From Her Mat to Her Hometown: How Shyla Gaebel Found a Career and Her Heritage Through Yoga
“In 2019, I committed to a 200 hour yoga teacher training. I had no idea what I was getting myself into, but that's where the journey all started,” Shyla Gaebel shares. Gaebel is from Sioux Valley Dakota Nation and grew up in Regina, Saskatchewan. She’s in the process of reclaiming her roots and my heritage, all while teaching trauma informed yoga.
Gaebel discovered yoga a decade ago and the peace she found in the final resting pose was something she eagerly sought out in more and more classes. In yoga, she found a new way to deal with the feelings she used to express in unhealthy relationships, partying, drinking and using substances. She kept coming back to the Regina studio where she felt at home, and a teacher she had inspired her to pursue teaching herself.
After completing her 200 hour teacher training, she started looking for a 300 hour program and found one that was just what she was looking for. Learning from people of colour, with content that focused on social justice, she was really happy. She ended up teaching parts of the training after she graduated and traveled to Peru to take the training in person. First Nations Wisdom and Cultural Appropriation is what she teaches about in the program, educating students about the history of Indigenous people, about the use of sage and other medicines and the traditional roles of medicine people.
Her advice for people thinking about taking a yoga course and teaching yoga Is “do it for sure! It will blow your mind.” 200 hour programs, depending on the training organization, can take a month full time or so full time, or can be taken evenings and weekends part-time. “The full time intensive courses can be really, really intensive, mentally, emotionally, physically, spiritually. They can bring up a lot. But they're life changing. If Teacher Training is something that you're absolutely interested in, and I would say 100%. Take the leap,” she continues.
The toughest part about leaving Canada and heading to Peru for education and training for Gaebel was leaving the comforts of home and heading out into the unknown into a new culture. “You can do all the research in the world. But really, once you're there and immersed in the culture, it can be very overwhelming,” she confides. Leaving friends and family behind can be hard and taking training close to home is an option she recommends, too.
To manage her mental health and well-being, Gaebel likes to journal, but hasn’t always kept it up as much as she would like. “When I first started out I thought journaling needed to look a certain way, needed to be thoughtfully written out. But it can be whatever you want it to be. It can be jot notes, it can be scribbles, it can be little pictures, if that's what makes you feel better, and comforts you. It can be whatever you want it to be. It's just spending some time putting thoughts on paper, in whatever capacity that means for you,” she elaborates. Otherwise, she enjoys taking baths, walking, spending some time out in nature, and connecting to the land. Selfcare is really important to Gaebel as a yoga teacher, so she’s not trying to pour from an empty cup.
When she needs inspiration, Gaebel looks to her grandmother, who she never had the opportunity to meet, but feels connected with her story. Gaebel grew up in a single parent household, raised by her mother who is non-Indigenous. Her father left when she was small and when she got sober after partying and drinking, she became curious about him and decided to track him down. From there, she became curious about the rest of her family, making a vision board of how she wanted to connect with them. A lady she met in yoga teacher training was from Sioux Valley like she was and invited her to come visit. While staying with her new friend, she met all sorts of family she didn’t know she had, including her grandmother’s brothers. She went to her grandmother’s gravesite and had an emotional moment there.
"She inspires me so much. She was such a strong woman. She had some addiction and substance abuse issues. In every photo that I see of her, she has short hair. She went to residential school. I wear my hair long for her and I hope to continue this path of reclaiming who I am and my culture because of her," Gaebel reflects.
Back in 2019, Shyla Gaebel committed to a 200 hour yoga teacher training, and she had no idea what she was getting herself into. That's where her journey started, the process of reclaiming her roots and her heritage while teaching trauma-informed yoga. She went from standing on her yoga mat to standing in her home community, thanks to her yoga connections and while she first found comfort lying in corpse pose at the end of class, her yoga practice helped her come alive to who she has always been.
Thanks to Alison Tedford Seaweed for authoring this article.
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