I met with Courtenay on a hot summer morning in July at the Blue Bird Cafe on Dalhousie. She walked in with the fresh glow of a morning bike ride, all smiles and high energy. I noticed right away that her innate enthusiasm shone through her eyes. They immediately communicate the state of one who is excited by life, and that excitement is infectious.
A little over a year ago, Courtenay and I ended up having a very impromptu conversation and I never forgot how immediately at ease I felt talking with her, which is why I wanted to follow up with a second conversation and this profile.
Courtenay was drawn to yoga as a way to relieve back pain due to scoliosis. It wasn't love at first asana, and she didn't return to it for another six months. But then, it stuck. She started a regular practice and began to notice some changes in her: she was calmer, more focused, more relaxed. Yoga did indeed have something to offer her.
A little over a decade ago, she was working at the front desk at the Upward Dog Yoga Centre, and had access to regular yoga classes. She then decided to do her teacher training there as well with Lauren Crawford and Roxanne Joly, and has been teaching at Upward Dog for the past ten years.
She teaches mainly Hatha Flow and is passionate about yoga "basics", poses such as Plank, Warriors, Triangle, etc., which sometimes get short shrift compared to their "fancy" counterparts (arm balances, inversions, twisting the body into pretzel-like shapes) but can be no less challenging when one is focused on proper alignment and has an opportunity to "marinate" in these poses for more than just a few breaths. Courtenay is very focused on alignment and considers it the necessary foundation to today's faster-paced flow classes.
She also has an in-depth knowledge of human anatomy since she's also a Registered Massage Therapist and has her very own business on St. Patrick Street. (Click here for more info or to book an appointment.)
Courtenay has a fascination and passion for the human body and continues to take physiology and anatomy courses. Want a little massage with your yoga? Courtenay also hosts monthly "Bliss" sessions at Upward Dog: a fusion of Yin Yoga, taught by fellow teacher Nathalie Gagnon, and massage, offered by Courtenay and a couple other of her RMT colleagues. The next one is coming up on Sunday, January 27th:
Courtenay also has a yoga, meditation and aromatherapy workshop coming up on Saturday, March 9th from 2:30 - 4:30pm, Ananda: the Sanskrit word for Bliss. In Courtenay's words: It is amazing what unfolds as one sits quietly connecting with their breath, body and mind: self-awareness, goal setting, peace, contentment, clarity, emotional regulation, empathy.
When we pair meditation with yoga and aromatherapy the effects are even more profound. Aroma triggers the limbic system or the emotional centre of the brain, so diffusing a scent that we love increases positive brain chemistry. The endorphins that are released when we exercise reduce the perception of pain and trigger positive feelings in our body.
The bottom line: meditation + yoga + aromatherapy = BLISS.
On a more personal level, Courtenay loves eating healthy and gardening, although she confesses to having an addiction to pizza. As she put it: "the dirtier, the better"- we're talkin' deep dish Domino’s pizza, not that fancy, thin-crust artisanal stuff. She loves nature and grew up spending a lot of time at her family's cottage. She's very active, which she attributes to her upbringing, and her father, who is 76 years old and still does 100 km bike rides.
I asked her, as I'm asking all my interviewees, what changes she's seen in our yoga community over the past decade. She feels yoga has become much more accessible what with the explosion of yoga studios in Ottawa, the proliferation of yoga in gyms, and free yoga sessions offered throughout the city (Parliament Hill Yoga, Full Moon Yoga at Lansdowne, etc.) She's also noticed larger class sizes and more men are practicing yoga now. Courtenay stated that it doesn't really matter what brings people to yoga. That we all have so many more opportunities to fully inhabit our bodies and connect with our breath is what really counts.