Susi Hately is a straight shooting kind of yogi. Her company Functional Synergy in Calgary is interested in bringing yoga to anyone, no matter what condition their body is in.
She’s developed a program called “Calm Steady Strong” specifically for cancer patients. Her website is filled with helpful hints, from how to make a chocolate quinoa cake to quick yoga stretches that can ease neck discomfort.
Susi is adamant about being patient with the body, and letting yourself change your mind: “Whenever I hear the words always, all, or never, I get curious.”
We were curious about her, so we picked her brain. We found out a lot, from how there’s no single way to do yoga to how she keeps so chill with her packed schedule.
Well into your yoga career, can you recollect your first yoga class?
I distinctly remember my first yoga class. It was in a church in Vancouver. My roommate was going to yoga and said I should try it out. I was ambivalent, and when I was on my mat I was thinking, “This is so crazy.” There was a lightbulb moment for me during that class even though I had no idea what I was doing or what the teacher was talking about. I followed the fact that I thought it was “it” even though for the first year of learning, I was more confused than clear.
Has that changed the way you teach?
I am very straightforward. I tend to stay away from flowery language because it doesn’t mean anything; unless it’s specific to someone I am working with. And when I trained in India, it shook my world of what yoga is and what it looked like. It was a seed for me not being rigid with how I view the practice. Not everybody can do all aspects of the practice, nor should they. Do what works, and build the stamina, strength and mobility around the other pieces to add more balance and foundation. There’s no “right” way to do yoga.
We read that you got into yoga because you were frustrated with injuries, but can’t yoga itself cause injuries?
Absolutely! Yoga is a movement practice. Any movement, when not done well, can cause injury. It all depends on how you are doing the movement. I find that long-term practitioners tend to get hurt more so than beginners. We sometimes think that the postures are “the thing.”
Do you need a teacher in order to prevent injuries?
Like a marathon runner who doesn’t require a coach, I think it is possible to learn yoga at home. However, having a teacher can help when you are unsure what you are doing. The unfortunate thing is that it can be hard to find a good teacher. It’s not unlike finding a good dentist or a good physician. You have to find someone who resonates.
How does being a yoga therapist differ from being a yoga teacher?
People who are coming for yoga therapy tend not to be on the well side. They may be going through chemo, or have disk protrusions, or a whole host of other conditions. I’m not saying that a regular yoga class won’t help those people. There is the distinction of someone who needs that extra care and that extra time. A yoga teacher doesn’t have the skill to work with someone with those types of conditions because they haven’t been trained yet in that regard. In the 200 or 500-hour programs they can’t go into the host of pathology and rehabilitation to move someone from pain to a place where they can do classic asana.
You teach both teachers and students. How do you segment your time?
I have a practice that I run part-time out of my house, a private yoga therapy practice. The other half is training yoga teachers to become yoga therapists, developing their knowledge of kinesiology, anatomy and biomechanics. I can’t see myself not doing both.
Is it hard to keep the relaxation that is affiliated with being a yoga teacher?
For me, no. I make a conscious effort around how I spend my time and who I have help me with that. I have a great team that works with me. I covet my time quite a bit. I’m busy; but it tends to be a calm busy, rather than a chaotic busy. It’s very distinct. I have a strong belief that if I am preaching principles to students, I ought to be living them. When I get too busy, I know what to do to bring myself back down.
Even if you aren’t lucky enough to be in Calgary, Susi leads many online trainings for yoga teachers that are a month long. The classes are divided into components of video, text and discussion board. She says the true learning happens on the discussion board, after they apply what they have learned on their mat.
The true learning also happened for us in this interview, Susi. Thanks.
Published on Tuja Wellness (www.tujawellness.com)
Courtney Sunday is a writer, yoga teacher, Pilates instructor and Thai massage practitioner. She teaches corporations in Toronto the fine art of breathing deeply, and travels too much for her own good. She likes to cook meals from scratch using ingredients from her garden, and would mill her own flour and make her own butter if she had more hours in the day. You can find out more about her at www.courtneysunday.com.