My Story As A Yoga Student and How You Can Begin The Practice By Helena McKinney

There is No Time Like the Present. 

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My name is Helena McKinney and I took my first yoga class at a studio in 2008; with no idea of what to expect. All I knew is that something was missing from my life whether it was movement, fitness, focus, mindfulness or more, I truly feel I went to my first class out of curiosity, a drive for change in my life and honestly because someone invited me. I have to admit, I was pretty sore after my first class. It introduced movement I was not used to, but I felt very intrigued to go back because of how I felt the days following. Muscles I did not even know I had were awakened and I quickly realized that yoga was something I wanted to do again. I appreciated the combination of the challenge, the strength, the balance of stretching and relaxing. The first class created a shift and each class since has continued to everyday of my life. 

I am writing this piece to share my yoga story with you, but also to dismantle some of the misconceptions of this practice. I’d like to encourage everybody, of every body type to find a practice that works for them! Over the course of 11 years, I established a daily yoga practice with the guidance of my teachers, I completed my yoga teacher training in 2011 and opened my own yoga studio in 2012, In Fine Feather Yoga on Ottawa Street in my home town of Hamilton. At one point, I too was a total beginner, but I want this practice to be more inviting to those perhaps uncertain of how to get started. We all have different reasons for starting yoga, often it is to find better work/life balance, to help work through an injury after physiotherapy, for more peace and ease in our mental health, to get in better shape and build more strength. Whatever your reasons are for wanting to make change, I assure you the practice will improve all areas of your life. These are some of my tips and tricks and ins and outs for finding the right yoga studio practice. 

Why do you want to start yoga and what do you hope to achieve through practicing? Let’s find the right yoga for YOU!

This is am important question because different classes and styles of yoga can achieve different things for the body and mind set. Some classes are meant for stretching, de-stressing and relaxing the body, other classes invigorate the body and are more of a physical workout. You want to ensure that the first class you are attending meets some of your expectations and that you are prepared for the pace of the class. Most studios in the area will have a variety of classes, with different levels for total beginners, to more advanced students. Gentle and Intro classes tend to be slower paced where stretching, breathing and a guided relaxation will be integrated. These classes will also teach you the basics for alignment and teach you the foundations of each pose. This is a great place for beginners to start to feel more comfortable in a guided yoga class. Flow or Vinyasa classes will take you through yoga postures at a quicker, more fluid pace. These classes will integrate yoga poses that encourage more strength, mobility and balance which would be more suited to students who have some experience with fitness or yoga. These are things you might want to consider before taking a class at a new studio. Perhaps call in/email first and consult with a studio manager about their class schedule and your interest in beginning classes. They will be able to direct you to the right class based on your specific needs and expectations. For the first year of my practice, I consistently stuck with beginners classes and established a strong understanding for the postures. So it excited me when I moved into the more advanced classes with confidence and felt prepared to try more difficult poses safely. You can check out IFF’s class schedule here.

How to continue a regular practice and fit it into your lifestyle?

Reminder yourself that healthy growth in life is gained over time, patience, persistence and practice. Most studios will have some type of introductory special for new students that offer you one month unlimited. Take advantage of this offer over the 30 days, its a great personal investment. This gives you the opportunity to try all the classes on the schedule and the different styles of classes. You will get more flexible. You will be stronger throughout your whole body. You will notice other differences in all aspects of your life. After a few months of my regular practice, I noticed myself more relaxed in the day to day, patient at work, my sleeping patterns were more consistent, I slept well and actually rested at night. My eating patterns became healthier, my body naturally wanted to eat foods that fuelled and energized me. My mind felt clearer to prioritize my day. Some of my closest friends even noticed a difference in how I held myself. I stood taller and walked a little lighter. I had to keep up with this practice. 

The Common Misconceptions

But…Yoga at a studio is expensive! This is something I have often heard. The variety of class passes offered at studios are an investment because of the unique technical instruction that each teacher provides the class with. Saying that, it is very common that the local studios in Hamilton offer Karma Classes or Community Classes available daily or at least a few times a week. These sessions are accessible at a pay what you can rate or donation based. Find our community classes on the schedule here. These community classes were the foundation of my practice when I started. I feel blessed that they were offered at De La Sol in Hamilton and this allowed me to really develop my practice in my early years. My personal practice was so important that making it to those classes became apart of my weekly routine.

You don't need to be flexible, yoga helps you with this, you don't need to be in shape, movement helps with this, you don't have to be a certain age, classes are always mixed ages, you don't need to find the perfect time to start practicing yoga. The time is now, the present moment. It is yoga practice, not yoga perfect. If you feel the calling to make some type of physical, mental, emotional, spiritual change in your life, reach out to your local studio. Ask yourself this important question, what do you hope to achieve through practicing yoga? Know, that the answer does not need to become present to you right away, but trust that through the guidance of a knowledgeable yoga instructor and your own ambition- anything is possible. I am overwhelmed with how far I have come through practicing yoga and on a daily basis I get to share this everyday with my students. Yoga truly encourages us to live healthy, more self aware and whole.


I invite you to reach out if you have any further question about starting and maintaining a yoga practice. Please email helena@infinefeatheryoga.com.

