Articles & ReviewsJuly 25, 2005
Written by Melanie Verhaeghe
Imagine canoeing on a lake so still, the only sounds are your paddles lightly dipping and dripping in unison. The air filled with the scent of deep pine forests. The sky lit up with stars and a hazy full moon - its rays glistening on the water acting as your guide.
Now imagine feeling the serenity and fluidity of that moment in your mind and body lasting an entire weekend.
That's what Dave Pancoe of Winnipeg’s Northern Soul Wilderness Adventures and certified Hatha yoga instructor Alerry Lavitt hope people will take away from a weekend of a unique blend of canoeing and yoga in the Whiteshell Provincial Park.
“I hope people will go back to their lives in the city totally re-energized and relaxed by doing something physical and mental working with yoga and meditation. It’s really a sensory-awakening weekend,”...Pancoe said.
Pancoe has been guiding canoe trips on rivers and lakes in Manitoba since 1999. He thought combining canoeing and yoga was a good fit. “There’s a peacefulness and a mindfulness with yoga, the same feelings, well I get them with paddling,” Pancoe said. “I’ve seen people get the same benefits from both and I thought it would be a good combination.” At first, though some people were a little bewildered. “Most people thought, ‘How do you do yoga in a canoe’? You don’t really do yoga in a canoe.”
Thankfully, you don’t have to be that flexible. The yoga on this trip is conducted in a setting most yoga students won’t be used to. No perfectly flat floors and temperature controlled rooms with low music and mood lighting.
|Alerry Lavitt & Dave Pancoe
In fact, the setting might be more perfect than that naturally.
The weekend began on Friday night after setting up tents in the Caddy Lake campground, we had our first yoga session outside, on the grass surrounded by trees and a clear sky with a slight breeze tickling the tree-tops. A lone, out-going chipmunk scurried out of the bush and ran between the yoga mats before heading up a tree. Just one of the fringe benefits of doing yoga in the wild.
Believe it or not, the mosquitoes were few and far between. Trying to garden in my backyard is more of a swatting challenge.
Hatha yoga instructor Alerry Lavitt conducted a soothing class, a wind-down from the week and a warm-up for the weekend.
Some people in the group of six had never done yoga before and others were much more experienced.
Lavitt has a very calming voice and you could almost feel a collective unclenching of stress and worries as we stretched and posed.
I’m not sure what time we started the class or when we finished. I wasn’t wearing a watch, and really didn’t want one.
“There’s no rigid schedule out here,” Lavitt said. “I don’t even time myself. It allows for a flow, an organic way of doing yoga. It promotes unification of the body, mind and spirit. It’s learning to be calm in whatever environment.”
After the class and after dark, we set out for a moonlight paddle. The lake really was still and the moon’s reflection on the water really was our guide. Good signs that the weather gods were on our side.
We began the next morning with another yoga class. This one a little more invigorating, the sun salutations seeming a little more appropriate as the clouds drifted away.
We set off on Caddy Lake in a large enough canoe to hold five (and a kayak), the wind at our backs. If you’ve never paddled on the Caddy Lake system, it’s worth doing.
The scenery of Precambrian Shield rocks and boreal forests lining the lakes is breath-taking. At the end of Caddy Lake, you pass through a tunnel that the Canadian Pacific Railway blasted through solid granite in 1877 when it needed to get the water flowing with ease in order to complete its railway system. The tunnel has survived and makes a nice, cool reprieve for a moment before heading into South Cross Lake.
The second lake has only one cottage on an enviable lot. On our paddle, we only spotted a handful other boaters and canoeists the entire day. At the end of South Cross Lake is a second, longer tunnel. This one blasted out by the Canadian National Railway 25 years after the first one. It connects to North Cross Lake, our destination for the second night.
It took just shy of three hours to reach the campsite, not a difficult paddle for the experienced, but challenging enough if you’re just learning.
Janelle Dahl, 26, came on the trip because she felt she needed to rejuvenate and relax and spend time away from her work as a bookkeeper and her studies to become an accountant. She heard about the trip because she takes yoga classes with Lavitt.
“It really intrigued me actually. It seemed like a great combination,” Dahl said, while sitting on a flat bed of rock overlooking the lake. “I like the outdoors and I like yoga. I wanted to reserve a weekend like this. You always plan or think about doing things like this and then for some reason you don’t. So I knew if I signed up, I’d go. Our summers here are so short.” Dahl said she’s done plenty of adventurous things on her travels, including being rescued by park rangers in Australia after canoeing in flood conditions. That was her first time in a canoe. Her second time in a canoe was on this weekend. Things have improved since her infamous rescue. “Oh yeah, it’s much better this time. You get in such a trance after a couple of paddling strokes. It’s really calming and Dave is a good teacher and he’s a really calm guy.”
Later in the afternoon, we did another yoga session. This time in a spot Lavitt couldn’t believe she found up in the woods on a rock blanketed by soft moss and lichen, flat enough to lay out yoga mats. And close enough to a rich supply of fresh blueberries.
She’s done a few of these trips and has had to deal with more difficult conditions like pouring rain and uneven surfaces. She’s conducted classes under a huge tarp, the smell of Muskol everywhere.
“Nobody complains about it. That’s what yoga is all about,” she said. “But the benefits are so great when you’re in a natural environment. The breathing is so much more powerful when you’re breathing in pure air. It’s a gift really.”
Another bonus to the trip is the organic food, which comes included with the price of the package. Pancoe spends a lot of his time in the winter months dehydrating vegetables and fruit for his many trips, which include more strenuous and longer expeditions on the Pigeon, Hayes, Seal, Deer, Bloodvein, Manigotagan and Berens rivers.
Our Saturday night dinner was a Thai noodle dish with vegetables in a coconut curry sauce. Having the food supplied and prepared and most of the gear provided and the weekend agenda in someone else’s hands was a big draw for Shelley Mahoney, 40. Mahoney is a busy mother of two children, aged 10 and 3 and a sessional lecturer at the U of M in the English department. “Basically, you just show up and it will unfold in front of you. I love that. I like things to just happen,” she said.
If the weekend couldn’t get more relaxing – it did. We did an evening meditation session near the campfire on the edge of the lake.
And one more energizing Sunday morning yoga class before a breakfast of pancakes made with freshly-picked blueberries and a sunny, hot paddle back to the vehicles.
The added weather-god bonus – the wind was quite strong and had miraculously changed direction from the previous day – it was on our backs again, making the paddling seem almost effortless.
The consensus – it was a trip more relaxing and rejuvenating than a weekend at the spa. “I feel great. I feel totally relaxed,” Dahl said. “Usually my mind is so busy but I haven’t been thinking about work or school. It hasn’t even crossed my mind. It’s hard to describe the feeling. There are so many distractions in the city. It’s simple out here and I’m not looking at my watch at all. You lose track of time here and I like that feeling. Yeah, I’d recommend it. I’d definitely do it again.”
Mahoney found the experience difficult to put into words - a tough feat for someone who lectures in Canadian literature.
“I’m a pretty relaxed person overall. I expected to be out of normal routine for a while. I was. It was really nice,” she said, adding the experience of doing yoga outdoors was strange for her.
“There are way more distractions here, things you’re not used to. At the gym I’m used to the sounds of weights clanging and the Top 40 music blaring. I’d have to do it more out here to get used to it. But even when it’s not great, yoga is pretty darn good.”
The next yoga-canoe trip runs August 19th to 21st. A maximum of 14 people can attend.
* Please note these reviews are written by individuals, and in no way reflects the view of Yoga Directory Canada™.