International Yoga Day - Interview with Vanessa Bourget

We're thrilled to share that Vanessa is joining us at our withinUs office to lead a special yoga class in celebration of International Yoga Day.

Vanessa's passion for yoga and dedication to wellness perfectly align with our values here at withinUs, making her the perfect guest to guide us through this special occasion.

But before we roll out our mats and dive into the practice, we wanted to take a moment to get to know Vanessa a little better. We sat down with her for a chat to learn more about her journey, her insights on yoga, and her thoughts on how yoga empowers women.

We hope you enjoy this personal glimpse into Vanessa's world as much as we did. Stay tuned for some inspiring words from a truly inspiring individual.


How has your journey with yoga influenced your sense of empowerment, and how do you see yoga helping other women feel more empowered in their daily lives?

A big part of my yoga journey was prompted by the pressure and anxiety of being a young woman in such a demanding world. As a teenager, I was controlled by suffocating amounts of anxiety and stress; to be more, to do more, to feel a certain way, to look a certain way. 

I think it is related to the world-old desire to uncover who we are, who we truly are, the self, the true self, but not knowing how and being under an unbearable amount of thoughts. These thoughts are so absorbing at best and self destructive at worst that we become entangled in a never ending cycle. 

Which brings the concept of yoga in. Yoga as union, yoga as stillness, yoga as cessation of thought, yoga as bliss state: Yoga. The practice of yoga helps with just that, peeling the layers of internal thoughts, external stresses, seeing them for what they are, and progressing towards states of peacefulness. 

Yoga keeps reminding me to show up for myself, to show up for others. 

It helps me, a woman of the western side of the world, to self-enquire, to be resilient, to react and adapt with grace, to find true purpose, and to share this incredible practice with other women of all ages, all backgrounds, all states.  

Can you start by telling us a bit about yourself and your yoga journey? What inspired you to become a yoga instructor?

My yoga journey started in 2005 with Bikram’s 26&2 hot yoga. I knew right away the practice had deep impacts on the body, mind, and soul.

I have trained and gained certifications in Hatha, Vinyasa, Yin, Hot, and Ashtanga yoga, as well as getting certified as a personal trainer and Pilates instructor. I also studied holistic nutrition and herbal medicine. I took advanced training most recently with the Ghosh Yoga organization in the traditional Bishnu C. Ghosh lineage.

I took my first 200hr teacher training in 2018, after selling a little farm to table bistro I was operating in Vancouver, just to focus on my yoga, to immerse myself for one month... I didn't think I would teach after, but when the training was done, all I wanted to do was to teach friends and volunteer around town. And here we are, almost six years later, teaching weekly public classes at multiple yoga studios, offering online classes on my personal platform, and launching my own yoga school in 2025. 

In your opinion, what are the key elements of yoga that contribute to building confidence and strength in women?

Allow yourself to be and feel.

Use the practice to find inner focus, not external results.

Pay attention and bring intention to your practice.

Detach yourself from the outcome, attach yourself to the process.

You can use these key elements for anything you do, whether it's the gym, yoga, work, or life.

What advice would you give to women new to yoga and seeking to use it as a tool for personal empowerment and growth?

Try different styles, studios, and teachers. Find the right fit for YOU; the class and space that makes you feel good when you leave (the during might be challenging physically, mentally, or both, but you should feel good afterwards).

Can you explain the significance of breath control in yoga and how it contributes to overall wellness?

The breath is everything. Placing awareness and control over the breath brings the mind into focus and guides it to a quieter state. When we train the breath in specific techniques, we reinforce balance through somatic awareness that permeates into the autonomic state. It is very similar in training muscles and creating mind to body connection. Basically, always train and condition in an awareness state so that your natural baseline can integrate the wisdom of your practice. 

What simple breathing exercises can beginners incorporate into their daily routine to improve mental and physical health?

For beginners, I always teach an even count breath at a low breath cycle first, i.e. four seconds in, four seconds out, or five in five out, no more than six or seven, in and out, through the nose. This is also known as coherent breath or resonant breath. Then you could add an even count, alternate nostril breathing, which is a very gentle, yet very profound technique that directly affects the nervous system and guides it to balance. Keeping counts even and at a low breath cycle is wonderful for beginners. Uneven counts, long breath cycles, and breath retention should be practiced later on, once a good control and understanding of the base techniques is established. 

How does mindful breathing during yoga help manage stress and anxiety?

As long as we differentiate mindful breathing to deep breathing I am onboard with it helping manage stress and anxiety. Mindful breath has a gentle harness over the breathing pattern, or a slowing down of the breath cycle and a moving of air through the nose, while keeping this control over the physical aspect would be the greatest way to help manage stress and anxiety. Often the difference between a workout and yoga is mindful breath. That being said, both are not mutually exclusive. Being a person that identifies with stress and anxiety way more than she should, I can say with experience that yoga has been the greatest tool of all to deal with stress and anxiety. Focusing on the single, simple component of mindful breathing during yoga is the key to the practice. Always come back to the breath primarily, the physical shape is secondary.

 

Namaste,

withinUs Team

For more information on Vanessa - please check out her site below.

https://vanessabourget.com


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