Archive for Student Profile

Stay committed to your practice, enjoying the life enhancing benefits

What Julie had to say about how she stays regular on the mat!

The community I’ve developed at open door supports my practice. Being engaged with the teachers and other students help me stay focused o the benefits of a regular practice. On the days when I just want to stay home for one more cup of coffee in my pj’s I receive a text from a friend encouraging me to meet up at the studio. It makes it easier to go when you have community counting on you.

Again to inspire other students, can you also share with us the benefits you receive from coming to class regularly?:

The benefits I’ve gained this past year are amazing. My posture and digestive system are better. My confidence and courage to speak my needs and show up in life have grown exponentially. My mind is clear and calm because of my regular practice. I even practice at home a couple times a week now (thanks to attending Hogan’s workshop ) when I just can’t make it to the studio. My body has started to crave yoga.

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ODY YTT: Amorita

amoGet to know Amorita, a mother, an avid surfer, and student in the Yoga Teacher Training at Open Door.

Full Name – Amorita Bastaja

When will you graduate Open Door Yoga’s YTT program? – Will be end of June 2015 (fingers crossed, haha!)

Why did you choose the program over others in Vancouver? – I have been a member of Open Door for 6 years on and off now.  It’s the only studio I have ever attended regularly.  It was the natural choice – I already felt like part of a family.

What is your “day” job? – I have a two year old daughter so I’m at home with her most of the week, and work one day a week for a wine importing company doing their HR and administration.

Are you involved in any other projects?  – I’m just in the stages of applying to volunteer with a group that works with new moms who need extra support: advice, donations, someone to listen.  Being a new mom can be incredibly difficult.  I used to volunteer so much, and wasn’t able to find the time when my daughter was born.  It’s taken me longer than I would have liked to come back to volunteering, but at the same time, I’ve learned so much.  I’m fortunate to have a new wealth of knowledge to share with other women.  Yoga was instrumental in helping me feel like “me” again, post-partum. I am excited to share this perspective.  I’ll keep you updated!

What do you love about Vancouver? – Mild weather, the proximity to the ocean, the cherry blossoms, how dog friendly the city is… I could go on!

What are you hobbies? – I surf pretty regularly, love to travel and am kind of a wine geek.  I also have an Australian Shepherd that I enjoy teaching new tricks to. And I love to garden!! (Like most folks in Vancouver.)

What is your favourite pose? – I love any standing balancing postures.  I close my eyes and pretend I’m riding waves in Tofino.

How can we find you? – Instagram: @amoritaadair & email:

Posted in: Personal Growth, Student Profile, Teacher Profiles, Teacher Training, Teacher Training Graduate Profile, Yoga

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happychimpFeeling like a creature of habit, and wanting to switch things up a bit, I felt the urge to try the new hot yoga studio in my neighbourhood. I dragged my 46 year old derrier in and, to say I was ill-prepared, would be an understatement. I wore sweats, brought my regular mat and accidentally brought a hand-size towel instead of a full-size, which did not, in any way, cover my slip-n-slide.

Entering the 38 c torture chamber room felt like sticking your whole body into a 204 degree oven while checking the tuna casserole. The only difference is that you don’t get to close the oven door and move away from the heat in this class. I set-up my inappropriate gear and sat down hoping to acclimate myself to the oppressive “Africa-hot” temperature.

As I nonchalantly looked around the room, I couldn’t help but notice I was the oldest and most overdressed person present. It seemed that everyone had cute, tiny hot-yoga shorts and tops, proper anti-slip, absorbant mats, Special towels that actually covered their mats (so that their sweat-drenched feet wouldn’t slip) and small towels for wiping their face. I was (not) feeling pretty awesome in my black sweats and non-breathable t-shirt.

The instructor strolled in and off we went through the same standing poses I know and love followed by the balance series, interspersed with plank, eagle, down dog, baby cobra, warrior, forward fold, bridge, etc. But, because of the excessive heat and perspiration, I was more concerned with my survival than nailing the poses. My head was pounding, my heart beating rapidly, my nostril hair felt singed and sweat was dripping into my eyes. The cherry on top you ask? That would be the musky-sour scent of the person standing next to me. Are we having fun yet?!?

