Beverly Akhurst VANCOUVER, CANADA
A person can’t help but stare wide-eyed at Beverly, face agog as she recounts stories of reading signs in her life…literally given little option but to see clearly the direction life wants her to go…from a career working for a major airline to yoga studio owner in Vancouver. It was while assisting an airline passenger that the first sign fell on her head, literally landing on it hard enough to create the need for a dozen stitches and cause a concussion; then to a work memo that was distributed to all staff indicating the option to an early-out from the airline sooner than signed, should anyone want…no one actually read the memo except for Beverly, therefore not receiving the news…except for Beverly. The company treated her well but she couldn’t avoid what she was reading, so she left. It was at this time, during this transition when she was sitting at her home desk working on the computer, looking at a Yoga Teacher Training on her screen, when she thought “why not now?” The training began the next day, tuition the exact amount she had available to use at the time. So her dabbling in yoga shifted from just chatting with friends about teaching to “why can’t it be?” This was her beginning in yoga.
Or perhaps we can backtrack…she began yoga as a “stretching out” class when she was thirty, her body had become achy because of rollerblading all over town…which she took on vigorously at that time during a bus strike in Vancouver where she lives.
After her initial entry into practicing yoga Beverly stopped and started again over the next 10 years. Each time it took on another form and meaning for her. It wasn’t during a significant family loss that yoga went on the back burner for a while and then became a huge part of her life again. She had fallen into a “funk” as a result of the loss and realized she was missing that connection to what really matters in life. The loss faced her with the reality of what we’re left with when we haven’t been nourishing ourselves, our beings, during times of stress and change…for her it was a feeling of nothing, and nowhere to turn. So picking up her yoga practice again nourished her inner being which she had been forgetting to do.
Beverly then found out she had a hidden heart condition which landed her twice in hospital (one of those visits ending up as a five day stay on the cardiac unit). She had the choice for surgery (to burn out a piece of her heart – how is that for analogy?) which she was prepared to do, but in the interim she continued her yoga practice. For her specific condition, it turned out that the breathing practice of yoga changed her in a way that she never needed the operation. This is why Beverly has such a passionate focus on teaching yoga, as her way to share with everyone what she got from it. The voice inside her kept telling her “you should be sharing it”.
As a result, why she progressed from practicing to teaching? “I don’t have a choice, I was probably meant to be doing it at four years old but the ‘shoulds’ of life bury that deep.” Sharing is clearly of core value to Beverly. It is obvious to me that it is deeply significant for her to give, to be generous with who she is “in hopes of this offering help or something of benefit to others.” She hopes to inspire others to do the same: “I want them to share…I don’t want them to be perfect people. Let them embrace who they are and love who they are saying, this is who I am and I’m good enough…yay for that (as she put her hands in the air for a cheer). Finding our true selves can’t be more inspiring than that.” There is no pretense about being around Beverly, and with all said, Beverly’s teaching comes from “knowing what it gave to me, we all have to be giving back.”
Beverly now owns Ocean Breath Yoga, a studio in Vancouver. Her studio has been open one year, and the background story on how it came to be is along the same track as previously mentioned, experiences J. She teaches regular studio classes, Yoga Teacher Trainings, and offers retreats at Ashoka House (built by Buddhists) on Bowen Island just off the coast from the city of Vancouver.
She feels her challenges come when being in the business of yoga…she wants it to be about it feeling right but then the business comes into it, such as websites and accounting, and fulfilling those expectations…she feels then her world becomes small and disconnected. “There are always life struggles, life gets in the way and will continue getting in the way, unless we’re living in a cave.” But what yoga has taught her is the skill to see: “I’m full on reacting right now but I see it.” She feels there is often a dishonesty in yoga teaching; we’re all swimming through our messes and looking for the bright spots in life “but many teachers are afraid to tell students that. Students then feel lacking because they feel they don’t have it all together.”
But what Beverly receives in return from her own yoga practice and from teaching is huge: ”I get the world from it! I am my most true self. It makes me practice more and more, it makes me be honest with my life, and when students get something from their practice it makes me strive to be in that world of yoga. I get to feel that feeling of giving to someone else…and I get hugs…there’s nothing that can replace that kind of connection. I learn so much about being aligned with the things of life, being organized. I get inspired by the people and what they put into their practice because people are having big, hard lives right now and there is a willingness to get back to important things.”
During the enjoyment of our conversation, I asked Beverly what her favourite aspect of yoga is, and she said: “I can’t have a favourite because none happens without the other. I love Pranayama, the Yamas and the Niyamas…if we’re looking only at the Limbs of Yoga. But really it’s that pure connection to everything and everyone that I love best.”