I’ve heard before that a good story should start from the beginning, but the beginning is somewhere that always seems to change from the perspective of the present. I will attempt to paint a clear picture of my path and journey to yoga but as the brain is ever changing, the way this story comes out over these next few days of writing will be a product of my present state. It’s always interesting to look back deeper and deeper with a focus in mind. Where did I come from? How did I get here? How have I changed? What is there inside of me that feels constant through the change? Where am I going?
If I were to take you back to the very start you would see a young prairie boy growing up in a loving home with a lot of privilege, a lot of allergies, and a clear passion for music. My parents encouraged me to pursue my passions and let me quit the things I did not feel connected to. I tried hockey, hated it, sorry Canada. Tried soccer, hated it, sorry everyone else. I strongly disliked gym class as a kid and it seemed that I was on a fairly sedentary path with my fitness levels as a youth. Sports didn’t make much sense to me and as a very emotionally driven male I found myself always getting picked last, sitting on the sidelines, and feeling too feminine to ever join my increasingly masculine peers. Music however was something that did make sense to me and I gravitated towards it in all my spare time. It started with a program in Manitoba called “Music for Young Children”, making shakers with rice and toilet paper tubes, this evolved into taking piano lessons, and eventually bass lessons. During high school I was involved in literally every music program available, and we were fortunate to have it all at our school. Concert band (percussion), wind ensemble (percussion/string bass), junior jazz band (bass), senior jazz band (bass), choral jazz (bass), and musical theater (bass). I did it all and I truly loved it. My music teacher sent me to train under one of the best bass player in Winnipeg at the time, who played with the Winnipeg Jazz Orchestras, which I am forever grateful for. I had planned on going to university for jazz music after high school but I decided to go travelling to South East Asia instead. During my stay in Thailand I started two bands, one covering Red Hot Chili Peppers and some other funk stuff, and one doing old blues tunes. I also played a nightly acoustic set at one of the more chill bars in town, and hosted an open mic at another once a week. When I returned nearly a year later I had my eyes opened to the world of music outside of my little town of Oakbank, Manitoba.
I no longer had the desire to take professional training in music and decided instead to spend of my some money recording my very first studio album with songs I had written on my travels. During my evolving career as an independent musician I always had a part or full-time job as music never quite paid the bills. Music did however repay me in love, passion, and a lot of great relationships. At this point I still hadn’t tried yoga, but stay with me here, we’re almost there now. Gig’s in Winnipeg started feeling redundant, boring, like I was wallpaper to people’s experiences while eating or drinking rather than something that truly mattered to their experience. I played on TV, in bars, restaurants, coffee shops, theaters, festivals, and busked in front of anywhere that would let me. When it all started becoming a grind I looked on Manitoba Music’s website and noticed a post for a gig in a yoga class at Moksha (now Modo) Yoga Kildonan.
This seemed like something completely different and I jumped on it. There was no payment, but instead a trade for one free month of yoga at their studio which seemed scary to me, but interesting. I went down to the yoga studio with my very nice acoustic guitar and thought “I should also toss my hand drums and a didgeridoo in the trunk of the car as well, just to be safe.” When I arrived at Moksha I saw that it was hot yoga and the room was ridiculously hot. I decided there was no way I was bringing my Gibson guitar in there to risk it warping in the humidity and heat. Luckily I had those djembes and the didgeridoo in the trunk of the car, so I played those. It worked perfectly, I loved it, and better yet the students and studio loved it too.
Something inside of me screamed out, as if finally having found something truly special, something that I figured would become a strong part of my life in some way or another. Now for the hard part, the unfamiliar part. Me doing yoga. Based on my past physical exercise history I was pretty much freaked right out to try yoga. Somewhere deep down I had this sneaking suspicion that I just might like this thing centered in breath awareness, silence and space for the mind, and individuality which is so similar to music.
