All posts by Mindy

About Mindy

Mindy Willis-Menard is an international yoga teacher who's love of yoga, nature, adventurer and life inspire her to teach. A true adventurer of the heart Mindy is also a hooper, rock climber, snowboarder, runner, foodie and cyclist. Mindy teaches classes, workshops and retreats world-wide. Every other moment she spends with her husband and dog, Mrs. Betty Rox.

Yoga for Healing

It’s complicated to explain how yoga works and how it heals.  Yoga operates primarily in the realm of energy, meaning we can’t really see it and if we are attuned we can hopefully feel it.  Many emotions move through your body and heart and these emotions impact your energy.  Shame, will clearly have a negative effect on your body, it’s a real nasty one, especially if you are constantly going there emotionally speaking.

I truly believe that part of the healing that we get from yoga comes from allowing emotions to have there time in the spot light and then to move them out.  Each emotion simply put either feels good or bad.  It’s impossible to only feel good emotions but we hope to live there most of the time.

Bad emotions can move through the body with a similar feeling to what a forest fire does to a forest.  It burns through everything and anything.  Some emotions even leave a burning feeling in the body like anger, rage, and  insecurity and they can even cause you to physically sweat.

In India, these emotions are often described as the rasas, or tastes.  Each emotion has it’s own face and personality.  Each emotion has a purpose.  Yoga can give us the space to process, move, and shift from bad to good, in one breath.  I can be that simple but it takes practice.

Step on your mat and honour whatever emotional state you find yourself in, then set your intention to shift out of it if it feels bad to something that feels good.  Take a long, slow, deep breath and try turn anger into love as you move through you poses, I think you will feel a shift at the end of your practice.

Raudra rasa of the destructive fury of goddess Durga

Shanti dear friends,


Hello Inner Arjuna

A little while back something very empowering shifted in my consciousness and it’s been difficult to turn it off.  I am officially calling it my “Inner Arjuna.”  Arjuna is a character in the Bhagavad Gita, a highly skilled archer who is on a battlefield lamenting over having to fight.  He’s having a personal convo with Krishna, who is telling him not to be a wimp and do what needs to be done.  Krishna is your higher Self.  This conversation happens within us every day!

“Stop being such a pansy Arjuna, get up and fight!“

Not speaking up hurts me.  In the past when I have chosen to swallow my words and feebly attempt to bury them deep inside where they begin to fester and burn.  Confronting the world is part of my Dharma.  This started for me when I was a very young 15 years old and joined PETA!  I would be right up in your face about what animal you were killing and eating.  Turns out that approach really doesn’t inspire people to wake up and take a good long hard look at their behaviour.  It does the opposite, walls go up, egos flare, nobody wants to be wrong, it goes nowhere!

Communication comes easy to me when things are good but the moment of conflict I have an automatic shut down switch and that is exactly what I do.  Turns out that this is not an effective life skill since conflict is a normal, healthy, and natural part of life.  So I did what any good yoga nerd would do, I found a book!  This is a keeper, one that I have to read over and over again, like the Bhagavad Gita.  It’s title isNonViolent Communication ~ a Language of Lifeby Marshall B. Rosenberg, Ph. D.  In this book his discusses the 4 Components of NonViolent Communication. (Yay steps, I LOVE steps!!!)

1.  Observations

2.  Feelings

3.  Needs

4.  Requests

In reality I find it very complex, it is almost a foreign language to me but it’s one I need to learn.  Learning to truthfully, honestly and compassionately communicate is paramount.  It’s really the middle path, staying open and humble to hear what we need to express and staying open to receive what information is given to us by others.

Dr. Rosenberg, hits the nail on the head when he labels my old PETA style of communication, as “Life Alienating Communication.  Yep, it did just that!  Making judgements about others.  Guilty as charged, someone cuts me off in the car and they are the “Idiot.`

WWKD!  What would Krishna Do!  Likely turn the mirror right back on you to see yourself as the source of pain rather than the other driver.

