A Student to Yoga Teacher Journey By Jenn Ayotte

I still remember the day I first walked into In Fine Feather Yoga. I didn’t really have any prior experience with yoga, so I didn’t know what to expect. I had taken a couple of classes at a community center before but that was years ago, and the only thing I could remember was being asked to flop like a fish on the community room floor and feeling rather uncomfortable.


So here I was walking into another yoga class, years later, and so many things were going through my head.

Am I wearing the right clothes for this? How many people are going to be in there? Are we going to flop like a fish? (In case you were wondering, there was no flopping of any kind, I was relieved.) I don’t remember much about what we did in class that day but I do remember nervously moving through the poses and then feeling wonderful about it while lying in the dark at the end of class. I walked out of the studio that day in the best mood and I knew right then I was already hooked. On eclass was all it took. Just so we’re clear I am not an athletic person. I grew up hating gym class (I was one hundred percent that girl that purposely forgot their gym clothes), I definitely do not enjoy playing sports (I am convinced my face in a ball magnet), and I avoid any situation where I might have to run. So, when I found yoga, I was shocked by how much my body could do. The more I showed up on my mat the stronger I got. Over time, I found myself being able to do poses that at first, I thought I’d never be able to do. For the first time in my life, I was feeling good inside my body and this confidence I found on my mat started to show up in other parts of my life as well. I started to notice that somewhere through my practice I stopped doubting myself and my body’s abilities and that was such a big thing for me. Suddenly all these things I would normally be too afraid to do weren’t so scary anymore.

So, it’s not surprising that only a few months after signing up for my first yoga class, I quickly became a regular at the studio.

Months turned into years and somewhere along the way I notice I had become a part of this little community. In Fine Feather is such a warm and welcoming place, it was one of the things that made it so easy for me to find comfort on my mat. The teachers not only guide you through practice but they bring you in, get to know you, and make you feel like you are practicing with a friend. The place just attracts good people. Whether it’s something as simple as moving your mat to make space for another person, or sharing a laugh with the person next to you during class, there seems to be an unspoken agreement to be kind and respectful to each other. It doesn’t matter how old you are, what size you might be, or how experienced you are, In Fine Feather has a way of making you feel as though you belong there. This sense of community is what made it so easy for me to stay committed to my practice.


When I first heard that In Fine Feather had a Yoga Teacher Training program, I wasn’t really sure if it was for me.

I wanted to learn everything I could about yoga but the idea of teaching was terrifying to me. Growing up I always feared having to talk in front of other people and in high school I would even skip class just to avoid doing an oral presentation. So, you can see why the idea of becoming a Yoga Teacher seemed impossible to me but I was still finding myself drawn to the idea enrolling. I was looking for a way to deepen my own practice and there was so much about yoga I didn’t know and wanted to learn. After a little bit of encouragement from my family and teachers at the studio, I finally decided to take the leap and enrolled.

The weeks before Teacher Training started, I’m not going to lie, I was terrified!

I kept wondering what I had got myself into, I had no idea what to expect. When the first day came around and I made it through only mildly uncomfortable, I started to think maybe I can actually do this. Throughout the course there so many moments that I was pushed out of my comfort zone but as the course went on those moments got less hard, and the more I got to know the people in training with me the less alone I felt in these moments. We were all interested in the same thing and we all had our own fears we were trying to overcome. Having this connection with the other people in my group was one of the things I loved the most about Teacher Training, we all had each other to lean on for support.

A few months into Training, I was about to run into my biggest challenge.

I had just found out I was pregnant! My husband and I had been trying to get pregnant so this wasn’t a surprise, but it definitely happened a lot faster than I was ready for. At first being pregnant didn’t really change much but as my belly grew things got a lot tougher. I remember demoing at yoga in the park while I was 5 months pregnant on a hot summer day and spending the entire hour with the worst heart burn of my life. I was sweating, I was shaking, and every time I went to fold over my legs, I was sure I was about to lose my breakfast. That was the moment I realized how much more of a challenge it was going to be to get through the rest of training with a growing belly. I was tired, I was sore, I was nauseous, but as hard as it got, this growing life inside of me was my daughter and that was more motivation than it was a challenge. There was no way I was going to tell my daughter I quit when things got hard.


Finally, the moment I had been dreading had arrived.