I showed up to my first class to be taught by Keith Macpherson, also a local musician and apparently yoga teacher at Moksha too! I was instantly in love with this new exercise, and probably Keith too. The movements felt good, there was no competitive nature, and best of all I felt an acceptance for who I was discovering in myself. It felt like a living, breathing musical movement. Like the yoga sequence was the score of music and my body an instrument expressing it’s sound in the most comfortable and natural way. Everything we were doing seemed primal to me, almost as if I had done it a thousand times before. After the class I walked out of the yoga room blissed out, took the best and perhaps most needed shower of my life and then came out to the lobby. Keith was sitting there cross legged on the bench when I came out, rose slowly from his seat and opened up his arms to give me a big hug. He told me after this first class that he thought I would become a yoga teacher one day, which I laughed at and quickly brushed aside. I think back now and it’s apparent to me that Keith’s suggestion was the seed of something bigger for me, something I needed to hear and digest over a good deal of time. I left the studio feeling high on life, a feeling I had often looked for elsewhere. What was this place with sweaty men hugging each other, acceptance of one’s body, and respect of individuality?
I continued to explore my yoga practice over the month I had traded for. I kept a consistent practice for the first 30 days. After this I gladly continued the trade with Moksha Kildonan of music for yoga. I was to play once per month in exchange for all the yoga I could do. I then decided to try for 60 days straight, after 60 I tried 100, then 200. When I reached 222 I decided it was silly to continue counting something I clearly would be continuing. There was no longer pushing needed for yoga, no counting the days anymore, it has always been a pleasure to spend an hour with my breath, body, and community. Once I had been practicing for nearly a year I decided to apply to take Moksha/Modo Yoga teachers training. The little seed that had been planted had been fed quite a lot of yoga, a lot of breath, and a whole lot of water. So it grew big. The training was everything I expected it to be as far as long days and lots of yoga but it also held moments I could not have imagined. I found myself finally accepting my tears, my pains, my joys, finally accepting myself for who I am.
I returned from the teachers training, which was held in the beautiful BC Okanagan Valley, and headed back to my home in Winnipeg Manitoba. I returned with a new respect for myself and I decided it was time to make a big change in my life. Something for me. I began applying for job postings at Moksha studios in Canada while continuing my full-time job as a sous chef. During my two months back home Moksha Kildonan was amazing at offering support for my beginnings as a teacher, but I could see that a full-time teaching position was not really available for me there at the time.
After my first practice teach class at the studio I drove back home and sat in my front living room, the August sunlight filtering through the cracked windowpane which was held together with duct tape, my roommates laughter trickling up the stairs from the basement, my cat welcoming me home with his little meows and ankle rubs. I remember it all in such vivid detail. I pulled out a piece of paper to record my feelings post-class. Pure joy is what came out, along with tears. The tears came with a confidence and a wonderfully sweet warmth. I wanted these tears, and I felt like I wanted to show them to the whole world as if to scream “Hello world, LOOK! Look and see that tears can be joyous too!”. I fell in love with everything that was happening in my life, I was beyond excited to be starting this wonderful journey of teaching.
My job at the restaurant was also really amazing and supportive during this whole transition in my life, they let me take an entire month off of work to take training only to return and work there while searching for a full-time teaching position. They gave me shifts off to let me get to my practice teaching classes, thank you all so much people at Centro Caboto Center. If you are in a job that allows you this kind of freedom I would highly suggest making a plan for positive changes in your life while you have that support and incoming pay.
I only applied at two Moksha studios, both in BC which I had fallen back in love with during my stay in the Okanagan. When Moksha Yoga Burnaby got back to me with a job offer for me to relocate for a full-time teaching position at their studio I burst out into my newly accepted tears. Oh wow I remember those tears flowing, fast and steady, warm joyful tears, similar to the ones I explained earlier surrounding my first practice teaching experience. They continued to flow out of me for hours that evening, from a place of gratitude and joy. These are the tears that tell you that you are on the right path, this is where you should be going, GO!!!
Once I had sent my two applications out to the BC studios and I started selling my possessions in preparation for moving to the job that I had not yet received. Ambitious perhaps, foolish perhaps, but very freeing. I knew that one way or another I would end up teaching yoga full-time somewhere so I best prepare for that transition. I started purging everything that I didn’t see myself using regularly, or deriving true joy from. I ended up selling two thousand dollars worth of my possessions online which ended up being a crucial step, as this was the money I would use to get settled in the harsh financial climate of BC’s lower mainland.
