The Many Ripples
Heroes can be found all around us. They are the ordinary people who understand that we are intricately and invariably interconnected with every other being on this planet. They show great courage in opening their hearts to share a piece of their struggles and triumphs with others. They create hope in the possibility that through these small every day acts of caring and listening, we might find a cure for this terrible disease of loneliness that plagues our current reality.
This page is dedicated to them.
The everyday, extraordinary heroes that continue to inspire!
Emma is one of the hardest working women, and Ashtanga Yoga teachers that I know! So this month, I wanted to highlight all of the incredible work she is up to!
I was able to catch up with Emma in Toronto last month when she asked me to come and teach a workshop.
I asked what first brought her to this practice and she told me that she had always been into fitness and health, but was getting bored just lifting weights and doing cardio, so decided to try yoga to compliment her gym workouts: "My first teacher was 79 years old, paralyzed on one side from a stroke, and she basically handed my ass back to me at the end of class! I was in pain for days after! I was hooked."
Her first trip to India took her to Goa where she unknowingly met Nancy Gilgoff. Without any idea about who she was, Emma just saw her as “a cool lady with a long yoga history.” She asked her if it would be worth going to practice at “the source” or should she stay in Goa?
Emma recounts, “I was hoping she’d say Goa... lol! But she didn’t. She said, “I’ll never tell you what to do. But if you’re going to follow this lineage, you should at least meet the man who gave it to you.” I’ll forever be grateful to her that I did.” So at the end of 2003, she made her first visit to Mysore and practiced with Guruji (Sri K Pattabhi Jois) and continues to go back again and again.
Over the years she has had to over come some pretty big challenges with different injuries and the realignment of her physical structure. Her practice has helped her to slow down the onset of osteoarthritis, and heal her body in many different ways.
She writes, “I was born with “knock knees” and flat feet. I wore braces on my knees and corrective shoes as a child; but there was nothing resembling Physiotherapy to help correct the muscle function -- back then they just tried to adjust the bones! Because of that, my knees have always given me trouble. I have oblique tears in both medial, posterior meniscus horns, which is very painful when walking or if I do too much deep flexion of the joint.”
I'm pretty certain that her regular practice does a lot more then keep her body from falling apart - because I've seen her in action, and she really just doesn't stop!
First of all she teaches a regular six day a week (Mon-Sat) Mysore program in the heart of Greek Town on Danforth Aveune -- You can find her schedule and all the details at Mysore Toronto. She has a particular interest in anatomy and helping students to maintain healthy movement patterns so that they can practice without pain - which really is a very important part of this practice!
Secondly, she makes the most beautiful jewelry and sells it online - Malas By Emma. She custom makes special orders, as well as teaches workshops on how to make your very own. I just adore the bracelets and rose-quartz mala I have from her collection - they are just gorgeous! These would make an amazing Christmas gifts - just say'n.
Thirdly, she is busy working as a Voice-Over actor for commercials and videos and as a result has also learned to be somewhat of a sound-editor on top of it!
Every morning, bright and early, she offers an inspiring or encouraging message to her community on Instagram: @mysoretoronto @emmaoneill @malasbyemma - and her words are very motivating!
Start following her if you don't already!
Although I don't know where she finds the time for it - Emma is constantly seeking out continuing education courses in fitness, health and osteopathy. She said that becoming a teacher of Ashtanga Yoga has encouraged her ongoing study anatomy, and reignited a passion for learning, "My goal as a teacher is to help people use this practice to move and live without chronic pain."
I wanted to celebrate her as a woman, a friend, and a teacher in this lineage, because to me she is a huge Wonder Woman in our community - with her hands in all kinds of different pots - and I'm constantly inspired by her dedication and commitment to living life to the fullest!
At the age of 11, Kate Sawford had a radical and unusual leg amputation following a life-threatening cancer diagnosis. Her surgery was successful, but her survival was still not guaranteed. Only after five years was she declared cancer free.
Today, now, Dr. Kate Sawford is a veterinarian and epidemiologist working in Australia. She has not only traveled the world but is an avid rock climber and Ashtanga yoga practitioner. Having a prosthetic leg has profoundly shaped her experience, but it most certainly has not held her back!
I first met Kate when she walked into my Mysore room about ten years ago in Calgary, AB. She was a student of mine over the next decade both in Goa India, and Victoria BC. Although she humbly says she is "a slow learner when it comes to drop backs," she has inspired me greatly with her dedication, tenacity, and unwillingness to give up!
She recently started practicing Advanced A series, and if you think she was given a "pass" for any of those troublesome Intermediate Series postures - you would be wrong! This video shows the value of persistence over time - and the smile at the end says it all.
Thank you Kate for sharing this video and for being a huge inspiration not only to me, but to everyone who meets you!
In the Ashtanga Community, raising children and taking care of a family is affectionately called "Seventh Series." This is because it is truly the most difficult practice, and it tests our maturity in yoga on a daily basis. This my little boy, Jediah, who inspires me every day to become a more compassionate, patient, and understanding human being. His sense of humor is priceless, and his boundless energy is awe inspiring! He is most certainly a Jedi. I have learn more about myself (good, bad and ugly) from his precious seat in my life than I have ever ascertained from any asana. I am ever grateful to him. His presence awakened the inner experience infinite and boundless love... and isn't this really the experience of Yoga?!