I was going to have to stand in front of my peers and guide them through a sequence I came up with myself. Not only had a I never planned my own sequence but now I was going to have to come up with something I could actually demo while 8 months pregnant. Let’s be real, I was so nervous the entire time I was teaching but I was surprised to find that the nerves started to melt away the longer I was up there. Even more surprising was how good I felt when I finished, this was nothing like standing at the front of a class to do an oral presentation, yoga was something I loved, and being able to share that with others was so exciting. I wasn’t expecting it to happen but as nervous as teaching made me, I was still falling in love with it.

Graduation day arrived and I was overwhelmed with the pride, I had made it all the way through to the end.

Not even 3 whole weeks later I gave birth to my baby girl. The first few months after my daughter was born were tough. There was very little sleep and lots of tears (both mine and baby’s). Six months into becoming a new mom, I saw the posting to sub classes at In Fine Feather. The first thing I felt when I saw this was excitement, teaching in the very place where I found yoga and became a teacher was a dream to me but I was hesitant. While everyone else in my Teacher Training had spent the last six months getting out there and teaching, I was at home adjusting to life as a new parent. I got right back to the studio and on my mat the moment I got the okay from my doctor but I still hadn’t taught any classes yet outside of teacher training. So, I started to doubt myself but that doubt was just an excuse. The truth was I was just scared, not only of auditioning and failing but of actually getting hired on and having to get through the nerves of becoming a teacher. It would have been so easy to let that fear get in the way of what I really wanted but teacher training had already showed me that some of the best things come from something that scares you, and now I was a mom, I had to set a good example. So, instead of letting being a new mom be my excuse, I let it be my motivation. I applied for the spot, I audition, and I got it!

So, here I am, a year after graduating from teacher training and I’m not only subbing but I have my very own class that I get to teach every week!


I love each and every moment that I get to spend teaching and guiding other students through their practice. My dreams of being a self-employed stay at home mom and yoga teacher are becoming more of a reality every day and that was something at one time I believed could never happen. So, whatever it is that scares you, whatever it is that has you doubting yourself, just stop and take the leap. Dreams really do come true.

More About Jenn

Jenn loves teaching classes with a theme or a focused intention and puts emphasis on alignment and moving with breath. She urges students to listen to their body and make their practice their own. Driven by how her practice has changed her life outside of the studio, she encourages students to take all they’ve learned on their mats and apply it to their every day lives. Her passion for teaching is motivated by the desire to help students find positivity during practice and take it with them off their mats.

More About Teacher Training at In Fine Feather Yoga

Click here to learn more or contact Helena McKinney here.

A Student Reflection by Carol D'Alves

We are so pleased to share a student reflection from Carol. She has been practicing consistently and a monthly renew member for over 2 years at In Fine Feather Yoga. Our whole community is so grateful for Carol’s energy and kind words. She is a shining light and brings us so much joy, not to mention the incredible growth in all facets that she has experienced on her mat. If any of Carol’s story relates to you, take these golden nuggets of wisdom from her and know that consistency to your mat really is key.


When I retired I was determined to remain active and to look after my health but I did not enjoy the gym environment and the occasional exercise class was not enough. It took a little courage to enter In Fine Feather Yoga the first time because I had never been in a yoga studio before and I fully expected to feel like the elderly aunt at a bachelorette. I could not have been more wrong! Becoming an auto-renew member of In Fine Feather Yoga was one of the best decisions I have ever made and I have benefited from that decision in many ways.

Past Challenges & Injuries

Because of past injuries and scoliosis of my shoulder which is worsening with age, I began with chair yoga. It wasn't long before the pain in my shoulder subsided and I now have better range of motion, not only in my shoulder but also in my hips. When I added gentle and intro classes to my practice I continued to feel physically stronger. My balance and my posture is improving too. In fact, the nurse at my doctor's office asked me how I was managing not to shrink in height, and my massage therapist has commented on the muscle definition in my arms and shoulders. A past hip injury had me believing that I would never be able to sit cross legged, and sometimes I am still not able, but more and more often with the use of a bolster I can sit comfortably for short periods of time. That is one of the challenges I am continuing to work on. I love the way yoga challenges me, and I am learning to be patient and gentle with the challenges.

Benefits of Yoga


Yoga is providing me with tools to quiet self doubt, and to deal with social anxiety and chronic depression. I seldom feel the heavy weight on my chest and the tightening restriction that often used to make it impossible for me to breathe deeply when I was feeling stressed and panicked. I now use my breath to manage anxiety, rather than letting anxiety restrict my breathing. Controlling the panic allows me to remain calm and handle difficult situations without over-reacting.