Be Well Always and with Gratitude,

Helena

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More About Helena

In 2008 Helena attended her first yoga class, unaware of the incredible journey the practice would lead her on. Helena comes from a professional dance background, trained in ballet, contemporary and acrobatics. Her teaching career began over 12 years ago instructing students in dance at the competitive level. Helena has always had a passion and knowledge for movement, but through yoga she has discovered how to move more mindfully and live more consciously. Dedication to her practice has led her down a path of greater health, strength and peace. Feeling compelled to share this passion, Helena completed her 200 hour Teacher Training at De La Sol in 2012 and has continued her studies in Yin-Yang Yoga.

Helena established In Fine Feather in 2012 just after receiving her Teacher Training certificate. Recognizing the unbelievable benefits of the practice, Helena immediately began to reach out to her community, offering pay what you can classes at a community centre in downtown Hamilton. As her passion for teaching continued to grow, she branched out into other areas of the city doing corporate wellness in the workplace. Teaching in all these different and unique settings of the city has directly contributed to Helena creative teaching style as well as her desire to open this space in central Hamilton.  She is very excited to share this journey with her students.

Teaching brings Helena the most joy because it encourages people in her community to live with greater stability, mobility and happiness on and off the mat. Her classes look to inspire a deep connection with self awareness while integrating breath with movement, to leave feeling strong and restored.

More Blogs By Helena….

2018 Yoga Gratitude Flashback with In Fine Feather and Helena McKinney: In Fine Feather Yoga has done some incredible things in Hamilton this year and we wanted to share our rendition of a 2018 Gratitude Flashback!

The 8 Limbs of Yoga by Helena McKinney: I am inspired to share more behind the philosophy of the yoga practice. Yoga has purpose beyond the physical asana/movement to transform our overall life perspectives and increase our capacity to have contentment. Let’s explore the 8 Limbs of Yoga, which have greatly deepened my understanding of the practice.

Helpful Tools to Beat the Winter Blues by Meagan Santa

Spring hasn’t quite arrived yet, there’s still snow on the ground and I’m not the only one who is beginning to feel cooped up inside. Many of us experience “the winter blues” in various forms, some worse than others. For myself I’ve found that putting extra effort in taking care of my health, sticking to a routine and spending time in community helps me get past the winter blues and keep my spirits up.

Health

With the winter months calling us to stay in bed and not leave our warm homes, I’ve found sticking to my routine especially in the morning and evening a big help. The average adult makes 35 000 conscious decisions each day, according to multiple sources on the Internet so with  regular routines and healthy habits we can sustain our energy longer.

I’ve found consuming warm foods and beverages like soups and teas to be a great way to warm the body from the inside out. But in anticipation for spring, I’ve been sneaking in a few cold salads and entrees into my week because it acts as a pick-me-up and reminder that the warmer days will arrive soon! Ensure you’re fuelling your body well with whole foods and getting in all your vitamins to further support the body. This is a helpful article to reference here!

Routine

Get in the habit of practicing meditation if you may be, “feeling in your head” or “stuck in a rut.” Specifically a gratitude meditation is said to help ease symptoms of overwhelm and stress, not to mention, recognising what we have to be grateful for (big or small) is a good feeling that allows for a little peace and lifts my spirit.

Simply find a comfortable position seated or on your back. Tune into your physical body, relaxing from head to toe. Then deepen your breathe, following each inhale and exhale. When ready think of 5 things you are grateful for. Your morning cup of coffee can count or the short walk around the block with your dog. Observe what warm feelings arise within you. Keep focused on those feelings for 10-15 breathes.

Community

In Fine Feather Yoga has lots of workshops and events happening inside the studio. Specifically our March 30 Day Challenge is a perfect opportunity to get out of the house, connect with like-minded people and feel like you have conquered a productive day. We have planned a closing party for challengers as well as weekly inspiration and resources arriving to you via email! Getting a sweat on daily will allow for the stagnant energy to shake off, plus it’s good for you! Yoga for winter blues is my go-to form of movement when it comes to heating the body from the cool temps outside. I’m looking forward to pressing play on the weekly home practice videos lead by Nicole & Helena! You can sign up for the challenge here and learn more here.

Hamilton has lots of opportunities to connect with others year-round. It can be as simple as asking a friend for coffee, checking out a new store or going for a walk. Ottawa Street is filled with friendly shop owners, art, vintage antiques and places to eat. This photo is in front of the mural at Antique Detective on 137 Ottawa St N. I always feel better after going for a walk even if it’s a quick 15 minutes around my block. Grab an extra layer, listen to a podcast, take your dog, and enjoy!

One Last Suggestion

My last & favourite suggestion to beating the winter blues is watching funny movies/shows or reading comedic books. Laughing is said to be the best medicine, corny or not!

PS: It’s important you don’t ignore the symptoms of winter blues especially if you find yourself suffering from seasonal affective disorder (SAD) aka winter depression. The article here is a great resource to learn more.

