I had the absolute pleasure to speak with Victoria Vilaivan, who owns and operates Seek Yoga in Sherwood Park, Alberta to learn more about the work she does with children and to gain a deeper understanding of the health benefits of yoga. We have all heard Yoga helps you relax, but what else can the practice of yoga provide?
Victoria was certified in 2009 with YogaWorks, Yoga Alliance, and the Canadian Yoga Alliance as a yoga instructor. Since then her primary focus has been in teaching children about yoga with a specialization in kids with high sensitivities, disabilities, children working through trauma, and working collaboratively with school programming. When asked about her work, Victoria said “seek yoga was born in 2011 and I haven’t looked back since. I feel incredibly fortunate to work and live my passion. My personal practice is a home practice that combines Hatha concepts and Ashtanga routine. The practice I teach is a yin/yang based philosophy combined with a lot of PLAY. I have been practicing yoga for over 20 years, at this point I can’t imagine life without yoga. Everything is Yoga!”
In the past few years, I have become more interested in incorporating Yoga into my exercise routine, but I was curious about what’s the real difference between yoga and other forms of exercise is? Victoria said “The main difference between yoga and any other form of exercise would be the mindfulness and breath. Every moment is made with intention, every breath follows and guides the movement”.
Do I have to be really fit to try yoga?
Ok, Victoria. So there are always these tall beautifully lean people in crazy yoga poses that can look a little intimidating for someone wanting to try Yoga for the first time, do you need to be really fit before trying yoga? “I find it incredible frustrating walking into a room of ‘shoulds’ with yoga. For example; I should be in better shape, I should not eat before class, I should be more flexible, etc. Goodness. How EXHAUSTING! I find it in Kids and Adult classes. All these rules! The beauty of yoga is the ability to show up as you are RIGHT NOW. Show up as you are and in THIS very moment. A good teacher will be able to work with you, not against you, and as a guide. Allowing your own innate wisdom to shine through as you find your SELF”.
Why is Yoga so important for health and wellness today?
I have heard that Yoga helps you control your breath and relax, but there is so much more than that, right? Can you talk a little bit about why Yoga is important for overall health? “Yes, Yoga is important for everyone’s health and wellness because holding a sacred space for yourself (and this means EVERYONE) is what keeps your sanity, in mind, in body, and in spirit intact in our 21st-century world. I have not found a movement that allows you to come home – regardless of where you are in the world, experiment with your very own vehicle and explore new terrain by bending, twisting, breathing and noticing your mind, thoughts in weakness’ and strengths. It is a practice that can be done by you – alone – and/or with others, anywhere. It is a form of training personally or communally. The practice of yoga allows for you to find space, in this space of yours, you may find peace, joy, relaxation, strength and/or commitment while maintaining stillness and silence”.
Are there other wellness benefits to yoga? “absolutely, another beauty of Yoga, is that you can never become bored. The tree of the 8 limbs keeps me intrigued but also the sister Veda beliefs, for example, Ayurveda. Now we combine the body and the fuel to promote heal and embrace the journey of becoming whole. AMAZING. It just keeps going – the science, knowledge, the practice. I am so very grateful to all the wonderful people that dive into a different aspect of the Eastern Sciences. I am a ‘forever student’, always excited to see what new workshops are being offered in the community, and courses to study that interest me. I LOVE learning”.
Unmanaged stress is quickly being linked to many chronic diseases in North America, such as heart disease. Stress can increase blood pressure, heart rate, and increase the release of cholesterol and triglycerides into the blood stream that can impact the cardiovascular system. Chronic stress (ongoing daily stress) has also been linked to digestive problems, depression/anxiety, accelerated aging, weight gain, and diabetes to name a few. Today, Yoga is being recommended not just for exercise but also as a self-care and stress management tool. Victoria, can you tell me about that? How does Yoga help with Stress?