A yoga practice is not only physical - it is also an inner journey, a spiritual journey that nourishes the soul. I am becoming more meditative and better able to live in the moment appreciating people and my surroundings. I am now more able to resist negative energy, and calm my own frustration and anger. I have learned how to use a mala, have made my own mala and it has become an essential practice in my journey to a better spiritual awareness. I feel supported by yoga and that enables me to offer my support to others.

The Community

When I retired I left behind a fantastic community of people that I saw on a day-to-day basis and that was very difficult for me. The IFF community has filled that void. I have met so many amazing people - each of us different but coming together to share our practice in a space that supports us exactly as we are. Helena, the instructors and the energy exchangers have created a space that is welcoming, that radiates positivity, and that encourages us to be our own imperfectly perfect selves, and for that I am so grateful!



Committing to an Intentional Practice by Meagan Santa


My daily practice is something I look forward to. It allows me to feel grounded and clear. Some days it looks like rolling out my mat at home or in the studio. Other days it includes meditation and free-writing. The idea of experiencing as many benefits as possible from my practice led me to note ways I could be more intentional about my practice especially since it’s become such a staple in my life. I believe this feeling is relatable after many conversions with other friends who practice yoga or meditation and even students at In Fine Feather.

I invite you to take a moment and reflect on what you’ve learned from your dedicated time on your mat.

For myself, I’ve noticed how after a yoga flow I seem to have a more authentic stream of consciousness come through in my journal writing and how I can fall into a meditative state with more ease. When I look ahead to the coming month I’ve asked myself what I needed to receive from my practice to show up as my best self. Did I need more gentle flows or would an intermediate/advanced practice serve me better by challenging myself? Was their lifestyle habits I could invite in more regularly? Was I inspired by a mantra or quote that I felt called to unpack and meditate on longer? Have you ever asked yourself these questions?

One of my favourite pieces to reflect on is how am I taking yoga off my mat?

Yoga is more than the asana aka the sun salutations and poses. This idea is inspired by the 8 limbs of yoga, specifically the yamas. How can we selflessly share the practice of yoga with others? You can learn more about this yoga philosophy HERE. Was I volunteering? Could I donate items I no longer was in need of? Was there an opportunity for me to create space for a friend? My practice became more fulfilling when I was able to share it without the expectation of a return. If you already do some of these acts of service, then you are taking yoga off your mat and practicing without realizing it!

Do we collectively celebrate our successes enough?


Do you give yourself a pat on the back for showing up and rolling out your mat even if it was a bad day? Have you recognized your personal growth and the lessons you’ve learned in the last season? Gosh, this is so important! Give yourself the well-deserved recognition. This practice isn’t easy. Every day your body is a little different. Your headspace fluctuates and we live through different experiences. When we practice in the studio and actively share space, we are coming together to breathe and move no matter how different we are from each other. Are you celebrating our differences as a community? One thing I love about our community is every student and teacher arrives with a different story. I see students of various backgrounds, beliefs, body shapes, physical abilities, etc chatting and smiling. That is special and it is certainly worth celebrating.

How can we guide you further?

Helena McKinney and I collectively designed a super helpful guided journal to use as a resource to answer all of these questions and go even deeper. I invite you to commit to a more intentional practice for yourself! Use the guided journal HERE and either print it out to write or use the digital version and write the answers in your personal journal. I hope this has got you thinking and reflecting on your own experiences on and off your mat.

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. Learn more about Meagan HERE. Come meet Meagan on the mat at In Fine Feather Yoga by checking the class schedule HERE and find her bio HERE.

Committing to an Intentional Practice. A Guided Journal Experience.

Now is as good a time as any to commit to an intentional practice! We’ve created this guided journal experience for you to check-in and see where your practice has taken you so far, where it might go and what you'd like to receive from your practice going forward. We provide prompts that allow you to lovingly reflect on your practice while setting future intentions. We also give you space to explore what taking yoga off your mat has taught you and how you can do more of that followed by an opportunity to celebrate your milestones! Let's cultivate intention through this self guided meditation, reflection and journalling opportunity with In Fine Feather Yoga!


A Reflection | Namaste Niagara and local Hamilton yoga studio, In Fine Feather Yoga

A reflection, as the season comes to an end with Namaste Niagara and local Hamilton yoga studio, In Fine Feather. 


A message from studio owner, Helena McKinney. 