My understanding of Dr. Rosenberg`s method is very limited, I have a hard time making it though each page of this foreign language but I have a deep desire to let the info percolate, sink in and become part of my subconscious.  My wish is not to alien others or myself but have a conversations where everyone gets to have their own unique views and they are accepted as such.

Most of my life I have stifled things down until I literally blew up, again learning that`s not a healthy adult way of living in the world.  I have found that since my Inner Arjuna has woken up, I no longer want to be silent but I also do not wish to alienate myself or others.  If communication, especially with conflict, is difficult for you I highly recommend Dr. Rosenberg`s Book.

with compassion,



Transitions and Transformations

I just arrived home after being gone for almost a month.  I had to take down all of my Holiday decorations and memories of the last year came flooding back.  I thought about the loose ends I left behind in 2012.  I know I am not alone when I disclose that 2012 was a very difficult year.  The past year was heart wrenching at times.  I saw my yoga school dissolve in a very painful way, our studio closed and my dog got sick.  These are all things close to my heart and evidently hurt the most.

Sunset in Costa Rica

The year started with Anusara.  Accusations, scandal, denial, then truth and a very difficult decision to move on.  I was at the beginning of my certification with Anusara that I began in 2004 and by May I realized that it was no longer a worthwhile possibility for me to continue.  The dissolution of Anusara impacted many of the people I have been so lucky to have meet over the last 8 years.  I have learned so much from Anusara, but I have also learned more important lessons like never give someone my power or get myopic in my vision of the world.  I have forgiven John but consciously choose not to support him in any way, especially financially.  I have lost some dear friends over this which is almost the worst part.

When the reality of what happened in my yoga school hit I feel into a deep depression, I read the Gita from front to back looking for answers and came up short.  I felt my heart break and it won’t be the first time in a very powerful and tumultuous year.  In my own way I choose not to make any decisions until at least May because I really wanted to hear all sides of the story.  As the details came out,  I unravelled.  What I saw as one of the most aligned                                                                              communities I have ever been a part of break apart at the seem and the aftermath                                                                           revealed the ugly truth.

Time heals all wounds and I found a new sense of freedom when I released trying to become a perfect yoga teacher.  It took a while but I put so much pressure on myself I was out of the moment.  It wouldn’t be the first time in the year that I questioned being a yoga teacher.  At the end of September another blow to the heart, our studio would close.

As I look back I am not happy with my response to life’s lessons.  I was in a very dark place, and it was a powerful reminder that my past wasn’t so far off, in fact it was right in front of me staring me down, demanding attention.  The dark place that I had lived in for so many years was back and it totally sucked the life out of me.  I had a hard time getting up, my body ached, I went to bed at 7pm and woke up at 10am.  I laid on the couch staring a the ceiling, thinking, wondering, and feeling totally pathetic and upset that all my years of yoga were not enough to shake me out of this funk.

My rocky road with food came back full force. I had no desire to eat, I felt wasted.  I lost control of everything else I mine as well find some control with what I put in my body or rather did not put in my body.  Upset again that the thousands of hours I have spent on my mat seemed useless.  I truly felt yoga had lead me down a dead end road.  The depression didn’t last one or two days, but rather a month.  I saw the ever familiar worry flood the eyes of my best friend and husband who had only heard stories about the old Mindy but was now first hand experiencing her and it wasn’t pretty.  His concern and confused was painful but not enough to pull me out of the darkness of my mind and my broken heart.

So here I am in 2013 after spending two weeks in Costa Rica.  The sky is grey and dark, I miss the sun that just made me feel better.  Looking back at last year is helping me to move forward.  The realization that I have always known is that transitions are not comfortable.  It’s easy to stay stuck, take the easy road to go back to sleep but I am not that person and I never will be.  I am awake, I am conscious and because of that I know that I am free.  Transitions lead to transformation and that is exactly what has happened to me, I have changed.

Looking back at last year is helping me to move forward.

I want to let go, forgive myself.  Acknowledge that I am not a perfect person, I do not always use my mouth wisely with my words, I do not handle stress that well, I still have issues with food and control.  If anything yoga wipes my slate clean and I get to try again.  I don’t need to be perfect, I am already whole and complete as I am.  I choose to remain humble, and open so I can learn, heal and grow.  My wish is to inspire the light in others and I feel confident to do this because I know how to honour my shadow.