More About Meagan

Meagan is a graduate of the In Fine Feather Yoga 200 Hour Teacher Training Program, the assistant manager at the studio, a lifestyle coach and yoga instructor. Check out her blog post where she shares her IFF Yoga Journey. Come meet Meagan on the mat at In Fine Feather Yoga by checking the class schedule HERE and find her bio HERE.

Connection & Community by Amy Gowling

One of my favourite things about practicing and teaching yoga at In Fine Feather is the community. Through movement and stillness we create and share space to grow stronger, to heal, to relax, and to reconnect with ourselves and others. There are times when I’m in class and I become overwhelmed with gratitude that we’ve all showed up, that we’re all working towards our best selves and sharing that with each other.

It’s About Connection

Yoga is about union, connecting within ourselves: mind, body, and breath. It’s also about connecting with each other. Before coming to this studio my yoga practice was mainly about shutting the world out and connecting with myself, finding my own light. What I’m learning here is the power of sharing our light with each other and how it can lift and strengthen you when you do. There’s an incredible healing power in connecting with others; of having a sense of community and belonging. We’re stronger together.

It’s About Community

In the month of January, Thursday’s meditation was about creating an anchor. A simple tool that’s available anytime to help you regain control of emotions. This is a powerful meditation practice and anytime is great time to start. The winter months can be emotionally challenging. There’s a greater stillness that can be found when meditating with a group. We connect through the simple act of holding space and stillness for each other. I’m so glad I attended last Thursday’s meditation, and am looking forward to more sits together! You can check out the schedule here.

Namaste

Amy

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More About Amy

Amy’s interest in yoga began in 2009 while working in Mental Health as a Recreation Therapist. After reviewing the research on the benefits of yoga for depression and anxiety, Amy decided to learn more by taking some classes. It didn’t take long for her to see the transformative power of yoga in herself and want to share this with others. She became certified to teach yoga in 2012 through Octopus Garden Yoga Center, and is also a Certified Senior Fitness Instructor through the Canadian Center for Activity and Aging. She believes yoga gives us the power to focus our attention on what we want to manifest in our lives and that in turn makes us limitless. With a mindful approach to both stillness and movement, she encourages students to cultivate the deep contentment that is available by being present, curious, and accepting.

Amy currently teaches Chair Yoga Mondays at 12:00-1:00pm and Gentle Yoga Sundays at 8:00-9:00pm.

2019 30 Day Yoga Challenge

Join us this March for our 30 Day Yoga Challenge!

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Dates: Friday March 8th - Saturday April 6th
Investment: $160+HST

Join us this March for our 30 Day Yoga Challenge! Everyday feel inspired to roll out your mat and share this yoga journey with the IFF community! This is an opportunity for anyone to strengthen their yoga practice, discover something new on and off their mat while tuning into the motivating energy.

As a challenger, prepare for an extra layer of inspiration via weekly emails with inspiring content as well as weekly challenger-only meetings lead by Nicole Catenazzi. For the FIRST time ever, the weekly emails will include EXCLUSIVE home yoga & meditation videos to provide you resources to use at home when you can't make it into the yoga studio. At the end of the challenge, we'll celebrate your hard work with a closing party potluck, giveaways and prizes!!

We know a 30-day commitment can seem a bit intimidating which is why we've created a private challenger community. And if 30 days isn't attainable with your schedule, change it so you are working towards a measurable goal! Do this for yourself—see what you can do on your mat in 30 days with all these additional tools to encourage you.

You’ll Receive:

  • unlimited yoga for the duration of the challenge

  • invitation to the Opening Party on Friday March 1st to kick it off!

  • invitation to the Closing Party on Friday April 5th with a potluck, giveaways and prizes!

  • weekly emails with inspiration & resources

  • weekly challenger-only meetings led by Nicole Catenazzi

  • private challenge community on Facebook for accountability & check-in’s!

  • PLUS for the FIRST time ever, the weekly emails will include EXCLUSIVE home yoga & meditation videos to provide you resources to use at home when you can't make it into the yoga studio!

Do this for yourself—see what you can do on your mat in 30 days with all these additional tools to encourage you.

If you’re ready to dive in, sign up now before Friday March 8th!

More About Nicole

Check out her latest blog post, 3 Reasons You Should Do the 30 Day Challenge. She shares from her personal experience and where this year’s themes and inspiration come from!

Check Out Our Class Schedule

Explore what classes you can attend to reach your 30 day goal here. Don’t forget about your exclusive home video practices you’ll receive in a weekly email!

3 Reasons Why You Should Do the 30 Day Challenge by Nicole Catenazzi

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When Helena asked if I would like to help run the 30-day challenge this year I instantly jumped on board. For me, joining a 30-day challenge several years ago led me to cultivate a deep love and passion for yoga. I was a novice—having only practiced a handful of times before I committed to discovering what I could achieve in 30 days. I was eager and enthusiastic but I made sure to pace myself with slower and restorative classes. By the end of the 30 days, I was hooked and started to explore flow classes. Now that I’ll be leading a group of soon-to-be challengers, it feels like I’ve come full circle!

Whether you’re new to the practice or would describe yourself as an experienced yogi, the 30-day challenge is a fun and inspiring way to bring fresh energy, strength and peacefulness into your life.

