Coffeetalk: Episode 5 With Dawn Burvill & Justina Waschuk

This week’s Coffeetalk episode features Dawn Burvill and Justina Waschuk, co-owners of YogaNation Red Deer, a place that has basically become a second home for me while living in central Alberta. Dawn and Justina do a great job of making everyone who walks through their door feel very welcome and at peace with who they are and where they’re at in life. They’ve also taught me that firsthand that yoga can be a far more intense, yet rejuvenating, fitness activity than any sort of weights or endurance training I’ve done in the past. If you don’t believe me, I double-dog dare you to try one of Dawn’s power flow classes. When I come out of these classes, I may as well have cannon-balled fully clothed into Sylvan. Oh and did I mention she plays Guns n’ Roses in her classes!?

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Mike: How did YogaNation come about? I think many would be surprised at the number of yoga studios in a city like Red Deer (I’ve got it pegged at 7 or 8)…

Justina: Well to be honest, YogaNation happened very randomly and unexpectedly! It was around the end of Spring 2014 one lovely afternoon I received a text from Dawn asking me if I could meet up with her in the next few days. I said sure, why? and all I got was ” you + me = our own studio”. At the time I was registered to go back to school for Fall 2014 to go into medicine. It took less than 24 hours to respond with a “yes”, I mean what’s the worst that would happen right? I’m young and school can always be a possibility later. We never looked back since. After that strong yes, we got down to business. We didn’t want to have the studio just anywhere. If the location wasn’t there for us then we were not going to go through with the studio. Sure enough after patiently waiting, we got into Clearview Market Square and we couldn’t be happier!

P.S. Mike, I think you got it pretty well pegged with how many studios there are. I can’t even keep track of how many there are now!

Dawn: YogaNation came about with a text message from me to Justina that said me+you= yoga studio (haha). We both had this vision to create a studio that was a little more edgy and fun but was built on a foundation of community and a place that people always feel supported and welcome. Our studio is located in a newer area in Red Deer with some pretty great businesses surrounding us!

Mike: You are both Baptiste yoga trained… What exactly does that mean?

Justine & Dawn: Whenever we say “Baptiste Trained” we mean that we are specifically trained in the style of Baptiste Power Yoga. Baptiste Yoga was founded in the 1940′s by Walt Baptiste and through his son Baron, it has evolved into a practice that holds true to the spirit of its creation while remaining accessible to anyone today. The physical aspects of Baptiste Yoga style are inspired by the Hatha Yoga teachings of Krishnamacharya and his students Iyengar and Desikachar, whom Baron Baptiste studied with personally from a young age.

The Baptiste Yoga practice and programs are designed to empower you with the focus, training and insight you need to achieve consistent results in the most important areas of your life. A potent physical yoga practice, meditation practice and active self inquiry are used as tools of transformation – encouraging participants to reclaim their full potential, discover creativity, awaken passion, and create authenticity, confidence and new possibilities.

Baron Baptiste is like the Wayne Gretzky of modern yoga. His style of training is not a big here as it is in the U.S. His yoga is a more powerful vinyasa mixed with mindfulness and being of your own power on and off your mat. It is all about being up to something bigger in your life and living to that full potential. Giving it up to get empty and filling it back up with things that serve your life purpose.

Mike: What is the biggest benefit you both see in your lives from practicing yoga and leading others in their practice?

Justina: The biggest benefit for me that I have become more aware of my actions and how I live my life. I have built a better and strong relationship with myself, which in turn I can create better relationships with those around me. Throughout my life I would strive the be the best in all that I do, I was quite the perfectionist and would talk myself down if I ever “failed”  or felt that I was “not good enough” for whatever I was doing at the time. Yoga has taught me to be more self-loving, caring and being okay with everything not having to be done “perfectly”. It has brought me to accept things for what they are and are not. Its great! I have not only a better relationship with myself, but everyone around me. I am able to show up to life with more love, care, presence and kindness, which allows me to show up and express that to my students.

