Portrait | Marie-Pier Turgeon : from Interior Designer to Yoga Teacher
Did you ever dream of quitting your day job to do something completely different?
In the portrait segments of my blog, I interview inspirational women who made the decision to live a life of their own. Women that chose an unconventional path. Most of the time, these women quit a steady career to pursue something more meaningful to them, a life that connects them to their higher purpose.
This week, the person I want to talk to you about has to do with a very important part of my life : Yoga.
There are so many reasons why I practice yoga...Through a yoga practice, I build strength and flexibility. I always leave a class feeling cleansed. Powerful, yet peaceful. Yoga forces me to pause the internal chatter, be present and breathe. To me, it’s a gateway to spirituality.
Yoga teaches me about anatomy, muscles, tissus, and inspires me through it’s sayings. It educates me.
Showing up on my mat helps me stay sane and healthy mentally. It elevates me to a level of happiness that’s just incomparable to anything I know. I walk home with the biggest smile on my face.
Yoga pushes my boundaries. Often, I end up in a pose I never thought I could achieve. So yoga also makes me feel proud. Confident. Like everything’s possible.
This person I want to talk to you about is a teacher that transformed my yoga practice. Deepened my knowledge about it and showed me more of it’s complexity. She really inspired me to become better at it.
Tell me about your first Yoga experience. Did you immediately fall in love with the practice ?
There was a few first yoga experiences. They were giving old books at cegep and I saw one about yoga. And so I first started practicing in my living room. I had not really done any physical activities except at school and so my comprehension of the body and alignment was not very good, I was simply trying to replicate what I saw. Then some time later I took my first yoga class. It was outside in the park and it was then that it really struck me : this practice was going to be a part of me forever. I felt my body as a whole for the first time. I felt intelligence in my feet, in my fingertips... as if my body craved this for so long and I didn’t know it.
You told me 2 years after trying yoga for the first time, you started teaching. What was your job at the time ?
I was an interior designer. Design was and is still something I’m really interested about. I loved the challenges, creativity, and organization it implied, but it was too much time spent in front of a computer for me. I felt really lonely and stuck. I started doing my teacher training with the idea that I would teach a few classes a week and still work at the office. I was so lucky that 3 months after finishing my training I could leave the office completely because there was enough offers for me to teach full time. I just took every offer that came my way. I wanted to teach to everyone. That's how I got to teach in schools (elementary and university), to the elders (chair yoga), in the army, in community centers, to pregnant woman, mom & baby, to cyclists, climbers... Those first few years were so rich in terms of knowledge. Seeing that many people from different backgrounds practice yoga taught me so much on how to teach and how the practice is meant to meet the people where they are.
When you took the decision to become a teacher, did you have any doubts ? Fears ? Or were you 100% confident in the decision you made.
I was mortifed. Public speaking was terrifying. I remember throwing up in the bathroom before presenting my final project in Cegep because I was too shy to speak in front of people. This was definitely the hardest part for me. It took a long time for me to feel confortable enough to speak in front of a group. Like almost every new teacher, I had the impostor syndrome, I felt like I didn’t have enough experience or knowledge to teach. Yet I fell the pull of teaching and sharing very strongly. In my heart, it was very clear it’s what I was meant to do.
What do you think would explain the fact that you’ve been pushed towards yoga in such a powerful way it would transform your life ? Was there a certain event in your life that made your practice become a fundamental part of who you are?
Yoga came in my life at a time when I became a mom. Really vulnerable and in search of my identity, I seeked connection with myself and with the Source, or God, or the Whole. I leaned on yoga like on a crutch and it actually became the strongest pillar in my life. In the beginning I thought yoga would solve all my problems, then I understood it was only helping me become stronger and more present so I could solve them myself. From day one it became a fundamental part of who I am because it truly felt like I was coming home.
What impact did yoga have on your life?
It turned my life upside down. Or right side up maybe. It took me from a place of victimisation and showed me that my strength and my power reside in my choices. In every single choice I make, everyday, even the smallest one. It took me from acting automatically into acting more consciously. It changed my relationship with people, with life, with myself. It brought me awareness. And when you become aware, you have the power to change how you live your life.
It taught me to see dualities as a part of life. We are complex creatures with bright and dark faces like the sun and the moon. They co-exist in us. And in order to focus on our light (and the light of others), we have to understand where our darkness comes from and heal it. We can gain this inner knowledge through awareness, deep inquiry, but also compassion and self-love.
Through the practice of yoga (yoga includes all 8 limbs : Yamas, Niyamas, Asanas, Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana, Samadhi), if it is sustained and consistent, we are confronted to both our light and our darkness and offered a choice of clearing old patterns (samskaras) and changing our own life.
What are the biggest challenges for you in this full-time yogi life?
There are many challenges, just like any other type of work. I feel lonely sometimes, always eating alone, teaching group classes means pretty much monologuing all day, preparing classes or running from a studio to another. Starting super early for my personal practice and finishing late, teaching in 3 or 4 different studios in a day. It is a lot of work preparing classes, workshops and retreats. But let's not sweat the small stuff, I'm pretty much used to it by now. My biggest challenge is not really one because I'm still so excited about yoga. I always challenge myself to keep learning, to practice with teachers I admire and keep growing, peel more layers and come closer to my truth and love more, so I can serve better.