Meet Jessica Cowan-Dewar

My yoga journey began in 1997 when I participated in my first yoga class at the Centre Sivananda de Vedanta de Montréal. In no time, yoga became my Tuesday night tradition. I couldn’t believe how relaxed I felt after each class as I floated home down Blvd. St. Laurent. In retrospect, yoga provided me with time and space for quiet reflection during my transition from living and working in rural Canada to living and studying in a busy metropolis.

Over the next 10 years, my yoga practice evolved, serving as a steady force of peace and balance as I uprooted myself from Montreal, QC to Kingston, ON to London, UK and finally to Toronto, ON, where I have been living since 2006. As the years have passed, yoga has increasingly become a way of life. My practice has been central to how I manage life’s challenges (family illnesses, graduate school, personal illness) and savour its blessings (family, friends, community, nature). Living with gratitude and being present in each moment may seem like pop culture clichés, but I have learned that they are very powerful and profound ways of being in the world.

I began my first 300-hour yoga teacher training in 2012. My intention was to deepen my personal practice, but I ended up falling head-over-heels in love with teaching. This first immersive experience served as the jumping-off point for further training, and more importantly, my life’s work.

My passion for teaching yoga is complemented by my special interest in working with people with anxiety, stress, trauma, and PTSD. My interest in trauma stems from a very personal experience: my involvement in a serious motor vehicle accident in 1994. For many years, this event represented a significant turning point in my life; I conceived of life as “before the accident” and “after the accident”. In the years following the ac- cident, my path has involved various careers – starting with my training and certification as an Emergency Medical Technician to my academic and research career (first as a Master’s student and later as a doctoral student investigating the intersection between HIV/AIDS and gender-based violence), and now teaching yoga for anxiety. The common thread has been my awareness of and sensitivity to people’s experiences of stress and trauma (and the subsequent impact on the lives of individuals, families and communities). I am committed to contributing to mental health and wellness through the teaching and sharing of yoga and other mind-body techniques. I remain grateful to the guidance of my teachers – past and current, from within and beyond the yoga community.

I find that my yoga journey feels especially rich and life-affirming when I share it with others. I’d like to invite you to join me in any way that feels right to you. Perhaps you’ll be motivated to sign up for a series or attend a class. Hopefully you’ll be inspired to strike up a conversation with a neighbor or a colleague about how to better support those facing mental health challenges. Whatever your level of involvement, thank you for your support!