Another incredible season of Yoga by the Falls comes to a close. First, we want to send a huge thank you to Niagara Parks for hosting the event of a lifetime and for inviting us back to Journey Behind the Falls this year. Not only were we honoured to participate again, we hosted 9 weekends and 18 classes right on the platform by the falls, connecting with people from all over the world to share this experience. If you had the chance to make it to a session over the summer, you know the feeling we are talking about- water rushing, heart beating, breath full and mesmerised by the view of this yoga class. This class changes you forever! Yoga on its own is transformational but combine the powerful force of Mother Nature and The Falls right in view, you can not help but surrender and be in awe at the same time. I have had the opportunity to host this class 3 times, each practice has been different, whether the sun is shining down or the water is rushing in. Each time I meet myself on that platform I feel brave, I feel oneness, I feel honoured, I feel powerful, I feel alive but I also feel humbled, serene and at peace with where I stand. It’s remarkable and I can not wait to be back on the platform next year. 

Instructor Michelle Smith, from In Fine Feather Yoga guided classes at The Falls and we wanted to share her sensation from the weekend. 

“The magic of Namaste Niagara is in the surrender to the elements and the pure connection created. Walking onto the platform and being so close to the power of the falls is breathtaking. One day can be sunny and warm and the next can be cold and rainy from the spray of the falls - there is a beauty in showing up to the unexpected and immersing yourself in the experience. My favourite part of the class is the seated savasana - where you can feel the flow of your breath link up with the sound of the waterfall, you can feel the sun, rain, wind on your skin and feel the interconnectedness of it all.” 


Nicole Catenazzi, one of our other Yoga instructors felt a similar passion for teaching this class. 

”Doing yoga behind Niagara Falls was one of the most exhilarating experiences. It's hard to find the words for what it's like to practice next to the powerful energy of the falls... the roaring sound of the current almost becomes part of you as you move and breathe on the platform. Sheets of mist soak you at just the right times to remind you not to take yourself too seriously. The sun pokes out from behind the clouds as if reflecting your own light back at you. Namaste Niagara offers a rare opportunity to feel at one with nature's wild beauty." 


Brunch with Niagara Parks Restaurants! 

Following the practice, we indulge in an incredibly satisfying brunch hosted at the Niagara Parks featured restaurants, Queenston Heights and Whirlpool Restaurant. We have the opportunity to meet our students and connect with them about their experience on the platform. We laugh at how remarkable the class is and how it is so much more than you can expect. We share our story about how In Fine Feather came to be apart of something so special and how grateful we are to be engaged with the yoga community outside of Hamilton. Is anything better than yoga and brunch? Yes! Yoga by The Falls and brunch that is sourced from locally harvested food. Namaste Niagara is the most unique event we have had the privilege to be apart of. We are currently planning some interesting winter events, without saying too much, we see snow shoeing, yoga, mulled wine and of course the delicious cuisine…so stay tuned. 

Thank you to everyone who makes this event possible and to Niagara Parks for partnering with the In Fine Feather Team on this, 

With Gratitude, 


Yoga Teacher Training | My Takeaways from Learning Meditation by Lisa Kiss

My consensus of Module 3 in a sentence…Meditation is hard.


Module 3 was what I was most excited for in this YTT journey but, personally ended up being very hard for me to get through. I don’t know if it was because we were getting to the end of our learning before summer break or because I became disinterested in the subject. Regardless of my personal feelings toward meditation I learned a lot and will hopefully start a meditation practice in the future. The most valuable thing I learned was the difference between meditation and a mediation practice:


“The state of meditation is a full connection with the inherent spontaneity of all existence. The connection that happens beyond all of the layers of the personality, beyond all of the layers of our conditioning. True meditation is more of a state of mind.” You are choicelessly aware of the influences about you and free of every influence you come in contact with.

Meditation Practice

There are many philosophies as to the purpose and function behind meditation practice but, all with a common underlying goal; training the mind and heart to meet the present moment as it arises. It is thought the practice of meditation that we learn to see and work with our conditioning.

My Meditation Practice

Everything I learned in the 20 hours with Steve was extremely helpful but, my meditation practice is still something I’m working on starting. Through my YTT thus far, and I think just from practicing yoga consistently I have become much more aware about a lot of things including my body, mind and external awareness. However, I discovered that our thoughts usually relate back to approximately 3 themes. I figured out what my 3 were and am currently trying to understand why they keep popping up in my mind. A meditation practice would probably help but, it’s something I struggle with. For now, I acknowledge those thoughts and allow myself to return to the present moment.

