From May 4-June 18, Elyse Waugh will be leading fully outdoor guided yoga sessions at the High Park. These yoga experiences provide paritcipants with opportunities to cultivate the mind-body connection and their relationship with nature, while also building community in a safe and inclusive space.
We had a few questions for Elyse, which they generously answered.
Can you tell us about your relationship with nature?
I grew up in/around nature but I don't think I really appreciated it until I was in my early 20s. Being in nature is probably what actually started my path to yoga/mindfulness. In 2016 I went on a backcountry hiking trip to California and it was a huge turning point in my life. I remember feeling so at ease while hiking. I think that was probably the first time I felt myself go into a meditative state and to this day backcountry hiking is still one of the only ways I feel like I can truly meditate. I am very drawn to the mountains, they just feel so big and vast and I love taking in the silence that they offer. My connection to nature feels very intimate because it is probably one of the only places where I feel like I can fully let go and just exist.
What is your background with yoga, and what made you wish to learn and teach it?
I actually grew up a dancer, so movement has always been a huge part of my life! I came to yoga not long after I finished my undergraduate degree. I had been working in the theatre industry in Toronto and was feeling extremely burnt out, so I decided I needed to make some life changes, which included a career change! I was also coming out of a pretty toxic time in my life and had not been taking care of my mind or body. I think the initial desire to learn about yoga came from really wanting to focus on my mental and physical health, so my yoga practice was very much for me in the beginning. It was sort of a natural progression to then apply for my yoga teacher training and begin teaching. Doing my teacher training was completely new for me at the start. I was actually not even sure that I wanted to teach until I completed my training. I think now my "why" for teaching is very much rooted in wanting to create space for folks to simply enjoy moving their bodies — whatever that looks like. There is no "right" way to do yoga and I want my students to feel like coming to my class is a safe place for them to explore their mind-body connection!
What are the importance and benefits of connecting yoga with nature?
I love creating themes for my classes — specifically around the new/full moons. I think this is beneficial for so many reasons! I believe that tuning into nature's cycles can also allow us to tune into what we might have going on in our own lives. Our bodies naturally want to follow the rhythms of the earth, whether that be the seasons or the moon cycles, so I think it is really important that we stop and listen to that!
What are the benefits and challenges of doing a yoga workshop outdoors?
The first thing that comes to mind that I find beneficial is the fresh air! It feels so good to breathe deeply outdoors. I also feel like being outside provides a natural soundscape — rustling leaves, birds, perhaps even the sound of rain! I think the main challenge of doing yoga outdoors is the weather. Outdoor yoga is very weather dependent and I know when we have extreme weather conditions (too cold/too hot) it can make it harder to be outside for that long.
Anything else you would like participants in this workshop to know?
I mostly just want folks to know that no matter where they are coming from in terms of a yoga practice they are welcome! I really encourage everyone to listen to their body and do what feels best. I always offer modifications too. Also, I love to have fun while teaching! These workshops are going to get us out of our heads and into our bodies — we might get a little silly, we will definitely play/practice different poses, but most importantly we will be in community together.
More about Elyse:
The spring 2022 yoga sessions will be held on Wednesday evenings, May 4-June 15. Click on the button below to learn more about the workshop themes for each session and to register today!