Gratitude Arises When We Are Seeing Clearly

by guest blogger: Kyla Churchman

A longtime member of our Nova Yoga Community and our first ever Energy Exchanger, Kyla Churchman, has been travelling in India and we are delighted that she has been inspired to share her observations and journey with us.  Read on to find out what being in India is teaching Kyla about her yoga practice…

When the devotees participate in the ceremonies, the puja, at the temple, they are inviting the deity or  god(dess), into the murti, the physical icon, be it a statue of Nataraja  or a painted rock,  a tree or a Shiva Lingam. With devotion and attention, they welcome the deity into the icon as one would welcome a guest into their home; water to bathe, clean clothes, water to drink, food to eat. When the ceremony draws to a close, the food that was offered to the deity is now offered back to the devotee as prasad, blessed food. It is a reciprocal offering, generosity that is both given and received at each end. This ritual is my asana practice. By practicing, I aim to give my whole attention to what is happening in my body and my mind. This attention is an invitation to the divine which allows me to see divinity flowing though me. As one conducts  puja with all the attention, care and love so as to see the deity, and to be seen by the deity, so I practice. Where water and food is offered, I offer my body. And where that food is offered back to the devotee as blessed sustenance, it is my own body that is offered back to me, a healthy, more resilient, sensitive body and mind that is better able to discern what is happening, what I am feeling, what my mind is doing and what action (if any) to take. Truly,  these gifts, these siddhis, this prasad, will only be returned if they are first offered. It is only through the offering that we receive the benefits. Yoga truly is  a reciprocation. The asana practice is a reminder, just as puja is a reminder, that we are intimately connected with this world. Having the ritual of a daily practice (either contemplative or physical), regardless of whether I am  in the mood, has the potential to reacquaint myself with what is genuinely important. It is because we constantly need reminding of our divinity that continuity of practice is vital. The asana practice is a physical expression of gratitude and an invitation to gratitude. When I practice, gratitude arises, as I am reminded of where I have been, where I am now, and the space between. Gratitude arises when we are seeing clearly. Gratitude is both a reminder, and a result of being reminded. It can arise when we tune in to what is happening. We use the asana practice for this fine tuning. Gratitude is the answer to anxiety, to constant striving, to that perpetual wanting feeling. To have the perspective  that where I am is inextricably connected to where I have been and where I will be. There are days  that I wonder what I am doing here? I am feeling irritated by the noise, by the exhaust fumes and dust, by my choices and indecision.  But when I can see, when I look back to several years ago, before I began my yoga practice, before my first trip to India (to which I did not travel alone), I see that there was a time when i could not have even imagined being able to do this at all. The thought of going to India alone, though extremely alluring, was terrifying. It truly was my dedicated asana practice that initiated the strength, courage, clarity, confidence, respect, health and reverence that is  needed to negotiate with India. This country is the mahaguru, the great teacher. It will give you what you need right when you don’t want it, and all I can hope for is to receive the new situation without (too much) struggle. There is no time to dwell on losses, or be charmed by success; as in vinyasa, we have little victories, little defeats, little battles, little romances, but the flow demands that we leave each posture to begin another. How can we practice half moon if our mind is still with hanumanasana? In fact, these gains and losses are what propel me, guide me. How each informs my next move reveals the fruit of my practice.

On Yoga and Pregnancy

by guest blogger: Paula Mendonca

Originally published on Paula’s Blog – Olivia Canela

The other week, after my yoga class, a young lady asked me – after seeing my now very obvious 6 ½ months pregnant belly – if I had just came out of the class. After I answered yes she said that she was in her first trimester and although she had been doing yoga regularly for years, she was not sure if she should get an unlimited pass for the next few months. That’s when it hit me that in all the “fitness” classes I have taken in the past 4 years only once I have seen a noticeable pregnant woman. Is it coincidence? Are woman fearful of endangering the pregnancy if they exercise? Or are they concerned with how they look?

