Tofino-based Dawson Jury has been practicing yoga since her teens, but its meaning has evolved for her over the years. She shares her thoughts on becoming a qualified yoga teacher, life in Tofino and what she hopes to offer to her students. You can find Dawson at The Studio, Ucluelet.
WC: Was yoga part of your life growing up?
Dawson: Yoga and its philosophies were abundantly present in my upbringing, but in the strangest of ways that were always beautifully subtle. It wasn’t until much later in my adolescence I would credit my mother’s practices as yoga. Mom wore a rubber band tight around her middle finger to act as a reminder to stay present. She encouraged journalling and breath technique– pranayama, to ease crowded minds in all three of her daughters. She always told us we were creatures of love and light. These ideas were planted in my subconscious at an early age, but I didn’t recognise them until later as what I understand now to be central yogic values. The ideas were always in me, but they weren’t accessible until I decided they could be.
WC: Can you recall your first experience in a yoga class?
Dawson: I can recall my first studio yoga class so clearly. I was probably 12. My mom brought me to a class in the Valleyview, Duncan area (our local complex with spin classes, pilates and yoga). I remember being super sassy to her earlier that morning, hormones are so complex. Cue a wildly unimpressed mother here. I couldn’t wait to get to school and rid of it all, but next thing I knew, we arrive at the studio. We moved through a yoga practice together– in the skinny jeans I’d put on that morning, which was punishment enough.
I didn’t mind it, other than the fact I knew she was just trying to teach me a lesson about not stealing other people's time– Asteya. I wasn’t old enough to appreciate the generosity of the lesson. But that day did plant a seed in me that I would profusely over and under water throughout my later life. That seed grew only when I proved to be a stable container: a patient, consistent home.
WC: What did yoga provide for you when you first started to practice?
Dawson: Shortly after my 18th birthday I moved out of my family home to Vancouver. As humans we all experience this incredible illusion of being in control of our own lives for the first time as teenagers. I ran around the city for a while making some questionable decisions around friendships, partners and substances (at the time all justifiable, of course).
That mentality considered, my yoga practice was strictly physical at that point. It wasn’t until my early twenties a switch flipped, after I’d hit rock bottom one too many times. I knew something drastic was about to happen.
Was this a spiritual awakening? A nervous breakdown? It was feelings and insights I’d never experienced before. I spoke to my mom and sisters on the phone every day for a year, asking questions and seeking comfort and guidance.
I remember the first couple of weeks of a conscious yoga practice, the process of detoxifying a mind and a body. It wasn’t smooth. For me, it needed to be a complete rebuild from the ground up. I’d spent years unconsciously identifying with a character of myself I now needed to change. The emotion that comes from that awareness for the first time is terrifying. Strange and sudden, but my practice– at a glacial pace– started to exude connection.
WC: How did you come to teach yoga?
Dawson: I’m not sure I ever really decided to teach yoga, not consciously anyways. Much like the awakening I described in my early twenties, being driven by an awareness that is so powerful, it felt like a natural progression.
What happened was actually kind of funny. I was having a meal with my now partner Mackenzie, and we were initially sharing a conversation along the lines of ‘What’s your favourite Will Ferrell quote?’ Shortly after we shared our goals and aspirations, and I just said it. ‘I’m going to teach yoga. That’s what I’m going to do for the rest of my life’. After that, of course I was– what a powerful manifestation. It felt fuzzy in my heart space.
There was a point in my life though when I thought a practice (physical or otherwise) had to be maintained by whatever means necessary; that everyday had to be the same amount of time on a mat and in mediation. If I had a judgement in my head, game over, back to square one. Which is hilarious. And false. To put it purely, the practice of yoga both as a student and teacher is an act of surrender to what is and what will always be: absolute love and light. This will look and feel different every day.
The creative freedom we as yogis have to define our own practices, to pick and choose which elements of yoga we resonate with, is gorgeous and unmatchable. I knew I was ready to teach when I knew I was ready to learn, forever.
WC: What was your yoga teacher training experience like?
