“A peaceful world would look like, for me, everyone consciously on a
daily basis serving the planet, serving others and ultimately the spirit
that resides within themselves.”*
Wade Imre Morissette, twin brother of Alanis Morissette, is one of North America’s most sought-after yoga instructors and musicians. He is well known for infusing music along with a touch of humour and creative movement in his yoga teachings.
Wade has been a student and teacher of yoga for over 13 years. He has studied under some of the most renowned yoga gurus (including Pattabhi Jois), is trained in a number of hatha yoga disciplines (including Ashtanga and Vinyasa), and offers yoga therapy.
Wade has three studio albums, Sargam Scales of Music, Strong as Daimonds and Maha Moha – The Great Delusion, all of which include his own original blend of sanskirt mantra chants, English lyrics and pop/indie music. He recently published Transformative Yoga: 5 Keys to Unlocking Inner Bliss, where he identifies five layers of energy in one’s body, and how to access and utilize it to our benefit.
Wade recently launched his North American tour of yoga workshops and kirtans this past month. He plans to host a retreat and participate in a kirtan festival this year.
What follows is an Interview between Wade Morissette and Ainsley Magno, the founder of Yellow Yogi Victoria. It took place after the ‘Kirtan with Bliss Dance’ and ‘Five Keys to Unlocking Inner Bliss’ workshops presented by Wade at the Moksana Yoga studio in Victoria.
“In yoga we do all these poses, we sweat, we breathe, we meditate –
what about adding an extra component of spontaneous movements.”
February 18th, 2010 – 1pm
AINSLEY MAGNO: For those who haven’t tried it yet, how would you describe your Kirtan with Bliss Dance and the kind of journey that someone can expect to go through?
WADE MORISSETTE: For beginners coming into any kind of movement, whether its martial arts or tai chi or anything that’s getting back into being physically active, it’s important to take small steps. I think that’s why there’s so much access now to yoga on different levels. From practicing yoga for so long there are moments where I feel like there are ways I want to move my body that aren’t necessarily within the structure of asanas and postures, and so that’s why I designed Kirtan with Bliss Dance. I know that yoga postures, breathing and working on meditation are incredibly useful. I also know movement in general is something very healthy. In yoga we do all these poses, we sweat, we breathe, we meditate – what about adding an extra component of spontaneous movements, playful partner and group exercises? Plus, music is so much a part of my life and is so accessible to people that I just combined that with dance and created this workshop. I think dancing is a great way for people to get into their bodies before they get into the kirtan, which is the chanting part. So it feeds into one another – the postures feeds into the dancing, which feed into singing.
AINSLEY MAGNO: Chanting, mantras and meditating. What would you say are the main benefits?
WADE MORISSETTE: From a beginner’s point of view, the chanting and the repetition of Sanskrit (an ancient language of India) phrases could be a replacement or enhancement of a traditional form of focusing on your breath. Meditating requires one to focus on the subtleties of breathing, whereas chanting requires more presence and a focus on sound. Some people find it hard to sit in meditation for long periods of time. For those, I would definitely recommend mantra work because it’s slightly easier than pure meditation.
“I’ve spent $180,000 over the last 15 years in yoga trainings and retreats
and at the end of the day I’ve come full circle to where my practice first
AINSLEY MAGNO: For most yogis they find their practice is constantly evolving and shifting paths. How has your practice evolved and where do you see it going from here?
WADE MORISSETTE: I’ve spent $180,000 over the last 15 years in yoga trainings and retreats and at the end of the day I’ve come full circle to where my practice first began – learning to breathe consciously. So in actuality what’s happened is the more I practice, the deeper my practice gets, the more my practice changes, the goal really becomes much simpler in the fact of just focusing on my breathing. I think at the end of the day, an increase of awareness on any level is something really beneficial and everyone’s different. I don’t think you can be over-aware. I think in our society and our lifestyle we have in the 21st century, there’s so much distraction that any type of yoga, whatever category, has a place in the kind of crazy hectic life that we live.
AINSLEY MAGNO: You are a Pheonix Rising Therapist and a Viniyoga Therapist. Can you speak a little about how each works?
WADE MORISSETTE: Pheonix Rising yoga therapy is very client centered, where you’re basically providing a loving presence and space, and a very simple dialogue process. It’s amazing what happens, more importantly what our bodies know and the kind of wisdom and things we understand through our bodies, versus through our intellect or our brains, through the overstimulation of our mental world. I think Pheonix Rising therapy definitely has a place in the entire yoga community because it involves dealing with emotions. When I first started teaching I worked with some people with lethargy, for example. This type of work I’m trained in allows me to give them the ability to explore a little bit more into the manas – the mental and emotional world that’s just another part of us.
Viniyoga therapy is like being a yoga doctor, where you’re essentially providing yoga sequences and breath work that specifically help ailments such as diabetes, scoliosis, migraines, and depression. A regular doctor says, “take one pill and call me in the morning”, whereas with a yoga doctor it’s “ try this sequence and this yoga flow and this breath work that I’m going to design for your limitations and let’s see what kind of results we can come up with”. Usually the sequence is not a cure for a disease or ailment; it’s more to help release symptoms. This type of yoga therapy doesn’t claim to cure cancer, although miracles have happened. It’s more importantly about discovering the symptoms and the pain and recommending a sequence of yoga that can help alleviate them.
AINSLEY MAGNO: Are there options available for those who want to develop a sequence specifically for themselves but don’t have access to a yoga therapist?