I left Winnipeg on a foggy September morning with a cup of coffee, my cat companion Sampson, and once again those wonderful warm tears of excitement, joy, sadness of leaving, and missing my family already. I arrived in BC to stay with a friend but soon I moved into a place with 3 others living in it ,and I will be honest with you, it sucked. They were nothing like my chilled out Winnipeg roomies, and I felt pretty alone in this new big city. My rose colored yoga glasses helped a bit, but at one point I had a negative balance in my bank account, I was in a hostile living environment, and was literally running out of food to eat. I was still waiting for my first paycheck from the yoga studio and the remainder of my money was tied up in rent and my damage deposit. Luckily I was helped out by my ever generous parents who sent me food money. Thanks Mom and Dad, I was pretty hungry! I only ended up staying at this house for two months as I saved my first few paychecks, then applied for a new place and got my stressed out ass out of there.
That first living situation was really bad, I was so stressed out that I ended up getting heart palpitations, and crying those not so warm tears almost nightly. One thing that really helped me get through these tough months was being graced with free studio time at Greenhouse Studios in Vancouver. I was able to record an entire album in one day with the help of Jordan Leganchuk behind the soundboard. The album consists of songs inspired by my experience at Moksha teachers training and you can listen to it here. I really stand behind that album because it takes from all aspects of my life, my history in piano as a young child, times playing percussion in band class, and my love of songwriting and yoga.
Things took a more positive turn over the next year as I settled into a basement suite about 10 blocks from my new studio, sold my car and bought a bike, and started playing music classes at the yoga studio in Burnaby. Over the last two years we have explored a lot of awesome musical ideas inside the studio. I was able to develop connections and offer classes with other musicians, I offered a sound healing style of music to accompany one of the weekly yin classes, I offered a hand drumming to accompany flow and Moksha classes, and I was given so much inspiration to put into lyrics for many new songs. During this year of growth I also began developing the most important relationship in my life with my partner Emily. Emily has shown me a deep and unending love, shown me what acceptance means, and how to stand strong in the face of oppression and adversity. Our yoga practice is an amazing gift for our relationship, we have a common ground of understanding, a safe place to go when feeling a need for connection with oneself, and we share an ever evolving passion and thirst for knowledge. With this first year came some hard times too as I worked to find balance in the way I taught. I received what seemed to me like a ridiculous amount of feedback in that first year. Feedback was hard for me, I felt a resistance to changing the way I taught even though I knew very little about teaching at the time. Emily helped me through this first year more than I can express.
Resistance to feedback slowed and changed over time and now I find receiving feedback to be one of the best parts about teaching yoga, it helps me see it all from a new perspective. As one of my favorite thinkers Terence McKenna said “if you’re a true believer, in other words you have some pre-packed philosophy, you are going to miss a great deal”. I don’t want to have it all figured out, where’s the fun in that? I want to be shocked and in awe and the marvels of my body. I want to feel the imperfection of my balance. I want to feel a short breath so that I can feel a big one. I want to love poses I hated and hate poses I loved. I want to miss nothing and feel everything yoga has to offer. Every single step has brought me here, every musical note played, every difficult job, every belief and doubt, every tear warm or cold. I am thankful to have shared any bit of my story with you so far and am excited to continue exploring our stories together. Are you with me?
Join me in a yoga class where I play live music and teach you yoga at the same time, held on Sunday mornings at 10am! Buy your pass here: www.matthewcarteryoga.com
Don’t take Matthew’s word for it, here are some student testimonials from people that have taken his yoga classes.