How you can start a Meditation Practice

1. Find or create a quite environment

2. Pick an object of concentration (sound, breath, mantra)

3. A passive attitude toward content – Equanimity

4. Comfortable position (my feet used to always fall asleep by changing my seated position I was able to stop this and sit longer)

5. Take 4 breaths on purpose (Steve’s way of starting guided meditation)


Starting a meditation practice sounds very simple and it is physically simple to prepare for mediation; usually an asana practice before helps. The hard part is preparing your mind. During the training I was able to sit for 5 minutes comfortably. However, the 20-minute meditation was very hard for me to mentally sit through. So, if you’re just starting, set a timer for 5 minutes or go to a guided meditation class so your facilitator can help bring you back. Shelley is wonderful and teaches every Thursday morning at 11:15am.

And remember to always come to back to your breath.

Peace & Love,


More About IFF’s Yoga Teacher Training

Click here to learn more or contact Helena McKinney here.

More About Lisa Kiss

Find out more about Lisa Kiss, read her blog and explore her services here.

My Karma Yoga Experience by Sara Nixon

This summer at In Fine Feather Yoga, all the students enrolled in our 200 Hour Yoga Teacher Training course took the summer months off. Which meant they were out of the classroom and putting their training into purpose and action. They had a number of assignments and self study projects to complete throughout the summer, one of which was 5 hours of volunteering within the community. The intention of this exercise was to bring the moral principals of the Yamas and Niyamas into the volunteer work they did with an organization or charity that was not related to yoga. Specifically, looking to explore and exercise these principle to help guide them through the experience of volunteering. We felt really inclined to share Sara’s Karma Yoga exercise because it is the embodiment of how the Yoga practice should be lived and explored everyday to enrich our personal growth but also our connections to other people. If you aren't very familiar with the Yamas and Niyamas, you will still love this article, but we've also provided you with a link HERE to do some background reading if you feel included to know more about the philosophy.

A big thank you to Sara for allowing us to share her experience with the IFF community!


My Relationship to Asteya

I currently volunteer at the YWCA Hamilton Senior 55+ Active Living Centre. My volunteer work here is a directly result of my contemplation of the yamas and niaymas during Yoga Teacher Training. I came to this organization through my intent to practice aestya, or non-stealing. I’d like to share my story of how I got to this place: I came to yoga teacher training feeling restless and discontent. I had a hard time coming to terms with why. If I was to look at myself through the eyes of an observer, I would see a privileged life. I am married to the most loving and supportive partner and together we own a house and have a family of adorable cats. I have a career directly in my field of study, and not only is it fulfilling and rewarding, but I am paid benefits and have a pension. I travel and hike and camp and garden and surround myself with family and friends who love me and constantly build me up. I am living the millennial dream.

And yet, for many months leading up to YTT, this relentless voice told me I was not enough and that, in order to be enough, I needed to take more. I spent about a year almost obsessively searching for and applying to what seemed like better, more important and impressive careers. I’d get some interviews but never did I get the job. I also applied to volunteer boards and committees that I thought would look impressive. I wasn’t successful in these either. This was hard on my sense of self-worth, and further perpetuated the illusion that if I took more, I could be more. 

Connecting it back to Asteya

Asteya is not only concerned with stealing things that are tangible, but also stealing emotional, cultural, and social space. As a privileged, white female living the millennial dream, I take up a lot of this kind of space. Yet, through contemplation, I realized that my discontentment came from this compulsion to take up more space, and to ensure my spot at the centre of it. This was unhealthy and led to feelings of inadequacy, jealously, judgement, and competition. Instead of focusing my energies on taking up space for myself, I am now more mindful to consciously and thoughtfully give space to others who need it more than I do. This has become my practice of asteya.



I stopped applying to jobs and impressive committees, and instead applied to volunteer with the YWCA Hamilton Seniors 55+ Active Living Centre. I help run the outreach programming for the Senior Outreach Community Connections program, where older adults living in long-term care facilities all over the city are transported to the YWCA for a morning of singing, dancing, games, and other interactive programming. Older adults living in long term care facilities often feel isolated and forgotten. This program aims to connect older adults with others, to explore new things in a supportive environment, and to have fun.

I will also be delivering my own programming at the centre in Fall 2019, where I will lead conversation-based sessions on different aspects of local Hamilton history focused on memory-sharing and storytelling. In these programs, older adults will be at the centre, where they will have the opportunity to share, reminisce, and connect to one another. My role will be to facilitate and to listen – to create space for others. I do this work to engage members of the community who do not hold adequate social, cultural, and emotional space. I do this work to create a supportive space where older adults feel heard, appreciated, and valued. This is my practice of asteya.

