Back to Nature by Fiona Stang

Sept.1 , 2018

I always feel nostalgic during that last weekend before school, marked by Labour Day. Our month in Whistler is ending and it’s back to school for the kids. I feel reflective as summer draws to a close and we leave our retreat in the woods and mountains.  

For our family, the entrance of our children into the world was a rebirth of the importance of nature’s power in our lives.  When Ambrose & Viveka arrived into our world, the need to share traditions and rituals suddenly became important. I returned to my own youth and recreated many of the same traditions that had been passed down from my parents to me.  At the same time, the need to dig deep into their beings and plant strong seeds was an important foundation for us as parents.


Nature had been an intrinsic part of my life since I was a child.  I used to play for hours in the vast woods of my backyard. I learned to ski and loved the freezing cold, wintery New England air.   So much so that I chose a University that was situated in nature and close to mountains. It was at university where my love for nature was awakened through hiking, skiing, teaching skiing, and the constant retreat into the mountains.  

My first overnight hike was during my freshman year.  I had never slept in a tent nor had I hiked up mountain peaks with a full sized, heavy backpack.  But I was ready. It snowed during the weekend and the quiet of nature brought my nervous system to a place of great deep and still peace.  At this point, I had not found ashtanga yoga or reiki or shamanic healing; these were all experiences which happened later in my life. I had experienced journal writing and intensive competition in the various sports I played. These endeavours had become ways to look inside. And now, nature became another way to look within, to delve into my self.


As a woman of eighteen years old, at the time, nature stripped me back to my core.  Utter simplicity – a tent, sleeping bag and the clothes on my back and a few additional layers I slept in.  It was bare bones and straightforward – just mountain air, the sight of water flowing in the creek, snow flakes settling on the path ahead – all gifts from Mother Nature; never planted just existing.  These were all sights that had penetrated my soul. It was several years later that I discovered, Reiki, Shamanic healing and eventually yoga. I noticed that from these various practices, the outcome was similar; the same potent energy overtook my body, mind and soul.  What made yoga unique is that it involved a regular daily practice. From a young age, my children probably believed that everyone had a daily yoga practice. It was something they witnessed. It was a part of our lives watching Julian and I on our mats day in and out. The early “yoga” teachings for our children, came from them watching us.  But it also seemed natural to share other experiences of “yoga” with our kids. Mother nature’s power called deeply when our children arrived into the world. Julian and I retreated to the mountains and it was only natural for our children to follow.

1 yr old Ambrose with Viveka on the way.
Ambrose in headstand
Ambrose at 12

 When Ambrose & Viveka were young, we wandered into the woods; first with baby carriers, then strollers that acted like mini SUV’s and then, when the kids were walking, with small pedal-less wooden bikes.  Eventually the woods led to mountains where we would ski in the winter and hike in the summer. Retreating to nature was another yoga for my soul and also a gift of yoga for my children’s souls. Different from an Ashtanga practice, yet still yoga in that nature was another way to help Ambrose & Viveka delve into their higher selves and tap into their inner knowledge, intuition, and strength.  Putting Ambrose in nature freed his wild and energetic soul. In nature, there were no limitations for a spirited boy. He was calm and focused and I had some of my most favourite chats with him during our regular mountain treks.


Last Fall marked an important turning point in our children and our life.  Ambrose had been asking us all summer about an overnight hiking expedition.  Ambrose organized the entire expedition. He helped us accumulate the necessary gear, he planned the route, and off we hiked one Saturday morning.  It was a gruelling hike with a heavy, heavy pack. In fact, I could not even lift Julio’s pack. But, as a family, we made our way through a valley and up and up to a beautiful crystal clear alpine lake and then up and up again to yet another still lake.  Fall was arriving and the brush wore colours of red and golds. The air was crisp and once we found our campsite perched just above a beautiful little lake, the stillness and vastness enveloped us. My hips were sore and tight from the heavy pack and we all layered in fleece, down and toque’s as the autumn sun began to set.  There was no access to the internet and we were 12 km into the wild. The most simple dinner of veggie hot dogs and wraps is a completely gourmet experience when you are sitting in the woods bundled up in layers. The stars overtook the evening sky and it was one of those perfect expeditions. A memory that none of us will every forget.



The yoga practice, for me, was so much more than just a physical practice that trip.  The practice, for me, was watching the stars, seeing my children laughing their heads off as they ran down the deserted path to our tent, drinking the most delicious hot tea for breakfast when I was freezing cold, playing go fish with Viv in our tent that night, lit up by the glow of our headlamps.  The “yoga” was creating memories and a tradition that the Deck Stang family will remember. Once again, we will return to the woods.