So if you want to practice for 30-days or you want to give yourself 30 days to discover what’s possible for you, here are a few reasons why this challenge might be right for you!

You want to try something new

The 30-day challenges is a great way to try out lots of different classes and find out why so many students describe the yoga studio as their second home. You’ll also get a taste of the spiritual and philosophical side of the practice when we gather for weekly in-person meet-ups to round out your practice. In these workshop-style sessions, we’ll cover other aspects of yoga like meditation, pranayama and the chakras.

All challengers will receive a weekly newsletter from me which will include some tips and tools to inspire you that week. You’ll also get access to online video classes, so you can practice in the comfort of your home if you’re unable to get to the studio. Plus, a new 10-minute meditation will be sent out each week that you can do whenever, wherever!

You want to connect with other like-minded people in your community

Even if your reason for joining a challenge is personal, it’s wonderful to know that you’re sharing the space and practice with other people who are invested in their own growth and self-development. When you participate in the challenge, you’ll start to see more familiar faces around the studio and get to build strong relationships with your teachers.

You’ll also be part of a private online community where you can share what you’re up to, and the weekly meetups give you a chance to learn from other challengers and share your questions or struggles.

Plus, the challenge kicks off with a fun welcome party and we’ll celebrate the end of the challenge with a rewarding closing party with prizes and giveaways!

You want to discover what’s possible

If the thought of doing 30 days of yoga in a row overwhelms you, shift your perspective and ask yourself “What’s possible in 30 days?” This line of questioning gives you lots of room to discover what’s possible for you. In 30 days you might:

  • try classes you’ve never tried before

  • get started with a home practice using the online videos

  • create empowering rituals for your mental and physical health

  • develop a meditation practice using the audio recordings.

  • meet new friends in the community.

See?! The possibilities are endless!

Really with a 30-day challenge, you’re committing to yourself. The 30-day challenge is not about mindlessly showing up to practice every day just for the sake of it. It’s about giving yourself 30 days to discover what’s possible. To discover strength, softness, resiliency, and acceptance of yourself both on and off the mat.

IFF Yoga Challenge Details

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Dates: Friday March 8th - Saturday April 6th
Investment: $160 +HST

You’ll receive:

  • unlimited yoga for the duration of the challenge

  • invitation to the Opening Party on Friday March 1st to kick it off!

  • invitation to the Closing Party on Friday April 5th with a potluck, giveaways and prizes!

  • weekly emails with inspiration & resources

  • weekly challenger-only meetings led by Nicole Catenazzi

  • private challenge community on Facebook for accountability & check-in’s!

  • PLUS for the FIRST time ever, the weekly emails will include EXCLUSIVE home yoga & meditation videos to provide you resources to use at home when you can't make it into the yoga studio!

Do this for yourself—see what you can do on your mat in 30 days with all these additional tools to encourage you.

If you’re ready to dive in, sign up now before Friday March 8th!

More About Nicole

Nicole first experienced the transformative potential of yoga while on a retreat in Costa Rica. At the time, the retreat provided an escape from the stresses of working in a corporate law firm. Within a year of a dedicated daily practice, Nicole had enrolled in a 200-hour hatha/vinyasa teacher training program with Yogaspace in Toronto. In 2016, she completed an additional 300-hour advanced training program with Zuna Yoga in Bali, which included a focus in meditation, restorative yoga and yoga nidra.   

Nicole credits yoga for bringing immense clarity and calm to her life, and for leading her towards her life’s purpose. She is continuously inspired by the "post-savasana high": that feeling of inner peace after a well-rounded yoga practice. Nicole's goal as a teacher is to help students discover their potential, their power and their peace through yoga: to honour where they are in any given moment. Nicole's approach to teaching invites a sense of compassionate curiosity and present-moment awareness of body and mind.

Nicole currently teaches Rest & Restore Yoga on Tuesdays at 7:00-8:00pm as well as Prenatal Yoga on Wednesday evenings at 5:30-6:30pm. You can check out the class schedule here.

Guided by the Moon by Rachel Gibson

Are you curious about the lunar calendar and the Moon's position in the sky? Ever thought about how that may affect or inspire your yoga practice?

Lunar enthusiast and senior yoga teacher Rachel Gibson presents our first Guided by the Moon Series, a monthly yoga class designed to move your body and fuel your spirit in accordance with the Moon’s current position in the sky. Expect postures and sequences that harmonize your body’s natural strengthening and regenerative abilities with the Moon’s natural rhythms and influences. Meditation and other energy work will also be explored.

In preparation for the next Guided by the Moon class, Rachel shared some recent moon wisdom with us and how this series came to be:

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The Moon has been getting a lot of attention lately. Notably last week’s Blood Moon Lunar Eclipse and China’s successful Yutu-2 rover mission to the far side of the Moon at the beginning of the month.


Regardless of whether you follow the news or the skies, you cannot argue that humankind throughout history has been drawn to the Moon. Countless cultures and creeds have placed spiritual significance on her phases and impulses. The Buddha was born on a full moon. His renunciation was on a full moon day. He became enlightened on a full moon and finally left his human form under a full moon. (Source: elephantjournal.com) Beyond the spiritual relevance, I believe there is a connection between humans and the Moon’s rhythms and cycles, even though most of the scientific evidence out there relates to the patterns of sea creatures. We originated from there, right?

