I was in “Puppy Pose”, rolling curious thoughts around on whether or not this was considered an official asana, when everything suddenly clicked and I realized I was actually in a position to grasp proper alignment of Downward Dog!  It was such a moment of insight, that I’ve adopted it when teaching my own classes ever since, and I have Nancy to thank for that.  I was taking one of her classes at the time, in her then “Little Mountain” studio in Vancouver.

More recently, I met with Nancy soon before she was headed to Bali for a Yoga teacher training.  Since my classes with her, she has sold Little Mountain studio and now co-leads teacher trainings around the world through YogaCara Global.  Nancy does still teach in a studio in Vancouver though; she had developed such “Sangha” with her students at Little Mountain, that when she closed its doors, they have continued following her.  Sangha is so important to Nancy, that a natural intimacy has been developed with her students who have followed her as a teacher for years, “we’ve been through life events together, we know each other.  It’s important for students to have a teacher and this is being lost,” she says. “The tradition of having a teacher is lost, there is a need for the student/mentor relationship.  If the teacher holds a safe container this allows the student to do the work they need to do.”

This affinity Nancy has for Sangha has existed from the very start of her yoga years, and has been a major influence in how she teaches and practices.  Her beginnings with yoga came when she was living in Montreal, completing her degree in photography.  A friend of hers was teaching from home to a few people informally, “I was in my 20’s and disconnected from everything. So I had a profound first experience with yoga, particularly the relaxation of Savasana.  I thought, ‘I can do this, I can relax myself without a substance’.  Part of me knew this was my path because I could find that state of relaxation without drugs or alcohol, and yoga was almost a way of self-medicating at the start. It brought me to a comfortable place with my nervous system and with my body because yoga meets you there. It was the beginning of shedding the sludge, and I was instantly passionate about it.“

Nancy then found a Kripalu teacher whom she followed for the rest of her time in Montreal, all the while thinking, “I want to do what she’s doing.” This inspiration led her to take her YTT at Prana Yoga once she moved back to Vancouver.  She still carries the respect for what she learned during that time, as previously, she was “so timid and shy and quiet, but the teacher who led that training really helped me come forward with who I am.” She taught briefly at that studio (also gaining her Prenatal training) then, harking back to that Sangha quality she found in Montreal, she began teaching from home before opening Little Mountain studio.

Operating Little Mountain was a lot of work and the experience left her tired and burnt out…fed up with not making money doing what she loved.  She had experienced this before with her photography so was recognizing the cycle, “oh, here’s another cycle”.  Her decision to join YogaCara has been good for her. Though a bigger establishment, she maintains that Sangha quality from those Montreal years where she could walk in to class and just let go, now sharing it with her students.  Nancy teaches much of the philosophy in YogaCara’s program and it makes her love yoga again.  She is grateful to them for this because “the Yamas and Niyamas are what yoga really is.  If we’re not practicing and teaching those then it’s so easy to get them lost to the physical practice.” It’s for this that she appreciates YogaCara’s efforts to “strike a balance by incorporating the Eight Fold Path in their trainings (for which she helped write the manuals), it’s not asana focused, which maintains integrity of the teaching.” 

It comes down to the fact that Nancy loves to inspire awareness in her students, “particularly in new students when you can often see that sparkle in their eye, and their physical body starts feeling better.  The YTT students are kind hearted, and they genuinely care and though it’s a bigger class setting there is the opportunity to share, to plant a seed.”  

Like the classes she teaches, her personal practice reflects the same importance on Sangha and “kinship”.  She finds this in the small local studio where she practices.  Where she can reach that part of yoga which she loves, “connecting with my true self…yoga brings me back to remind me of my true self.  My practice feels like a good friend, it’s always there for me. During all that transition period I knew I needed to do a lot of yoga even if I didn’t know what else to do.”  She knows she’s in the fullness of her practice when she’s moving through the flow as one being.  Because she naturally likes movement but not in an “adrenaline seeking way”, she just likes how yoga feels in her body. 

In a world full of “Ashtangis”, Nancy shares, “I could never do Ashtanga because I would hurt herself”, so her own practice is about Vijnana Yoga (based on Tensegrity alignment) loving the lighter flow of it.  “I’m not interested in fast, hard yoga. And most of my students are my age and older. So, when I teach there is a lot of focus on strengthening the body and joints, being mindful of the aging body.”  Connecting with people and small class sizes appeal to Nancy, she offers Hatha and Therapeutic yoga to her students, “It’s a slooow Hatha (she said laughing, emphasising “slow”).  And I like to offer a long Savasana, at least 10 minutes…it shortens the asana but that’s ok.”

Just like those first yoga classes years ago and the profound impact of Savasana, the most powerful moments of teaching a class come when she’s guiding students into relaxation and the energy is collectively still, “it feels like we’ve raised consciousness a bit.” 

“I also love the energy of a one on one teaching because it’s a deeper connection.  As teachers we like to feel like we’re helping people, and I genuinely want that, there is something so satisfying about that,” says Nancy, “I have a balance of passion for the practice and a sense of humour, I’m not that teacher who tells them how to live their life.” 

Students have stayed with Nancy through thick and thin, “I like talking to people, so I know my students really well…it comes back to connection, small classes…Sanga. Like the group I’ll teach today, they’re a group, there is kinship amongst them, they started 13 years ago and they tell me ‘we can never stop’…we go through so much together.” 

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