More About IFF’s Yoga Teacher Training in Hamilton

Click here to learn more or contact Helena McKinney here.

IFF Has A New Home!

So we’ve been waiting to share some big news with you for awhile.


You’ve maybe seen Helena walking around the studio with a measuring tape and telling you about the BIG PLANS she has. THIS IS IT! In Fine Feather has a new home. As of September we will be relocating to 249 Ottawa Street North on the upper level!

Our new home offers us the space to grow our practice and build our community. We can’t wait to open the doors to you all and celebrate our 6th anniversary together. Helena feels honoured to share this evolution.

A message from Helena:

“This journey has been incredible for me. I never thought in my wildest dreams that this would be the life we get to cultivate as a family. A sneak peak into the new studio... natural light, exposed brick walls, two class rooms, more practice space and a location to foster our vitality. This move was some what unexpected but provides us with a comfortable, supportive space to grow. As the owner of In Fine Feather, I always want to ensure we have the best space to do this type of work and this is it. I will miss our studio at 219 beyond words can express. This is where my passion came to life, where my purpose become my service and where I found myself as a young female entrepreneur doing what I love. To have this opportunity to move forward and to continue on my path is an honour! I live for In Fine Feather, it’s my heart and soul. Thank you! Thank you for showing up and trusting in the guidance of our teachers. Transitions are always tough but they also give us the chance to become even more then we are. It’s always that much easier with the community support that I feel everyday. Join me on this new adventure and all my love and gratitude... always. Xo Helena”.

Next Steps

Join Helena for our LAST CLASS at the current location on Friday August 30th at 10:00am. The studio will be closed over the long weekend to prepare for the GRAND OPENING of the new space on Tuesday September 3rd! Stay tuned for all the surprises to come!

Use these hashtags to share our news! #iffnewstudio #iff249 #iffemerge #iffnextchapter


My Karma Yoga Experience by Kelsi Salisbury

This summer at In Fine Feather Yoga, all the students enrolled in our 200 Hour Yoga Teacher Training course took the summer months off. Which meant they were out of the classroom and putting their training into purpose and action. They had a number of assignments and self study projects to complete throughout the summer, one of which was 5 hours of volunteering within the community. The intention of this exercise was to bring the moral principals of the Yamas and Niyamas into the volunteer work they did with an organization or charity that was not related to yoga. Specifically, looking to explore and exercise these principle to help guide them through the experience of volunteering. We felt really inclined to share Kelsi’s Karma Yoga exercise because it is the embodiment of how the Yoga practice should be lived and explored everyday to enrich our personal growth but also our connections to other people. If you aren't very familiar with the Yamas and Niyamas, you will still love this article, but we've also provided you with a link HERE to do some background reading if you feel included to know more about the philosophy.

Thank you Kelsi for allowing us to share your experience with the IFF community!

I chose to take this opportunity to volunteer with an organization that has been a big part of my life for the last 3 years. 


The Hamilton Victory Gardens is a not-for-profit organization that turns otherwise vacant spaces into flourishing gardens, growing organic vegetables to be donated to local food banks and hot meal programs.  When I first found this organization a few years back, I unearthed my love for gardening and interest in food security. While I have been privileged enough throughout my life to not have to worry about where my next meal is coming from, this is not the case for many Hamiltonians.  In further, the nature of food banks results in many donations consisting of canned or boxed food items with little room for fresh and local produce. The Hamilton Victory Gardens works to fill this gap, to increase access to healthy fresh fruits and vegetables for those in need. Organizations like this cannot independently disband food insecurity while cost-of-living and the housing crisis are prevalent issues at the forefront, however they play a vital role in supplementing the immediate need for improved access to nutritious options in our community.

My Past Volunteer Experience

For the last two years, until December of 2018, I became very involved in the Hamilton Victory Gardens.  I was so passionate about the efforts of HVG that I took every opportunity to try to help - I organized events and fundraisers, liaised with new volunteers, managed the web platform, curated social media and newsletter content, and completed large grant applications.  While I held this volunteer role very close to my heart, there came a time when my plate began to overflow from volunteer responsibilities, my full-time job, and family obligations. As much as I loved contributing to the organization, I found it was my health and personal well-being that was being compromised.  At that time I became detached from the reason why I started volunteering and the pressures of all my responsibilities, and felt it was best to step down from my active role within the organization.