How the Guided By the Moon Series Came To Be

In the last few years, I have felt a strong urgency to discover my path in life and the answer I kept unearthing was to keep teaching yoga and building inner understanding for myself and others. Today, this fusion of passions comes through in my monthly Guided by the Moon series.

Each month’s workshop will follow the same design: A specific yoga practice based on the Moon’s position that night. In this way, we prepare the body for the self-reflection portion of the workshop, which will also be specific to the Moon’s current phase. Expect to have all the senses activated; smell, sound, sight, touch, taste and perception/intuition. And to gain deeper knowledge of the Moon’s influences in each sign of the zodiac, no matter where the Moon is in your natal chart.

To give you an example, for the January workshop the Moon was in the sign Pisces which rules over the ankles, feet and pineal gland. It was a waxing Moon, meaning that it was building up to its full phase, rather than waning down to its new phase. During the waxing Moon, exercises that build strength and endurance are more favourable compared to detoxifying and releasing which are more favourable during the waning Moon. It was for this reason that we worked on movements that created strength in the ankles and feet.

Upcoming Workshop Details

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Coming up in February’s workshop, the Moon will be in a waning crescent phase in the sign of Capricorn - the sign that rules the skin, knees, joints and hair. Because it is in a waning phase, the practice will be a slower, yin-style practice focusing on repairing and releasing the above mentioned body parts.

There are a few spots left for Friday, February 1st from 7-8:15pm. All levels are welcome and you may sign up online through MindBody here or in person at the studio. Stay tuned as April, May and June dates will be announced shortly!

I will leave you with these final words by authors Johanna Paungger + Thomas Poppe:

“Our ancestors knew about these ideas. Priest-physicians, shamans and medicine men, skilled in the art of healing, acted on the knowledge that we humans are not machines; that we are more than a system of bones, nerves, muscles and organs held together by evolutionary chance; that body, mind and soul mutually influence each other and form an inseparable unity with everything around us - with other human beings, with nature, even with the stars.”

-Rachel Gibson

More About Rachel

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Rachel’s teachings come in the form of a playful curiosity towards one’s body, heart and mind. When we acknowledge that we are not the same person we were the last time we came to our mat, that understanding paves the way for deeper Self acceptance, compassion and trust. Yoga provides a framework to experience this Self discovery through. Breath, Asanas, Visualization and Meditation all lend themselves in Rachel’s classes to remind students that they are more than the thoughts in their head. She loves to infuse other metaphysical teachings, too!

Rachel desires to create a class for her students that grounds them in the present moment until they roll out of Savasana. Once class is over she hopes they feel a greater sense of connection to Nature, the Universe and each other. Rachel currently teaches a unique Sunrise class that blends Vinyasa, Hatha and Tai Chi as well as hosting the Guided by the Moon workshop series. 

India Retreat Experiences & Testimonials

Few places in the world are as rich in deep spirituality, ancient history, vibrant colours and delicious cuisine as India. Your hosts, Helena and Jackee, will guide you through an unforgettable journey to incredible India! Spend 11 nights and 10 days in the birthplace of yoga on November 15-26, 2019.

IFF’s Om in India retreat is the perfect way to see both Northern and Southern India in a fun, grounded, uplifting safe environment. This experience will give you a trip full of adventure, relaxation, culture, yoga, meditation, cuisine and everything in between. Explore your heart’s desires immersing yourself in the birthplace of yoga.

Below we are sharing recent testimonials from the last retreat Jackee co-hosted to India. These words of experience and encouragement will open your eyes to what is possible for you this November 2019.

Tracey shares...

“My trip to India with Jackee was a special life experience I will cherish always. The trip was well researched and planned, with helpful, patient pre-travel guidance and support. Once in India, the hotels were lovely, the itinerary was well structured yet with time to wander or reflect, experiences ranged from prestigious monuments and temples to a grass roots village and a local cooking/yoga class, Indian guides were warm, knowledgeable, and responsive, and Jackee and Karen led us confidently, navigating unforeseen issues with skill and grace.

India itself should be on your bucket list if it is not already (it was not on mine). India is an incredible place of rich culture and history, intense colour, sounds, smells, and energy. Its people are warm, beautiful, and inspiring, easy to talk to and curious about visitors to their homeland. The skill of artisans and craftspeople is impressive, as is their humility.  India is a world of complex cultural intricacies, and it is a society admirably struggling to evolve amid harsh life realities that can be heartbreaking to witness.

I loved everything about India. It is an emotional and spiritual journey like no other, and I highly recommend you veer off your normal path and let Jackee lead you on your own adventure of self-discovery in India.”

Pam shares...

"I've had the opportunity to travel to India with Jackee on three occasions. It is always an adventure and an incredibly enriching experience. India is rich in culture, colour, aroma, experiences, and at times, is not for the faint of heart.

Jackee and I have climbed to the top of mountains, camped in deserts, shared food in the homes of locals, and even shed a few tears on the Ganges River's edge. We have stopped to pet every stray dog we see, played with children, danced in parades, spent lazy afternoons on a riverboat, and woke up to cows outside the window of our beach hut.