Before my first pregnancy, I was doing Pilates and weights 3 to 4 times a week. When I found out I was pregnant I did a fair bit of research and talked to my doctor. The general consensus is that if your health provider is OK, exercise is highly recommended during pregnancy. It can reduce the risk of gestational diabetes, improve sleep, and even lessen the symptoms of postpartum depression. Also, because I was exercising pre-pregnancy, I could continue to workout at the same level while pregnant, well, at least until breathlessness and the growing belly started getting in the way.

During these 2 pregnancies it was easy to recognize when Pilates and weights had to give way to deep-water fitness. Yoga is still present and I find it fascinating how every week new adjustments have to be made to accommodate the growing belly. Some poses become harder or downright impossible – uttanasana and chaturanga comes to mind – while others bring a huge relief to the hip joints and lower back. For me the best is feeling the baby move around during savasana after being quiet during the vinyasas. And yes, being extra self-aware of my pregnancy does happen, especially when you are the only one around, and everyone is twisting to the left while you have to twist to right. A small price to pay for feeling splendid afterwards.

Our bodies are an unbelievable miracle and, personally, yoga truly nurtures and supports my body and mind during these ever-changing 38+ weeks. My two cents: Surround yourself by knowledgeable and caring teachers (thanks Nova Yoga!), be kind to your body, and have fun!

Paula Mendonça is the founder of St. John’s SeaBerry Studios. She offers unique workshops and DIY Boxes on crafting luxurious and nourishing vegan skincare made with kind ingredients. Paula also writes the Olivia Canela blog where she shares tips and inspiration for a healthy, creative, and nurturing life. Paula believes that we can create an idyllic alternative lifestyle and a vibrant community wherever we live. She calls this path Small Batch Living.

Paula Mendonça
SeaBerry Studios | |
St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada |

About that Yoga Challenge

by guest blogger: Paula Mendonca

Originally published on Paula’s Blog – Olivia Canela

Every now and then time is needed to mentally and physically process certain events. It has been 2 weeks since I finished Nova Yoga’s 30-Day Challenge. An unexpected pass won during a giveaway became one of the coolest projects I have ever embraced and came just as I had committed to slowly return to my yoga practice.

Well, there was nothing slow about this Challenge. The first class happened hours before the first blizzard of the year and the last class fell on the morning of a snowstorm. Then again, it did not matter the weather, as long as the classes were taking place, I was there with my green mat and purple strap in hand. I did a class every day for 30 days experimenting with different yoga styles, getting to know the various teachers, and learning much about myself in the process. Dynamic Flow classes were perfect to sweat out any undesirable thoughts lingering this busy mind. Challenging Core Strength Vinyasa classes where awe and inspiration were created by the energy of diehard yogis. The emotionally trying Yin classes that demand body and mind surrender – so needed in these Yang times.

The first 2 weeks of the Challenge went by quickly. I was eager to have some “me time” af
ter a day of entertaining our 1-year old. Being a stay-at-home-mom is great but also arduous and a tad house bound once the sidewalks disappear under the arrival of snow and ice. On the third week I could have easily snuggled on the couch with a cup of tea, trying to finish one of the 3 books
that have been sitting on my bedside table for months. On that third week I was feeling defeated. My maternity leave was ending, Chris and I were ironing out the details of our new “back-to-work routine”, and Samuel was not eating or sleeping due to teething. That week passed along with the teething symptoms. Returning to work was also much less painful than thinking about returning to work. Juggling a full-time job, being a mother, and daily yoga classes was sometimes hectic but possible because I have the most supportive partner, family, and friends who understood how important this Challenge was for me.

I fully experienced how the body changes daily, mirroring my mood, absorbing the energy of
the people around me. Sometimes the flow was effortless. Sometimes it was easy to adventure into a new pose or variation of a pose. Other times, the hips would weight a ton and the mind was too busy to focus on any balancing pose. It’s empowering to embrace where you are at that moment and not beat yourself up because you can’t do Tree Pose on the left like you did the day before.