“After a yoga class with Matthew my soul feels brighter and I feel calmer. Along with the clear and concise instructions (and excellent audio quality) Matthew provides little nuggets of wisdom throughout the class. Occasionally there is some humour! It’s those qualities which makes Matthew stand out as one of the best teachers I’ve had the opportunity to learn from. Thanks so much for being an incredible teacher!” -Carol, Monthly Subscriber
“The recorded classes work great for my life. I love having all choices of yoga styles throughout the week that I can practice when the time works for my schedule. Sometimes I Flow at 5am or take in a Nidra session at night before bed. Matthew’s cues are spot on with reminders for breath and tons of helpful hints along the way. Thanks for your awesome energy and for creating this online studio! It’s great to be back to practice- my body and mind say THANK-YOU! Namaste,” -Kathryn, Monthly Subscriber
“Matthew is the bee’s knees! The thing I love most about practicing with Matthew Carter Yoga is that Matt doesn’t just teach his students how to do a pose, but also why we are doing the pose. He makes sure to explain where you should be feeling sensation during a pose and how small adjustments can make to get even more from that pose. He’s the perfect teacher for someone of any experience-level. And he’s very responsive to requests!” – Hannah, Monthly Subscriber
“I absolutely love Matthew’s online yoga practice!!! I became a student of Matthew’s virtually in November and it was the best decision. I decided to sign up because my work had been temporarily shut down for the covid-19 closure. I was so happy that I did that because his classes are so amazing. I feel like I’m reducing my stress daily, increasing my flexibility and improving my practice. I love the variety in classes available as well as just the live music! I also really appreciate the fact that you can do these classes on your own schedule you’re welcome to join the live classes but you can also just play the recorded classes when it’s convenient for you. This is all around an amazing subscription I would highly recommend! ♥️ “ – Leanne from Winnipeg MB, Monthly Subscriber.
“I love Matt’s yoga classes! He puts so much effort in every single one of his classes and his instructions are precise, clear and compassionate. I feel I’ve progressed so much under his instruction and as a bonus he serenades us with live music! “ -Heather, Monthly Subscriber
“Have been enjoying your (Matthew’s) yoga classes very much! I like that you explain each pose and take your time doing a pose. You also give options to change up a pose if I feel a certain pose doesn’t feel “right” for me. Thanks again! Look forward to the next class. Sincerely,” -Anita from the USA, Monthly Subscriber
“In my experience, it is a rare thing for a yoga instructor to guide a class with suggested prompts so that I actually get a clear picture as to how I can get the very most out of a particular pose. Matthew is above and beyond when it comes to clarity and direction! Matt’s clear guiding, his soothing voice and gentle spirit truly make for an unforgettable yoga class each time I come to my mat.” -Sheri, Monthly Subscriber
“I really enjoyed the 4 weeks of Yoga Nidra. While on occasion I do Yoga Nidra I did not know about all the different Kosha levels. This was a great learning experience and when I do practice Yoga Nidra [in the future] it will probably have more meaning. I also really appreciated the journaling prompts.” – Carol, Nidra Student
“I have enjoyed your Get to Know Nidra series very much. I have enjoyed the practice, and gained some meaningful insight, that is making a difference in how I carry myself through a very demanding and perplexing time in my life. For my Sankalpa, I have been focusing on “capacity,” and coming to understand that mindfulness and self-care can guide me to work within my real capacity, to be more effective, and more joyful. Thank you so much for offering a path to discover this, and for making me welcome.” – Sue, Monthly Subscriber
“Matthew’s class was awesome! Instruction was so helpful, learning why the muscles were doing what they were doing helped me understand my yoga practice. Amazing. Empowering.” – Idris, Yoga Student
“I love it so much, Matthew! Your voice is like melting butter and I feel soooooo relaxed. Thank you a million times over.” – Ted, Yoga Nidra student
“It was our pleasure to participate in the series. It went so quickly. Thank you for offering a sharing time at the end. It gave me a sense of community and a chance to know other classmates. I still light up my candle when I wash my dishes. It makes this chore more enjoyable. I think I need to make more candles now … 🙂 Thank you for introducing Nidra yoga to us. I still struggle staying focused, and trying not to jump between the presence and wandering off mind in the Nidra practice but I appreciate every little pieces, journaling and homework in the practice. I realize all these are helping me, and giving me a chance to think or search myself in different view. Peter enjoyed the class and it is a few activities that he can do without worrying. He is getting better from his vertigo but cannot work.” – Jammy, Yoga Nidra Student
“First off, thank you so much for the incredible opportunity and experience. I’ve always had trouble meditating and journaling because I somehow felt disingenuous, as if I was doing those activities because I thought it was the “right” thing to do but not actually feeling like that. After the sessions though, meditation is still difficult, but journaling has come a lot easier. Maybe it was the prompts, or maybe it was the setting, but I was finally able to write with less judgement and overthinking. It has been nothing short of enlightening as I flip through the pages. I’m really excited and hope to keep that mentality up as I continue to journal more. It feels so refreshing to have thoughts pour out and then reading them and feeling like I’m meeting myself–truly myself–for the first time. And the best part is that, in that process, I’m also recreating myself with the activities/words you brought up in the sessions about the dangers of believing in these false narratives we create and realizing that we just feel emotions. My emotions have always consumed me and led me down dark and confusing paths, so it’s liberating to take control again!” – Christina, Get To Know Nidra Student
Join Matthew in a yoga class today, monthly passes are available on the home page by clicking the “Subscribe” button.