Dawson: I trained for 200 hours with a group of ten women from BC and the surrounding area. We met for the first time at the The Studio in Ucluelet, and from sunrise to sunset for 15 days straight we shared stories, movement, mantra, meditation and methodology. The women who led us, Jada Rhiannon and Jamie Kidd, are two badass healers who have spent years developing and nurturing their own practices.
Having walked myself through the thick of my own self healing process about one year prior, it was insanely powerful contributing to an unbreakable trust within a group of beings. I fell quite ill during the middle of training with a kidney infection, and after being hospitalized for a short time, I returned to radiance in these women’s offerings of healing and wellness.
WC: What’s the process like preparing your classes– what do you hope your students take away from each class?
Dawson: Class creation is the most therapeutic thing. The phrase ‘write things with your movements that you couldn’t for the life of you write with pen’ has come into my life recently– I try to embody that phrase in the classes I share.
My process often begins with the comfiest pair of pyjamas and a cup of coffee next to my mat. I start by acknowledging an intention and playing with a playlist. This is something very dear to me, it’s one of the ways I bring my spunk and energy to my classes. It has to feel awesome in our ears and evoke our spirits and bodies. I begin to move my body with this intention, and when something feels good, I write it down. When a movement triggers a relative emotion, I write it down too.
I’m currently wrapping up a seven week Chakra Series at the Studio Ucluelet, which has been so much fun. Teaching, for me, is a very privileged practice that allows me to remove my ego, share my humanity, and offer a message of kindness and love to every spirit that chooses to share their yoga practice with me.
I truly, madly, deeply wish for students of yoga to take what they need from their practice. I wish for students to say YES to the badass-ery that is the proven ability to recreate a neural pathway where something unsettling once resided, through movement and meditation. That’s magic.
WC: You’ve lived in Tofino for four years, how did you end up here and what is it about it you love?
Holy smokes, is Tofino even real? This eclectic little spot that we’ve made a home, it can feel like a dream. I moved my life here on a total whim like most of us, with a short term lease and no plan whatsoever. I was born and raised on Vancouver Island, three hours away from where I now reside in Tofino, so I feel very lucky to have the opportunity to be an active sister, daughter, and auntie to my family further south.
I had experienced Tofino a lot growing up, but what a different place it is to visit than to live in, in the most positive way. I drove up on a day off to talk to some long term dwellers and get the low down on housing and a feel for the community. I got nothing, and for good reason. 1) It was the dead of winter, the surf was on. 2) Nobody that could advise me was about to be found roaming hotel hallways on a Tuesday afternoon. 3) Finding a place to live long term is ninety nine percent who you know, and who knows you.
I didn’t have that back then. I knew Tofino was a small, tourism-driven town with a transient nature, but I also knew that that wasn’t going to be part of my story. Like much of the change in my life, I just knew it to be my next move.
Fast forward several years and I have moved three times between Tofino and Ucluelet, and have now found a humble jungle of an A-frame home to nest with my partner Mac. Only minutes from town are our jobs and some of the best surf in the country. I’m over the moon to have been able to live in the place that I love with support from some of the best friends that I’ve ever had.
This community is like nothing I've ever seen before; it gives, challenges and supports. It’s survival of the kindest, and I love that. We are a whole bunch of kids roaming a giant nature playground. We do the things that we love, with the people that we love, every single day. We live inspired, we create and we laugh harder than we should for our health.
WC: What are the next steps for you in your yoga journey?
Dawson: As my personal practice continues to evolve, I hope to deep dive the Ashtanga Series, a disciplined physical practice with the origin of purification, and what are now recognized as some of the most challenging sequences that exist. I am grateful to have the opportunity to continue sharing knowledge through my local studio offerings, and have the flexibility to offer workshops and retreats abroad. Moving forward into forever, I intend to love unapologetically every single day. Whatever my next steps are, may I welcome them home and may they be filled with positivity, warm temperatures, earth toned colours and lots of pettable dogs.
Find Dawson: instagram.com/dawspatrol