As diverse and crazy as some of these experiences have been, I have shared so much joy & laughter experiencing them with Jackee. Her ability to hold space, while seeing life with childlike wonder, a compassionate heart and a sense of adventure, have made her not only one of my best friends but an incredible travel companion.”

Cecile shares…

“Being a junior yoga student who had never been to India before, I was just so grateful to be given a beautiful sunrise yoga and meditation practice every day. It really made me enjoy India's spirituality a way I would have never thought possible before. The trip plan Jackee came up with was full of cultural discoveries and human endeavors. We got to see and experiment so much including (but not limited to) Indian food, habits and customs, transportation system, city and country life styles, and most important we got to meet with extraordinary people from various local communities who I would never forget.  I would definitely do it again.”

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Michele shares...

“Travelling to India was not on my bucket list because I thought it was too complicated and foreign for me to deal with. When the opportunity came up to go with Jackee as a leader/facilitator I jumped right in! My experiences with Jackee in India exceeded my expectations. The trip was planned from start to finish with infinite care: From the pre-travel get togethers, lists of items to bring (along with checklists!!) to the day trips, hotels, flights, trains, etc. The entire trip was well planned, adventurous, organized, and free time was always available. Jackee’s personal experiences travelling to India has given her the knowledge and a love for their people and country. Her innate ability to navigate India and all it has to offer - along with her fun loving adventurous personality makes her the perfect leader. Her spirit was infectious! I always felt very comfortable and safe in every aspect of this trip. I knew everything was under control and all I needed to do was lean in and enjoy! I am so grateful to have had this experience. I would highly recommend it to anyone thinking of going. Thank you Jackee!”

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For more information on IFF’s 2019 Om in India retreat, click here! This page offers you more information and contact details to speak directly to Helena and/or Jackee. You can learn more about your hosts here.

2018 Yoga Gratitude Flashback with In Fine Feather and Helena McKinney!

In Fine Feather Yoga has done some incredible things in Hamilton this year and we wanted to share our rendition of a 2018 Gratitude Flashback!

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A Message from yoga studio owner, Helena McKinney!

This idea was shared with me a few months ago and it was an incredible exercise in reflection. I was able to honour my past achievements while eagerly awaiting the future! I sat back and explored 10 things I’ve achieved this year personally and professionally. The second part of this journaling practice was to path out 5 things to look forward to in 2019. Let me see if I can paint a little picture for you, I hope you don’t mind if the year isn’t in exact order!

My Ambassador Proposal with Lululemon!

1) On a regular day in June, I thought I was heading to the studio for a meeting with one of my instructors. Rather, I arrive to a practice room full of balloons and champagne, with the overwhelming surprise of being asked to be an ambassador for Lululemon. This was a goal of mine for years, so I of course said YES! They later went on to tell me that I received this great honour for my work within the yoga community. This type of recognition and acknowledgment was incredibly validating that I am on the right path. We have gone on to create awesome events in the community over the last year, some of which I will share below, but this particular moment meant so much to me.

I Hired a Yoga Studio Manager…Thank You Meagan Santa!

2) This journey started with a particularly ambitious and talented yoga student who decided to take teacher training at In Fine Feather. Megan Santa, now our studio Assistant Manager, approached me about helping with registration forms and answering some emails. Her and I have developed a friendship, a mentorship, an active role for her in the studio and a sisterhood that is invaluable. I often find myself saying… “Everyone needs a Meag in their life”, and I even have a hashtag for her #EveryDayWithMeag! Together, her and I have big plans for the New Year, we can’t wait to share them!

New Yoga Programming and Classes Excite Me!

3) We opened the Wellness Room; our smaller, cozy back room in the studio. This created the opportunity for so many new programs. Yoga is a unique practice, where there is a style for everyone. Opening this second room, we were able to make more styles available to our community.

4) This past April we started offering Prenatal Yoga classes for all the soon to be moms. I look forward to the mamas coming in each week because they bring such an incredible warm energy to the space. I feel as if we have some small part in their journey towards bringing a baby into this world and this is a blessing for our staff to witness. See what people have been saying about prenatal yoga with IFF!

5) Over the last year, when connecting with students, we kept hearing a similar story of elevated stress, anxiety and experiences of difficulty in their lives. This led us to understand, that as a collective community, we would all benefit from having a more regular meditation and mindfulness practice to counter balance some of the challenges we are all going through. We now offer meditation classes three times a week, along with classes that invite us to slow down. Find out more about meditation and how to start a practice!

Community Partnerships and Collaborations are the Key to Making More Happen!

6) Where do I even begin to thank all the incredible community partners we have worked with this past year. It is important to acknowledge the places we’ve been, the people we have connected with and the awesome energy we generated. To name a few; Niagara Parks and the Namaste Niagara events at Journey Behind the Falls. It is truly unreal practicing yoga right beside one of the world’s greatest wonders. We collaborated with Lululemon and Collective Arts Brewery at the Liquid Arts Festival; how hysterical was the yoga and beer class we hosted! We worked with The Hamilton Tiger Cats and Lululemon and practiced yoga on the field before the football game at Namaste Ticats. A very nostalgic class for me because I used to be a Ticats cheerleader back in the day. Who didn’t love the yoga and wine events at Between the Lines Winery, could Mother’s Day be any more beautiful and celebratory? We hosted the most lovely holiday staff party designed, decorated, furnished and catered by a local start up business, Every Golden Moment. We had a magician and everything!