Now, I am going to the studio a couple of times a week and do yoga as often as possible at home – even if is just a few sun salutations while Samuel is crawling around. For a more involved home practice, I use YouTube videos from inspirational Nova Yoga’s owner Melanie Caines, and some great courses I bought online from renowned yoga teachers Alanna Kaivalya and Sa
die Nardini

Are you doing or have you done any type of yoga challenge? How do you keep your home practice stimulating? I would love to hear about your experiences.

Paula Mendonça is the founder of St. John’s SeaBerry Studios. She offers unique workshops and DIY Boxes on crafting luxurious and nourishing vegan skincare made with kind ingredients. Paula also writes the Olivia Canela blog where she shares tips and inspiration for a healthy, creative, and nurturing life. Paula believes that we can create an idyllic alternative lifestyle and a vibrant community wherever we live. She calls this path Small Batch Living.

Paula Mendonça
SeaBerry Studios | |
St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada |

Yoga. Interpretation. Breath.

By guest blogger: Nick Mercer

Sometimes I just write and pick the title at the end. Sometimes the title comes first. This time it’s the title first. It’s meant as a placeholder mostly, until I see how this develops. Those are to be the subjects of this blog. However, having made it to the sixth sentence, I don’t know that they will be subjects, so much as cues, or jumping off points. Well, yoga is the subject, so that’s true, in an all-encompassing, vague sort of way, but “interpretation” I’m not so sure about. “Breath” just seems like a good word to put at the end of a title for a blog about yoga. Maybe “breathe” is better. Potato, potato.

Yoga is a relatively new practice for me, of nine months-ish. It’s not the first new exercise I’ve tried since my brain injury just over 13 years ago. It hasn’t drastically altered my approach to life or the way I see the world around me. Yet. I think it’s delightfully insidious. Technically I interpret what the instructor is saying into movement or poses, but it also works the other way. I move, in class and outside of class, seemingly without thinking about it, and those movements are being interpreted into thoughts. This is true of all physical activity. It’s why I swim. It’s why I do pilates. It surely helped me in my physical rehabilitation. That’s what I mean about yoga being insidious. As the breath and movement become the focus, my mind calms and I’m ready for the inevitable challenges, small or big, that will come.

As it turns out, interpretation was as good a word as any to use as part of the title. I was thinking about ‘interpreting’ a breath or movement, as opposed to actually living that breath/movement/moment, but then I thought about what yoga, the entire practice, means for me. I interpret yoga as a whole, not as a series of poses, movements, or even a mindset, but as all of them applied to life. When I’m doing pilates, when I’m swimming, when I’m walking to the grocery store, then I am more able to experience what’s happening. Happiness, pain, humour, discomfort, and more. All of it. To me, that’s what yoga means. Yoga is about experiencing the world around me.

I did the 30 day trial, so I tried out different classes. My second class was Kundalini with Teresa. I suppose ‘discomfort’ is the best way to describe what I put myself through in that class, but it’s entirely self-inflicted. Granted, Teresa instructs/teaches/’suggests’ the different poses/movements, but it’s up to each person to decide how far to take them. While the term ‘discomfort’ seems most apt, it is the discomfort that makes Kundalini enjoyable. Discomfort is the sensation, but self control is what is instilled. Not only the obvious control needed to get past my own discomfort, but, perhaps more importantly, the control needed to make myself go through it, willingly, it the first place,

Yoga is great exercise, and though my balance is very challenging, I will get the poses eventually. That’s not why I will keep doing yoga. It’s a cool bonus, but it’s not the point for me. I enjoy the calm, the focus, and how it helps me experience the rest of life.

As you may have picked up, I’m keeping the title. Otherwise, the first paragraph would have to be cut. It wouldn’t make any sense with a different title. Maybe I could’ve included ‘focus’ in the title as well, but it’s too late now. I can’t help but see a thin line between going with the flow and letting what I just wrote shape what comes after. That’s basically what focus is. However, if I put ‘focus’ in the title, then this whole paragraph would have to be cut too. I can keep going, but I have to stop writing at some point.