There are many forms of yoga practice – practices that take us into our self and ask us to be aware, look within, and listen.  These forms of practice have become certain rituals in our lives. Patterns we, as a family, like to create and repeat, again and again, as reminders to connect back to our source and delve within, helping us return to the simplicity and beauty of life in the moment.


Emerging by Fiona Stang

August 31, 2018

It’s another turning point in my life.  For the past 14 years, time has been observed by the length of skis that line the wall of our garage.  This year Ambrose has surpassed me in ski length. Having children reveals the passing of time in a completely different way than I have ever experienced.  Through this passing of time I have several tethers: the gift of my practice, the gift of sharing the practice through teaching, the studio, and of course, my family and my time spent watching and nurturing my children grow.  

Skis galore
Within nature, in our element…


It dawned on me this August – the past 14 years I have spent much time retreating with my growing children.  I honour their school breaks and their summer breaks. I honour all school pro-d days, field trips and volunteer days.  This pulls me away from the tribe of my yoga studio at times, but this also has been a key element of honouring my family and taking advantage of living each moment with them fully.  And just like the skis that line our garage wall, time moves quickly and small skis turn into longer and longer and faster skis. As a family, we have core values that I like to return to for inspiration.  I ask my children, my husband and I to reflect on our actions. When there is tension or confusion in the air, it’s wise to sometimes re-visit our family core values and see if our actions reflect the core values.  One of our family core values is “honour.” And these past years have definitely encompassed honouring our family and immersing myself into the life of being a mom. However, throughout this time, the yoga studio community, my teaching and my practice, have been my tether and a great part of my life force.   Even when I am not physically at the studio, Ashtanga Yoga Vancouver is the place I fulfill one of my passions, teaching but it also the place I seek for my internal refuge, the grace of my daily practice. And for this space and this community, I am eternally grateful. Even when practicing away from the studio when travelling with my children, the energy of AYV is held in my heart and is a beacon of light, hope, and gratitude.

Teaching a workshop
Led 2nd
Counting a led class

2014-04-11 08.58.56

This past August, I retreated with my family to one of their favourite places, Whistler, and spent time nestled in the mountains with fresh crisp air, surrounded by trees and dancing wildflowers of the high alpine.  With my children, I hiked mountains and through alpine meadows, visited stunning waterfalls, and I sat on wooden docks of Lost Lake watching my children swim in the cold waters. I listened to children’s laughter fill my home and soul.  

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There has been a noticeable shift in my life as a mom this summer and this shift has provided me time to reflect.  “Time.” It’s quite the word for a mom because suddenly there is more TIME in my life. I no longer need to entertain my children.  I no longer need to tie shoelaces and wipe runny noses. We are long past the diaper phase and sleeping through the night phase. My son now would probably sleep all morning long if he did not have a job!  My children have many friends and enjoy many adventures alone with their own kid tribe. And as they explore their independence, I find myself with TIME. And it is a very strange realization. Suddenly, out of nowhere, the house is quiet as the kids are out with their community of peers.  I realize that I have given so much energy to these beings but now the seeds are ripening. I have more time to return to myself. Back to my own roots.

Focusing inwards, with breath, in gratitude…

Do not get me wrong, my house varies between being 100% alive to 100% quiet.  The difference between solo time and child time is as extreme as ever and usually co-exists with multiple groups of children inhabiting the space at once!  I still have these blissful moments and adventures with my children. On one particularly memorable day, I hiked up to Rainbow Lake with Viveka and her friend.  I was mainly quiet listening to the two girls making up stories and adventures and playing games the entire 8km hike up through the valley and mountains to a crystal clear lake.  

On another occasion, I spent an afternoon with my 14 year old son Ambrose hiking into the high alpine.  Hiking with Ambrose is usually our best moments of bonding. We chatted and I told him how proud I was that he has a job helping at the tennis centre in Whistler.  And we also chatted about the realities of having a teenager – we discussed finding guidelines around listening to his elders (my partner Julian and I) as well as trying to create fluidity and flow in life, rather than fighting the current upstream….  


Our adventures in nature together bring out the best of my kids, Julian, and myself.  These adventures are fun, but they also plant seeds of learning, deep into our souls. Lessons are always being shared in attempts to teach and inspire.  Although the days of diaper changing are over, now we are in the days of relating to teenagers and an almost teenager and how to help them navigate the world as it is today.  It is never easy. I recognize that teenage minds are full of information and the great keen desire for absolute independence is a strong push and pull. But at the same time, teens are still young, their brains have a long way until they mature fully and Julian and I have been around the block just a little bit more.  How does one share without preaching?

Fiona and kids meditatiing