When I first discovered yoga I fell head over heels in love with it. I came to my yoga mat almost religiously and ended up practicing 222 days straight from the first day I stepped into the yoga studio. I really needed this dedicated practice in my life at the time, it gave me a reason to wake up in the morning before working an 8 hour shift as the Sous Chef at Centro Caboto Center in Winnipeg, MB. I vividly remember the cold early mornings waking up at 4:30 a.m. to catch the six o’clock class at Moksha (now Modo) Yoga Kildonan. I would often laugh or cry on my drive to or from class as I listened to my morning music, feeling the power of the emotional part of my body so early in the day. There was a certain magic about that time of the day, and a sense of wonderment came with waking up so early to dedicate an hour to my body and mind. This was something I’d never done in my life. Seeing the other students arrive on their yoga mats was definitely a part of it, knowing that I wasn’t alone in my discovery of yoga, that there are others who know of this special time of the day.
Leaving Winnipeg and the folks at Moksha Yoga Kildonan. Arriving in Burnaby and finding my new home.
I ended up taking my teachers training at the end of my first year of practice which allowed me to begin the pursuit of a job in the area I was so passionate about. Yoga. I moved to Burnaby, BC for a job a Modo Yoga Burnaby and continued to teach there for six years! That will always hold a special place in my heart, it is what enabled me to become the teacher I am today and have to confidence to lead workshops like Get To Know Nidra.
Photographs from my teachers training in Kelowna, 2014.
Modo Yoga Burnaby unfortunately closed in 2020 due to the global COVID-19 pandemic. This left me feeling very lost, concerned for my own financial stability, and quite frankly heartbroken to lose contact with the community I had grown so close with over the last six years of my life. I tried to practice alone in my room, but found it challenging to keep focus on my yoga practice. I felt like I really needed the communal aspect of the yoga practice, the Sangha. MY Sangha. I fell off my mat for a few months and poured myself into… farming of all things. I believe what started as a dream ended as a distraction. Distraction from the loss I was feeling due to the closure of my home yoga studio in Burnaby. For about five months from the time the studio closed I practiced yoga maybe five times, and very noncommittally I might add. This was at a time that I probably needed the practice of being in my body more than I ever had. I was stressing my physical body daily by working hard on the farm, milking cows, taking care of chickens, and doing constant manual labor in the massive gardens on the farm. Why didn’t I come to my yoga mat more often to practice? Well I didn’t know it at the time, but looking back upon it now I can see that I was so heartbroken at the loss of my community. Yoga simply reminded me of what I had so recently lost. I guess had found a distraction, for the time.
Farm distractions, albeit cute ones.
Who knows, maybe I could have totally lost my yoga practice by letting it go for so long, but that’s not what happened. I eventually hit a low place in my emotional state, so low that I spent most of my days crying in my spare time and unfortunately fighting with my amazingly supportive and loving partner. I had ran from my emotions for long enough and I finally decided to confront them. I unrolled my yoga mat on the kitchen floor of a house that was so full of boxes I could barely move (a different story), laid down in savasana and began my first yoga practice in quite some time. It was really nice to practice again with intention behind my movement, to feel a connection to something I knew was healing for me.
So here I am again on my yoga mat falling in love with yoga again. Hitting the restart button with a beginners mind. Still searching for a community to be a part of, even if it is via Zoom 😉