If you are reading my words thank you for taking your time to be my friend and care, I only wish to return the same energy back to you!




Training Wheels Off

I have an older sister, she is 2 years older than me so she was also 2 years ahead of me on a bike.  I was on a tricycle, she was getting off her training wheels, I was on a bike with training wheels and she was riding a shiny red big girl bike.  I longed to ride that shiny red bike, but my feet couldn’t touch the ground at all and I still had to have the training wheels to stay upright until my Psoas muscles got the message.

Well like most kids we all manage to work through the progression of tricycles, training wheels, big kid bikes, then onto mountain bikes and road bikes.  Remembering these humble beginnings can be very helpful in yoga practice.  We have to start on the tricycle, like downward dog and standing forward bend, then we hope to learn how to do a few actions at the same time and progress to the training wheels, like crow or full wheel but at what point do we get stuck with the training wheels?  At what point to you try a pose that is “too advanced” for you, a pose where you might fall and even hurt yourself?

Timing is everything.

If you take off your yoga training wheels too early you may indeed get injured, physically and psychologically!  It took me many attempts to get off the ground in wheel pose and even after I could awkwardly and painfully get off the ground I held my breath and tried to just stay up while enduring sharp pains in my back and shoulders.  Part of me believed that this pain was simply part of yoga since I felt it in almost every pose in the beginning.  Of course there is good pain and bad pain and in the beginning I’m sure it was bad pain like taking a jump with the shiny red big girl bike and crashing, we never had helmets back then either of course.

So eventually, I took those training wheels off, learned how to get my entire body integrated and viola, I can now lift off the floor in Urdhva Dhanurasana with ease, and I even know the Sanskrit, how to assist someone else in it, how to teach someone else how to teach it to someone else!  Progress on the path if you will!  Urrrrrtttt!!!  Hold it!!!  Rewind, the training wheels have been off for a few years now and and of course the next step is a drop-back, an unassisted standing pose to a backbend.  I was plain terrified when I was first introduced to a drop-back in 2007, I felt like a skinny kid getting on the Zipper ride at the fair, scared shitless and  like I wasn’t ready for this ride.  I will keep my training wheels Sir, thank you very much.


Of course, we learned them assisted and with help you can drop back and land, albeit awkwardly, it was safe and pure awesomeness.  Hell ya, I love the Zipper!!!  Then  like most yogis their comes a time in your home practice where you think, it’s time for me to do this, no more training wheels, I’m just going to bust it out!  Similarly, like when I was a kid wearing a helmet might have been a really intelligent decision before attempting a drop back on my own in my home practice.  In mid drop, fear took over, I realized I had no training wheels on, this was it, I wanted my Mommy, and…………… BOOOOM, THUD crashed down right on the top of my head, like I didn’t even have and arms.

Let’s just say,  I went back to the training wheels for a while before ever even thinking of trying that again.  Ego bruised, neck sore, fear of death rightfully placed in my mind/body.  Time goes on and the desire to feel the rush of the Zipper returned so this time I approach with more caution, lessons learned on the mat.  I place a pillow, okay a couch cushion, behind me to soften the blow if there was going to be one.  Wouldn’t you know it, I totally missed the cushion and crashed once again on my neck but this times my arms did a little bit to help me instead of completely abandoning me.  With, every attempt, fear comes, but now I breath, go over everything I need to do in order to be safe in a drop back and go for the ride.  I can now, most of the time, land like a feather on the earth, no boom, no loud thud, no training wheels.

I would have never ever been able to grasp some of the asanas in yoga if I didn’t go through the cycles of support but I also had to be willing to take the risk, to hit the jump on the shiny red big girl bike.  If you aren’t willing to take the training wheels off you will inevitably get stuck in your practice, be satisfied with what you can do today and extinguish the natural desire within you to expand.  It is your nature.  Stepping on your yoga mat is one hell of a wild ride, depending on what poses you choose to do of course.  If you stay with the ones that don’t challenge you or have a risk, you might eventually get bored and stop trying.  Do something in your yoga practice today that can scare you at least a little bit, one more breath, 1 inch deeper, kick up a bit harder, be okay with falling on your face.  Just see what happens.

