Developing a Yoga Therapy practice on a Small Island

This week’s blog entry is written by guest author, Marcia Olmsted. Marcia is a graduate of Whole Life Yoga’s teacher training program (200 hour) and has since completed her 500 hour certification with the School of Integrative Yoga Therapy with Joseph and Lillian Lepage and is currently working on her 1000 hour certification with IYT.  Marcia has spent the last three years developing an integrated yoga therapy and personal training practice on Pender Island, near Victoria, British Columbia.  You can reach Marcia at

My original career intentions were to work therapeutically with people but I ended up working on team effectiveness in the corporate world for 25 years.  As I became ready to transition to a different way of living, I became certified as a personal trainer to start moving back to my goal of helping people.

While I enjoyed working with individuals on their fitness, the mind-body connection was missing.  I searched for yoga teacher training in Seattle (where I lived at the time) and found what I was looking for – Whole Life Yoga.

Under Tracy Weber’s mentorship, I found the perfect combination of functional yoga training that supported my fitness certification, packaged with yogic options to increase wellness at all levels.

Tracy opened my eyes and my heart to exploring yoga therapy tools for myself as well. A week before I started studying with Tracy, I had a major disc herniation (C6-C7) and was sure I had to cancel my training.  Tracy convinced me instead that I would learn through my own experience how to protect my injury while keeping the rest of me in balance as I healed.  A year later, I was 90% healed with no surgery.

It’s been just over three years since I moved to Pender Island, a thirty minute ferry ride to Victoria, B.C.  I set out deliberately to not set up a business but to do things differently – to contribute to the island ensuring that I would feel a fair exchange of energy.   My therapeutic yoga focus, especially private yoga therapy combined with personal fitness tools distinguished my services on the Island. I set up guiding principles for myself that would support my objective of complementing and partnering with others in the wellness business, where possible. I would charge the going rate ($10 drop in and $60/session for privates – very low in comparison to city rates, I know).  I would do my best not to schedule my classes against other yoga classes on the Island.

Marcia’s yoga studio in the basement of her renovated home on Pender Island, BC

Before our house renovations, I offered small Viniyoga classes in my basement.  There two cement poles around which I carefully positioned mats for visibility.  I began to work privately with people on the island who had various issues – my neighbor who was sadly dying of terminal colon cancer with complications from pulmonary fibrosis.  I did gentle postures with him 3-4 times a week focusing on gentle breath work to relieve the anxiety he increasingly felt as he needed to use his oxygen tank more and more.  A 72 year old woman who was overweight, deconditioned and depressed felt that her active days were over.  We worked together to shape a  combined personal training program (cardio and strength) as well as a series of 15 minute private yoga home practices to increase her fitness but also her sense of self-confidence and control over how she felt.  She continues to come to my ongoing drop in classes and workshops today.

Today I offer 6 yoga classes a week – some drop in, some therapeutic series such as Yoga and Aryuveda and work with people privately on a regular basis.

Yoga for Men 55+ Class at the Anglican Parrish Hall on Pender Island, BC (registrations have remained from 20-25 for every 8-week series for the last 3 years)

I am so grateful for the solid foundation that Tracy and Whole Life Yoga gave me in yoga therapy.  I can still hear Tracy saying that I will go to “yoga jail” when I sometimes put too many backbends together or pay more attention to how I’m feeling instead of to those that I serve.

Where will yoga on the Island go from her for me?  My answer today is simply, I will do the next indicated thing, providing value where I can and continuing on this lifelong path of yoga.


One thought on “Developing a Yoga Therapy practice on a Small Island

  1. Kristen Nelson


    Hi, I just wanted to comment, that I feel so inspired by your experience. I live on Whidbey Island and have struggled to build up more numbers in my class. But I feel like I just have to keep up with it, whether I have one in my class or ten. Your blog entry speaks to me on various levels, the ‘other studios’ and ‘teaching to the students and not to oneself.” Being a good teacher is about being true and about service. Good for you. Thank you for sharing and perhaps one day we’ll meet!


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