Healthy Happenings (11/12)

For the love of yoga, we’ve found our November Healthy Happenings interviewee!

Titibasana (Firefly)
(or, what I also like to call the THAT’S &@^#! CRAZY pose)
Growing up on the east coast of Canada as a competitive athlete with a love for the outdoors (we played university soccer together), Emily Schnurr hung up her soccer cleats and running shoes a few years ago after her body was completely worn down from the high impact sports of her past. She incidentally found yoga at this time, quickly replacing her passion for running with something more sustainable for the long term well-being of her body. 
Emily wholeheartedly followed her new passion and this past year became a certified instructor in Moksha Yoga, Yin Yoga, and Prenatal Yoga. In June 2012, Em spent a month in beautiful Victoria, British Columbia, where she underwent an intensive 300 hours of Moksha Yoga teacher certification. 
I couldn’t have asked for a better person to speak with about her role and views on fitness and health, as she truly exemplifies what it means to go after your passions and live life to the fullest.

When and why did you begin practicing yoga?

Once I started practicing consistently at an Ashtanga based studio called The Yoga Lounge in Canmore (Alberta, Canada) in 2007, I knew I wanted to teach. I fell in love with the community within the studio, but I was intimidated by the Ashtanga Primary Series and how complex and intense it was. The spring after living in the Rocky Mountains, I returned to northern Alberta to tree plant for my third season and at one of our camps, a group of planters asked me to do yoga with them. I showed them some poses and knew at that moment that the goal of becoming an instructor was attainable.  
It would be almost two years later when I set foot in the Moksha Yoga Halifax (Nova Scotia) studio that I knew that I’d found the style of yoga that deeply resonated within me. The energy that pulsed in the hot room was unlike anything I’d ever experienced in a yoga studio. I immediately knew that this was the yoga that I would one day teach.

Virabhadrasana II – (Warrior II)

How does yoga play a role in your personal fitness goals/regime?

Before I started practicing yoga, I really struggled with my weight. I was a bad dieter and a binge eater. Yoga has created so much body awareness that I really respect my body so much more and I’m very aware of what I put into it. I’ve gained so much strength, and I am able to maintain my weight without thinking about it too much at all because I’ve created such a healthy way of living that it’s second nature to me now.  

What would you say are the 3 most beneficial aspects of yoga for its participants?

Number one without a doubt is discovering how to take a deep breath. We live in a world today where there is no time to slow down and breathe. By bringing more oxygen into the lungs and then into the bloodstream, it brings more clarity and focus into everything you do in your life.

Strength! who knew that stretching could tone your muscles? Yoga is proof that stretching can!

Confidence. By hitting your mat a few times a week, your body becomes stronger, lighter and also more focused. I have found that through yoga, I’ve become much more confident just by doing something so healthy for my body and my mind!

How often would you recommend yoga practice?

I would recommend for an individual to practice at least three times a week to really experience the benefits, but a daily practice is what I truly recommend and commit to, even if some days are only a 20 minute practice.

Astavakrasana (Eight-Angle Pose)

What is the association with vegetarianism and yoga? Have you altered your diet at all since beginning as an instructor?

Ahimsa, the practice of non-violence or non-harming, takes yoga from just being something you do for a 60 or 90 minute class, to putting one’s practice into action. This way of living and being includes everything from controlling your anger if somebody cuts you off while driving, to finding peace in your yoga practice on the mat (rather than forcing yourself to go farther than what is capable for you), to the food that you mindfully put in your body. If the animals that you are eating were killed in a harmful and violent way, than you cannot truly practice Ahimsa. For most yogis, what they choose to put in their body comes back to ethics.

Urdhva Dhanurasana (Upward Facing Bow Pose or Full Wheel)

I was a vegetarian for three years but had to start eating meat again while I was treeplanting. We were in a remote camp on an island just off of mainland BC, and the cook in our camp offered broccoli and french fries as the vegetarian options while the meat eaters were dining on freshly caught halibut. We were planting on blocks that were so incredibly steep and dangerous that I couldn’t even attempt to try and live off of broccoli! Since then, I’ve kept lean meat in my diet because it is what works best for me and my energy levels. Since I live in Alberta, I am fortunate enough to have the opportunity to find locally sourced, hormone-free beef from small farms. This allows me to still eat meat, but by going to the source, it is much more ethical.