When you get on the Zipper buckle up and enjoy the ride!



Everybody’s a Yoga Teacher



The Yoga craze in still in full swing. I just finished assisting a yoga teacher training with over 40 people and my own YTT is scheduled to start next Wednesday. These days when I meet new students they proudly inform me that they too are yoga teachers and in some classes I have more yoga teachers than yoga students.

Let me be clear here, if you call yourself a yoga teacher before calling yourself a yoga student it puts you in a precarious position because you might miss the chance to just be a student and have a great yoga experience and your “how do I teach this to my students” mentality might also kick in causing you to miss the student experience. Either way, you’ll inevitably learn more about yoga and yourself by being a yoga student and a yoga teacher, so it’s win-win.

Many people in the yoga world already know this but maybe you didn’t, you don’t need ANY, that’s right folks, NADA, NONE, no training to call yourself a yoga teacher in Canada, not sure about the US. So anyone can teach yoga if they want to and not have any formal training.  I’m predicting that might change in the future.     

From my own personal experience through yoga and meeting hundreds of other yogis here and around the world we mostly share one thing in common, we FREAKIN LOVE YOGA! It’s that love of yoga that calls the teacher in them forward. If you get excited and passionate about something in your life that has a really positive impact people, friends, family members start to notice and they start to ask you questions. They want you to show them how to do Bakasana and viola the calling of the teacher is born!

Higher education was never my strong suit, in fact I have 3 lousy credit left to earn my BA in Geography. When it comes to yoga, I want to learn everything I possibly can in this lifetime, the history, the philosophies, the postures, pranayamas, rituals, kryias, therapeutics, assists, and this list goes on! I loved Anusara yoga because it seemed to give me new insights into yoga on so many levels.

Some knew that it would someone anywhere from 5 to 7 years, maybe longer to get certified in Anusara. To me that gave the certification some credit. I was asked to sign off on someones certification papers that was taking an on-line yoga teacher training, ON-LINE!!!! How can you teach movement, assist students, practice teach with other new teachers, on-line? No judgement if you have done that but know that somewhere down the path a formal YTT in person might be necessary.  You can take a 1 month intensive and at the end of the month you’re a teacher, or some schools have weekend courses.

There is no shortage of YTT’s out there but they are not all created out of the love of yoga, often a ytt is how the studio makes it’s bread and butter. Being a studio owner for 7 years and only doing one YTT I agree it really makes a big difference to the bottom line. Some people argue that the market is saturated and soon everyone will be a yoga teacher but I don’t think that is 100% true and in the end doens’t matter either. Here’s why, we all experience yoga in our own unique way, the teachings are filtered through our life experiences and because of that each person or teacher will always have their own special way of offering the teachings back. Since we are more than a bag of muscles and bones, we exist on an energetic plane as well our energies don’t always mix well with everyone or every yoga teacher. At one point you would overlook that simply because there was no where else to go for yoga or teacher trainings but now this diversity gives your choice.

You are free to choose who you want to support, exchange your energy with, give your money to, study with and so on. Do your homework and you will see that when you are ready the teacher or the YTT appears!I will forever be a yoga student, in fact I consider myself a professional student of yoga and if I can live in that mind set then I have a chance a being a great teacher too. If I let my ego take the reins of my life I will miss opportunities to grow and evolve to come back to my essence.  It’s when I live in my heart and share what I know in a truthful and authentic way that I walk my own dharma.

With love,


[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’][/author_image] [author_info]Mindy Willis-Menard is an international yoga teacher who’s love of yoga, nature, adventure and life inspire her to teach. A true adventurer of the heart Mindy is also a hooper, rock climber, snowboarder, runner, foodie and cyclist. Mindy teaches classes, workshops and retreats world-wide. Every other moment she spends with her husband and dog, Mrs. Betty Rox.[/author_info] [/author]


Back off or I’ll loose my Yoga Cool

If you do yoga I’m sure someone has told you “that’s not very yogic of you” or something like that.  The truth is that being a yogi doesn’t mean your a doormat or a pushover, instead it means sometimes you need to be fierce like a mother lion protecting her cub. 

