This is the first in a series of interviews with faculty at the 2015 Victoria Yoga Conference, Jan 30 – Feb 1 in Victoria, BC, Canada. For the full line-up and schedule of the conference, visit victoriayogaconference.com.
Sandra Sammartino is a yoga powerhouse. Based in Vancouver, BC, she has been teaching yoga for more than 40 years and has trained countless teachers. She has been active in the yoga community for most of her teaching career, and was a co-founder of Unity in Yoga, an organization which eventually evolved in what is now known as the American Yoga Alliance (of which Sammartino is an outspoken critic). She’s also the founder of Yoga Outreach, a service organization that provides mindfulness-based and trauma-informed yoga programming for men, women, and youth facing challenges with mental health, addiction, poverty, violence, trauma, and imprisonment in the Vancouver area.
Now in her early 70s, Sammartino embraces new ideas and is a social media enthusiast (find her on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube), believing that it helps expand conscious. Technology and social media, along with yoga, are essential for healing the earth. She continues to offer yoga teacher trainings, retreats, workshops and weekly classes around Vancouver and the world.
Tell us about what you’ll be offering at the Victoria Yoga Conference.
I am offering two workshops during the weekend – Headstand: All of the Benefits With None of the Risks and Yoga and Toning.
What is the mission or vision that drives your teaching practice?
It comes from within and changes all the time. It seems to be part of my spiritual growth to share with others what is coming through me. Yoga healed me and now I seem to be healing others by connecting to a force that guides and moves me through an inner voice, messages, promptings and teachings that are always changing.
How do you live your yoga?
Yoga seems to be apart of me, like a leg or an arm. In over 40 years, it doesn’t disappoint me and there is always new territory to discover, open, learn from and give to others. My inner communications help me to solve life’s problems and live a joyful life, in spite of ongoing challenges. Because I call what I do simply yoga, I feel free of systems and forms. I understand why they are necessary but personally, I use the principles of yoga.
I love teaching yoga. I teach to whomever is there and I watch peoples’ lives—not just their bodies—change. I am in awe of the healing power of yoga.
VYC is a heart-centred community event – why do you think it’s important for yoga practitioners and teachers to come together to practice and learn from one another?
Community, in any area of life, is important because by supporting and learning from each other we become more whole. Reaching out to each other helps us grow, but it also helps us to be happier. We are all heading towards the one light. In yoga this light is called enlightenment, or kaivalya.