, inspiring and giving tools for people to transform their lives through their yoga practice. By my definition, this is super-hotness. 1) Do you think of yourself as beautiful?
Jen, you are so sweet. Thank you. Here’s the thing…I have never thought of myself at beautiful, no. I think I am pretty and I know I am attractive…attractive in the sense that people are drawn to me and attracted to me because of my confidence and charisma. But beautiful eludes me. Maybe that will be my next goal…creating beauty AND love!
2) Do you give yourself credit for all the virtuous work you are doing in the world?
Do you mean, “do I think I am awesome?”…? YES!! I DO think I am awesome. I realized many years ago (and continue to realize it) that a big part of my purpose in this life is to inspire people…I love what I do, I am super passionate about my life and doing awesome things and showing people how awesome THEY are and how many amazing things THEY can do too..if they want to…I always joke how when I travel around the world teaching seminars and running retreats, it’s like I am sprinkling my yogi unicorn fairy dust and spreading the yoga love!
I remember back in the day, you were an avid raw foodie. Then we chatted a few years ago about how you found you really had to relax on yourself, especially when you were in India. How would you describe your current diet?
Would you say your current Way With Food is one of peace?
Yes. Totally. I am grateful for my health and eat with pleasure not shame or guilt and have eaten things in the past month that I haven’t eaten in years (garlic toast, anyone?) and I feel amazing! I choose to eat good food, not junk, because it tastes better and feels better, and I love making food and being in the kitchen. Food is fuel, food is celebration, food is enjoyment, food is fun…yeah, my Way With Food is peaceful.
Do you do other exercises outside of Bikram Yoga?
Lately I have been doing exercise pretty well all the time. It’s kind of funny. I have a yoga mat and a foam roller on my bedroom floor and whenever I have a minute or two I am doing triceps curls, push ups, backbends, etc. I love nature walks and hikes…I love to be outside. I was never an athletic kid and I never played any sports growing up, so it’s funny to me now that I am so physically active as my lifestyle. I think that growing up I didn’t like the confines and pressures of team sports. I remember always feeling pressure to do it the RIGHT way, and I was a pretty confident self expressed young person, so I just never wanted to play those things, I always seemed to be doing them wrong…so, when I first started practicing Bikram yoga I felt “oh, I finally found it”. It was like there was something I was looking for but didn’t know what it was…until I found it. Now I love being active because I love how I feel when I use my body…strong healthy body equals strong healthy mind and strong healthy life.
In your vast experience as a teacher, do you see students who do too much yoga?
Totally. It is a fine line. But you know, what do I know? I can only tell you what I have felt in my own body. I know I have done “too much yoga” in the past (as I know you know what I am talking about!), and because of that I also know that I need to support people through their own process and practice. I believe that everyone will find their path if they so desire…so, who am I to tell someone to do more or less yoga, you know? I did too much yoga and I am ok…I do too little yoga and miraculously I am ok too!! So, if anything, I just talk to my students, teach them the postures, create a space for them to be honest with themselves, see themselves and be guided down their own path.
If so, what do you think is generally the intention behind overdoing it… with a practice that’s ‘supposed’ (such a loaded word) to be done with balance of mind?
I think balance is individual. I think everyone needs to find what works for her (or him)self. I still, after almost 13 years of doing this practice, have times when I can’t get enough of the hot room and times when I find it more challenging to go in there. In my experience with people, everyone goes into the yoga room looking for something, and everyone finds something…sometimes it’s what they wanted and sometimes it’s what they needed. I have several “realizations” about myself and the world and myself in the world in yoga class…what we need doesn’t always look like what we thought it was going to! Every time I think I have learned the biggest lesson, another one comes along…that’s why I keep practicing! Just this week I have been reminded in every class how therapeutic of a practice this is…how the heat and the stretching are so healing…and I also learned that drinking cold water in class does not help me. See, after this long, I am still learning the simple things. So, in my journey, I needed to over do it so that I could learn the true meaning of balance…and hopefully everyone eventually comes to that place when they are ready.
Based on years of yoga practice and a history with different ways of eating, what is your advice on finding an individual Way With Food and exercise that creates a beautiful body and radiant health – and also allows for self love and peace?
Thank you Ida. You have always been – and continue to be – an inspiration to me.
Thank you Jen. I love that I know you. Thanks for including me in your hot and peaceful Muses. xx