I Have Found My Path: My Yoga Story by Jenny Berthiaume

JennyWhat is a yoga teacher? When I was 16 and I started practicing yoga, I had my ideas. A yoga teacher is everything zen. A yoga teacher never loses her temper or has relationship difficulties. I can’t speak for everyone, but I can tell you that this particular yoga teacher is very much human.

While it keeps me on a spiritual path, Yoga helps me to remember just how human I am. It helps me to be compassionate and forgiving with myself and others, as we all have our difficult moments.

Yoga allows me to be a more patient and loving mother, wife and friend. It keeps me strong physically and mentally and keeps me disciplined. It brings clarity and focus. Also, it’s pretty freakin’ fun!

I started practicing yoga when I was about 16. Rodney Yee’s VHS in the living room. I was drawn to yoga, Indian food, vegetarianism and burning incense. Other that that, I was pretty typical for my age – weekend drinking in the bush and stealing my parents’ cigarettes.

I kept up some kind of practice on and off again for years. Yoga and meditation got me through university exams and treeplanting in BC. It was the constant when I lived in the UK and backpacked throughout South America.

But it wasn’t until I became pregnant in 2010, that yoga started to play a much bigger role in my life, and it wasn’t until three years ago that it became front row, centre.

When I found out I was pregnant, I ditched my hot Moksha classes and started an energy exchange at Bliss. I took prenatal classes with Jill Campbell and Leah Vineberg, two amazing teachers who planted a prenatal yoga teaching seed, and continue to inspire me. Prenatal yoga, as well as Yin classes with Leah, kept me centred and calm through surging hormones. The classes helped with back pain, congestion, heavy legs and other typical pregnancy side-effects!

In these classes, all the women shared so much. None of us felt alone in the new sensations and challenges that can come with pregnancy. We also got a great workout and left sooo relaxed. I aim to bring these elements to the prenatal classes I now teach.

I continued practicing yoga in a mom and baby class and trained to be a doula and breastfeeding support mother with Nourri-Source. When I was pregnant the second time, I went back to prenatal yoga classes as often as possible.

Jenny 2But shortly after my son’s birth, I crashed. Hard. Coincidentally (not really!) it was one of the first times in my adult life that I didn’t have a regular yoga practice. I found myself so angry that I punched holes in the walls. My health was bad and energy completely depleted. I was intensely paranoid my children were going to die (just to give a few examples of what kind of crash I’m talking about). When my son was about three months old, I was diagnosed with postpartum depression. I saw a therapist and went on medication for anxiety/depression.

Those days are admittedly a bit of a blur now, but at some point in all of it, I decided I needed to make some big changes. I knew I didn’t want to go back to my life as a journalist. On what seemed like a whim, I did levels 1-3 of Radiant Child Yoga teacher training. It got me moving, singing and breathing. I decided I was going to teach yoga. I was determined and had clear goals.

I weaned off my medication and started teaching yoga to kids. Fate also introduced me to my beautiful friend, sister, teacher Mélanie Faucher who enlightens and inspires me every day. She found room for me in her heart and studio. Things felt right, for the first time in a very long time. There was no doubt I had found my path.Jenny 3

Soon after, I did an amazing Mom and Baby yoga teacher training with Jayme Hernandez. Not long after that, I did HappyTree’s Yin Yoga training. I fell in love with Melanie Richards, and her studio and during that training and my yoga practice became more and more regular. Especially yin. How I loved and needed yin yoga.

Since my Yin training, I completed Re:source Yoga’s 300-hour yoga therapy training, and here I am, happily working as a full-time yoga teacher.

My personal practice looks nothing like it used to. Which is normal I guess, but the contrast still shocks me. I remember a time when yoga was like a competitive sport for me. I loved how it kept my body strong and lean. I sweat, lost weight… Then things changed so much when I began doing prenatal yoga. I so clearly saw the direct results of the simplest of pranayama techniques and how something like an “Om,” would get me through labour. Then came the Yin and Restorative phase.

Now that my kids are pretty much weaned and way less dependent on me, I’m at HappyTree five or six times a week, where I teach and also take classes from all of our amazing, diverse teachers.

While my teaching style is mostly on the gentler side, I find myself back in “yang” mode when I go to yoga classes these days. As opposed to six years ago, though, I don’t find myself looking around the room for anything other than inspiration. Seeing someone do an advanced posture used to make me feel intimidated or inadequate, I now cheer for their accomplishments and find fun things to work toward. Yoga has taught me that I can be and do anything I want.  I love building up to fancy “party tricks,” as Brian calls them. King Pigeon is not out of reach!Jenny 4

I also now know that yoga is about so much more than asana. I try to live my yoga. I use it in my daily interactions and especially in motherhood. If you want to yell at your kids for doing something ridiculous, just bust out ujayii breath instead– works like a charm.

I don’t really do physical activity other than yoga, so the muscles in my arms are solely from doing so many chatturungas (okay, probably also lifting people’s babies in our postnatal classes!) But it’s not just my muscles that are getting stronger and more defined. It’s my entire being.

I am human and like anyone, I have issues and challenges. But I am a strong, beautiful and courageous. These are just some of the things that yoga has taught me.

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