Dawn: The biggest benefit for me was definitely my perspective on life and not sweating the small stuff. I used to stay up until 1 am and never went to bed unless every couch cushion  was straight and every crumb was cleaned up in my house and now I’m like f*** it, I would rather spend time with my family and more important things in my life. With Baptise, I learned to give up that I need to be perfect and my new way of being is of ease and peace. Ease and peace is a lot easier to maintain! Leading others in practice is my way of sharing the tools I have learned in my training and sharing my passion for life. I love every single person who comes to the studio and welcome everyone by name and most times with a hug. And most times I remember their names. That sounded confusing. But always a hug.

Mike: Many people struggle finding purpose or meaning in their job or career. As yoga instructors, you have the ability to truly enact and witness change in people from changes in body composition, to increasing self-confidence, to reducing stress, to students finding inner peace with themselves. Do you ever sit back and reflect on this?

Justina: All the time… As a yoga instructor, we can be quite critical of ourselves. At the end of each class we have several thoughts that go through our heads. “oh that class sucked!” “that class wasn’t hard enough” “I couldn’t get my words at all during class” “I kept messing up” “did they even like the class?” etc etc. BUT on the other side we can leave class thinking “That class was freaking awesome”  “I loved my sequencing that class” “I felt like I really showed up for my students today”  “I feel energized” “I was able to be there for each student” “I am so blessed to be able to do what I do.” etc etc. In the end, we never do as bad as we think and I believe that every class we affect one or several students in some way. Whether it be physical, mental or emotional, every student has their own experience on their mats and its so uplifting to be able to help and hold space for people to feel good, confident, to connect with themselves and to just be with themselves -> mind, body and breath.

Dawn: It truly is an amazing thing to see someone walk into the studio who comes here for a physical workout and a few months later the shift occurs and it starts to manifest into this thing that starts to change every aspect of their life. But there has to be a willingness to dive into every facet of their yoga experience – some people get it and start to live from their truth and some people are like ” Can you kick my ass and can we do a lot of abs today?”. I don’t sit back and reflect on my participation in a way that I am the one responsible for transformations and all praise be to me. My teaching is part of the foundation for the student to built upon.  But I reflect on how we started out in the unknown and now we are building this community and they are sharing their practice with us and trusting us with their yoga. This creation gets bigger every time I turn around!

Mike: A lot of males struggle to get over “the stigma of yoga” in their heads, whatever that may be… Why is that? What can the yoga community do to welcome men into their studios?

Justina: Well, I am not a male, so I am not sure why male struggle with the “stigma of yoga”! I think a lot of it has to do with our “egos”.  Again-  our mind starts to take over and tries to talk us OUT of things. With Yoga, the thought of the practice can be quite intimidating: “I can’t do yoga, I’m not flexible enough.”, “I’m not strong enough.”, “I don’t have time” “Yoga isn’t hard enough”, “Isn’t yoga just sitting and chanting?” “What if i can’t do it? or I do it wrong”. There are so many misconceptions of yoga. It has to look a certain way, be a certain way. Yoga is your OWN experience. All you need to do is show up on your mat and decide how you are going to approach your yoga practice. You don’t have to be flexible, strong or have to know every single posture in yoga. You COME to yoga to GET flexible, you COME to yoga to develop strength. You show up for YOU and no one else. Who cares what you look like? We are all in this TOGETHER and for different reasons,  so men – leave your ego at the door and just show up as you are. Enjoy what your body has to offer you!

Dawn: Ha ha yes we get that a lot! When we were trying to find a name for the studio, my husband said “do not name it anything girly that I would not want to go to”. The perception is that we sit in the studio, braid each others hair and hold hands and chant. Yoga is a tough physical practice and it puts you in touch with your body and breath and takes you out of your head. The gateway to yoga is the physical. There is no one to compete with and no one to keep up with. For male energy, which is yang, that is a hard concept to grasp. We have a lot of men in our studio which is more than I have ever seen, and we love it! We have built a nice bathroom with showers for our guys – some studios the mens room is the janitor closet. Times are changing with mens attitudes towards yoga and studios are adapting to that as more and more men find their way to their mats. And its also something perfect to do with the one you love!