I was able to keep up, but it wasn’t pretty. My face had become beet-red and I was breathing through my mouth. I found myself looking at the thermostat with genuine hate, regularly eyeing the exit. The regulars seemed to take the heat in stride, moving gracefully, inhaling through the nose, calmly predicting the next pose. It was all I could do to keep my fight or flight response in check.

I was stunned when the crow pose was mentioned. In this heat? Seriously? This was a challenge for me in my regular class. I squatted, placed my hands down in front of me and attempted to lean forward, balancing my weight on my hands and lower arms while simultaneously trying to place my knees on my elbows. Due to the heat, I felt dizzy and light-headed, yet, I continued the attempt. Suddenly, my slippery knees shot off my elbows! I listed to the right, then straight down. My head made a hollow “thunk” on the wooden floor as my neck accordioned painfully. I was left a crumpled heap swimming in a puddle of my own sweat.

Mercifully, the floor series arrived and I was able to recover. Near the end of the class, I was sore, soaked and exhausted. When it came time for Shivasana, I was deliriously relieved! A wave of gratitude came over me as I lay there. I was so grateful for my home yoga studio, so cool and dry and serene. I missed my yogis and friends and couldn’t wait to go back.

Sometimes you just have to leave home before you can miss it.


Posted in: Miscellaneous, Open Door Yoga, Student Profile

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A Meaningful Exchange: Volunteering in Nepal


 Greetings from Nepal.

Greetings from Nepal.

Renee Hefti-Graham is a Registered Nurse, Lactation Consultant, ODY Student, and constant source of inspiration. She recently returned from a 3-month trip to Boudha, Nepal where she volunteered her time and knowledge at The Venerable Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche’s School for Himalayan Children. Renee left the comforts of Vancouver because “she loves volunteering, adores kids and was interested in experiencing the people and culture of Nepal”.

Renee’s educational presentations covered practical subject matter from “Why Breast Feeding is Threatened in Nepal” (hint: Nestle’s aggressive pro-formula campaign) to “Choosing Healthy Foods”. She helped to plant 3 lemon trees, a vegetable garden and started a composting program. Renee hopes that the school will soon switch from white rice to the more nutritional brown rice in the future, and add fresh lemon juice for a much-needed vitamin C boost.

Teaching English, crafting and hosting the very popular knitting group was a fun way to get to know the students. Highlights included taking a grateful student on a thrilling 4-day trip and being a repeat dinner guest of 12 tight-knit senior students who “welcomed her into their family”. When asked how the Nepalese children compared to North American kids, Renee said, “The children are amazing…they appreciate anything they are given from a pencil to a hug”. She added that she never noticed the kids complaining or whining and that crying was minimal.

Despite the lack of insulation, heating and often electricity, the colder-than-anticipated weather, and the terrible roads, Renee left the school with fond memories of the colorful, curious and hardworking Nepalese people whom she had grown to know and admire.

I asked Renee why, based on her first-hand experience, it was important for ODY to sponsor a student at the school. “Without sponsorship from people and organizations, these children would not have a chance for better health or education nor be able to return to their villages to lessen the hardships their families endure.”

Since returning home, Renee has begun sponsoring a single mother, a gardener, who can now support her children. She continues to support the kids’ gardening committee and is still in touch with the wonderful students and travellers she met on her journey. Renee and the people she encountered learned much from one another and the positive exchange of experience and knowledge enriched everyone involved.

“Aunties” at Breast-Feeding presentation.

Renee adored her students' enthusiasm!

Renee adored her students’ enthusiasm!


Renee and students gardening.




