WHILE YOGA HAS RECENTLY BECOME WILDLY POPULAR ACROSS NORTH AMERICA, THE PRACTICE HAS FLOURISHED AND SUPPORTED ISLANDERS FOR DECADES. ISLAND TEACHER CELESTE JASON HAS LONG BEEN AT THE CENTER OF THE LOCAL YOGA COMMUNITY BOTH AS A TEACHER AND CREATOR OF YOGA STUDIOS AND IS NOW AN ACTIVE MEMBER OF THE SALT SPRING CHAMBER OF COMMERCE CONSCIOUS WELLNESS COMMITTEE.
Celeste arrived on Salt Spring in the early nineties and started teaching in her home studio on Cedar Lane as well as at the Salt Spring Centre of Yoga. She now operates Still Point Yoga Studio located at the Harbour House Hotel.
The Still Point Studio is small, private and intimate. It is a great venue for private lessons, small groups and educational forums. Ganges Yoga Studio has a more expansive space and is therefore suited to larger groups gathering for a diverse range of functions such as workshops, sacred gatherings, music happenings, play rehearsals, fitness classes and performances. Celeste manages both spaces with a guiding philosophy that is anchored in diverse spiritual traditions. She strives to create a venue that helps concentrate the mind in such a way that positive reflections are reinforced to the degree that they then become natural behaviors.
Celeste’s students are often lulled by her lovely speaking voice which is characterized by her South African heritage. She was born in Johannesburg and then raised mostly in Cape Town. She started studying yoga when she was eighteen years old. She says, “I was drawn to a more spiritual life, and Asian culture fascinated me. My friends and I did yoga to heighten our awareness and sharpen our concentration. We were into sports that demanded it. I was a surfer and rock climber.”
Celeste attended university in the Cape Province and then taught at various area schools. In 1985 the South African government declared a State of Emergency and the tumultuous political climate prompted Celeste to immigrate to England. Almost a decade later she migrated to Salt Spring Island with well known island Tai Chi teacher Osman Phillips. “The focus of my teaching is service. I have a need to serve. There is something about service to humanity and helping people find a purpose that inspires me. In the case of yoga, the purpose is to be at peace even if just for a nanosecond. A peaceful moment shared with others is fertile ground for unity.”
Celeste believes that people should serve their own community before traveling to others and that doing so enriches and strengthens the community. She says, “Teaching is an instrumental force in my life. It is the extension of my need to communicate and explore knowledge. I feel knowledge is revealed, rather than imparted by any prowess on my behalf, every time I conduct a class.”
Her personal practice has changed over the years. Currently she prefers Yoga Nidra and the Deep Relaxation classes. She says, “I realized very early on in my teaching career, that the effectiveness of practice lay in the skill of mindful sequencing of postures.”
Integrating holistic philosophies within the business structure is a topic of interest for Celeste. “It is ironic that running a business which proclaims peace is so challenging and stressful. The prime purpose of business is to gain profit. Even if one has impeccable ethics and standards in business performance, the bottom line is profit.”
Celeste essentially runs Ganges Yoga Studio as a non-profit organization and often assists people in coming to class even though there is overhead and teachers to pay. She doesn’t yield a high profit but feels indebted to, and thankful for, the tremendous support of students and clients who have enabled her to continue teaching for thirty years.
She says, “As a teacher I am kept humble by the many student’s accounts of personal transformation and growth and have been blessed to have support in my visioning for a central, neutral space on Salt Spring to bring the teachings of Yoga to people who are seeking alternative wellness and life style choices.”
Celeste invites community members to practice with her or one of her many teachers and to also inquire about the spaces for other community uses.
This article was written by Suzanne Little.