Finding zen, on land and in water
Yogi Ashley Boone has been nothing but inspired by living in Muskoka. A native of Newfoundland, Boone, who sold Zen Muskoka Yoga last year to focus on her two passions, teaching yoga and surfing, moved to Ontario as a teen and now calls Muskoka home. Boone has been a guest teacher during international retreats to Indonesia, Costa Rica and Nicaragua when she isn’t surfing the Great Lakes (she recently dipped into Lake Huron) and spearheading Muskoka Yoga Festival.
Here, she tells Stories about her favourite spots to take family and friends when they visit, how yoga became a focal point in her life and more.
Q: How were you first introduced to yoga?
My mother would work very long shifts as a hair stylist and come home to practice yoga to wind down. They were these VHS tapes labelled Earth, Fire and Water, and naturally, my mom always chose the grounding, restorative Earth video. She would skip most of it and just rest with her legs leaning against the wall, half asleep. I was a competitive gymnast as a kid so the physicality of yoga was simple, but I was intrigued with the funny names, strange breathing patterns and sweet spandex they wore. Eventually, in college I came back to the practice because I had enough of Toronto’s cold weather and got myself a hot yoga membership. I was hooked and started calling in late to work and rescheduling other things to get to a practice. That was in 2009.
Q: Outside of yoga, what would you say you are most passionate about?
I’ve had a wild love affair with surfing over the past two years. I took a group of yoga students to Costa Rica on a retreat and scheduled a surf lesson for everyone to experience; I believe I stayed out in the water the longest. I had no idea how thrilling and captivating surfing could be. More than my yoga practice, it’s the place where I feel most present and free and connected. But I also believe, if it weren’t for yoga I wouldn’t have the same experience in the ocean. Who knows? Either way, surfing and yoga are my vices of choice.
Q: Has yoga taken you on any unexpected adventures, either travel or even at home?
Yoga has driven me to become an entrepreneur without ever planning on it, which has kickstarted so many adventures both in Muskoka or abroad, in Central America or Indonesia. It’s brought amazing people into my life, who have helped me see the world and experience the world with new perspectives and potentials. The best part about being a yoga teacher is that anywhere I land, I always have a way to connect with other humans, make a little cash, and continue to keep myself healthy.
Q: What do you love the most about living in Muskoka?
Muskoka reminds me of Newfoundland, but with much warmer water and longer summers. The trees are massive icons, in my mind, that nowhere else in the world can replicate. I do appreciate being so close to the abundance of Toronto, but also feeling so removed from the hustle when I’m home. More than anything, it’s the ability to be outside, anytime of the year, and find peace.
Q: What four words would you use to describe the area?
Peace, simplicity, ease and awe.
Q: What do you love to share with friends and family when they are visiting you in Muskoka?
I always, always take new friends to Huckleberry Rock in Milford Bay. The view, the exposed rock, and the lazy walk up makes it such a sweet capture of true Muskoka life. Next, I would make the around-the-lake drive to Hardy Lake Provincial Park trails, and make it a day of hiking, swimming and a picnic.
Q: If you’re traveling, how do you describe Muskoka to people you meet?
Well first, I tell them I live close to Toronto. Then if they know where Toronto is, I can add that I’m just North in a small town surrounded by lakes and forests. If I get truly detailed in my description I’ll say it’s where everyone in Ontario wishes to vacation!
Q: What are some of your best memories of living in Muskoka?
My memories of Muskoka are always of being outside with the dog or a friend in the forest or by the river. I’ve done a lot of long, cross country skiing here and can never, ever forget that feeling when you stop, hold your breath, and hear absolutely nothing. Getting out during nighttime is always a treat as well, when the moon is huge and the bugs aren’t too bad. A trip to the Torrance Barrens Dark-Sky Preserve is always a highlight of my summers in Muskoka.
Q: Do you have a favourite spot to practice yoga in Muskoka?
I like to practice with my community—wherever they go, I’ll go! In the studio at Zen Muskoka or outside in Annie Williams Memorial Park, as long as I practice with other like-minded, happy people, I’m good.
Q: What feeling do you get during your practice that you may not get anywhere else?
While in practice, I give myself the permission I can’t always find elsewhere to slow down and do a little less. I am always in motion—work, play, everyday—so slowing down needs to be a part of my daily practice to keep me sane. Luckily, yoga also nurtures my body so I feel as if I’m knocking ‘exercise’ off my to-do list, but really I’m scheduling a space to do less.
Q: Tell us about your involvement in the Muskoka Yoga Festival. What makes the Yoga Festival fulfilling for you?
I am the co-founder of Muskoka Yoga Festival and love to share celebration with anyone and everyone! I am fortunate enough to craft a weekend of playful and mindful activities outside in nature that contribute not only to the attendees, but also to the environment. I feel fulfilled knowing that part of my efforts, and the festival commitments, give back to keeping Muskoka lands and waterways healthy, clean and preserved for many others to experience and enjoy. We introduce and continue the practices of yoga, meditation, mindfulness, and fitness for hundreds of people during our two-day event in Bracebridge—the ripple effect of simply practicing is a huge reward for us. And of course, eating healthy, local food, supporting local businesses, and dancing all day to our live music, just adds to how fun it is to curate the festival.
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