Some days it’s difficult to find anytime to hit my mat but I notice when that happens because I don’t feel as connected to my body or my heart and the way I response to all the experiences that come up during the day, whether they are good or bad, seem to be greatly influenced by my yoga/meditation practice or lack there of.

I’ve been assaulted both physically and mentally in my life and my response has changed because of yoga.  Yoga has allowed me to become stronger, like a diamond, in my very core and at the same time soften my outer body so when these assaults happen they don’t effect the core of who I am.

I’ve got a sweet story written all over my right palm, many years ago, in a rage I smashed two glasses on a table and in that process I mangled my hand.  I had to get stitches and lost a huge chuck of flesh.  That scar is always a great reminder of how much I have changed.  At the time I didn’t have a yoga cool to loose but now I wouldn’t response that way to anything.

Yesterday was a different story.  I love to walk to my class, we live really close to where I teach but the path is sometimes sprinkled with weirdos.  I’m pretty good at ignoring them but yesterday was a bit more challenging.

Two drunken Pittas (fiery folks) came up to me when I waiting at the lights and the one was trying really hard to get my attention.  A second before he was going to grab me I stepped out in front of an oncoming car and just walked  calmly across the street.  My heart was racing but I’m so glad I didn’t have to do anything else because it might have got ugly.  If he did grab me this ending would be different.

Judo Chop!

I won’t stop walking or biking to work but I will keep practicing so that I don’t loose my yoga cool.  My husband gave me some lessons in self defense on our walk home that I won’t forget!  I’m a conscious being but I’m armed with knowledge and a deeper love for our planet and the other beings we share it with.

Keep your yoga cool by practicing,



friends forever

Not Everyone Will Like You!

My life has changed in so many ways in the last 10 years I would hardly recognize myself back then. The major changes came because I put work and love into healing my life and my body. I’ve had addictions to many things, including a gambling addiction, friends literally prying me away from machines while I screamed and cried, an eating disorder and few other ones. I was a raver and I loved to go to parties and dance and meet people. I don’t think I’m friends with anyone from that time in my life. Okay maybe one but she’s awesome (Shan).

When you change and your friends don’t there’s going to be friction. This friction can strain the relationship and at some point you have to decide if it’s really worth holding onto anymore. People will hurt you and you will hurt people, it’s part of life. Accepting that not everyone is going to like you or want to be your friend is healthy and an important part of letting go and moving onward and upward in your life. Friendships kept just because you have known each other since childhood or highschool or 10 years can’t survive simply on the idea of hours logged. All relationships take work, but how much?

Some friends are in your life for a day, a week, a month, a year, 5, 10, 50 years or more, either way releasing the ones that are harmful to your health are necessary for your spiritual growth. Cutting ties can be more painful for you than for them but if you listen to your heart and make decisions from there you can’t be wrong. Being right isn’t the point, neither is being better than someone else, that makes you a jerk, but doing what you need to do takes courage and strength.

It’s hard to really truly acknowledge your part in the dissolution of friendships but if you grow and heal and the other person doesn’t how much effort and time can you spare to helping them? Every one of us is responsible for our own shit and for most of us that’s more than enough to deal with. When your heart is broken over and over from people in your past or in present you have to learn to let them go, wish them well and most importantly move on.

In deep gratitude for the friends I keep close to my heart, that love me and care about me.

you show off

You Show Off!


Has anybody ever been called this before?

I have a few times in my life and each time I get confused about it.  What does showing off look like?  Is it someone doing what they do well in front of you and you can’t do it?  I’m sure that it comes from a place of lack of self-love and self-worth but I want to shine some light on this.

Learning how to slack line, means falling off it at least 100 times

Are the Olympic athletes out there “showing off” to the world?