Mike: One example of bucking the trend of male athletes practicing yoga are the classes you have led the WHL’s Red Deer Rebels in… What has their yoga experience been like? And in general for high performance male athletes who tend to not stray too far from the weight room…

Justina: It amazing to see how many sports are turning to yoga as a form of their training. Our Athletic classes have been quite interesting. Not only have we been working with the Red Deer Rebels, but many sport teams throughout the year. Another group we have had once a week for the last year is Notre Dame’s Hockey Academy. Most of the athlete at first were quite hesitant, BUT there are a few that were very interested in the yoga practice. They sounded like a bunch of very very old grandpas, moaning and groaning it was quite funny. I noticed though the more they came, the more they started to understand yoga and the benefits behind it. They became more focused, strong and flexible and started sound less like a group of old men. Ha! Over all though sports and yoga go hand in hand. Athletes need to understand the balance between building muscles strength at the gym or other trainings while keeping a healthy range of motion/flexibility of the muscles and joints. We like to say ” if it doesn’t move, it will break!”. Another benefit is stamina- learning your breath and keeping it alive with any activity they do. They become more aware of their body & breath, so they can continue to practice for years and years.

Dawn: More and more sports organizations are turning to yoga as a compliment to their existing training schedule. Yoga is fundamental for injury prevention as well as learning the tools of breath and focus in competition. I also feel that it also generates the vibe of togetherness in a group of people which in turn makes them exist together more cohesively. We enjoyed working with the Rebels – a really great group of young men. They enjoyed their yoga experience with us and wanted more and more but their playing schedule made it hard. We expect to see a lot of them in the summer! We have also worked with some local school hockey academies, different hockey camps and Hockey Alberta camps. The  benefits of yoga are endless and its amazing to see the progress with the players on and off the ice!

Mike: If you could go on a yoga retreat anywhere in the world, where would you go? Are there any notable yoga retreats in Canada that you can recommend?

Justina: There are too many places in this world I would love to go on a retreat. I love to to travel so anywhere would be great for me! Some places that I have thought about doing a teacher training or retreat would be: Bali, Costa Rica, Somewhere in South America or Greece. I love to be by the ocean.

Dawn: If I could go to any yoga retreat in the world, I would have to say Hawaii and it would have to be with Baron Baptiste. The weather is perfect there. I have been to teacher training in Arizona and Texas in the summer – puts a whole new spin on hot yoga!  I haven’t been to any retreats here in Canada because if I get the opportunity to go away,  it is always to train and bring new things back to the studio. Justina and I make our own “yoga retreats” where we go to Edmonton or Calgary for the weekend , hit up a lot of classes and different studios, and go for sushi and beer. Best retreats ever with one of my favorite people:) You should join us one time Mike. You never know where we will end up..

Mike: What is your favorite yoga quote or verbiage? I know you both have some good ones in your repertoire…

Justina: Hmm I have a few that I use throughout my classes. I like to use at the beginning of class  “there is no where you need to be, nothing you need to do except be here” to help the student bring themselves into their practice, the present moment, and not worry about things outside the studio. Another thing I like to say near the end is “Accept things for what they are and for what they aren’t” to encourage students to leave their practice for what it was in the past, move forward with the day and be a little bit more free from mental chatter. Lastly I always remind the students to “thank your body for what it does for you every single day, because we don’t thank ourselves enough.”

Dawn: My favourite quote that I use in every class is that ” this is yoga practice, not yoga perfect”. I love that saying because these yogis- including myself sometimes-  hit their mats and then they practice from their heads. From that place of the concern for looking good. From fear and doubt. They have this notion to master headstand or crow and then its like – now what? It’s always the need to get somewhere faster and right away. Just like life. The magic happens in the transitions and the build up in between.  My other favorite quote is “come as you are and not as you think you should be.” Those two go hand in hand like little bookends.

Mike: What are each of your favorite poses?