Nick Mercer writes Concussion Talk and hosts Concussion Talk Podcast. You can find him on Facebook at, Twitter, on Instagram at or check out his blog and podcast at 

All Possibilities Within

img_7802By guest blogger: Susan White

Om namah shivaya.

As a mantra to invoke a sense of awakening, respect and honour for one’s self, these are powerful words.

Used at the beginning of a yoga class, Om namah shivaya helps me awaken an intention to try what’s being taught and accept what I can and cannot do that day. At the end of a class, these words encourage me to take the lessons I’ve learned on the mat – lessons of resilience, peace, power and strength – and apply them to my daily struggles.

Om namah shivaya is a chant, a mantra, an affirmation that reminds us we have all possibilities within.

Recently, Melanie Caines focused her core vinyasa class on om namah shivay. Core yoga, she says, is a fiery practice, through which we can learn to stoke our own inner fire by cultivating heat and passion at the core of our being. Through core yoga, we can discover the capacity within ourselves to deepen our focus and in doing so, learn to bring that same fire to our everyday lives.

“Om” is an incantation to generate energy.

“Namah” is a salutation or bow.

“Shiva” refers to the Hindu god, Shiva, or the ultimate source of energy.

“Ya” indicates an offering.

Literally, these words are interpreted as “I bow to Shiva.”

Figuratively, they are commonly interpreted as “I honour the divinity within me,” where “Shiva” refers to one’s true inner self. “Om namah shivaya,” therefore, is an invocation to honour one’s self and the divine power that lies within us all.

It’s an important concept in yoga, both in practicing its teachings in life and its asanas on the mat.

Core vinyasa classes at Nova Yoga incorporate and support this mantra by focusing on connecting to the core of our bodies and developing inner strength.

A challenging class that’s typically not for newcomers to yoga, core vinyasa builds physical strength in the muscles of the abdomen, sides and back – our core, which supports the rest of our body.

Core vinyasa also challenges students to build inner strength. It takes focus to master arm balances. It takes confidence to tackle inversions. It takes a willingness to try to push past the discomfort that can come with ab work and understand that it will make us stronger in the end.

In yoga, as in life, it’s by challenging ourselves and pushing outside our comfort zones that we develop inner strength. And it’s by realizing we have those possibilities within ourselves that we begin to try.

Susan White is a communications professional and online health and wellness coach. You can find her on Facebook at, on Instagram at or check out her blog at

Leading the Pack: Melanie Caines

Melissa Hogan of Suitcase and Heels recently interviewed Melanie about her travel style and she had a lot to say!


Melanie Caines is a Certified Yoga Teacher and the owner/operator of Nova Yoga in St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada. She was recently a finalist at the RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards and has also just launched a new online video subscription service called Move with Melanie. She’s no stranger to travel as she regularly hosts sold out yoga retreats around the world from Greece and Italy to Costa Rica and Mexico. We caught up with Melanie in her hometown of St. John’s.

Roll, fold, scrunch or stuff? What’s your packing method?

I roll and I also use packing cubes – it’s amazing how much you can fit in them!  I have 3 packing cubes of different sizes that fit perfectly into my carry on suitcase.

Carry on or checked bag?

Carry on all the way!  I haven’t checked a bag in over 3 years and I’ve been away for up to 17 days at a time.  I’m almost addicted to the challenge of it: can I fit it all in?!  And I always do!  I love landing and being able to roll off the plane and into the day instead of waiting for checked baggage.


Read the full interview HERE.


A Practice of Respect

By guest blogger: Susan White

Yoga is challenging, even when you’re not injured. susanblog1

When you’re injured though, it requires moving slowly, paying careful attention to your movements and respecting what your body is able to do on that day.

I was recently reminded of this during a classic flow class at Nova Yoga. As I carefully moved through postures and breathing to respect the limitations of pulled muscles, I realized that it has been through yoga that I’ve learned to understand and respect my body.

At first, I didn’t realize it was happening. A competitive and athletic person, yoga quickly became yet another way in which I pushed and challenged myself. I took workshops in arm balances and inversions and the pride and satisfaction I got from finally achieving a difficult pose was akin to scoring a goal in hockey or throwing a point in ultimate Frisbee.