Yes, I guess they are.  They are “showing off” what dedication, a high level of practice and skill looks like.  Any time you see someone with skillz or talents let me tell you they often are not naturals.  It takes years of works, thousands of hours to master anything.  I find most people give up after 5 minutes and start talking about how they can’t do it, it’s too hard.  Geesh, give yourself some credit!  Learning new things, take time, your body needs to create muscle memory, strength and endurance.

I attended a yoga class a few years ago and choose to do full Natarjasana Pose instead of the one handed version.  Why did I choose to do that?  Well, it wasn’t to show off!  I actually find the full pose easier to hold now, more tension, and well, it just just feels incredible so why not, I was a student in the class and it was my practice.  Should I hold back in case someone sees me as a “show-off.”  That is just plain unhealthy on all levels.Image

What was sad about that was the teacher, called me a show-off in the class, before she asked me to demo the full pose to the rest of the group.  Hmmmm, interesting!

In my life I have a few things, okay many things, that I LOVE to do and over the course of 20 years, I have some skill.  My Dharma is to be a teacher, to show others how to do it.  I started with snowboarding, rock climbing, hacky sack, pool, foosball,and then yoga, hooping, slacklining, I spend time doing things that make me happy and once you log some hours doing it, it shows.

I spent more time on yoga than anything else and I’ve been practicing yoga without taking any breaks for over 10 years now!  I have yoga skills, but honestly it’s not about showing them off to the world but rather inspiring something inside of others.  Yoga was not natural for me, AT ALL!  I liked fast, moving, adrenaline pumping activities but yoga touched my heart in a very deep way and I was hooked.

Twinkie 5.12d, Kentucky

So next time you think about calling someone a “show off” hold back and instead become curious about their path in life and how they got there.  Most often it was all because of countless hours of hard work and dedication.  Our talents are to be shared with the world, if you keep them secret then our communal level of skill and ability likely won’t every progress.


Move and Be Moved

This past weekend I moved and I was moved.  My husband, a friend of ours and myself were a team for the MS ride that starts in Grand Bend and goes to London, Ontario.  It’s 88 km’s the first day and 75 the second.  I was able to participate last year and I remember how moved I was to see all these people coming together for a mutual cause, MS.  There are even riders wearing red jersey’s that say “I ride because I have MS.” This year there were a few people over 70 years old riding and one man was 84!  Each time I saw these people over the weekend I was deeply moved.

At the starting line for the MS Bike Tour

What does it mean to be moved?

For me being moved means that something, an event, a person, a statement, brought me deep into my heart.  To be moved in this life is precious and for some of us a rare occurence.  I am moved all the time by the most simple things, someone performing a random act of kindness, getting a sweet email from a long-lost friend, having my dog snuggle up next to me.  Honestly, I’m a bit of a suck but I feel like that enables me to be moved in my life more often.

What does being moved feel like?

We all know what this feels like, but it’s a unique experience.  For me the start of being moved is when I feel energy funneling into my heart, like someone opened a dam and all the water starts to flow.  I also get goosebumps all over my whole body, followed by a bit of discomfort. Then of course my eyes begin to water, I try to hold back until the tears burst out when I can’t contain them any more.  The whole experience is rather uncomfortable really, but there is a definite shift in the aftermath.  It’s like you know what touches your heart the most.  For my family MS touches us instantly since we have watched our Mom struggle with it for over 10 years now.  Sometimes just the word MS, moves me to tears.

Our Team

Last year when I did the ride, something incredible and scary happened to me.  I found myself alone, in the middle of nowhere, heart rate pumping, legs burning, thinking about MS and how it’s affected so many people and then out of no where I burst into the most insane cry session, moved while I was moving, touched so deeply in a place that is so uncomfortable, I would rather not go there, but yet there I was, in my heart fully moved by my experience.

The goal that what we were all collectively participating in would help find a cure for MS helped me to find the inner and outer strength to finish the ride.  It’s not easy to ride that far but having a deep reason to do it is the fuel powering each pedal stroke.  At one point I was so fired up over MS I surged ahead passing about 10 riders with my husband following behind me.  What a great experience to have made even more powerful because it was done in community.

This weekend 1.237 Million dollars was raised to fund research and help people who have MS to have a better life.  That moves me.


Marty and I at the finish line