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Deanna Defrietas, a yoga student at Open Door Yoga and a Professional Counselor, discusses the releasing of energy and old patterns with a new awareness that she has been experiencing via a combination of yoga, BCS Therapy and IB Psychotherapy. Interview by Maya Lee

Deanna Defrietas is a yoga student at Open Door Yoga, and is also a professional counselor with knowledge of many therapies such as cognitive therapy and reality therapy, specializing in person centred therapy and Gestalt therapy. Deanna is now adding Integrative Body Psychotherapy to her tool belt, and has combined receiving this therapy, also Biodynamic Cranial Sacral therapy, with yoga classes recently. Deanna discusses the releasing of energy and old patterns with a new awareness that she has been experiencing via this combination.

First a little background in IBP and BCST: Integrative Body Psychotherapy is an experiential practice that enable clients to break through their old, somatically maintained dysfunctional behavior patterns by reawakening and establishing fully integrated states of well-being, constancy and sense of self in the body. This facilitates a transformation of consciousness at the core of their being.

Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapy is a gentle and subtle whole body approach to the human experience. BCST works with our core, the core of our being. Physically BCST influences the central nervous system; brain and spinal column, as well as the fluid that bathes it. This fluid is called the cerebral spinal fluid.  Emotionally BCST can affect very deep and primary patterns, while providing you with resource and space to explore your emotional landscape. Spiritually- Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapy can open doors to both hearts and soul, with the possibility of profoundly changing lives.

Maya: Could you talk about the big changes you have been aware of since recently combining Open Door Yoga classes with BCST and IBP?

Deanna: I went from feeling very disempowered in a difficult time in my life and feeling triggered at work to feeling large, very whole and large and being able to take control of my life, to empower myself to be the best possible person I could be at work, and everywhere else too, with my kids. A significant yoga class for me was laughing yoga. When I did laughing yoga something completely changed with that addition. Suddenly I was able to just let the child within be really playful and creative and move in and out of life with ease, like swimming through life, like dancing through life, playing with workmates, with my boss easily. Being able to laugh at little things like my children do. So Open Door Yoga was really imperative to keep the flow going, to keep myself open. Also the last yin yoga class I did I got to a place where I have never been able to breathe so deeply, and I felt super connected to myself and to the universe. In that class with the stretching, I was able to move into the stretches like never before, really deep deep soul stretching.

There was one side of my body that wasn’t connected with the other part and when the Biodynamic Cranial Sacral therapist started moving that I also started working with Open Door Yoga classes too, so I started moving the energy and unblocking deeply held places. I started doing the yin yoga and Tomas’ class. Those two classes really helped to fortify and move my body more. The stretching and the breathing kept opening me up more and more. Then I started doing some more training in IBP with Maecan Campell, and the three combined were magical and insurmountable in being able to get to the places that were held, because IBP also uses a lot of breathing and movement in similar ways to yin yoga.

Maya: Could you describe the process in a BCST session. What literally happens from the moment the sessions begins, how does the therapist work with your body? Could you relate a specific experience of yours to us?

Deanna: The therapist starts with my sacrum. She puts her hand on my sacrum and she says that she is just there inside of me, that she becomes aware of and witness to what’s going on inside me, of everything, the spinal fluid, my organs, my skin, she can feel it and she is in constant communication with me and I communicate with her, and I notice, just notice what is moving and what isn’t moving and what hurts and what doesn’t hurt. I notice that suddenly my arm hurts, there is a pulsing pain, not horrible pain, it is achey. I notice that one side of my body is very full of energy and active and the other side isn’t at all. There is nothing going on on the other side. And over time my energy starts to shift and move and I can feel my leg that wasn’t moving at all filled with energy suddenly, and it’s like when your foot has fallen asleep and the blood starts flowing again, it’s like that. It kind of pushes through. It tightens up then it releases. And it happens all the time as she is working. Then she moves once the area has moved as much as it’s going to move. She moves up higher. She can move underneath my shoulder blades, then she stays with that for a while, and the last time she got up to my cranium, and I felt for a long time nothing was happening then suddenly the left side started to get really strong and active, and then it moved into my right. I’ve had a paralysis on my right side so it moved into my right and started to pulse through my face and my head, and my face started twitching. And she’s not doing anything outwardly, she’s not massaging or anything, just holding me, but my whole face started to twitch and energy pulsed through my face. Ever since then my ear that had been damaged has been healed. I had a fluttering in my ear, and the fluttering in my ear has gone ever since then. With BCST I have also had serious emotional release as well as physical, because it does move held places, deep places. Then I’d get into Integrated Body therapy with Maecan Campbell, and instantly almost where I left off with BCST I would get to, that held place that she found.

