Ashley McEachern is a yoga teacher, but she never knew she would be.
The Toronto traveller, business owner, writer, explorer and business woman started practicing yoga during her post-secondary career, but years later, she realized it is where she would inspire others to change the world firstly by becoming better, happier people.
Here is Ashley’s story:
- When did you first start practicing yoga?
My first yoga class was at my university gym. I struggled a lot in university. I was 17, quiet and very anti-social. I worked a full time job while being enrolled in full time studies. I was totally broke. I was lonely. I knew something had to give. I remember I didn’t even own workout clothes. One day, perhaps out of desperation, I threw on some baggy shorts and a t-shirt and went to the free yoga class at the school gym. It calmed me. It felt right. At that time, I was not sure what it could really do for me, but that was the beginning of my lifelong yoga journey.
- Did you always want to teach yoga?
Absolutely not. I wanted to save the world by working for the United Nations! I fell in love with the practice after I had been practicing for over seven years, a few times each week.
Throughout university, yoga was my quiet time; it was my time to forget about theories and just be. After completing my MA in International Relations, travelling internationally and hustling through three years in the permanent rush hour that is Toronto, I packed up my things and moved west, all the way to Vancouver Island. Upon my arrival, I wanted to build community, to surround myself with likeminded people and this was not too hard to do in Victoria.
I joined MokSana Yoga in Fan Tan Alley in their amazing Energy Exchange program, volunteering each Friday for free unlimited yoga. What really got me hooked, however, was the 7:15 class each Friday evening with Ann-Kathrin Martin. She too had a MA and inspired me to find my balance between academic and physical stimulation through the study of yoga.
It was her flow class, accentuated with a wonderful musician Craig who played his handmade flutes, Djembe and Dijeridoo as we practiced in a circle around him that got me!
With sweat, community, dance and depth I learned to beautify my practice and with each class I fell mad for what I grew to call, “mid-tempo yoga dance.” I remember the exact moment in class where I realized that I could do more help as a yoga teacher than a development worker. To this day, I could ask for nothing more than to spread this inspiration to others.
- What’s your favourite part about your practice?
- I read your blog and learned you teach approximately five yoga classes a day, squeeze in some cycling and complete your own personal practice! What’s the hardest part of your job?
Eating enough food to survive. Seriously though. It feels impossible. My friend runs a business in Ottawa called Healthy Meal Plan where he distributes homemade nutritious food and saves me when I am working in the capital. Here in Toronto, my fiancé feeds me like a desperately hungry dog after a day of work. I burn A LOT of calories each day, and do not have a lot of time to really sit and eat. I have recently been forced to slow down my schedule and amped up my protein intake and I am already feeling better. It is so easy to burn out in this job.
- What would you say is the best part about being a yoga instructor?
The people. My community is so cool. So inspiring. So healthy. So fascinating. Words can’t begin to express how phenomenal the people that teach and practice and dance and move with me are… and I get to pick my own hours!
- You also write about your personal journeys and travel – what’s your favourite subject to explore with writing?
Heartbreak is the best muse. Alas, whilst happily enamoured, I love writing about the wonderful, wild adventures across the globe that I have been blessed to experience. I also love writing for my clients – I freelance as a blogger and content development for small businesses across the globe.
- How do yoga and writing, collectively, help your overall wellness?
To me, yoga and writing are essentially the same. They are both powerful healing practices. They are incredibly self-reflective places to be. They slow me down. They help me see myself. They force me to sit still. They brew magic.
- I’m an anxious person and I know exercise, including yoga, helps me manage my anxiety levels and focus on positives and healthy stress management. Ultimately, it brings me peace. You talk about your understanding of inner peace on your website. How did you first come to understanding peace, mindfulness and healing?
In my mid-twenties, I experienced a 10-day silent meditation called Vipassana. It was absolute chaos – anything but peace – for the first six days. After that, something miraculous happened. Everything got quieter. Everything got brighter. My body and my mind settled into one another in perfect alignment. I felt, what I can only believe was, true peacefulness. But I had to work very, very diligently to reach that space.
- What do you do when you’re not teaching yoga and writing?
Family-time and adventure! I love travelling, whether to the next town or across the globe, and it is always with my partner, parents, sister, cousins and friends. My dream Saturday is waking up lazily and snuggling with my beloved, brewing coffee and creating a feast of a breakfast, then reading the newspaper on our patio before heading to the Evergreen Brickworks Weekend Farmers Market, where we meet friends, hike through nature, enjoy live music and savour delicious food.
- Where do you teach your classes? How can people get involved?
I teach regular public group classes at YYOGA on Queen St. W. in Toronto. My favourite class to teach is my 5:15pm Sunday night aromatherapy yin yoga classes, where I apply Saje Wellness aromatherapy blends throughout a class inspired by the teachings of Traditional Chinese Medicine.
I also have an online yin yoga program where I spend 12 videos (filmed during my travels through Belize, Honduras and Costa Rica) exploring and teaching the different meridian and fascial lines in our bodies. You can check it out online here.
What do you say to people who think yoga isn’t really exercise? What can the rest of us do to help combat this stigma?
Try it. Practice. Keep practicing. Sometimes it takes decades to see the physical and emotional and energetic and even spiritual gifts of a yoga practice. I used to get angry at “non-yogis” and spend a lot of energy defending the practice. I have learned that yoga defends itself. Everyone will find their way when they are ready for the practice to show them.
- If there is one thing you could share with an up and coming professional, of any career path, what would it be?
Take care of yourself. Eat healthy food. Sleep a lot. Stay hydrated. Slow down.
- Do you have anything else to add or share?
For yoga teachers out there – it is such a treat to teach yoga, but it is also a business. It is so important to actually run that business, to manage your finances, to ask for your true worth, to be present online, to be engaged in community events and to build a strong community of fellow teachers for support.