More so than eating less meat, I’ve significantly cut back on my sugar and caffeine intake. I rarely drink coffee anymore and I’m more inclined to reach for fruits and veggies than chocolate because they make my yoga practice feel light and free.

What is the purpose of Oms, various chants, and the awkward belly breathing?  I have a difficult time with these: half the time, all I want to do is laugh.

Natarajasana (Dancer’s Pose)

A lot of people feel the same way that you do! Om is a Sanskrit syllable and the sound associated with the universe and the third eye chakra. When chanted, it resonates deep within your body and is very invigorating! That being said, it isn’t for everyone, and if it doesn’t work for you, there’s never any pressure to chant it! I don’t Om in my classes because it can make students nervous or feel silly!

Belly breathing, or Kapalbhati breathing is a detoxifying breath that is done by snapping in the belly on the exhale (inhalation happens naturally). Over time by practicing this breath work, an individual can tone abdominal muscles, as well as purge emotional blockages from the body. There are so many benefits! 

haha, okay…I guess I will keep working at it :)

If you could give any words of advice for people looking to either 1) try yoga for the first time, or 2) advance their practice, what would you say?

Try all different types of classes! You never know what class is going to resonate with you! Don’t be intimidated by advanced practitioners in your class if you are new to yoga, but rather, see them as an opportunity to learn more about the practice. Keep an open mind and don’t be hard on yourself if you find your body is tight and you’re unable to do some poses. Some yoga practitioners are really flexible, while others have strength to their advantage. Remind yourself that yoga is an incredibly personal journey and nothing else matters than how it makes you feel.

If you are working to advance your practice, I suggest taking advantage of workshops offered by studios in your area. Whether you have a studio near to you, or your yoga practice is in your bathroom, tap into the amazing resources available online. Websites like and offer amazing classes taught by senior level teachers. These websites offer every style of yoga, at varying levels, from beginner to advanced. I love challenging myself by taking a quick 20 minute arm balance practice online or I’ll follow an online class and learn new ways to instruct poses and incorporate fun things into the classes I teach. 

I haven’t heard of those websites, but I will DEFINITELY be checking those out immediately!  Thanks for the recommendation.

Eka Pada Rajakapotasana (King Pigeon)

What is the best thing to eat before yoga class?

It completely depends on your metabolism! I usually make myself a smoothie with lots of fruit and almond milk, or if I’m in a hurry a banana will do the trick. Yoga is traditionally practiced on an empty stomach, so it is suggested to eat a light meal about two hours before practicing because of the deep twists that are incorporated into a number of poses- it never feels good to twist your torso on a full stomach. 

Where do you see yourself headed in this fitness field?

I will never stop teaching. It gives me an energy unlike anything I’ve ever felt in my life. The key is finding balance between my home life and life at the studio. I currently teach four classes a week, and this seems to work the best for me, since it allows me to maintain my own practice too. My next goal is to complete a power flow teacher training within the next year! 

What yoga means to you, in three words:

Inspiration, gratitude, love.

Emily resides in Red Deer, Alberta, Canada, with her parter Rob and their 1 1/2 year old daughter, April. She can be found teaching and practicing yoga at Red Deer Hot Yoga (The Amaryllis Centre). I don’t know about you, but she definitely inspires me to make yoga a more consistent part of my life. Namaste!

Vrksasana – (Tree Pose)

3 Thoughts on “Healthy Happenings (11/12)

  1. This makes me want to do yoga- I was contemplating doing it for a month because there is a deal nearby for hot yoga but I'm not sure…I think this has convinced me but 😉

  2. Creamer on November 25, 2012 at 1:14 pm said:

    Awesome girls!

  3. that is pretty awesome! defiantly an inspiration

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