Connecting the Yamas & Niyamas


I spent my 5 hours volunteering at the Cancord Site behind the food basics on Barton & Mary.  Reflecting on my mornings gardening I felt a number of the Yamas and Niyamas were applicable. For me, Svadhyaya was the most prevalent for a number of reasons.  I was able to once again unearth my passion for gardening - which is something I truly miss now living in an apartment with only a few window herbs at my disposal.  I had forgotten how meditative a morning with the plants can be, how much I enjoy being outside, giving back, and learning about horticulture. I also found this a peaceful recluse to quiet my thoughts as I worked through the mundane tasks of pulling weeds, turning soil, and up-rooting plants that had gone to seed.  I applied the Niyama of Tapas as I pulled the various types of weeds.  I allowed myself to really be able to feel the  pricks of Dandelion poking through my gloves, the sensation of extracting a deep root, the hot sun beaming on my skin, being fully aware of each individual task I was completing.  Ishwaraprandihana was another relevant principle as I honoured forces larger than me that play into the success of community gardens.  As much as humans like to say “look what we did!”, there is so much more playing into the equation here. In my own belief, Mama Nature is the ultimate dictator of the success of each plant; the amount of sunlight, the quantity and frequency of rain, the nutrients in the soil, the insects or animals are present are out of our hands.  We, as gardeners, can help plants by creating a supportive environment, but the greatest part of the work is done between the plant and its immediate environment. Therefore, rather than focusing on the pride in what we have grown, the success of the harvest we reaped, we really should be taking more time to be grateful to the sun, rain, earth, and surrounding life that support the growth of our food.  The more time we spend in our gardens, we reinforce a better our connection to our food, and better our connection to the Earth.


I am grateful for the Karma experience to allow me to re-explore this closed chapter, and re-visit the reasons why I found myself so heavily invested in the gardens in the first place.  This opportunity provided some closure for my decision to step-down, where I had been harbouring feelings of regret and guilt. Becoming more aware of the Yama Ahimsa - I feel more reassured that it was the best decision for myself at the time to make the conscious decision to be ‘non-harming’ to my own well-being.  

I am looking forward to continue visiting community gardens across our amazing city!

More About IFF’s Yoga Teacher Training

Click here to learn more or contact Helena McKinney here.

Yoga as an Effective Cross Training Tool by Meagan Santa

I’m not the only one who has been spending more time outside than on my mat. Summer always encourages me to go on more hikes and walks on the beach. Many of my yoga friends and students have been sharing how sore they are from cycling or running the stairs. It’s great that we are physically active outside but it also means our bodies are using muscles that may not be put to work this hard year round. The solution: yoga.


My fitness routine includes primarily yoga and home workouts that range from strength training to cardio. I use yoga as a means to recover my body and keep me feeling grounded. Even athletes like Lebron James have shared how including yoga into their training regimen has enhanced their performance - physically and mentally. So let’s consider how cross-training with yoga 1-2x a week minimum will benefit you!

Mental Focus

Breath is a huge focus in vinyasa yoga where we move the body with the breath. This type of concentration keeps us present in the moment which allows us to practice mindfulness and increase our mental focus. If you’ve ever gone on a run or cycled a long distance, you know how it feels when the negative thoughts begin to flood in. Practicing yoga can help you overcome negative thoughts which is a huge benefit at the end of a marathon or half way through your sprint up the stairs!



Muscle fatigue is not uncommon when you are more physically active or using muscles you wouldn’t normally. Yoga is an incredibly healthy avenue for recovering the body. In higher impact forms of exercise, your body absorbs shock and repeatedly contracts muscles in use which causes a shortening in the muscle group. If not recovered properly, this can lead to injury. When following a well-rounded yoga class, the muscles will have been lengthened out and lactic acid removed. Many students leave class feeling like they have more space in their body because the shock wave absorbed has been able to dissipate.

If you include any inverted poses in your practice like legs up the wall or supported bridge, you are allowing the body to rest the valves within the circulatory system and encourage a fresh return of blood to the heart.

It’s important to keep in mind that yoga is about tuning into your self to find out what your own body needs on that specific day. There will be times where you can push yourself and other times where gentle movement would be more beneficial. This distinction is vital to know on a recovery day!