All the while the studio continued to host our annual 30 Day Challenge, our 6th Yogis in the City photo contest, our second round of yoga teacher trainees graduated and we hosted countless workshops and educational programs throughout the year. Busy, busy bees!

Making Yoga History on Ottawa Street North!

7) Sew Hungry, the annual food truck rally was hosted on May 5th and the studio, with Lululemon and the Ottawa Street BIA decided to make something special happen for this event. Yoga Now and Feast Later was the first time a huge group of people gathered on Ottawa Street to practice yoga. Ottawa Street is a historical shopping district in Hamilton and this is the neighbourhood I grew up in. I have fond memories of taking dance classes as a kid on Campbell St, going to the Farmer’s Market with my dad and fabric shopping with my mom. Ottawa Street is not only the location of the studio; its my home, its my heart and I was proud we made this possible for the neighbourhood.

Rebranding and Creating a New Vision for IFF!

8) If you know me, I love when things look pretty! I was craving a rebranded presence for the studio. This gave me a reason to get all the staff together for a photo shoot. The set was beautiful, floral and everything I envisioned. Not only was the website completely reinvented but we redesigned the visuals for the entire studio. The front facade was replaced (we kind of had to because of that epic wind storm), we rebranded our workshop posters and online newsletter. I couldn’t be more please with the fresh look and take pride in how IFF presents itself.

Mindbody Training and Two Conferences in California!

9) Another huge goal for me was travelling and attending these two business conferences. I knew I would flourish, gain huge insight and come back feeling inspired and motivated. I can truly admit that all 10 of these accomplishments might not have been possible if I didn’t invest in this type of training for myself. I had never been to California and the west coast is beyond stunning. The sunshine lit something up inside of me. I was able to bring Meagan with me for the second trip and we had the opportunity to see guest speakers, Michelle Obama and Bille Jean King, as well as many other motivational speakers and leaders in the wellness industry. Mindbody also reached out to myself and IFF to do a social media take over for their company; literally, how incredible to be asked to take part in this!

Celebrating our Five Year Anniversary at Yoga in the Park!

10) We all love Yoga in the Park; students always express that this practice is the highlight of their summer. Celebrating our five year anniversary at Gage Park was an absolute must. On Sunday September 9th, an abnormally cold, windy morning, we were overwhelmed with the attendance and appreciation from the community. So many of you showed up for this special occasion! We did giveaways and acknowledged some of our founding members, reminisced on the journey of the studio and had some sweets and treats. Another huge thank you goes to my community partners at Lululemon for hosting this party to recognize my contributions to the yoga community. 5 YEARS….WE DID IT…as a small business owner, this is a huge milestone.

Five Visions and Intentions for 2019!

1) Hosting our 3rd year of yoga teacher training and graduating inspired instructors who can continue to pass on the traditions of this practice.

2) Launching a new mentorship program for entrepreneurs in the wellness industry and consulting with them to share some of my insight on establishing a successful business.

3) Going on our first yoga retreat, Om in India! We can not wait to travel across the world and experience the birth place of yoga with a group of like minded souls!

4) Creating online programs and classes for our yoga friends that have moved away so that we can maintain a connection even if we can’t see you in the studio anymore! We miss you!

5) This is a big one for me, I would like to develop my career as a keynote speaker. I want to start sharing more about my unique journey and experience of life. Telling my story is important. Every moment that has developed me as a person has contributed to my role as a female entrepreneur and community advocate in my home town, Hamilton.

Hopefully, this time next year I will be doing a gratitude recap on these goals; right now they are just visions but I know that with focus, perseverance and dedication they will be brought to life. I am grateful for the support of my staff, my family and friends but most importantly the community that shows up to be with me. Thanks for giving me strength and for giving me so much purpose. I invite you all to take some time over the next few days to explore your 2018 accomplishments and write them down. Acknowledge your achievements and take that positivity every with you into the New Year! We learn through sharing, so feel free to post your gratitude list online, tag us and #IFFYogis2019

Much Love,
Helena McKinney

5 Tips to Enjoy the Holidays Without Neglecting Your Health By Meagan Santa

I’ve gathered my favourite tips to support you in enjoying everything the holidays has to offer while avoiding the guilt and low energy that usually follows a busy holiday season. This isn't a time to neglect your personal health & wellness. Instead it's a time of year where it's crucial!

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  1. Stay hydrated!

    Drinking extra water will offset some of the processed sugar and alcohol intake that leads us to dehydration. We all have something we love to indulge in and this time of year it’s usually not foods that give our bodies nutrients.

  2. Recipe substitutions!

    This may not be a favourite trick but it can help with a sweet craving. An easy example is hot chocolate. Check out this healthier recipe to make at home here! Substitution examples can include white sugar for coconut sugar or sour cream for greek yogurt.