Maya: Could you describe the process of IBP. How is your body worked with in conjunction with psychotherapy?

Deanna: With IBP you do a lot of series of breathing exercises and movement which help you to get really quickly to trauma, to whatever needs to be worked on, unfinished business. The last session I started with the breathing exercises and started getting a twitch in my hand and a heaviness in my chest and instantly found thoughts of my mother, and I hadn’t worked with my mother before at all in therapy, so it was a surprise. But with IBP it comes so strongly, the feelings are so strong and you work very closely with the therapist and the therapist is there to really help you look inside you and go gently and breathe and help you to really be with yourself and notice what’s going on, and notice if there is any pain or discomfort to release. You are just being with it. So when I was with the feeling in my chest and noticing this, when I had to speak instantly, I was fourteen again and with my therapist I worked through unfinished business with my mother.

Maya: With IBP, what kind of physical movements and breathing are you guided into?

Deanna: You start with making a physical boundary. I have a boundary and Maecan has a boundary around her. It’s a lot about personal boundary and space and moving energy. So then you lay down on the ground with your knees up so your feet are grounded. Then you start with raising your arms up above your head and following them with your eyes, and breathing in and then quick release breathing out. You do that a bunch of times until you stop, and the therapist asks you to be aware of what is happening and to communicate what is happening, if anything is coming up for you. And usually right away you’ve got a lot more oxygen flowing through the body. There are lots of other exercises too. Then you go arms into the chest and out from the chest, and pushing down on your chest, every time breathing and pushing the air out. There’s another exercise after that, a throat release. You stick your tongue out as you are breathing in, and you make a sound as you breath out, whatever comes out of your mouth. And every time you are checking in with what is going on and often for some reason you’ll find yourself crying, just feeling your body, feeling the emotions in your body that you just don’t feel every day. It is something to do with the exercises and the oxygen and the connection with the therapist. It somehow brings up the emotions and whatever is stuck, whatever is held in your body comes out. Another exercise is lifting the hips up and down, breathing in as hips go up and out as they come down. By the end of it so many different things have happened to me, I remember one time I had done this immense amount of clearing mostly to do with the throat release exercise, and I looked so unbelievably glowing and alive and youthful. But at the beginning I was tired and haggard and crinkley, just a mess, and by the end of it I was so vibrant. It was incredibly amazing the difference.

Maya: Can you do these exercises on your own, or do you find they are only as dynamically useful in a therapy session?

Deanna: I’ve tried to do the exercises on my own and I’ve got a lot of energy and personal power from doing it on my own, but there is something about having a therapist there that lends a lot of energy. Somehow her witnessing my process lends energy and power to releasing and being able to really get into it, and make more connections that bring more awareness. There is something about another person being witness to my process that brings out everything that I need to work on. Also some similar reasons to be at Open Door yoga, because you are convening with others and your energy is intensified by the attention of a therapist (the teacher), that knows what they’re doing and has done their own personal work and can help to guide you through your personal work. It’s a very different experience to doing yoga by yourself. Probably the same with meditation. I’ve never done it with a group but I imagine it is a lot more intense than doing it on your own, I think it goes along with what I’m saying. If you were meditating with a yogi you’d probably be guided to a higher level of meditation. I think of Maecan as a shaman to me. That she exemplifies a higher realm of energy and helps draw that out in me instantly.

Currently it feels like there is this combination of holistic therapy that is really moving me forward into the next stage of my life.

Thank you Deanna!

Contact info for all therapies discussed:

BCST Agnes Hombach, CST and Shiatsu, 604 312 9073

Maecan Campbell
604 730 1174

Deanna Defrietas
778 887 9667

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