Michele Denis VANCOUVER, CANADA
Fear of Self is nowhere near a lingering description of Michele…her authentic willingness to dive deep inside and question what is there is so fierce that it can’t leave a person with anything but a feeling of confidence and trust when in her presence. Michele welcomes “the deep dark stuff that bites us.” Her challenge isn’t in the honesty that yoga brings forward, her challenge lies in the veil of illusion….she clearly wants to know, “where are my blind spots to myself?” For her, yoga is about getting back to her core, and when she feels her core again she knows she’s done with that “illusion”. Michele feels her personal challenges most when she is disconnected from her connection. But no matter how disconnected she might become, she “always finds (her) way home again…the practice continually finds me and calls me back again.” Likewise, she encourages her students to “really look at it, strip away and go deeper, ask those questions you’re scared to ask and maybe can’t even articulate. Be open to that, and have a deep, deep empathy for yourself…be kind to yourself in those rough edges, even if you don’t know the answers.*
In a way, Michele came in to her yoga practice “through the back door” as she says. But shouldn’t we all? What would the yoga world of today be, if we all came in the back door? To carry an understanding of the philosophy, and the comprehension that yoga is a life process that offers a development of skill as a human being. Michele suggests that, “In our yoga trainings we need to have an understanding of the different states of the energetic body, levels of consciousness, the koshas, and the gunas”. She is keen to support others in their quest to understand these. And she ponders the idea, “what would Yoga Teacher Trainings look like if we started there? Currently, many teacher trainings emphasize yoga as a physical practice…philosophy sort of fills in the gaps. But instead, if we learned the philosophy, really digested the teachings long before the asana, what would our training look like? When we practice yoga in this way (philosophy first) our individual lessons come faster and harder because we’re working through the Koshas; and therefore Samskaras come faster…so thank God we have a practice…something to anchor us!” She feels these deep principles and slower practices of yoga help to slow the experience of time and make personal challenges more manageable.
Not only is she a Yoga teacher, but she is a Reiki teacher (she has her own Reiki Center in Vancouver), she offers Fascial Conditioning, and she is a Vedic Palm Reader. It was actually Michele’s studies in Vedic Palmistry at the Palmistry Institute, which began her interest in yoga. Her Palmistry training was based on the Vedic studies…meditation, yogic philosophy, Breathwork, Vedic Astrology, etc. Hence, her “backdoor” entry into yoga, the physical practice came “way late”. Her knowledge grew from Vedic yogic philosophy, to formal meditation training, to yoga asana…in that order.
Michele led my Yoga Nidra training, though she is skilled in so many things which generally revolve around the same essence of stillness…as she says, “I’m doing the same thing all the time in all forms of classes”, meaning, holding that place of stillness for others to access. In a Yoga Nidra session, a student can’t get past the Rotation of Consciousness within the Nidra, if their own Being is busy. Like any asana class, a Yoga Nidra teacher needs to spend time on their voice to be able to lead a good Nidra, as a way to help students to become quiet inside. If students are going through a restless time in their lives it can be difficult to dive into the practice, so for some, a Nidra can be deep rest to start with. Michele recounted how she slept through Yoga Nidra in the beginning and was hugely disappointed…but she took the positive learning from this…relaxing and trusting the process. That Yoga Nidra is really so much about: “what is meant to happen is what happens.”
At age twenty-nine Michele was facing huge transition in her personal life, experiencing multiple family losses within a six month time period. She was living in Toronto then, working as a librarian…feeling she had achieved a level of career success she quit her job and got into teaching. She really loved the experience of embodying the practices, ending up attending a friend’s Yin Yoga Teacher Training quite by mistake at the Omega Institute in New York, where she was (and still is) part of the Core Meditation annual faculty. But she loved it and the stillness of it came with ease to her. It was Yin Yoga which sparked her interest in the therapeutic benefits of yoga, leading to her Yoga Therapy training.
It’s this stillness that comes with such ease to Michele, which is her natural gift. She shared such a sparkling gem of a story, of innocence and purity, that as a little girl there was a painting in her house, she would sit in front of it for some time, eventually unfolding her consciousness into the painting…this meditation found her as a child…she has always had this deep ability to be still. She would tell people that when she grew up, she wanted a place in the country where friends could come and “get better”…a place that was nourishing for them. Her lifelong dream is beginning to come into form as she hopes to begin leading classes and workshops in her gorgeous home studio (not quite yet but coming soon). She says that “the soul always has the capacity to cultivate stillness” and she hopes to help others reach this place within themselves through the forms of yoga that she teaches.
Michele is passionate about stillness (for herself and for others) and the sacredness that that is. Because of this, her classes are not filled with strong asana practice. She is free then, to not label her classes under a specified style. She feels it is “humbling and a privilege, to be able to hold such a space for people in class”…she has such deep gratitude for this. She feels there is a “cultivating of an authentic presence when being still and holding space for light. What each of us has to offer is a compassionate heart.” Michele receives so much from providing that environment to her students…”so a person can go deep and connect with joy, that one spark shared by many.” She is inspired by helping people access their presence, touching a part of themselves they can’t touch day to day…sometimes, for some, even knowing that it’s there is a surprise.”