Additional Benefits

Pairing any other type of movement with yoga allows you to improve your strength, endurance and flexibility in both. Flowing from pose to pose with your breath as a guide trains your cardiovascular system for endurance and teaches you how to best communicate with your body. Yoga is also known to reduce inflammation at the joints and muscles, increase heart health, strengthen the nervous system, increase muscular strength, fight memory degeneration and oxygenate the blood.

I hope this information will encourage you to roll out your mat at least 1-2 times a week for all the health benefits above and to increase your performance in other sports and activities. If you can’t make it in studio as often as you’d like, check out In Fine Feather’s online classes to do from home HERE.


Fit Flow Class

Additionally if you aren’t someone who is regularly active off your mat or you just need a good sweat, fit flow is a great class to add to your schedule. IFF offers it twice a week - Tuesday evenings at 7:00-8:00pm with Andrea King (community class) and Saturday mornings at 8:30-9:30am with me.  Save your spot online HERE or arrive to class 10-15 minutes to get comfortable.

Fit flow will make you sweat and challenge the way you look at modern vinyasa yoga. This class will move through vinyasa flows with focus on the muscle groups that help strengthen your practice in a more obvious way. Feel the entire core engage, pulse through squats and lunges, and elevate the heart rate through higher intensity sequences. Don’t let the word FIT scare you, trust that your Fit flow is here to help strengthen your body and your mind and their connection in an unconventional way. Flow and sweat to fun playlists and leave feeling like you’ve left everything on the mat.

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. Learn more about Meagan HERE. Come meet Meagan on the mat at In Fine Feather Yoga by checking the class schedule HERE and find her bio HERE.

Yoga Teacher Training | My Takeaways from Yoga Philosophy by Lisa Kiss

I had no expectations going into Module 2. I was most excited for Module 3 and had just experienced a plethora of knowledge from Nat J in Anatomy. I ended up really enjoying Module 2 because every weekend was something different. As someone who gets bored quite easily, I loved that every weekend was a new yoga adventure! We covered quite a few topics which allowed me to decipher what I enjoy most about yoga and maybe some continuing education opportunities post YTT.


Knowledge and Topics:

  • Yoga Philosophy

  • Ashtanga Yoga and the 8 Limbs

  • Pre and Post-natal yoga

  • Ayurveda

  • Karma

  • Sanskrit

  • Metaphysics, Mindfulness, Astrology and Lunar Yoga

  • Life Path and Numerology

  • Yoga Nidra

  • Gods and Different Styles of Yoga

  • Business of Yoga – Community

  • Interaction at Sew Hungry, Ottawa St Food Truck & Street Festival

Reflection | Takeaways from Module 2

  1. Yoga Philosophy is not me for to continue to study. I’ve never been a fan of any kind of philosophy and I’ve learned I’m still not. I now have a basic understanding of the linage of yoga I practice and at this time that is enough for me.

  2. I’m stronger than I think. I survived the Ashtanga Class with Tim Smith. Probably the most challenging and longest practice I’ve experienced. I discovered that I can do certain poses, I had just never tried them before. Yoga practice is the place to experiment and challenge yourself to grow (on and off your mat).

  3. Ayurveda was the topic that has piqued my interest the most! We didn’t spend much time on it but, I was very drawn to it. I discovered that I have a deep curiosity to explore this ancient method of healing and other nutritional studies. I think I may get my Holistic Nutrition Diploma next year.

  4. I’ve always liked astrology as I really resonate with my sign, Gemini! Rachel’s weekends were my absolute favourite because we got to dive deeper into Astrology, the moon, and numerology. It’s very interesting to see how they all connect together and have influence over your life. I now let my intuition free and do certain things depending on where the moon is.

  5. If I teach, I will teach the more restorative, gentle and yin style classes. My style of yoga presentation was on restorative yoga and enjoyed researching the benefits and past of the practice. Helena knows I have a gentler approach when it’s comes to my practice, so it was nice to get a gentle style of yoga. During the presentation I lead a mini practice while I shared information on restorative yoga. It would take some getting used to (teaching only 7 poses in an hour) but, I would prefer to teach a slower paced class. I think it matches with my personality nicely.


I think I covered everything! Like I said, every weekend was different, and this was the most jam-packed module! In all honesty it ended up being my favourite. I explored a lot of topics of interest and have an idea what I want to continue exploring and educating myself on post YTT.

Peace & Love,


More About IFF’s Yoga Teacher Training

Click here to learn more or contact Helena McKinney here.

More About Lisa Kiss

Find out more about Lisa Kiss, read her blog and explore her services here.