In this age of round-the-clock Facebook, much too often teen girls look up to the likes of the most headline-worthy pop star. Things move quickly and schedules are crammed for our young people as they are for us. We find solace in yoga and meditation, but what about our teenage counterparts?
Professional dancer turned yogi, Alex Mazerolle has made it her work to introduce yoga to teen girls too. Alex is the founder and creator of Girlvana Yoga and holds the title of lululemon Ambassador.
Designed to inspire and empower girls and give them positive role models – Girlvana is taught in high schools, dance studios and on the Teen Girl Yoga Retreat. Being the cool and grounded gal she is, Alex makes the perfect role-model replacement for the Rhiannas out there.
What makes Girlvana special?
We create the space and give the girls permission to be open and honest. They want to be heard and seen and feel like they matter. They learn that we can observe our thoughts and listen to the heart.
How do you make Girlvana cool and practical for teen girls?
I wanted to teach the tools of yoga and meditation in a way that was cool and relatable. I never wanted it to be like: "WOO yoga! Girl power! Everyone high five!" No. Raw, intimate dialogue and sharing your story is a lot more effective.
Also – the "why" is very important. Why we meditate and why breathing is important. We make it practical: "Try breathing 10 breaths before picking up your pen to start the exam."
How did you get into this work?
The seed was planted in my first yoga class. I thought: "Where was this when I was 14?" I want the next generation of women to be advocates for their own health, see their worth and know that anything is possible. Yoga is the start of that bigger conversation.
How does your professional dance career influence your work now?
It informs my teaching in that I know what it's like to be self-destructive. My whole life was about molding myself to look a certain way. You dye your hair and change your style until you get to the end and it's like: "oh, if you were just an inch taller". Nothing to do with who or how talented you are. I speak from that place to girls – because they get it. They know that too.
What kinds of changes do you see in the girls?
I see an openness and confidence that wasn't there before. The negative body talk of "I'm fat" goes away. They start to understand how and why these are self-destructive behaviours.
How does the yoga and meditation practice impact their lives?
We received a letter after retreat saying: I've never used the word inspire before – and that's what you guys gave me. I've never felt like I've been a part of something before and that's what I have. I've never allowed myself to relax before. I read that and I'm like: "this is why I do this work."
How has this work impacted your life?
It's made me get so raw with who I am. Girls call your bullshit. I can't hate myself and teach them to love themselves. In order to be a beacon – to be a light – I have to stay committed to my own path. That's not to say I don't mess up – but even within that, to be honest about it.
What's the future of Girlvana?
I'd like to work with women at all stages. We joke about having a "Ladyvana" and "Momvana"! (laughs). I also just trained 9 teachers to run additional programs and retreats throughout the lower mainland. Eventually I see Girlvana spreading all over Canada.
Well, put us on the Ladyvana waitlist. In the meantime, catch up with Alex at Nelson the Seagull on Wednesday nights or Yaletown YYoga on Sundays.