“STRESS. Ever present, arriving each day in some form. I need to vocalize my view that one must EMBRACE stress, (and to simply put it) not ALL stress is bad. At times it is required, especially to promote change. Again, yoga creates the space to digest the stress and condition your body, your mind, your spirit to build and grow rather than the negative alternative”
“Let me share my little story. At the age of 14, yoga was introduced to me as a tool to help develop my basketball pursuit. I feel in love with the visualization, breathing techniques, and meditation components – in other words, I was hooked. I have never been flexible or stretchy, I found the poses initially very painful and hard. I had to keep the postures simple but kept at it. I was very much a lotus seed, finding my way through the mud. Basketball didn’t stick but my personal yoga practice did. It carried me around the world – through countless countries, school, messy relationships, serious health issues, the birth of my daughter, death of my biological mother, and my daily battle with PTSD. I attribute my practice to being a somewhat normal, functioning adult in society!”
“Yoga has taught me how to create my own sacred space to heal”- Victoria Vilaivan.
Fostering Healthy Kids Inside & Out:
The work you do around children and Yoga is really interesting, can you talk a little more abut some of the benefits to introducing yoga practice into a child’s daily routine?
“The benefits of introducing yoga to children or at a younger age, are subtle at first (in honesty) – I get a lot of raised eyebrows or comments that we are only playing. HAHAHA, we ARE! That is how children LEARN, is through play and experiment. Often you will see in my class balloons, dice, scarves or ribbons, board games, stuffies and markers galore! A primary benefit to the children that participate in kids’ yoga is having an adult pay attention and live in that ‘moment of creation’ with the child. As a result, as we progress over time – the child has the opportunity to begin to really shine – as the child grows, develops his/her own interaction with their world and perceives their environment. I have noticed this positivity, this glow, this willingness to look past the **‘red wolf’ and see a person, animal, environment as a real being, struggling to find their own ‘blue wolf’**” (I am referencing a class I teach that follows this YouTube narrative by Happify, check it out here: https://youtu.be/vzKryaN44ss)
What Inspires you to do what you do?
It sounds as though teaching yoga has been both a personal and professional journey for you. Can you tell me what inspires you to teach yoga and do what you do every day? “THE KIDS. The reason I teach is to bring ALL OF THIS together to empower children. They are CREATIVE, they have wonderful, firing IMAGINATIONS, there is this beautiful gift of not having to ‘peel down the layers of an onion’ to connect on that different and wholistic level.
The practice is dynamic and so very rewarding. I’ve had questions pop up that are on many levels deeper than I’ve ever been asked or questioned myself. I should add this – who has challenged me to teach. Who has called me out, put me on the spot, made me question EVERYTHING = my daughter? What a gift. After the birth of my daughter, I rooted down deeper than I thought I could or even imagined. She shook my world and had me question my own practice until I simply gave up. Gave in. Let go of what I thought I KNEW – and taught me how to be a vehicle to teach something much higher, with more intelligence and grace – the greater lesson of LOVE. That my purpose is to love – not by how I THINK it should be but how it IS, in THIS moment”
Giving it a try & Learning More:
If people want to give Yoga a try how can they connect with you? Seek Yoga was founded on 2 ideals: The First – that yoga should be about connecting. Connecting with your environment, connecting with your family and those around you, as well as connecting with yourself through fun and engaging body movement. The Second – that yoga should be about experiencing Joy. It’s through our connections that we find Joy.
The fundamentals of Seek Yoga are built on three pillars:
1) The traditional yogic teachings of the East
2) The sacred traditions derived from the aboriginal knowledge of the ancient West
3) The elements present in our immediate environment
This colorful, family focused, kids yoga practice offered at Seek Yoga aims to offer tools to individuals and groups that will allow them to reconnect with each other, the world around them, and find their inner light through a simple and effective practice.The effect of this practice can help participants to find a sense of calm, be better equipped for stresses that are present in day to day life, as well as have an overall improved sense of well-being, vigor, and vitality.
Our goal is to bring people closer to each other and rediscover the great and joyous bonds that enrich our lives. We hope to have the honor of being a part of your journey.
This is the journey we seek.
780 809 1919
Victoria (Call me anytime!)