  3. Choose your splurges and treats ahead of time.

    Create balance by not indulging at every event or party. Pick a few that will offer you the best opportunity to fully relax and enjoy.

  4. Pre-plan your workout & yoga schedule!

    Commit to moving your body and clearing your mind every single day. This will allow you to show up as your best self. The holidays can be stressful but by claiming this time on your mat, meditation cushion, cycle class, etc will encourage you to go throughout the day with a positive attitude.

  5. An exercise to use in meditation:

    Shield yourself from negative energy by envisioning your body wrapped in a golden light. Additionally you can come back to this exercise for a moment before entering an environment that may seem difficult. Imagine this golden light protecting your from judgements or negative emotions.


I believe that no matter the season of life or the month we are in, it’s possible to find a balance of sorts. This comes down to creating healthy habits that work for you and your lifestyle. Not all of these tips may resonate with you but I suggest you pick a few that do and implement them. Happy Holidays!

More About Meagan

Meagan is a graduate of the In Fine Feather Yoga 200 Hour Teacher Training Program and the assistant manager at the studio. Check out her blog post where she shares her IFF Yoga Journey. Come meet Meagan on the mat at In Fine Feather Yoga in Hamilton! Check out her bio HERE and find her on the class schedule HERE.

A few words... by Aldona

A Note For Our Newer Community Members

One of our long time community members Aldona wrote this piece for us making us laugh and feel filled with gratitude for the space we have created on Ottawa Street. At our 5 Year Anniversary party we celebrated Aldona having practiced almost 1000 hours of yoga at the studio with a gift that she shares below. A quick note for our newer community members who may not know who Gus is! The studio owner, Helena McKinney took an orange kitten in bringing it to the studio to stay for a short span of time until she could bring him home with her. In the short time he spent at In Fine Feather Yoga, many students found joy in spending time with Gus before class, including Aldona. He is missed well at the yoga studio but loves his home with Helena where he has lots of toys and sun rays to lay in.

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Meet Aldona

You've seen me at the studio.  I'm usually one of the first people to show up for a class.  You've probably seen me sitting on the bench in the front lobby talking to reception or chit chatting with another participant or casually pointing out directions to a new member.  Back in the day, when Gus was in the house, I'd be the one fussing with him. Either playing with him or brushing him or putting him in the back room just before we started our practice.  I really enjoyed my time with Gus .  It was my furry meditation prior to my physical practice. It seemed silly to some but to me it was important.

I first came to Yoga years ago when the fitness gym I was at started offering a single Yoga class. I was one of the first people who started coming to class and instantly feel in love.  Fell in love with what Yoga did for me, both physically and mentally. I knew Yoga would be part of my life for a long time to come.

When an athletic injury temporarily took me away from my mat, I knew in the back of my mind that I would return to my mat ...one day.   That 'one day' came in the form of a new Yoga studio opening in Hamilton on the comer of Barton and Ottawa St. It’s name, In Fine Feather and it’s director, Helena.   My first class at the studio was led by Helena and even though I could not do all the poses, I enjoyed  her style of teaching.  I knew that returning to my mat was the right thing for me. No matter what mood I was in, no matter how sore my body was, no matter if I could ‘do’ all the poses or not, practicing Yoga always made me feel better.

As the studio grew, so did my practice.  IFF moved into it's present location and I  started coming more often. Whenever my schedule allowed, I would keep returning to my mat.  I saw the benefits Yoga provided  me and I knew that my mat and I would be friends for a very long time.

A Surprise Gift

A few classes later...... I found myself sitting in Gage Park on an unusually cool September morning  getting ready for a class.  I wasn't happy with the temperature outside but IFF was celebrating it's 5 year anniversary and I wanted to attend.  After the practice Helena stood to say a few words and all I could think about were how cold my feet were: I'm the one in the studio who never thinks it's too hot...EVER!!  She started talking about a participant that had done almost 1000 hours of  class time and I started to wonder how many classes I had done at IFF.  The more she talked, the more  I noticed that she was staring right at me.  When Helena announced that she was gifting  me a scholarship to one of the modules in her teacher training... well,  needless to say I was a little surprised.

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New Year Plan

I'm so grateful for the opportunity to  enhance my existing  practice,  to expand my knowledge,  to spend  time with fellow Yogis at the studio and to deepen my friendship with my mat.  I hope my appreciation for Yoga will grow so that I can experience even more benefits that a Yoga practice can provide.  It's given me so much up to this point and I'm certain that I will take in so much more...if I just keep coming back to my mat.

Helena, your idea of a scholarship was generous and I’m honoured to be the first recipient.

I look forward to starting the new year off on my mat in an environment that’s friendly, comfortable and what has come to feel like a second home.

Thanks so much for this gift.  It truly means a lot to me.

And if I’m lucky, there might be a visit from a certain furry orange guy....hint, hint.

-Aldona

Interested in Joining the IFF Community or Furthering Your Yoga Knowledge?

Find our class schedule here and start your own yoga journey with our New Student Intro Pass here. If you’re interested in joining Aldona in one or all of our teacher training modules, click here for more information.