How Music Brought Me To Yoga

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.

Me with my setup for the yoga class.

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.

Me playing music, Laetitia teaching yoga! It was so much fun.

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:

Matthew Carter Yoga & Fitness

Founded in 2020 by Matthew Carter.

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