Interview with Audrey Béliveau, Yoga Teacher And Mother
For someone who hasn't always been a yogini, which includes a few failed attempts at keeping up with a regular practice, finding a teacher with whom I connected with and really appreciated was at the heart of helping me through this personal commitment. Now well into my studies of Ayurveda, I am understanding the importance of incorporating this form of physical and spiritual self-care in my daily life as well as unraveling the meaning of it being its sister science.
I first was taught by Audrey, owner of Rayon de yoga, when joining a group of colleagues during our yoga class lunch break at a previous workplace. I immediately felt drawn by her soft tone of voice, her calm and grounded demeanor as well as how clearly and eloquently (and sometimes with a touch of much needed humour during more challenging poses) she guided the class, always encouraging us to bring our bodies as far as they can take us in each moment, with full acceptance and presence. Now several months into my renewed commitment to yoga, I really wanted to share with my readers a Q&A I recently had with this gem of a teacher about her experiences and point of views on the yogic path, including some interesting and touching thoughts on motherhood within the practice. Enjoy!
SR: Being professionally committed to yoga since 2012, what were the main reasons that inspired you to teach and transmit the knowledge of the practice?
AB: The profound transformation that I went (and still) go through is what motivated my desire to teach. I've always felt that in many ways, that we are all examples, and I wanted to be an example of what yoga can be. Even if at the time, I had no idea of what that actually meant! I still felt deeply that if I could feel so alive and real, others could as well. And it's that richness that still inspires me to integrate, embody and teach. Yoga is a path to your true self and that can take many shapes and forms. I wanted to share my experience and let people decide to what extent they were ready to dive into themselves and find out their own nature and truth.
SR: Now caring for a toddler, with another baby on the way, how has being a mother informed your personal practice and your teaching?
AB: It's made everything more real. I've come to realize that my practice was still too superficial in some ways. That I needed to embody even more of the tradition, such as discipline, letting go and compassion. Because just saying things to a child is not enough. They understand feelings and emotions and sensations and are deeply connected to themselves, even if it's confusing to them. And by being more in touch with my reality and emotions, then I felt I could convey better to my child what life as I understand it, is. And that comes back to being an example, and practicing what you preach. I can't expect my child to find calmness if I'm not capable of it. I can't just say: "Be calm!" and expect him to embody that. Nor can I expect him to handle intense events if I can't do so myself. It's unfair. So I've had to bring to light things that needed to be learned for myself in order to pass on what I felt. I think it's quite revolutionary and empowering to heal and evolve yourself. Especially when doing that informs your child, your family, on how to do that for themselves.
“A regular yoga practice brings us back to our home, to our heart - and that is where our children need us to be ”
SR: And what benefits can a mother-to-be gain from a regular yoga practice?
AB: So much. A regular and profound yoga practice brings you in union with yourself, on all levels, because it connects you with your spiritual humanity. We tend to put everything, including our children, before us and that's a (very common) mistake. It's not about being selfish or egocentric. It's about realizing that how you treat yourself has the biggest impact on your child and your entire environnement. If you honour your needs, such as taking time for yourself, then you not only center and better your overall self, but you also show your child the importance of doing that, so they can know the benefits of being grounded and whole. I know that if I didn't have that time for my practice, even if it's only 30 minutes and sometimes less a day, I wouldn't be as patient and understanding. The times when I don't look out for myself, I felt a lack, as if I'm sacrificing something or running on confusion and stress. A regular yoga practice brings us back to our home, to our heart - and that is where our children need us to be so we can be there for them and show them their home too.
SR: There are various forms of yoga, notably the type that is centered mainly around fitness. Knowing how meditation and spiritual teaching are incorporated in your courses, what can you communicate about the importance of the body-mind connection in a yoga practice?
AB: That it's simply fundamental. Our mind is part of our body and unfortunately, most people's minds have overtaken the body. We're not a heart-centered humanity simply because we've let our mind, our heads, take over. And yet, our body is where all the most precious and important information lies. Our bodies hold the truth to our feelings and emotions and when we're stuck in our mind and not allowing ourselves to feel deeply, then we remain disconnected. Yoga bridges that gap by offering a practice of embodiment. It's a chance to feel, not just to think. When we practice with that perspective it's incredibly rich. It leaves us with a new possibility for understanding ourselves, on the mat, and most importantly, off the mat. Because that's where it all makes sense.
“ It's just a moment. Everything passes. There's no need to flee. So I am here. ”
SR: You naturally have had an interest in Ayurveda, as yoga is considered its sister science. What do you understand about this intricate balance of disciplines?
AB: I understand Ayurveda as being an important science of the lifestyle and medicinal possibilities that the Indian sages gifted the world with. Yoga is but one path to the heart of ourselves. Ayurveda is another. As it encompasses the mind-body connection and awareness that is so fundamental to our evolution, it is deeply connected to the essence of yoga. In many ways, it complements it as well. Especially when it comes to doshas and diet-based choices, which yoga touches on as a lifestyle, but doesn't necessarily offer teachings on. We all have paths that resonate more with ourselves and I think that's why there is such a rich diversity of brilliant specialities such as Ayurveda, because it calls upon the universal teachings and bestows them to people in the way that makes most sense to them. I've come to realize that anybody that has a sincere and applied practice to self-discovery is in a way a yogi. Yoga is the path that resonates the most with my essence and that's why I keep my focus mostly on it, but I know Ayurveda has much to bring to enliven my practice and life and so I do intend to pursue some further knowledge there as well.
SR: What is the mantra that you keep coming back to that guides your practice?
AB: "I am here." I've realized this past year actually, that I'd developed a tendency to escape the present moment when things don't go as I want them to. That conditioning made it so that I wasn't dealing with difficulties and suffering as I should. Yoga teaches us through awareness that there is no bad or good, there's just what is in the intricate and complexe cosmic web of life. To fully own my life and what I go through moment to moment, I have to bring myself back. Often! It's been deeply healing, and it's made me conscious of things I had simply ignored for too many years. At the same time, whenever I am here, I can fully appreciate the moments of liberty and ease, just as I can embrace the growth opportunities of the challenges I face. It makes everything whole, unified. Everything has a purpose and we as humans, have come to experience all the richness of our humanity. When we allow ourselves to be here, as often as possible, we can start to fully accept everything we live and then act consciously. It's incredibly empowering and it also dedramatizes a lot of what I live. Staying when things get though has made me stronger and clearer on what I live and it has brought even more appreciation for the times that are peaceful. It's just a moment. Everything passes. There's no need to flee. So I am here.
SR: What would you convey to someone who is thinking of beginning a yoga practice for the very first time?
AB: Yoga is like anything. There are wonderful teachers and no so wonderful ones. There are so many styles and approches, it can be both intimidating and exciting. The best thing is to be curious and try. Talk to teachers, take their classes, see how you feel during and after. It should be fun! Even when we start diving into more intense emotions or confronting life challenges, there should be pleasure in the exploration. There's enough super serious stuff to deal with, yoga should bring a sense of lightness. It's also important to realize that yoga may not hold all the solutions. It can however brings to light what needs to be addressed, enabling us to act accordingly and seek the proper treatment.Yoga has given me awareness of the multi-faceted complexities of my life. Some of which I'm addressing through physical practice, others through meditation and mindfulness, others through studying texts and then integrating them into my moment to moment life. My practice has also made me realize that I needed professional help for some more serious and complexe issues. So I'm seeing a psychologist to heal that. There are no miracle practices out there, whether yoga or other. But there is a practice for you that can enable true and fulfilling life-changing awareness. And to me that is the exquisite gift of yoga.