Whistler Jivamukti Yoga the first on Canada's West Coast

From the tender age of 12, Tina James dreamed of having a yoga room, a healing space where people could come and practice quietly and without interruption. After opening two successful studios, Chapel Rock Spa in England and Loka Yoga in Whistler, the dream was further transformed with five-year-old Loka's recent metamorphosis into Jivamukti Yoga Whistler.

"I am thrilled," says James. "We are the only Jivamukti Centre on the West Coast and are honoured to carry on the traditions of this ancient lineage."

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Sharon Gannon and David Life founded Jivamukti yoga in 1984. It is one of the nine internationally recognized styles of hatha yoga, which incorporates yoga scripture, chanting, meditation, asana, pranayama (breathing exercises) and music. An exploration of veganism, environmentalism and political activism is encouraged.

"It's activism in the nicest possible sense," says James. "It offers students suggestions to a way of life, allowing them the freedom to reach their own conclusions."

The yoga centre is located at the Nita Lake Lodge in Creekside. The affiliation with the hotel allows it to operate a yoga retreat centre, and it will host festivals, workshops, lectures and performances by internationally renowned teachers and artists, accessible to all.

James is excited about the benefits that will be brought to the community.

"Because it's international, it means that we have access to some ancient sages and amazing inspirational people. Michael Franti and Sting are both from the Jivamukti lineage; Sting has opened all the Jivamukti centres and right now we're in talks about him opening this one. As an information/activist centre, we host movie nights, vegan pot lucks, speak-easys, speakers on sustainability, first nations teachings, bear awareness, and more."

The centre has four certified 300-hour yoga teachers as part of its team, plus James herself, an advanced Jivamukti teacher. The centre features Whistler's only yoga wall, a restorative rehabilitation device used to deepen asana (posture) by opening and creating space in the body using therapeutic techniques, allowing deep healing.

"It is a completely supportive, non-weight-bearing device, perfect for people recovering from injuries focusing on rehabilitation," she says. To complement this, the centre offers a wide range of classes for all levels, from rehabilitation and deep stretching yin to vigorous ashtanga and vinyasa classes.

James moved to Canada from Chamonix in 2004 to enable her eldest son to pursue his career as a professional skier. She volunteers each winter with Whistler Mountain's ski-patrol, and is a passionate animal-rights advocate, working closely with Bearsmart. The centre hosts $5 Friday' every week, with all takings from the day's $5 yoga classes going to Bearsmart. Charlie Russell, the Canadian naturalist famous for his study of bears, will be an upcoming guest at the centre.

It has been a challenging last few years for James, with Loka Yoga originally opening in the Nita Lake Lodge in 2008. Shortly after its opening, the hotel encountered financial difficulties, and she lost the studio there in early 2009. The studio re-opened in St Andrews House early 2010, just before the Olympics, then ended up back in its original home at Nita Lake in November 2012, its journey coming full circle.

"It's like a fairy tale!" she laughs.

Mike Duggan, General Manager of Nita Lake Lodge, is enthusiastic about the connection with the centre.

"The centre provides a unique, highly spiritual form of yoga which enhances our guests' experience," he says. "They constantly bring in guest teachers which draw people to the hotel and resort."

The next upcoming event is with Danny Paradise, with sessions on Aug. 30 ,31 and September 1st. For more details visit www.loka-yoga.com.

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