In recent years, however, my sport life has gotten in the way of my yoga life as successive concussions and numerous injuries kept me from a regular practice. Now, as I work on reintegrating yoga into my life, I’m realizing that yoga has helped me pay more attention to what my body is trying to tell me.

Yoga has taught me how to identify tight and stressed areas of my body. It’s taught me to respect what it’s capable of that day, even if yesterday I could push harder. It’s taught me the importance of breath and the purpose of the tiniest muscle in the largest movement. In yoga, no part of the body – or the mind – is unimportant.

Recently, I took in two Classic Flow classes at Nova Yoga, one taught by Melanie Caines, studio owner, and Susan Day of The Office Yogi. I did so while working through pulled muscles in my lower back and right oblique.

Classic flow is a great medium-to-slow paced vinyasa class that can be enjoyed by both beginner and experienced yogis. Beginners will learn the basics of vinyasa and asanas (poses) and build the necessary strength to move on to more advanced poses and classes.

Experienced yogis will appreciate the opportunity to slow down, bring focus and intention to their movements and be reminded of important foundational concepts that sometimes get lost in the rush to conquer inversions.

Melanie’s classes usually begin with an intention (or a theme, of sorts) that is woven throughout the class. She uses quotes, mantras, asanas and breathing to support the intention, and the connection between our minds and bodies is a constant theme.

Susan intersperses her classes with tidbits from her recent learning, like that it’s better to rotate to the right first in a spinal twist because it follows the path of digestion. Her way of teaching asanas focuses on every muscle in your body with an explanation of its role and importance in achieving the final posture.

It’s through the exploration of mind-body connection and bringing awareness to its most seemingly insignificant parts that I’ve become more aware of my body – its aches and hurts, its stresses and needs. As a result, I’m better able to give my body what it needs. I’m more forgiving of its limitations and I better understand why they exist in the first place. I understand when it’s possible to push through discomfort and when I need to respect that it’s just not happening today – and more importantly, to be OK with that.

Through yoga, I’ve learned to respect my body and in doing so, myself.

Susan White is a communications professional and online health and wellness coach. You can find her on Facebook at, on Instagram at or check out her blog at

An Attitude of Gratitude








Happy (Canadian) Thanksgiving Weekend, everyone! I love that there is a day dedicated to giving thanks but how great would it be if that gratitude could extend beyond the weekend and into your every day life??

Have you read Elephant Journal’s post “The Coolest Thing about Gratitude” by Lucy Animus (  The writer says:


“By now, most of us have heard the news: grateful people are happier, healthier and generally more fulfilled.  And while these are all really great side effects of gratitude, for me, one of the coolest things about gratitude is the way it affects the heart. The heart creates an electromagnetic field that expands up to five feet from the body. Its electrical field is 60 times stronger in amplitude than that of the brain.  Studies show that when people cultivate positive feelings, the heart’s frequency changes and its waves become smoother and more consistent, while anxiety or stress caused waves to be shorter and less organized. Though most positive feelings were capable of affecting the heart in this way, researchers noted that gratitude changed the heart’s rhythm more easily and faster than any of the others.”
How cool is that?!
Ready to start YOUR daily Gratitude Practice?
In your meditation or at the start or end of your day recognize 3 things that you are grateful for; maybe you write a list, maybe it’s a mental list, or maybe you share this practice with a partner or friend.
You can also embrace one of my favorite affirmations:
As you inhale silently say to yourself, “My life is abundant.”
As you exhale silently say to yourself, “I am grateful.”
Spending time focusing on the abundance in your life creates so much joy; a regular Gratitude Practice where we acknowledge the richness and fullness of our lives can help to uplift us in times of struggle and afford us a greater sense of perspective and peace.
Try this practice for a beautiful and fulfilling addition to your life!

Anyone feel like sharing something they are grateful for?  Comment below – let’s shout it from the rooftops!


Welcome to our World!

We so look forward to sharing our stories, ideas, and words with you on this page!