Justina: This is a hard one for me. I LOVE to do arm balances, Inversions, backbends and hip openers. They make me feel strong, empowered, and energized BUT if there is ONE pose that I must have for my practice is Utthita Trikonasa (Triangle Pose)! It opens my hips and pelvis in a magical way that my body just yes “Oh Ya!”. Its so freeing for my body. I can explore my Hips, Legs, Back Everything!!

Dawn: Mine would have to be full wheel. The exhilaration of it and the gritty determination you have to do to get yourself there. We often talk ourselves out of it, myself included, but I always talk myself back in. I feel in charge of my own power when I get up over and over again. Savasana is a very close second. You cannot beat those little cold towels of heaven.

Mike: You’re both classic rock junkies! What is the most memorable concert you have both been to? And #1 band you haven’t seen yet but plan on being front row for?

Justina: Mike! These questions are so hard!! I have been to SO many concerts I can’t keep track. There are three that stand out in my mind. One is the Foo Fighters. Dave Grohl knows how to take control of the crowd and just ROCK it out (even with a broken leg on their last tour).  Another one is Aerosmith. Steven Tyler pointed me out in the crowd, took the fedora hat I was wearing wore it for the entire song and actually gave it back to me! I can’t recall going to a bad concert. Last one was  AC/DC… I mean.. they are legendary- I just wish we weren’t poured on for BOTH shows they played at in Edmonton.

The #1 band that I haven’t seen yet that I would LOVE to see would be Led Zeppelin, but they will probably never come around. Otherwise I think Rolling Stones would be AWESOME… I’ll be seeing them in October!

Dawn: I loved that you asked that question! Going back to our name  – if you listen to XM radio and go to channel 39 you get Hair Nation. And “ah ha” – YogaNation was born! We both love to rock out and that shows in some of the music we play in our classes and also our attitudes about life which I think sets our studio apart from others. Most memorable concert I have ever seen would have to be Motley Crue when they were here in Calgary and we hung out with Tommy Lee in his dressing room! He is a really good friend of my brother in laws. And my number one band is, absolutely without a doubt, Guns n Roses and I plan on being front row in August in Houston. Justina gets a front row seat every time she has to ride with me somewhere. She is a lucky yogi!

Mike: Last but not least Dawn, you emphasize for your students to “land on their mat” and “set an intention” for their practice, whether it be to really push one’s self to new heights and try a new pose or on the flip side, accept that you’ve had a tough week and simply try to garner strength and energy from others. Building on this Justina, you often say to your students “your practice is what it is and isn’t what it isn’t” which speaks to one’s self awareness and acceptance. Not every yoga teacher starts their yoga classes off this way. With this in mind, why do you both feel it so important for one to “land on their mat” and “set an intention” rather than just go into every class with the same mindset? Personally, I think this approach/perspective applies to so many things in life…

Justina & Dawn: We like to remind our students to “land on their mat and set an intention” to bring their focus into their mind and body to help them fully arrive into the studio room. I think in any situation it takes us a moment to actually be present in what we are doing. With saying this, we are encouraging the students to not only physically arrive on their mat, but to mentally arrive too. We live in a busy world/lifestyles that our mind needs a few moments to catch up with our bodies. Another reason to set an intention is to help us DURING the class to stay in the present moment. An intention can pertain to anything- physical, mental, emotional or even dedicating your energy of the class to someone in your life that needs a little extra boost too. “An Intention helps us pay attention” to what we are doing in class, in the words of my Yin Yoga Teacher, Bernie Clark.

Well there you have it folks, that’s another successful edition of Coffeetalk in the books! A big thanks to Dawn and Justina for their great insight into the yogi world and how we can all get involved. If you’d like to check out their studio in Red Deer, it is in the new Clearview Market Square (nicest commercial development in the city in my opinion) or check out their website here:



One thought on “Coffeetalk: Episode 5 With Dawn Burvill & Justina Waschuk

  1. Pingback: Mike’s Mailbag: Week 19, 2016 | mwilkes

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