WADE MORISSETTE: There is. I’ve seen a natural evolution in a lot of yoga teachers. More and more teachers are realizing yoga is very individual in that each person is so complex and different. Every person arrives on their yoga mat with very distinct and unique limitations, as well as very different goals, weaknesses, and strengths. Ultimately, more yoga teachers are realizing that yoga therapy training is important and are including it in the way they teach.
You can also create your own practice just by delving into yoga poses and learning what effects they have on many different levels.
“I thought about the process it would take to get there and I didn’t even
know if I had the patience or resolve to do it.”
AINSLEY MAGNO: Do you ever think about running your own yoga studio again?
WADE MORISSETTE: If I won the lottery I would definitely gather five great people together who can manage and do administration. Then I would probably open a yoga centre or (I live on Bowen Island) maybe a retreat centre. I know it’s a labour of love, I know how much heart and soul you have to put into even running a small space. I think it’s in my lifestyle as a father and someone who does travel and teach a lot to continue the way I do it now. Weekend workshops and retreats still give me the opportunity to be with my kids but still get out there, travel and teach. So no, not at the moment.
WADE MORISSETTE: At the beginning I was right about 18 and just graduated from high school. I thought, I could go right into university but instead I started to travel a little bit and did a tour of Australasia. I took a year off and I think at that point I started to realize that travel was something I definitely needed. Then as I was delving more into criminology and law, and then specifically environmental law, I thought about the process it would take to get there and I didn’t even know if I had the patience or resolve to do it. Since there wasn’t passion when I started to do it, I took a risk, dropped out of university, moved to Vancouver, started travelling to India and pretty much devoted my whole life to yoga. At the beginning I wasn’t in it to teach or to build a career. I was in it because of how much it was helping me personally. After the first 3-4 years, I started to teach and then I realized yoga is growing and that this is the perfect career for me. I get a lot of my needs met, especially because being an artist I was able to do my music and be creative within the yoga world.
AINSLEY MAGNO: Tell us about the retreats you have coming up.
WADE MORISSETTE: In April I’m going to Costa Rica for the Healthy Living Yoga Retreat. Myself and two others are going to do a workshop together. It basically includes kirtan, vinyasa flow, meditation, walks on the beach, and occasionally having a marguerite or two (in the evening of course, after the workout!). That retreat is from April 10-17.
And then every year (last year was the first one in Joshua Tree, California) is Bhakti Fest, which is four days of yoga and many many kirtan bands performing kirtan music. It’s really powerful and magical down there. Bhakti Fest takes place in early September.
AINSLEY MAGNO: Tell us about the film you are working on, called ‘The Face of Grace’.
WADE MORISSETTE: I recently changed the name but why don’t we just call it that for now. Basically I’m writing a screenplay based on Joseph Campbells’ The Hero’s Journey. I’m writing a screenplay and musical. It’s something new to me and it’s another part of the artistic part of my life. I’m enjoying exploring areas in new paradigms and new places to test out and be challenged. We’re going to shoot it in India in early 2011.
AINSLEY MAGNO: When will it launch?
WADE MORISSETTE: The first time I wrote a book I thought it was going to take me a year and it took me four years so the screenplay launch date is unknown at the moment.
“…in a couple years I might quit yoga and become a ballet dancer.”
AINSLEY MAGNO: What’s after that? Do you have plans for other creative journeys?
WADE MORISSETTE: I don’t think so. I have ideas of more movies and books I want to write, music I want to record, and also I want to continue to develop and funnel my yoga teaching. I just want to be able to make sure that whatever I’m doing, whether it’s film making, writing, musical performances, or teaching workshops, that it is feeding a part of me and that I’m challenged. So those are the kinds of criteria – am I challenged and is it something that is from a place of passion? If it is then you never know, in a couple years I might quit yoga and become a ballet dancer.
AINSLEY MAGNO: You have the flexibility for it.
WADE MORISSETTE: I used to. Late 90s! I need to get that flexibility back.
AINSLEY MAGNO: Last question. Most beginners say “I want to practice yoga but what if I’m not flexible enough?” How do you respond to that?
WADE MORISSETTE: I think people end up doing yoga because it’s their last resort, their last hope. I know a lot of people try meditation or body work or both and I think a lot of people are willing to try anything right now. For example, many say they’ve tried everything and their back pain, or their headache or stress in their life isn’t going away or changing.
“I think the myth that you need to be flexible to practice yoga is going
away as people promote yoga in a way of wholeness and wellness and
not just physical but a mental and emotional type of healing work.”
So I don’t necessarily think yoga is the answer for everyone and I think it’s more just coming from a place of desperation, to alleviate symptoms or stress, and those kinds of things that you don’t have to promote anymore because everyone knows that yoga works in providing those benefits. Yoga is the natural last step for people and for others who are on the fence or curious about it.
Also, I think the myth that you need to be flexible to practice yoga is going away as people promote yoga in a way of wholeness and wellness and not just physical but a mental and emotional type of healing work. People are realizing that whether you’re completely adept and athletic or whether you’re limited and disease ridden, yoga has a place for all types of people and all body types.
AINSLEY MAGNO: Thanks so much for your time, Wade.
WADE MORISSETTE: Looking forward to the next Kirtan with Bliss Dance workshop in Victoria next year!
For more information about Wade and his upcoming tour schedule, visit his website: http://www.wadeimremorissette.com/
For more information about Moksana and upcoming workshops, visit their website: http://www.moksanayoga.com/
*Wade Morissette in October 2009 announcing he will perform at the Project-Peace on Earth concert and discussing how music can be a catalyst for world peace (http://marnews.peakschurch.org/2009/10/wade-morissette/).